EDIT: This article has NOT been updated to reflect the Avios changes which took place on 28th April 2015. A revised version of the article will be published on Head for Points in late May.
The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them. Click here to see the other articles.
When the Avios scheme was launched in late 2011, avios.com brought in a range of new airline partners alongside BA, Iberia and American Airlines.
As per this page, it is a little known fact that you can redeem Avios on Air Malta, Flybe, Aurigny (the Channel Islands airline) and Monarch.
The first thing to note is that these redemptions are with avios.com, not British Airways Executive Club. You need to open an avios.com account and use the ‘Combine My Avios’ function to move Avios from BAEC into avios.com. There is no charge to move your Avios and you can reverse the transaction if required.
Air Malta has a grand total of 12 planes, carries c 2 million passengers per year and is State-owned.
As with all of these partner airlines, you can seach for Air Malta flights using the standard avios.com reward booking site. If there is availability, it will show up. (And there is not a huge amount of availability in the system, so be prepared to be flexible.)
There is a very good blog called MaltaPoints, which is a good starting point for hotel and flight information. Tom, who writes it, also reads and comments on HFP, and he took a look at the redemption offerings for me. When he looked at this deal for me last year, he found seats from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Malta.
He could not find seats on seasonal UK departure points, nor could he find flights from a 3rd country to Malta.
Economy flights cost 20,000 Avios return plus £39 to £57 of tax depending on your airport. Business class is not available. This compares to (said Tom) £129 to £299 return for a cash ticket, depending on the time of year.
At the high end of this range, if you could find a seat, you would be getting 1p per Avios of value, which is impressive. More prosaicly, I priced up Manchester to Malta on 23 January for the 7-10 March weekend. For cash, it was £130 compared with 20,000 Avios plus £39. This works out at 0.45p per Avios, which is not great.
When considering ‘value per Avios’, though, remember that Avios bookings are refundable up to 24 hours before departure for a £25 fee. This makes them more flexible than a cheap cash ticket. (The Avios rules do say that partner airline bookings have the same cancellation rights as BA redemptions, but do double check the rules which are shown during the booking process.)
Flybe has a bad reputation in miles and points circles because of their artificially high taxes. The small print of their own rewards scheme actually warns you that 100% cash tickets may be cheaper than the taxes charged on a ‘reward’ seat. I was therefore not hopeful when I started checking Avios availability – but I was surprised.
Flybe has a huge route map – there are few parts of the UK they do not cover now. You can see it here.
I picked Birmingham to Stuttgart as a random route, from 19 to 26 March. A cash ticket was £154. An Avios ticket for 9,000 Avios plus £59. That is over 1p per Avios of value – an impressive deal.
I then checked Durham Tees Valley to Jersey in July – a niche route with just one flight a week. I tried various dates when I knew there were flights, but no Avios seats were to be found. This is despite the fact that cash tickets were actually cheaper than the Birmingham to Stuttgart example. You cannot be certain, therefore, that you will always be able to find what you want.
Ah, Monarch. I’ve never flown with them and I doubt I ever will. However, here is a trip report from a US blogger who redeemed Avios to fly from Luton to Mallorca with Monarch. It does sound like fun ….
Finding Monarch availability was difficult. In theory, they fly from Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Luton, Gatwick, East Midlands and Birmingham. My attempts to find any seat from Leeds Bradford failed, for example, so there may be restrictions on certain routes.
Manchester to Gibraltar, out 21 April and returning 28 April, was 15,000 Avios plus £80 in economy. As at 23 January, a cash ticket was £165 for a ‘flight only’ ticket and £215 for an ‘essentials’ ticket which includes a suitcase and seat selection. Assuming that you are only getting a ‘flight only’ ticket, it would have worked out at around 0.5p per Avios. Not great.
Finally, we have Aurigny, the little Channel Islands airline.
They fly to various Channel Islands destinations from Gatwick, Bristol, Southampton, East Midlands, Stansted and Manchester. You can see a full list of routes by visiting their website and clicking on ‘Timetable’.
Availability seemed very good when I checked. There were six departures available (economy seats only) on Monday 2 June for example. Coming back on Monday 9 June, a ticket would cost you 9,000 Avios plus £30 in tax.
These are not bad deals. A typical cash ticket for those dates, priced on 23 January, would be £98. That is around 0.75p per Avios of value, which could be worse.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that you could get between 0.75p and 1p of value from some flights with these airlines. I was honestly expecting to be getting around 0.5p all of the time, when in reality only some of the examples I checked came out at this level. Especially for HFP readers who live in the UK regions, there may be some good deals here.