Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

My thoughts on the recent BBC TV piece on Avios award availability

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If you have ever sat in your overseas hotel room watching BBC World News, you might have seen Fast Track, their travel programme.  This weeks edition included a six-minute piece on frequent flyer award availability.

You can watch the video here:

(Video deleted by the BBC)

There are three specific cases mentioned.  One was a British Airways member trying to get to Cyprus and Sydney.  The second is weirder example from a Singapore Airlines Krisflyer member, who ends up paying more in taxes (and to buy some additional miles) than a cash ticket would have cost.

In general, I have sympathy with people who struggle to redeem their miles.  Since my kids started school, and my ability to go away when we want has disappeared, I have even more sympathy.

However, it can be done – we have 4 Club World seats down to Dubai over Christmas (which may be cancelled, unfortunately) and four over October half-term.  In October, though, we are travelling down via Abu Dhabi – not a massive inconvenience, but still an inconvenience.  Coming back – although I am hoping for late availability to open up on a direct route – we are ticketed on Royal Jordanian (an Avios partner) to Amman and then Club World Amman to Heathrow.

I was also able to snag an airberlin business class ticket from New York to Germany for next week when I needed one, when I had absolutely no flexibility on dates.

The reality, of course, is that BA could open up every seat on certain flights for Avios availability at the start of the school holidays and would still not be able to meet demand ….

I have slightly less sympathy with the guy in this programme, thoughA BA Gold holder, for example, can always fall back on ‘guaranteed Avios availability’.  I admit that it is poor value, at 200% of the normal Avios points and with no 2-4-1 vouchers allowed, but it is an option.  Cyprus in peak Summer season is also a route where you would expect to struggle to find seats.

(It would have been more interesting if he’d been wanting to fly to the US and the BBC had shown the vast gaps in Avios availability over the next few months.)

I WOULD have sympathy for him if he had followed Simon Calders advice, though!  Because it is NOT possible to buy the cheapest possible Economy ticket on BA and upgrade it.  Economy tickets must be semi-flexible or flexible before they can be upgraded, and these are substantially more expensive than non-refundable tickets.  (World Traveller Plus and Club World tickets CAN be upgraded if they are non-refundable, though.)   And, of course, availability for seat upgrades comes from the same ‘box’ as normal Avios seats, so if you can’t do one then you can’t do the other.

This story does remind you of one key point, though.  A loyalty programme which frustrates the majority of its (casual) customers is far worse than having no loyalty scheme at all.  And, whilst it is easy to criticise the man in this clip for not putting in the time to learn how to exploit Avios properly, in a perfect world he wouldn’t need to.  (If he’d asked me, I would have routed him on Royal Jordanian via Amman!)

(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

Comments (21)

  • Thunderbirds says:

    If you don’t have a basic level of flexibility as to where, when and in what class you travel then perhaps collecting Avios is NOT the thing to do. Get a cash-back card instead and buy tickets in one of the regular sales.
    I’ve recently passed the 1 million Avios spending milestone, and yes it can be a little tricky but it doesn’t take that much luck..! My travels have included New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Bermuda and next year back to Sydney. All of these were using 2-4-1 and in First so effectively 2 million Avios. I’ve also used MFU and part cash-part Avios depending on the state of my Avios balance.
    The most difficult time I’ve had so far is for my next trip to Sydney where I’ve had to break in Singapore and book World Traveller from Singapore to Sydney (F seats available return to Singapore if you plug that in first). I’m hoping to upgrade the Sydney leg between now and the actual flight.
    I have little sympathy for the businessman who clearly thinks that Avios should be treated the same way as cash. The airlines wouldn’t run these programs if that was the case.

    • Mark Smith says:

      I think these schemes can either be ‘easy’ from a hassle and availability perspective, or lucrative to the determined participant who is prepared to book a way in advance and be flexible on destination, especially if there are a reasonable selection of non-flying options to build up a points balance.

      We can’t reasonably expect to have it both ways – any airline that attempted to do so would probably be out of business very quickly.

      I’d say BA is in the latter category, and as far as I’m concerned long may it stay that way.

      • Thunderbirds says:

        I agree, though the taxes & fees element of Avios is beginning to bite as the majority of my Avios travel is 2-4-1 and therefore has to be on a BA plane.