Avios Redemption University – Lesson 14 – Redeeming Avios for low tax US domestic flights

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.

With the US being a top tourist destination for Brits, it is worth remembering that Avios can have substantial value when you redeem them for American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights inside the US.

The fantastic news is that there is minimal tax to pay when redeeming for internal US flights.  Neither AA or Alaska impose fuel surcharges and there is no US equivalent to the UK’s Air Passenger Duty.

For example, a return flight from New York to Boston on American Airlines costs 9,000 Avios plus just £7 of taxes in Economy.

IMPORTANT:  The pricing of domestic redemptions in the US using Avios points will change from 2nd February 2016.  Details of the new prices can be found in this article.

American Airlines

Since the new Avios airmiles pricing system came into effect in 2011, the miles needed for many intra-US flights has dropped sharply.  Ironically, most US residents who understand the ‘miles and points’ game are now building up their Avios – why pay 12,500 American Airlines miles to fly Boston to New York when you only need 4,500 Avios?  AA also charges a $75 fee for redemptions using AA miles within 21 days of departure, whilst BA does not.

Under the current structure:

  • a flight of under 650 miles (Zone 1) is 4,500 Avios each-way in Economy
  • a flight of 650 – 1,150 miles (Zone 2) is 7,500 Avios each-way in Economy
  • a flight of 1,151 – 2,000 miles (Zone 3) is 10,000 Avios each-way in Economy
  • a flight of 2,001 – 3,000 miles (ie New York to Los Angeles, Zone 4) is 12,500 Avios each-way in Economy

To see Business Class pricing, use this chart.  Note that flights on partner airlines are ALWAYS priced at peak day rates, whatever day you fly.

Redemption chart 2

The only restriction to get this pricing is that you must travel non-stop, without a change of plane.  If you change planes, you will be charged each flight separately.

You can also see how many Avios are required for a flight by using the Avios Calculator on ba.com.  Remember to look up each flight separately when a connection is required.

The following routes are generally regarded as examples of flights inside North America which offer great value, either because they just scrape into the top end of their Avios pricing band or because lack of competition leads to high pricing:

  • New York to Montreal (4,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • San Francisco to Honolulu (12,500 Avios each-way, Alaska)
  • Los Angeles to Honolulu (12,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • San Francisco to Los Angeles (4,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Detroit to New York LaGuardia (4,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Atlanta to New York LaGuardia (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Atlanta to Chicago (4,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Miami to New York LaGuardia (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Miami to Key West (4,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • St Louis to New Orleans (4,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Toronto to Chicago (4,500 Avios each-way, American)

Long – and expensive – flights which still drop under 3,000 miles and thus cost just 25,000 Avios return in economy include:

  • Miami to Lima
  • US West Coast to US East Coast
  • Easter Island to Tahiti, Santiago or Lima
  • Hawaii to West Coast USA and Alaska

If you are struggling to find flights from the UK to the Caribbean, you can also take advantage of American Airlines connections to transfer cheaply from the US mainland.  Perhaps you could have a ‘city and beach’ holiday instead?

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)

When thinking about using your Avios for US flights, you will find the highest number of routes out of the main hub airports.

For Alaska Airlines, that means Seattle, although it has smaller hubs in Anchorage, Portland and Los Angeles. 

For American Airlines, the main hubs are Dallas, Chicago, New York JFK, Los Angeles and Miami.  It also has the ex-US Airways hubs in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Phoenix and Washington National.

Baggage allowance

Domestic flights in the US booked with Avios usually come with no baggage allowance if booked in Economy.  I wrote more about this here.

How to book

If your Avios sit in avios.com, you will need to use ‘Combine My Avios‘ to move them to British Airways Executive Club before you can book.

American flights can be booked on ba.com without difficulty.  If you need to connect, ba.com may struggle to put together a routing so you may find it easier to look up individual flights and then ring ba.com to book the whole itinerary.

(One tip is to do a dummy redemption booking on aa.com – you don’t need to log in or even have an AA account.  This will often show you potential redemption routes with connections which ba.com was not clever enough to find.  You can then ring the BA call centre and ask it to book the flights that were shown as available on aa.com.)

Alaska Airlines flights can only be booked by telephone with British Airways Executive Club.  The next article in this series will look specifically at Alaska and its routes to Hawaii.

NOW CHEAPER: Pay just £401 for Club World to New York in November, Christmas, Easter, July, August!
Use Miles & More miles for a heavily discounted US flight
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  1. Great article. I booked the AA flights from LAX to HNL. Availability in October was pretty excellent(in fact AA domestic availability in Y is usually very good. Got flights selling for £350+ return, for 25k avios and £7 in taxes, a pretty decent return on avios. Plus AA let you choose main cabin extra if you have O/W status, which means basically premium economy legroom.

    I also booked LAX to DFW with one hours notice when I decided to take a lastmminute weekend away in Texas. I am more and more a believer that the best use of avios is now short haul RFS in Europe and domestic Y flights in US.

  2. Recently flew one way PR to MIA for £3 tax and 15k avios in Business. My best redemption to date!

  3. Phillip says:

    I’ve always felt that BAEC’s pricing for redemptions in Zones1-3 was very much for the benefit of US redemptions, as it’s pretty much the only reason anyone in the US would collect Avios! And it’s a clever move! It works!

  4. Mikeact says:

    I’ve recently done eight US internals, and you may be interested to note the comparison with SkyTeam using Delta, (as I’m primarily locked into KLM/AF, but Avios for Europe.)
    New York – SFO 12500 miles + € 4.90 (£3.60 !…all internals the same generally)
    Stupidly, JFK to Aruba in the Carribean is 31250 + € 29.13, but two booking to get there,JFK – SFO – Aruba was 25000 + €34.23 ! I did others as well, one ways all at € 4.90)
    And the big bonus was six of the flights I managed to get ‘space available’ First Class (so called) upgrades, the best one KLM’s World Business Class to Aruba.
    However, with my card, internal lounges are a ‘no no’ apart from any International departures, unless you know the way around it, which is another story.

    • You mean, you flew all the way across America twice (JFK – SFO – Aruba) to save yourself 5 euros and 6,000 points??? Each to his own…

      • Mikeact says:

        That’s only once.

        • JFK – SFO = across America once. SFO – Aruba = back across America twice (okay, across part of it at an angle, but still). That’s dedication to minimal savings, I’ll admit…

        • Mikeact says:

          Aruba is in the Carribean, not the US. You have to change on the WEST Coast somewhere,LAX, SFO, SEA etc., to get to Aruba as there is no direct flight from the EAST Coast. My point being I could book quite happily JFK to Aruba for 31250 miles. However, for the same two flights booked separately it comes out at 25000 + a nominal additional € 5.
          I say again, once across the US, not twice. I rest my case.

        • Mikeact says:

          I eat humble pie and apologise , I meant to say Maui from JFK, I was in Aruba as well on the same trip, and Anchorage, and Minneapolis and Phoenix and Washington DC. Again, confusion reigns.

  5. There is a route from St Lucia to Miami with AA when checking on their sote, but when looking on BA for a redemption there is no availability anytime. I have tried about 10 random dates over the next 6-8 months and nothing showing. Do you have to book as a return? And is there a way of viewing what dates are available for the routes if you are flex?

  6. Charlie Whiskey says:

    Have used Avios often Miami to Bahamas – astonishing value on those costly routes. However, note that AA First (which is actually business class) is charged at 4x the Y rate by BA: 30,000 Avios instead of 7,500 JFK to MIA one way!