How to redeem Avios for low tax US domestic flights – Avios Redemption University – Lesson 13

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The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from it.  Click here to see the other “Avios Redemption University” articles.

This article explains how to redeem Avios for domestic flights in the United States.

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 domestic flights.  The acquisition of Virgin America by Alaska Airlines a couple of years ago has added a lot of new route options.

The good 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 has just £8 of taxes in Economy.

American Airlines

To make your life complicated, however, there are special rules for the pricing of short domestic redemptions in the United States.

Here is the standard Avios pricing chart – click to enlarge. Note that flights on partner airlines such as American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are ALWAYS priced at peak day rates, whatever day you fly.

BA reward flight avios redemption prices on partner airlines table

In 2016, however, Avios introduced a new rules specifically for short domestic US redemptions.

For flights under 650 miles:

Economy class redemptions are now 7,500 Avios one-way instead of 4,500

Business class redemptions are now 15,000 Avios one-way instead of 9,000

First Class redemptions (on three class aircraft) are now 30,000 Avios one-way instead of 18,000

Pricing on routes over 650 miles remains the same.

One other issue which often crops up when pricing US domestic redemptions is that to get the pricing in the chart above, you must travel non-stop, without a change of plane. If you change planes, you will be charged each flight separately. This can make redemptions very expensive if there is no direct American or Alaska flight to where you want to go, which is often the case.

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 (7,500 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 (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Detroit to New York LaGuardia (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Atlanta to New York LaGuardia (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Atlanta to Chicago (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Miami to New York LaGuardia (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Miami to Key West (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • St Louis to New Orleans (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
  • Toronto to Chicago (7,500 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 7,500 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 Portland, Anchorage, San Francisco 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.

What baggage allowance do I get?

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

Annoyingly, you won’t even realise this unless you click the ‘Your Baggage Allowance’ dropdown box during the booking process. It may make more sense to use extra Avios to book Business than pay for a bag in Economy.

How to book US domestic tickets with Avios

American Airlines 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 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.  A later article in this series will look specifically at Alaska and its routes to Hawaii.

(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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Comments

  1. Nigel the pensioner says:

    I tried booking MIA to MSY on BA’s app (logged in) and it simply said we dont fly this route! Yet AA are the only airline to fly directly. Is this another of the many failings of the BA app?? Can this only be done on the full web site?
    It is also worth reminding readers that as well as peak pricing, AA call their relative short haul front cabins “First” rather than “Business” even though it is more of a Business class product. So again more Avios down the drain!

    • Nigel the pensioner says:

      Recall first paragraph. It works on the website albeit 30,000 Avios each for front cabin but only £7.50 each tax!
      Second paragraph comment stands.

      • Orlandobelle says:

        I get this error on the website (DTW-LGA)
        Error
        British Airways does not have traffic rights to operate directly between these two cities.

        How did you circumvent this error please?

        • Travel Strong says:

          I get the same error, and always have done whenever trying to browse domestic USA routes! How are you guys getting britishairways.com to play ball ?!

        • david cliff says:

          I think this may be an issue with AA availability opening up later than BA (355 days). I tried MIA-BGI for weeks and got the same message. If you leave it maybe 345 / 335 days before departure you may find suddenly seats are widely available.

  2. Did someone not post recently that their AA redemption turned out to be basic economy, i.e. only a very small piece of hand luggage allowed (no wheels case) and therefore cancelled? This would Male economy redemptions pretty useless for leisure travellers.

    • Marcw says:

      Basic Economy on AA and Delta includes carry on (United’s doesn’t).

      • There are 2 categories for “carry on” now though. One is your cabin bag plus small handbag/briefcase. The other is just the handbag (which has got to go under the seat in front, you can’t have overhead locker space). The poster had ended up with the latter option.

        • Marcw says:

          From the American Airlines webpage. Basic economy: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on. the fact that somebody else wrote X doesn’t make it valid. It’s important to reference the original source (which you can find here: https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/experience/seats/basic-economy.jsp). Probably the other reader didn’t check properly, or not at all! (at the beginning, AA Basic Economy only included personal item and not carry on, but soon after they changed their mind).

        • I seem to remember reading that AA introduced basic economy this way (very restricted) and had to backtrack after a while.

        • Good to know, thanks! I must say I was doubtful that Americans would put up with having their hand luggage allowances curtailed, and it must have been a nightmare to keep tabs on who was trying to get on with what!

    • Drolma-la says:

      Yes. I thought what a good idea to redeem Avios for a couple of one-way domestic US flights. After booking, I found very quickly that the flights I booked were in fact Basic Economy. BA let me cancel them without penalty. But I was shocked to be dumped into Basic Economy with no warning.

  3. LewisB says:

    I would love to know how to redeem on Easter Island from Santiago as mentioned above. It’s classed as ‘Long and expensive’ but the cash fares are even worse!

    • Pawel Siewko says:

      Direct service IPC-LIM first what I heard of…cannot find it on google flights so it’s mistake….you cannot fly Easter Island to Lima direct

      I hope if it will be true in future

    • Check business class tickets from Santiago on but on chile LATAM website it quite cheap….

    • Lottie says:

      You can book it on BA.com via LATM as we looked at it when we booked into SCL. It’s only available from SCL not Lima and it sells out extremely quickly so book pretty much a year ahead as soon as the flights are released.

    • Marcw says:

      There’s virtually no award availability to/from Easter Island.

      • United? Star alliance? Delta?

        • marcw says:

          You clearly don’t know what you talking about. Easter Island is only served by LATAM, a member of oneworld. Not bookable on United Mileage Plus or Delta Skymiles.

        • It was just a suggestion. Here’s another one:

          Rob’s current value of avios I understand is .01 pence each. He supplied a figure of 25,000 avios (plus any fees ???) for a return economy trip Santiago (SCL) to Easter Island (IPC). That values a return economy trip, without fees,GBP£250 if we accept Rob’s valuation. Or, £254 inc fees and taxes for return economy flights by switching Latam’s website over from UK to Chile.

        • Shoestring says:

          not many of us value them as low as 0.01p

        • Agree Shoestring and I’d imagine now that there is a minimum 24 month break between amex card bonuses they’l have become more valuable to some.

        • marcw says:

          @Shoestring, hardly difficult to value Avios higher than 1p when you are able to buy tons of Avios points at circa 1p each. But yeah… giving a value to points/miles is a difficult/philosophical/creative/ideal-vs-realistic/mathematical challenge.

        • Peter 64K says:

          I agree with shoestring, 0.01p per avios is very low 😂 I’ve been going for 0.5p and thought that was quite low.

        • Shoestring says:

          happy to call it 0.7p 🙂 – also happy to accept other people’s 1p

          but 0.01p?

    • Hey LewisB, I have the route booked for later this year? What do you want to know?

      • LewisB says:

        Did you manage to get award availability? I don’t mind paying cash but I can’t seem to find anything below £500rt. I’ll be able to book a year in advance, need to book around October when I sort my 241. I’ve tried the LATAM website (local chile site but I only found it to he marginally cheaper. Perhaps I need to keep trying dummy bookings.

        • marcw says:

          Since LATAM changed their own FFP earlier this year…. they only offer “Flex Awards to/from Easter Island”. These awards are, however, not available to partners such as BAEC (or any other oneworld partner). I suspect @Neil booked the awards before the changes.

        • Neil Donoghue says:

          I did indeed Lewis.The flight is available each week on Monday’s and Monday’s only. You cannot book the flight 7 weeks out from today’s date. Assuming today is the 2nd of April when you read this then the next available date is the 27th of May. There is always 7 economy & 2 business class seats available. Sounds too simple you say, sadly there is one catch. You must search SCL – PPT. I will leave the decision with you if you want to get out and not continue to PPT.

          You mentioned a 241. I am flying out to SCL in F and back from SYD in F. Filling the gap in between with SCL – IPT – PPT – AKL – SYD all in J. Moral of the story, listen to no one. Everything and anything is possible with careful planning and organisation. P.s – The PPT flight returns every Tuesday (Same rules above apply).

        • marcw says:

          Finding availability for SCL to PPT is no problem. There’s plenty of awards. The problem is only TO/FROM Easter Island.

  4. Steve R says:

    We are flying with AA, MIA – BGI this July., booked with Avios,

    The booking is main cabin, will have to pay for suitcases, but for 10,000 Avios + £5 PP whose complaining

    • SimonW says:

      Ditto MIA – JFK. 30,000 avios and £32 for 4 of us. Versus £700 cash fare.
      Beware the weight of your cases – over 23KG, and you are paying $100 instead of $30.

    • david cliff says:

      I’ve just booked exactly the same for next Feb, a bargain in my eyes ! 🙂

  5. Elliot says:

    If direct flights are unavailable to book for a companion voucher redemption, is it possible to book a return companion redemption to a hub airport and then call BA to tack on the additional flight legs on say AA to the final destination and have them as a direct connection (with baggage passing directly through)? Obviously both tickets would have to be paid for in full as the companion voucher doesnt cover AA flights. However would one need to pick their baggage up at baggage reclaim and recheck in or are BA able to pass the baggage through direct to the final destination?

    I ask this as some flights e.g. LHR-MIA (BA) MIA-CUN (AA) are able to be booked via the BA website if paid for, but wondering if this could be recreated via Avios?

    • Nick_C says:

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but be aware that transiting in the US is not simple. Even if your bags can be checked through to a non US destination, you will still have to clear Customs and Immigration. Allow 5 hours to make a connection at MIA, or stay overnight.

  6. Oh Dear.

    I travel twice a year on business, on average, and put my miles towards Virgin, so earn no avios from business travel whatsoever. However, I still manage to earn a fair bit of avios from other travel. The occasional jaunt up to Manchester to seem the family, Istanbul, Tenerife, Copenhagen and Lisbon were all flown on BA last year. And yet, I’ve still enough Amex MR and Avios for a business class flight to New York.

    If you’re savvy with sign up bonuses, and put everything through charge cards, you’d be surprised at just how quickly you can rack up points.

  7. Mikeact says:

    A small tip for the best of both worlds with the upcoming Virgin changes. We use both Avios with generally American, and Delta with my SkyTeam KLM miles…..literally fly just about anywhere.

    • marcw says:

      I use the Avios and Flying Blue combo. You can get virtually everywhere.

      • Mikeact says:

        FWIW AirFrance are currently running a buy miles up to 75% promotion, eg max 100k + 75 for €2750. Maybe not the world’s best deal, but still cheaper than buying a premium ticket…if you can find the redemption you want.

  8. Mikeact says:

    Fred is obviously totally ignorant as to how Avios works and has never taken time out to investigate..ignore.

  9. Does anyone have a general sense of whether converting Amex Rewards points to Avios, AA, or Delta points generally offers the best value? I know when I flew LGA to BOS return last September it was definitely available for fewer points with Delta, which, given the 1:1 transfer rate from Amex, made it the clear winner for me on that occasion. But I don’t know if that’s typical.

    • marcw says:

      It depends, check route by route… I used 5.000 Skypesos to fly from JFK to SEA. But it’s revenue based… so you have to check route by route. I believe NYC-BOS is also available for 5.000 Skypesos.

  10. Nate1309 says:

    If anyone is planning ahead to book LAX-HNL on BA (a real bargain imo) I would avoid trying to get Saturday flights. Most days of the week when I was booking for my parents had 7 seats per flight pop up in the middle of the night. But I tracked it and did some dummy bookings before the dates I needed and Saturday flights never seem to be available.

  11. Think you may have a problem with your caps/shift key sticking there 😂

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