One of the key reasons that there is no obvious reason to ditch Avios for another oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance frequent flyer programme is the good value redemptions available in Europe.
(At least, good value if you live near Heathrow or Gatwick. Avios redemptions to Europe are now bad value if you live in the regions as you need to pay extra Avios for the connecting flight to Heathrow. Add in the pain of changing planes in Heathrow and it usually makes more sense to take a direct low cost flight from your local airport.)
9,000 Avios plus £35 for a British Airways return redemption in Economy up to 650 miles is excellent value. You should be able to get 1p per Avios much of the time.
Most other frequent flyer schemes treat Europe as one zone. This can work out well for longer flights, where London to Athens is priced at the same as London to Amsterdam, but for most people it means you’re getting a bad deal. A standard return redemption using Lufthansa Miles & More miles from London to Frankfurt costs a laughable 35,000 miles plus £85 in taxes and charges. In Economy. Alternatively, you could use a ludicrous 50,000 miles return and pay no taxes. Yeah, right.
United Airlines has now done something very interesting
The US airline United, part of Star Alliance, has just made a number of changes to its MileagePlus loyalty scheme.
It generally isn’t very pleasant for MileagePlus members. We tend not to cover the scheme much on Head for Points but if you want to know what is changing then this article from a US site covers it.
Here is the interesting bit though.
United has a launched a new award level. For flights outside the US, you will pay just 8,000 miles for a non-stop Economy one-way redemption of up to 800 miles.
800 miles covers quite a lot of ground. Importantly, it covers the countries covered by the main Star Alliance airlines in Europe – Lufthansa (Germany), SWISS, Austrian and Brussels Airlines.
It won’t, however, get you as far as Lisbon (on TAP) or Zagreb (on Croatia Airlines) or Ljubljana (on Adria) or Warsaw (on LOT). These remain at 15,000 miles. There is no deal on Business Class redemptions which remain at 30,000 miles in most cases.
Unfortunately, UK taxes and charges still make these tickets pricey. For example, for return Economy trips :
London to Frankfurt – 16,000 miles plus £93
London to Vienna -16,000 miles plus £93
You also have the option to book intra-Europe travel, of course (eg Geneva to Budapest) where you should get better value on the ‘taxes and charges’ element.
You can also use these 8,000 mile redemptions elsewhere in the world for short flights on Star Alliance airlines, as long as you are not in the US. For example, Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City is 8,000 miles plus $25 return on Singapore Airlines. Johannesburg to Cape Town on South African Airways is also an 8,000 mile one-way redemption.
Earning United Airlines miles is tricky, however
One snag is that United Airlines miles are not easy to earn:
The UK credit card has just been withdrawn
You cannot transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to United
You can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to United (and go from Amex to Starwood) BUT Starwood has a very poor transfer rate to United of 2:1 instead of the usual 1:1
It is really only an option if you are crediting Star Alliance flights into United Airlines.
These new 8,000 mile United Airlines one-way redemptions are not going to have British Airways worried. However, it is good to see another airline addressing the value problems around short-haul redemptions as low cost carriers continue to force down short-haul fares.
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