How do I book a flight with Avios?
Today I want to run through the basics of how to book flights using Avios points.
Fundamentally, it is as simple as going to the ‘spend your Avios’ page on ba.com and putting in the dates you want to fly. However, there are many other nuances you need to understand. Much of it will come from experience, but here are some of the key points.
How many Avios do you need for a flight?
Following a recent revamp of the British Airways website, you can no longer see a simple chart of how much an Avios redemption flight costs. You are expected to plug your route into this ba.com calculator.
Luckily I have a copy of the chart here. The basis of Avios pricing is this simple grid, which prices British Airways flights based on the one-way distance flown:
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
There are exceptions to these zones, with some routes such as Cape Town being put into a cheaper zone than their distance would suggest.
Short domestic flights in the US are priced differently – see this article
How do I know what my flight will cost?
I’ve made it very easy for you. This article (click) lists every British Airways route and the Avios needed, for every ticket class, to book it. You can download the data in a spreadsheet if you want to play with it.
There is a calculator on ba.com which will tell you miles required for any direct redemption flight. You will need to use this if you want to know the cost of a partner flight as my list only covers BA flights.
What are the peak and off-peak dates?
Redemption costs on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus vary depending on whether you fly on a peak or off-peak day.
BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus do NOT have the same peak and off-peak dates.
You can save a lot of points if you apply these calendars smartly. Compared with British Airways, Aer Lingus doesn’t have an October and February peak season during the UK half terms. The April peak season is one week shorter and there’s also no peak season towards the end of May / early June. Redeeming via Dublin on Aer Lingus could save you a lot of Avios during these periods.
Flights with any airline other than British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia will ALWAYS price at the peak rate.
And just to add extra confusion ….
There is a second British Airways Avios redemption pricing chart for trips which use two or more oneworld carriers apart from British Airways.
This chart is rarely used but you can find it here. A flight such as London – Doha (Qatar) – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) would price off this chart. There is a permanent link to this chart under ‘Key ba.com links’ in the right hand margin of the desktop HFP site.
I discuss some uses of the Avios multi-partner reward chart in this article. There is real value in it if you are heading to Australasia for example.
How is pricing calculated for connecting flights?
Pricing is based on EACH individual flight, not the distance between origin and destination. This means that the Avios charged for a particular route can vary depending on how you fly there:
London to Muscat on British Airways is non-stop and 3600 miles, so costs 13,000 miles in Economy one-way off-peak and 20,000 miles on a peak day
London to Muscat on Qatar Airways (or a mix of BA and Qatar Airways) involves a change in Doha. London to Doha is 3,200 miles and Doha to Muscat is 437 miles. This means your flight will cost (13,000 or 20,000 + 4,500=) 17,500 / 24,500 Avios, one way depending on whether the BA flight is on a peak day.
The only exception is when booking a UK domestic connection to/from London to connect to a long-haul flight. No additional Avios are required for this.
What taxes and charges are due on top of my Avios points?
The cost of your reward flight will also include a charge for ‘taxes and surcharges’. This is mainly a fuel surcharge and the UK Government’s Air Passenger Duty.
As an example, London to Abu Dhabi on British Airways, return, has a taxes and charges total of £284 in Economy.
This is, frankly, crazy. You can usually pick up an economy flight to Abu Dhabi or Dubai for around £350 return on BA or one of the Middle Eastern airlines.
Unless you fly on Aer Lingus or Iberia, starting your trip outside the UK, these taxes clearly make Economy redemptions in long haul poor value for money unless you are travelling at peak times such as school holidays. This is why Head for Points usually recommends redeeming in Business or First Class on BA – the taxes will be around £550 per person, return, but this is still a fraction of the usual cash price of your seat.
Taxes and surcharges on European flights are capped at £35 for Economy and £50 for Business on British Airways flights. This means short-haul redemptions are good value in either class.
Using Avios to upgrade
Which airlines can I redeem on?
How early can you book an Avios flight?
At the end, it is easy to learn how to use your Avios to book a flight but as you have now seen there are lots of quirks to learn about.
(This article is part of our ‘BA Q&A’ series which explains how British Airways Executive Club works. You can see all of our ‘BA Q&A’ articles here. )
(Head for Points is the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website with 1.5 million monthly page views. Want to learn more about earning and spending Avios? Click here to read our latest news stories, click here to join our email list and click here to read our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.)
Get 20,000 Avios from Amex Gold, or 30,000 Avios from Amex Platinum! (January 2021 offer)
The sign-up bonus on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold converts to 20,000 Avios and the card is free for the first year!
You don’t qualify for the Amex Gold bonus if you have a British Airways American Express card. You DO qualify for the bonus on The Platinum Card, which converts into 30,000 Avios – find out more here:
If you have your own small business, the best way of earning Avios is via the Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa. It has a sign-up bonus which converts to 10,000 Avios:
You can find out more about ALL UK credit cards which offer travel rewards in this article, updated monthly.