Interesting anomalies in Avios reward pricing you can exploit

Some Avios redemptions are ‘disproportionately’ cheap because they fall right on the edge of an Avios pricing band.

Until Aer Lingus rigged the game by forcibly moving it into the higher band, Dublin to Boston was the prime example of this.  At 2,993 miles it used to be a bargain as it fell into the cheaper “sub 3,000 miles” pricing of 75,000 Avios return in Business.  Aer Lingus has now decided that Boston is 8 miles further away than it really is, so it now costs 100,000 or 120,000 Avios depending on whether it is a ‘peak’ day.

Back in 2013, spurred on by an article I wrote on the topic, the team at Flyertalk produced some fantastic diagrams to highlight potential pricing anomalies.  These make it easy to spot interesting redemptions which might be surprisingly good value.

I have only focused on one example in this article, but if you click here to visit Flyertalk you will see them for virtually all oneworld airline hubs.

This example chart shows Avios pricing bands for Qatar Airways, radiating out from Doha (click to enlarge):

Qatar distance map

The numbers refer to the nine Avios pricing bands (click to enlarge):

Redemption chart 2

The zones relate to the distance flown:

  • Zone 1:  1 – 650 miles
  • Zone 2:  651 – 1,150 miles
  • Zone 3:  1,151 – 2,000 miles
  • Zone 4:  2,001 – 3,000 miles
  • Zone 5:  3,001 – 4,000 miles
  • Zone 6:  4,001 – 5,500 miles
  • Zone 7:  5,501 – 6,500 miles
  • Zone 8:  6,501 – 7,000 miles
  • Zone 9:  7,000+ miles

Let’s take a look at the Qatar Airways chart in detail.  A green dot means that the city is in the lower priced band.  A red dot means that the city is in the higher priced band.

An example to Doha:

London to Doha, as you can see, is Zone 5.  That means you pay 120,000 Avios return in Business Class (remember that every day is a ‘peak’ day when redeeming on a British Airways partner airline).  Taxes and charges are £399 on top if you fly British Airways or £393 if you fly with Qatar Airways.

Frankfurt, though, is just in Zone 4This means you pay only 75,000 Avios return in Business Class from Frankfurt to Doha.  Taxes are £288 return.

As you get a return Avios flight to Frankfurt for 9,000 Avios plus £35, you can make a substantial saving – 36,000 Avios plus £105 of taxes – on peak date redemptions to Doha by connecting in Frankfurt.

(A warning – if you book both flights on the same ticket, the taxes figure will jump up because you will need to pay long-haul Air Passenger Duty.  If you book both flights on separate tickets, you will need to collect your luggage in Frankfurt and recheck it.  The choice is yours.)

An example to Singapore:

You will also see that Singapore is conveniently placed on the edge of Zone 5.  This means that, whilst connecting usually means a bad deal when redeeming with Avios, in this case it works out OK.

Frankfurt to Singapore via Doha is 97,500 Avios plus £197 tax (business, one-way). 

London to Singapore on BA, non-stop – a VERY tricky seat to find – is 105,000 Avios plus £365 tax one-way on a peak day. 

Add in 4,500 Avios + £17.50 for a one-way flight to Frankfurt and the Avios cost is roughly equal.  Clearly one of these trips requires three flights and the other is direct, but the £150 tax saving compensates partially – and, of course, you’re flying Qatar Airways.  In any event, it is VERY hard to get seats on the direct British Airways Singapore service so you may end up looking for an alternative.

There’s more ….

You can spend ages playing with these charts and working out options.  Over at Flyertalk you will find them for:

  • Aer Lingus ex-Dublin
  • American Airlines ex-Los Angeles
  • American Airlines ex-New York
  • American Airlines ex-Chicago
  • American Airlines ex-Dallas
  • American Airlines ex-Miami
  • Cathay Pacific ex-Hong Kong
  • Iberia ex-Madrid
  • LAN ex-Santiago
  • Malaysia Airlines ex-Kuala Lumpur

… as well as generic charts from Delhi and Singapore.

Note – and this is very important – that these charts were created before the 2015 Avios devaluation.  All of the Avios pricing examples given in that thread are now wrong and you will need to re-work the numbers.  The charts themselves are still accurate, however, as the Avios bandings did not change.

All of the charts can be found in this Flyertalk thread.

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  1. Are you out of luck if you take a BA-operated Avios flight to connect with a QR one and you are delayed, causing you to miss it?

    Really for the Singapore example I think it should be pointed out the value is poor. Even leaving from Frankfurt, a return is around 204,000 Avios including the connecting flights. Plus the taxes.

    I would think at most times an ex-EU flight can be had for much less and you can route yourself back home first on the return leg instead to your positioning city. Ie AMS-BKK-SIN-LHR-AMS with the bonus of a stopover if you so wanted.

    There could be the argument that it may have merit if someone is Avios rich and cash poor and need to travel, but that might be quite rare. For that person it could be worth detailing the best ways to liquidate your Avios for cash. I haven’t seen many ways, but for 17,000 + £30 you could purchase a Dom Perignon 2006 which surprisingly enough could sell on Ebay/Amazon.

    • Not sure you can sell liquor on eBay.

    • Yes, if,you,miss your qr connection. You have had it! Which is why we always suggest you go day before and enjoy a mini city break on route. The other positive side is that on the return sector you can usually return direct from DOH to LHR direct for around an extra £100…

  2. Well, neither did I, but search for Dom on Ebay and there are plenty of listings and buyers it seems.

    • the real harry1 says:

      I think the only foolproof way of liquidating surplus Avios is buying a redemption seat for somebody you can trust (and taking their cash)

      at a pinch I’d buy booze for personal consumption (or selling to friends) – but it seems you realistically would be pushed to get 0.5p of value/ point (vs the cash price of buying the booze)

      whereas buying our RFS tickets @ T-355, always Peak/ school hols is typically getting me £137.50 = 7500 points, or 1.8p/ point or often more

      • +1 – my half term flights Man to Nice are coming in at £1357 whereas I paid 60,000 avios plus £140 tax. That’s over 2p per avios – I really hope BA keeps the MAN routes in the long term.

        I think you would need a licence to sell alcohol on Ebay or anywhere else!

  3. Sally Griffin says:

    Hi Rob.

    Please could you explain how I can use my Avios with BA’s partner airlines, also I have an Amex Companion voucher can I use that with the other airlines?

    Many thanks Sally

  4. Huh, what!? Mexico City is in band 6 when flying from London but when flying from Madrid it is in band 7. Does not compute!

    • The earth is round. Looking on GC mapper LHR-MEX is 5,541 miles but MAD-MEX is 5,643 miles…

      • Some other examples of cities not in the right band. LHR-SCL is a band 8 but is 7,228 miles so should really be in band 9…

        • Scallder says:

          LHR-LAX and LGW-SJO are both under 5,500 miles bu bumped up into band 7…

        • No they price at band 6: 25k peak economy???

        • Scallder says:

          pauldb – sorry, you are indeed correct. clearly not reading between peak and off peak correctly (was searching for business on both hence 75k coming up on peak date).

        • It did start in band 9 I think but BA fudged it to band 8..

        • I don’t see it quite like that. AFAIR BA never published the band mileages; IB did so briefly when the programme was rebooted. The beyond the 6500-7000mi band was only SYD at the time, but the band was unusually narrow. Either SCL is fudged into band 8 or band 8 has been widened – we’ll never really know but I would think a new similar route (e.g. CGK/HNL) would go straight into 8.
          CPT/JNB though are quite substantially fudged into 6 (probably because of the VS comparative) – CPT is longer than PVG/BKK.

      • the real harry1 says:

        my wife had an argument with me this summer about whether or not Mexico is in the southern hemisphere…must be the sombreros

      • I live on the south coast. It’s not unusual to see AF pass overhead enroute CDG-MEX.

  5. Barry cutters says:

    Ot- Iv flown a lot this year and am at over 2500 to 6 month in to my collection year. I predict to get to 4000 before my year is up. Tempted to do a tp run to get to the magical 5000. Although I see some good deals on flyer talk master thread (1000tp run to Vegas fo £1500)- does anyone know how these work? I can’t work out how to get them to price on ba or aa website . Or maybe someone can suggest a good run producing 1000tp last week oct. I have time off so don’t want to just go and come back , would need a few days minimum up to a week in final destination. The missus will come out on a direct flight .- she wouldn’t want to do a route with 4 changes .

    • From what I’ve read before, I believe you need to call the BA phone line with a route you’ve pre-worked out and they can do it for you.

  6. OT but related to miles redemption:
    I am looking for clever ways to redeem some of my miles held in various pots for an adventurous trip (anywhere except North America) sometime in the second half of next year. By adventurous I mean I am open to starting my journey from INV/JER, economy redemption is fine, etc. Miles available: 18K TK miles&smiles expiring Dec’17; 100K Avios in a household account, BA-Amex 2 for 1 voucher expiring Nov’18; 23K Virgin Miles, 7K EK skywards miles. I realise it is not a lot of miles specially if I am looking for 2 seats for the itinerary.

    • It’s generally agreed that WT redemptions aren’t worth it due to the taxes being nearly as much as the cost of the flight. With 100,000 avios plus a 2 4 1 I’d get 2 CW seats (off peak) to somewhere in that pricing band – Caribbean, Near East and Mexico spring to mind if not North America (though what about Canada?). Otherwise you could get a few WT or CE RFS seats for minimal avios and fees. 30,000 avios (less at off-peak) plus £100 would get 2 of you to Rome, for example, with your 2 4 1.

  7. Andrew_A says:

    OT re BA Amex
    My wife has downgraded her BAPP to the free BA Amex, her year end is April next year. I understand that if she upgrades it again before the renewal the target spend for the 2 for 1 will drop to £10,000. So if we spend say £9500 then upgrade it in March next year to get a 2 for 1 does her year end move to March 2019 so she has a full year after spending the £195 or are we effectively paying £195 for the voucher and 1 months purchases? In simple terms do we need to give BA another £195 in April?
    Thanks in advance

    • Your year end stays the same.

      • Yes Rob, the year end stays the same, but will Amex assume she has got a year out of her new BAPP, and not give her a pro Rata refund of 10 months worth, say at the last month. It’s a tricky one. They don’t want to be stung then again for New fee couple months later when she refers him, l think that is the real question..

    • Andrew A,
      Not worth the risk anymore. You could get caught. Best if you get referred back from her, grab the bonus. Then plan your spend to 10k by when you need the 241 to kick in. Is it 6 months since you cancelled your last bacc? Presuming here you refer each other now… Means you may be charged about half the fee. Decide if it’s worth it. You both get both the bonus x2 then too. Referral and spend. If you need to bring forward last bit of spend by end date, just buy gift cards for where you shop. Usually sorts that one.

      • Andrew_A says:

        Thanks Polly.
        I still have a BAPP and am half way to my £10k spend. She just downgraded recently but as we are travelling on her 241 in June 2018 we didn’t want to cancel it completely otherwise I would have just got her to cancel then referred her in 6 months. I am now trying to do a bit forward planning for summer 2019. I will have a 241 by then but, here’s where it gets complicated, we are planning to take our daughter along with us. I am also half way to a LLoyds upgrade voucher but both that and the 241 will be in my name. That’s the reason I was thinking about aiming for another 241 in her name, or, possibly she takes out a LLoyds card. I am planning an open jaw in 2019 so will need to call up whatever way I go.

        • Andrew,
          You can just cancel her card now the 241 is banked in her baec. You can pay for your 241 with any Amex card. Many of us on this site do this regularly. I know FT and Amex warn you, you will lose the voucher. You won’t. Or AFAIK there has only been one case where this happened a long time ago. Also as soon as you have banked your 241, either downgrade and refer, then cancel, as you are probably doing anyway.
          If you are going for a 241 next, then she should just go for the lloyds upgrade one. Just don’t spend the final amount until you want to trigger the ug voucher. And you only have to have the outbound flight booked before it expires, so effectively you get an extended use out of it. Whichever of you has the 241, the other really needs the lloyds ug one.
          Are you guys running a PRG alongside this bapp plan? Referring each other, and doing a plat ug before cancelling>Useful for extra avios. You will need a lot if using the lloyds ug v. New acronym LUGV ??

  8. Is it possible to book BA+QR on one ticket with more than 24h stop in FRA? this way one would avoid long haul ADP and on return connection can be less than 24h.

    Something like that:
    LON-FRA / 2 nights / FRA-DOH-SIN / … / SIN-DOH-FRA-LHR
    should avoid excessive ADP on outbound.

  9. To get back to today’s topic, (always annoying when it’s continual hijacked), another anomaly worth considering are BA’s 5th freedom routes, particularly the Carribean which all fall into the Reward Saver category.However you need patience and a bit of luck if you want to try and get Club World for these short one hour hops. I believe that Moscow also falls into the RFS, but the big difference is that you are guaranteed a long haul aircraft on most,not all, services.

    • Which SH aircraft do BA run to Moscow?

      • Do they occasionally run the Euro/UK 321s?

        • Barry cutters says:

          From my experience its normally 2 of the ex bmi with great club world seats a day and 777 once a day .
          the 777 used to be a 747, and sometimes is substituted when needed.

          Iv used both this year and have booked again for the football next summer. (out on 777 back on a321 )

        • Barry cutters says:

          as a city its really worth a visit . cant recommend it enough. Great IHG options for hotels, and great value for an avios club redemption off peak.

        • I was out 777 and back 321 last week. Although a bit knackered, I quite like the Captain Kirk seats for the space.

      • There are NO shorthaul aircraft scheduled to Moscow. Occasionally one had to be substituted at the last minute but if this happens an apology is made and compensation issued. It’s a longhaul product and advertised/sold/operated as such.

        • the real harry1 says:

          I think the point was: you can get it as a RFS redemption & it’s pretty good value

  10. Mairead de Buitleir says:

    Dear Rob,
    I’m beginning to think that Aer Lingus are misleading people with their Aer Club/ Avios points. Yesterday I contacted Aer Lingus, Dublin HQ to ascertain my current status & trying to find out how many points I had collected since I joined last February. The person dealing with me couldn’t tell me. She said that they didn’t expect the large numbers of people who signed on for the points & that they were way behind with their technology in dealing with this. Despite the fact that I had taken a return trip to Orland, returns to Paris & Vienna, Rome, I have two return upcoming flights to the U.S. and one return to Verona , having entered my reference numbers on each of these bookings – nothing was credited. She hadn’t an earthly clue as to the number of points I was due, or what I was entitled to – certainly, I was never going to get an upgrade on any trans Atlantic flights.
    I’d like to hear from you in relation to this. I thinks it show be high-lighted & make people aware that Aer Lingus, unlike other airlines, that their Avios points are practically worthless.
    Regards, Mairead de Buitleir

    • It is out of control, it has even been in the Irish press.

    • Mairead
      I think you need to get a BAEC BA account asap and credit all those flights taken within the last 6 mths. Aer club are worse than useless. Even worse than gold circle days. Have made all my family use a baec . At least you can have a household account so somebody can use the avios. Best way to find out avios owed and tier points of course is the ba avios checker on this site right panel.
      They can’t to be bothered quite honestly! Get a baec fast.
      You should be able to then switch avios back to aer club to use to upgrade etc…

    • Cuchlainn says:

      Travelling to DUB from BFS several times to use EI has opened several new Avios destinations to us up North – most recent being Lanzarote for 34,000 Avios and £168. – bargain when we get that exact amount self-referring each other.
      Aer Lingus IT is woeful – I waited 5 ( five ) months for them to change my date of birth by 1 day !!

  11. Earlier this year I triggered the 241 and used it on a trip to Dubai in first ( very nice and just £1100 in taxes to be paid for the 3 of us)
    I then downgraded the card and referred the wife to the bapp.
    I have just noticed that on my statement on the free card my yearly spend has been carried over from my previous card and it states I am only £3500 away from triggering a 241 for a 20k spend. Is it likely that if I hit the 20k I will receive another 241?

  12. Thanks for your replies, I wont spend the next £3500 on this card in that case!