How to get cheaper Avios redemptions to the Middle East by exploiting the 3000 mile rule

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On Saturday I looked at how you can fly on Finnair from Helsinki to Dubai – in A350 Business Class – for just 75,000 Avios and £116 of charges.  That article is here.

The reason that this is far cheaper than a BA redemption to Dubai (120,000 Avios on a peak date) is because the Avios redemption chart is distance based.  This is what it looks like  – 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

Because it is driven by distance, and because the gap between Avios pricing bands can be substantial, there are often good savings to be made if you leave the UK to start a redemption.  As an added bonus, you will save on long-haul premium cabin Air Passenger Duty too.

Before we go on, you should note that – as you won’t be flying British Airways if you start a redemption outside the UK – you hit two problems:

You can’t use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher as that is only valid on BA flights

You will be charged peak Avios pricing every day, as off-peak pricing only applies to BA flights

If these are not problems for you, read on.

I thought I would focus on the Qatar Airways flights to the Middle East today as an example, as you may be thinking of your holiday plans for the October to March peak tourist season.

However, even if you have no interest in a Qatar Airways trip to Doha, the same principles can be used with other Avios partners.  For example, Cathay Pacific redemptions to Hong Kong require fewer Avios if you start in Copenhagen because it pushes you into the lower band.

Going back to my Middle East example, the good news for Avios collectors is that:

Qatar Airways is a British Airways Avios earning and spending partner

Qatar Airways now flies to pretty much everywhere in Europe 

Qatar Airways has an excellent reputation for its premium cabins

Qatar Airways releases at least FOUR business class seats per flight

There is, of course, a big downside.  Due to the continuing blockade of Qatar by the UAE and others, it is not possible to (easily) connect from Doha to Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc.  If you follow the tips in this article, you will be holidaying in Doha.

Heading to the Middle East, the key cut-off point is 3,000 miles:

3,000 – 4,000 miles (which includes the UK), a Business Class return to Doha is 120,000 Avios return

Below 3,000 miles, a Business Class return to Doha is 75,000 Avios return

Here is a map showing you a 3,000 mile radius from Doha:

Any Avios redemption on Qatar Airways booked from a city inside the red line to Doha will price at 75,000 Avios instead of the 120,000 Avios it would cost from London.

Here are some Qatar Airways departure cities that are close to the red line and which are in most cases easily accessible from UK regional airports, as well as Heathrow:

  • Berlin
  • Budapest
  • Copenhagen
  • Frankfurt
  • Geneva
  • Gothenburg
  • Helsinki
  • Kiev
  • Milan
  • Munich
  • Nice
  • Pisa
  • Prague
  • Rome
  • Vienna
  • Warsaw
  • Zagreb
  • Zurich

Here is an example of business class pricing to Doha, return, using Avios:

Frankfurt to Doha, Business Class (Boeing 777) – 75,000 Avios + £418

Copenhagen to Doha, Business Class (Boeing 777) – 75,000 Avios + £422

Rome to Doha, Business Class (Boeing 787)- 75,000 Avios + £377

It is important to check the aircraft type.  Qatar Airways using short-haul planes on some niche European routes, although most of them still have flat bed seats.

Boeing 787 departures will have the herringbone seat I reviewed here.  An A350 will either have the herringbone layout or the amazing new Qsuite.  A Boeing 777 will either have the ‘not great for solo travellers but OK for couples’ 2x2x2 seating OR Qsuite, which is being rolled out slowly as the planes are refurbished.

The taxes are not cheap, unfortunately.  Whilst you will be saving a lot of Avios, you won’t be saving much on the taxes once you’ve added in the cost of getting to your starting point.

If you are interested in this idea, I suggest doing an open-jaw trip.  Fly out of one European city and back to a different one.  Tack on a bit of sightseeing in both.  This gives you two mini-breaks either side of your Middle East holiday, as well as saving you a lot of Avios.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. Rob

    Is it worth booking as two one ways even if you intend to return to the sane ex eu starting point? I seem to remember a while ago I was looking at taxes and one way from Doha was capped under £100, if I remember. Outbound depending on starting point was about £180ish.

    As a data point Frankfurt – Doha was £231 in taxes, return is £99. £330 in total saves a few quid.

    I did look at where the cheapest taxes were from versus aircraft type a while ago aswell.

  2. Istanbul to Doha is 20k Avios each way in business. And has widebody flatbed once a day.

  3. Will Avery says:

    Is that correct re. Cathay? Just checked and it’s the same band now. Same happened with SIA where they are now lumping most of Europe into the same band.

    • Cathay was 150k to CPH. I admit I did not recheck it last night, I relied on what I wrote for my main Cathay article earlier in the year.

      • I think they slipped in a re-price a couple of months ago. Annoying as that would be a good option.

        I see AsiaMiles as a reasonable & flexible Club to collect but haven redeeemed yet!

  4. OT – on Friday I booked a business class multi city to the USA I upgraded me and my partner to first class (outbound LHR – SJC and return JFK – LHR) i wasn’t quoted the avios cost on phone I think he forgot as I was as on hold 72 minutes and then they had to call me later (but he told me he had held the reward tickets for me) – as of now no avios has been removed from my account when do they normally take the avios for the redemptions from your account ? (I thing it should have cost me 90k avios ?)

    • Jonathan says:

      When you upgrade an existing booking the reservation is changed immediately but the underlying ticket needs to be changed in the back office ticketing department. This is done in priority order based on departure date so if you’re travelling in a few months this might take a while. Your avios will be debited when this process occurs. If it hasn’t happened a week before departure then call up as if the process doesn’t happen you will be travelling in CW!

      • I didn’t upgrade a different booking it was all done over phone same time I booked BA holiday didn’t get the booking ref till after they had done upgrade

    • Well I booked a return F trip a few months back for a few months time – the avios have still not been taken and the flights have ticketed…..

    • My tickets are BA holiday package I’ve paid the deposit and the tickets show as first and confirmed but they also show in MMB as 420 TP’s which is wrong but selling class is showing as Z – my concern is what happens if they try to take the avios and it’s not there – as they never quoted me the avios cost I’m not sure if my 90k calculation is correct and I want to make some other avios redemptions ????

  5. OT: I have just done my upgrade from Gold charge to Plat charge card. Does that mean it resets the referral bonus cap so that I can then do 90K of referrals till the end of the year on platinum?


    • In my experience you can refer 5 times from Plat and get the bonus regardless of any referrals you have made from the previous gold card.

  6. Alexander says:

    OT: Is the IHG accelerate promotion for Q3 coming any time soon?

  7. alpineSi says:

    I haven’t been able to log-in to Vueling ever since they changed to Avios club. The Avios UK people managed to save the Vueling points and post them to, but Vueling cannot do anything with my account to make it work again.

    I would tell them to delete my account, but I want access for IB codeshare seat selection and apparently if they just delete your account you can’t open a new one with the same email address! (And apparently a different email address would stop it syncing bookings with Iberia).
    Anyone had the same issues and got it sorted?

  8. OT but in case folks not checking yesterday’s Marriott post –

    Latest update (so far only released via OMAAT!) is that you can now make bookings using Travel Packages (no one month hiatus) and 30k compensation for those losing out (eg old cat 6) will be provided, with 45k if cancelled as before. No ability to upgrade from what they’ve said.

  9. Benylin says:

    On the talk of upgrades, is there a grid anywhere to see how many Avios to upgrade to Business from Economy if we can buy the Economy flights?

    Do you guys see that as good value in general?

    Can you use Avios to upgrade on Qatar Airways?

    • You can ONLY upgrade Q, O and G class Economy flights, which are not the cheap ones. And you can ONLY upgrade one level on BA, so it would be to World Traveller Plus. AND it requires an Avios seat to be available in WTP. It’s not happening, is what I’m trying to say.

      You can’t upgrade on Qatar with Avios.

  10. Would this work for Tel Aviv as well?

  11. Rob,

    Looking back at one of the article from 2015:

    It seems the DXB-HKG-TYO can still be done on Cathay but the cost is now 30K Avios + ~£120.
    Talk about avios + taxes inflation.

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