Interesting anomalies in Avios reward pricing you can exploit

The Avios reward chart, as most people know, is based purely on distance. The further you fly, the more it costs. However, this can lead to interesting arbitrages when you get very close – but not quite – to the edge of a distance band.

Here is the chart:

Avios bandings

There are two well-known redemptions that maximise the value of this chart.

Dublin to Boston, on Aer Lingus – it drops in just under 3,000 miles, so a return flight in economy is only 25,000 Avios return. Business Class is an even bigger bargain at 50,000 Avios return – especially as the tax is only £75. It would cost 40,000 (economy) or 80,000 (business) Avios to fly London to Boston or even Dublin to New York.

Berlin to Abu Dhabi, on airberlin – again, just under 3,000 miles. This makes it a 25,000 economy / 50,000 business class return flight. Even Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi pushes you over 3,000 miles and into the higher pricing band.

There are obviously more of the same out there, it is just a case of tracking them down. Reader Stephen pointed me to this article from Travel Is Free which outlined a few other ideas.

Helsinki to Dubai, on Finnair, is also just under 3,000 miles. Compare two options for getting to Dubai, one-way, in economy:

British Airways London to Dubai – 20,000 miles plus £214 tax, one-way

British Airways London to Helsinki, Finnair Helsinki to Dubai – 20,000 miles (7,500 + 12,500) plus £135 tax, one way

Now, I’m not sure this is worth it to save £80 of tax. However, you effectively get a free trip to Helsinki if you build in a stopover of a night or two

There are also other interesting l-o-n-g – and expensive – flights which still drop under 3,000 miles and thus cost just 25,000 Avios return in economy and 50,000 return in business:

Miami to Lima

US West Coast to US East Coast

Easter Island to Tahiti, Santiago or Lima

Hawaii to West Coast USA and Alaska

The ‘Travel Is Free’ piece also highlights two things worth remembering if you are struggling to find flights from the UK to the Caribbean:

New York to Bermuda is only 7,500 Avios one way

Miami to Cancun, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay or Turks & Caicos is only 4,500 Avios one-way (Barbados etc is further, so 10,000 Avios each way)

These may even be more interesting holidays when turned into a ‘two centre’ vacation, with a few days in Miami or New York at the beginning or end.

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  1. Mr Chiggles says:

    I can very much recommend the Santiago to Easter Island hop. It’s a small fortune if you try to fly there on cash (nearly £700 return in economy when we went a couple of years back) but I think we paid about £35 tax on the airmiles shown above.

    Only downside (if you’re a young traveler going around south america) is that you’ll be the only ones there under the age of 50 as normally backpackers/travelers can’t afford the flight and there’s no bus!

    The LAN economy product on the flight is also very good, great food and wine plus good IFE (it’s a long haul configured plane)

    • LAN’s domestic and South American flights can be quite expensive – even the likes of Lima-Cusco can cost quite a lot for the short flight that it is, so very much worth the redemption.

    • I did this flight as part of a One World RTW ticket, good flight and great place, apart from the stray dogs. There were a few people yonger people staying when I went but I did stay at a camp site / youth hostel.

      I wouldn’t recommend the Easter Island to Tahiti hop, nothing wrong with the flight but plenty wrong with the place, your destination choices from Easter Island in that direction are limited to one but I wish I’d just stayed in a hotel by the airport and then got the next flight out of there.

  2. One of my favourites is JFK-YVR on Cathay Pacific at 2449 miles! Not exactly 3000 miles, but an excellent product for not that many Avios!

  3. And the other side of this coin is very frustrating. Qatar to far east not very desirable as many destinations just tip over the 3000 band. Same on intra Asia and Asia to Australia. SIN to SYD works great but try most other city pairs in Australia with SIN or KUL and you will be left grumbling. BKK to DEL or HKG on CX are good, as is BKK to NRT, HND , KIX on JAL although JAL has no cash and avios options and tax and fees are high. BKk to PEK forthcoming with Sri Lankan is unfortunately just over 3000. KUL to most Japan also just over 3000. I think BA put a lot of thought into their chart; more losers than winners, at least for my own travels.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Shame there isn’t much scope for using this to get to South Africa!

    • The one mini-loophole on SA (well, Cape Town) is to use American Airlines miles. AA is still 100,000 miles, but they allow connections for no extra charge. Most BA redemptions to Cape Town involve changing in JNB, which means extra miles for the Comair connection. AA would include the price of the Comair connection in the 100,000 miles.

      • Jonathan says:

        Thanks for the info – no points with AA though, so may just have to pay for flights out there and then collect some Avios or Virgin Miles for future use instead!

      • Boddingtons says:

        AA require only 75k for business and 100k for first. A star alliance redemption via US Airways would be the best bet on this route at 75k and nil fuel surcharges, plus a few more options than just BA alone in oneWorld. Annoyingly AA won’t permit routing via Doha on Qatar.

  5. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    This is a good time to mention The Great Circle Mapper, which is a great tool for finding these.

  6. IIRC CDG-KUL on Malaysian is another that just drops you under the threshold compared to LHR (plus no UK APD).

    • that’s right – CDG-KUL just under 6500 (6492!). and though KUL-SYD is over 4000, SIN-SYD is just under – I’m making use of both of those in February, 20k fewer Avios one way in business compared to LHR-KUL-SYD! The savings more than pay for Eurostar and KUL-SIN. I wanted a few days in KUL anyway so not as arduous as it would be with no stopover.

      KUL-AKL just under 5500 too. AKL-KUL-CDG for 110k avios and just £16 on top is a redemption I have had my eye on for some time now.

      • Very interesting Darren – I’ll have a look at this and might do a separate post on it

        • There are plenty such “anomalies” on MH’s network, such as the short KUL-Kuching at just 603 miles or KUL-Cochin in India at 1811. It’s a shame flights such as KUL-Taipei at 2012 miles don’t benefit in the same way that BA’s London to Cyprus flights at 2040 are allowed to fall in Zone 3 (topped up with RFS).

      • AMS-KUL also eorks but you are looking at a horrid 777 with angle flat seats versus an a380 from CDG. Not sure but taxes may be lower from AMS and is nicer airport with better city connections. So worth considering if CDG is not available or those wanting to start in Amsterdam as opposed to Paris. If you fancy an overnight in Singapore too you might want to consider a VIP bus as opposed to the plane from KUL.

        • First class overnight sleeper is pretty goodl we used in February. The guy on knows his stuff about all things trains. Really interesting website. We traveled all over Asia on trains (mainly sleepers overnight) but at £30 inc a meal it’s definitely worth trying the sin to kul or vv, if only for the experience

        • Might give that a try too; could be fun and cheaper than a night in a Singapore hotel. I am already plsnbing on flying BKK to Hat Yai and taking train or bus to KL, probsbly day bus to see the country.

  7. Chilibenny says:

    Hi there, we are flying Dublin to Boston next year and I was wondering if anybody can show me how I can easily see which flights out of Boston within the US would be under this 3,000 mile threshold or indeed the lower thresholds as well.
    I could not get my head around the Great Circle Mapper mentioned above so any assistance would be gratefully received.

    • Great Circle Mapper – you just put in the airport codes in the white bar top left (above where it says “map”). So put in (eg) BOS – JFK, it will show you a map and tell you the distance is 187m. I know it can do many other really clever things, but I’ve no idea how to do any of them!

    • Enter ‘[email protected]’ for example and it will show a circle 2000 miles around BOS.
      Enter ‘BOS-LAX’ for example and it will show the distance.

  8. If you’re visiting China, flying into Beijing (as opposed to Shanghai, Chengdu or Hong Kong) avoids a 20% increase from zone 6 to zone 7. Our recent trip in First (on a 2 for 1) saved us 15,000 Avios by flying into Beijing (and out of Hong Kong).

    We used the Avios we saved to book a one way economy redemption each from Shanghai to Hong Kong with Cathay / Dragonair (7,500 avios plus <£40 cash each on a flight that had a cash fare of £281 each when we booked it!).

  9. Lady London says:

    I had begun to think only RFS had any value on Avios due to taxes on longhaul. As and when I accumulate some Avios, Raffles, I’ll have to look again at this. Thank you. Dear All : Raffles has links to Amazon and suchlike, that we can use to obtain him a small commission from Amazon at no cost to ourselves as a thank you to Raffles. I’ll be using them at Christmas to try to do my bit.

    • I was of a similar opinion until recently when I started comparing BA with other schemes. Disregarding the fact that all schemes have there sweet spots, I have come to the conclusion that BA has generally just about the best burning scheme around, particularly in light of devaluations at United, Delta and Flying Blue. This ofcourse is tempered by the higher fees but even so, value remains high because of the three lower distance bands, and because we in UK also have great earning opportunities via clubcard, paying taxescwith BMI card etc. While I still groan at some of the fees, at the end of the day I would rather burn 50k miles and £200 on BA than 90k miles and £40 in some other program where it is much more difficult for me to accrue miles in the first place.And all that before even considering the joys of UuA and 241s. Diamong Club it aint unfortunately but it’s still a great program compared to much of the competition IMO.

      • Also worth keeping in mind where flights originate from in terms of paying lower taxes (not necessarily just the airline). For example, on MH, flying from HKT or most other airports in Thailand to London via KUL costs only about £15 in taxes, while if you are purchasing the KUL to London flight only, the taxes top £100. A few more miles, but I believe worthwhile – you can also get a stopover included in that as far as the taxes are concerned, but you still pay Avios by segment.

        • Thanks for that info. It almost defies logic, but just tried it out HKT-KUL-LHR in Biz for 79,000 plus £13.80. It’s nice to see the rules applied in our favour for a change. I travel to KL at least once a year and I envisage some complicated redemptions coming up.

        • Are BA not charging YQ on this? I am doing the same bext month with GLA tagged on too. 52.5k in J with AA but tax and fees were about £90 IIRC. AA may have mistakenly charged me fees on this after MH joined. I will chase it up with them on my return.

        • If you’ve tagged on GLA to the journey (via LHR) you’ll be having to add
          £21.23 passenger service charge for the privilege of transiting LHR
          £19.80 BA Fuel Surcharge
          (and if you switch from LHR to LCY (or add a stopover) APD to boot

          Still less than £90, but not massively out.

        • Thanks Me, my total was £88.70 but it would also include the AA telephone service fee $25, perhaps a credit card fee, and was booked long time ago when exchange rates were rovk bottom. Thanks to your infoin future I may just terminate my journeys at LHR, enjoy are night or two in the city and bank the avios on a revenue ticket for final hop home. Looking forward to trying MH a380 but not so happly at lack of solo J seats for solo travellers. Qatar flys HKT to KUL on an a330 as opposed to MH 737 for anybody who might want to give them a try. HoweverI am not sure if this sector is loaded for Qatar on BA as I could not find any availability. BKK to Hanoi missing alltother.

        • Also if convenient, you can avoid APD in the UK without triggering an extra segment (eg, doing an ex-EU) by starting in JER, which is a domestic segment and therefore free but it attracts no APD. For example:

          JER-LGW/LHR-JFK, one way, business: 40k Avios and £217.98
          LHR-JFK, one way, business: 40k Avios and £358.85

          one way LGW-JER is much less £141!

        • That’s crazy isn’t it…. You can get a one way Eco flight to get to jersey for £40

  10. We’re spending a week in the Caribbean (Dominican Republic) in February, travelling out via Miami and back via Washington DC.

    Using Miami as a Caribbean access point is good for being able to do Avios redemptions with AA for onward flights (previously not great from an immigration perspective but we’ll see what the new immigration hall is like….). More avios (or cash) required overall against flying direct, though for those of us who prefer a Heathrow departure over Gatwick it’s better in that respect, and as Raffles implies above Miami redemptions are often easier to come by.

    Travel via the NE US has the advantage of the lower BA redemption zone at the expense of a longer connection, and opens up further options. Ten months in advance of travel all the (initial) return Club redemption availability had been snapped up from Miami as more people want a flat bed for the night flight, so flexibility / additional options are always good and often open up opportunities to see somewhere new.

  11. Mike turnbull says:

    If only ‘Travel is Free’ could turn their attention to Sky Team for similar offerings.

  12. Mike turnbull says:

    And I forgot to add ‘Thankyou’ for one of the very best posts I’ve read. My only problem is to now persuade my wife of the benefits of multiple flights/stopovers etc !

  13. Avobsessed says:

    When you say for example Santiago to Easter Island with avios, how do you book this?

    Do you call up BA?

  14. FromTheRail says:

    Will need to keep any eye on this, have been trying to work out the best way to get back to the UK from PER and this could provide some interesting solutions

  15. wetboy1uk says:

    Hope this dosn’t sound too think but how do you book aer lingus flights with Avios. I have tried on the avios website but I am not getting any aer lingus flights. ANy help would be appreciated. Looking for flights next year to either Miami or Fort Lauderdale – anyone know cheeper alternatives than using air miles to fly from Heathrow. Thanks in advance