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My bargain 4,500 Avios + £1 tax AA flight (Boston to NYC)

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This post is another part of my current US trip.  Previous posts have focussed on the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport hotel, the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, the Swiss First Class lounge in Zurich, Swiss First Class from Zurich to Boston and the InterContinental in Boston.

If I have ever flown American Airlines before, it would have been 20+ years ago as a teenager.  Those of you who use them on a regular basis for US domestic flights will therefore find my thoughts below relatively simplistic, but it was all new to me!

As a short-haul US redemption, I was able to book an economy redemption ticket for 4,500 Avios (one way) plus a whopping £1.60 of tax.  (I never saw a first class seat for redemption.)

Given this bargain price, plus the easy access to Boston Logan airport (10 minutes from the InterContinental by taxi using the new tunnels) it was a no-brainer.  Was I going from New York to Boston, I would probably have taken the train given the effort required to get to Kennedy.

I was able to check in online from which links you into – a nice touch.  What was odd was seating.

For a start, the AA check-in site asks if you WANT to select a seat.  Why wouldn’t you?!  Do people let AA randomly assign one?!

I was then presented with a seating chart.  AA split its economy seats into three categories – Main Cabin Extra (the front rows of economy, with extra leg room) and Preferred, which seemed to be the aisle seats in the rest of the first half of the cabin, plus ‘everything else’.

I had been given an ‘everything else’ seat in Row 20.  I thought I’d see how much AA wanted for Main Cabin Extra, but no price appeared.  I clicked through, still no price, seat assigned.  I therefore assume that my BA Silver status was enough to get Main Cabin Extra for free.  In which case, though, why give me a seat in Row 20 in the first place?  And why not say that I can select Main Cabin Extra?  Most BA Silvers would probably have assumed they had to pick from the ‘normal’ seats.

American Airlines

At Logan, I could use the Admirals Club lounge via my BA Silver card.  (I could also use the premium security line, but in Heathrow fashion it was no shorter than the main line.   In any event, I was through within 5 minutes.)

The lounge was very large and with a large number of cubicles with PC’s for working – far better than BA’s IT facilities.  Where the lounge fails, though, is the lack of free food (all food is charged), the small list of free drinks (beer, wine, you pay for the rest) and the lack of interesting magazines (just free titles) and almost total lack of newspapers.

The flight boarded on time and my BA Silver let me use the priority boarding line.  Unlike BA, AA has ‘proper’ First Class seating with 2 x 2.  My economy seat back in Row 15 (exit row) had a huge amount of leg room – more than a BA exit row – but felt very narrow due to wide arm rests.

The cabin crew, to be fair, were not the ‘Golden Girls’ lookalikes that are often described!  However, neither were they on the ball.  The emergency exit row in front of mine had 2 staff members in it, who the crew always stopped to chat with.  The crew also ignored – despite seeing it – that the man in my exit row by the window had placed a large bag on the floor, blocking the exit.

Refreshments during the flight constituted a drinks round.  I foolishly asked for a glass of wine and was charge $7 for it!  I’m not sure where the line is drawn between free and paid drinks.

There is little more to say, except that it is worth looking at the SkyMall shopping catalogue in your seat pocket, which is full of weird and wonderful stuff you can order online once you leave the plane.  Forget perfume and pens, SkyMall is a collection of wierd and wonderful stuff the likes of which the UK hasn’t seen since the heyday of the Innovations catalogue!

Boston to New York JFK is a short flight, and I was soon on the Skytrain to the subway and on my way to my third InterContinental in a week ….

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Comments (18)

  • DANIEL says:

    I did the opposite and used the megabus for a $1! I guess I saved 4500 avios 🙁 .. 4 hours bus station to bus station in Penn…

  • Sir Stamford says:

    The fares for BOS-JFK with AA are usually around £53 based on the current exchange rate. Given this low price, I am not sure if it is worthwhile redeeming as illustrated below. Of course, it would make sense if the fares are higher during busy periods but reward availability may be restricted.

    BOS-JFK with AA
    Cash cost – £53 being the normal price on those random 5 dates I checked.
    Avios earned – 1,000 (as BA Silver or Gold member)
    Tier Points – 10

    Avios redemption = 4,500 + £1.60 tax

    Opportunity cost
    Avios = 5,500 being 4,500 (spend) + 1,000 (lost)
    Cash difference = £51.40 (£53 – £1.60)

    Effective valuation of Avios = 0.93p each.

    I know that is still higher than Raffles’ valuation of 0.75p but for those who value it at 1p or more, this is probably not a worthwhile redemption – at least when the cash fare is only £53.

    Sir Stamford

  • A Jahav says:

    The seat selection thing might mean nothing to you, but without status, as far as I know, you would have to pay for it. Main Cabin Extra is only available for free to OneWorld Sapphires and above (for a limited time to Rubies as well as a promotion), costing different prices depending on the length of the flight for everyone else, and preferred seating always costs extra without status.

  • Ben E says:


  • James Ward says:

    The US airlines never seem to enforce the rules about bags in exit rows. Just yesterday on my flight from LAX to ATL I was the only person in either of the exit rows who didn’t have things at floor level.

    Having also experienced Virgin Australia and Qantas on this trip I’m suddenly acutely conscious of what a terrible experience the US legacy airlines provide in comparison.

    Although I found Qantas to be a bit fuddy-duddy the service was excllent nevertheless. But Virgin Australia was incredible both on the long haul from LAX to SYD and domestically within Australia. Stylish planes, funky friendly crew, incredible food (in business, at least), great lounges. I wish I could fly them all the time!

  • P says:

    Oddly, they also charge you for alcoholic drinks in Business Class! (ORD – DFW)

  • Scott says:

    Looking at Qantas earlier and 4500 Avos + £7.60 from SYD-MEL.
    Cheapest flight (non-points earning?) RED e-deal at around AU$89 or £53.
    Similar to the BOS-JFK deal although a few £ more – far superior lounges if you’ve a gold card!

    • callum says:

      There are loads of city pairs that let you redeem 4500 avios between them – with the taxes being very low in many states. My bargain was between Lima and Cusco in Peru – 9000 avios return plus about £5. Cash return tickets were around £250 return at the time, making each avios worth around 5p.

      And I don’t think they have a rule in the US about not having bags on the floor in exit rows. They’ve never told anyone to move them on the flights I’ve been on and they don’t mention it when they read out the list of rules about the exit rows.

    • callum says:

      Oh and if you don’t mind budget airlines, Jetstar would get you between Sydney and Melbourne for around £50 return most of the time. I personally don’t find Jetstar any less comfortable than Qantas on short flights. Tiger can presumably do it cheaper as well – their equivalent of Ryanair.

  • James Ward says:

    For those who haven’t had the pleasure, here’s the SkyMall catalog [sic]