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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. Mikee says:

    Have booked numerous internal US flights on AA using Avios. Keep a close eye on the cash price to see if you’re getting good value for money.

    As a BA silver, I get 2x baggage included and use of the AA Admirals lounges on internal flights. As Gold, you would get Flagship Lounge access with much better food and drinks offerings. This is one of the benefits of having Oneworld status as most if not all AA Advantage members do not get lounge access on internal US flights (unless flying First) whereas Oneworld Emerald and Sapphires are eligible, even on economy tickets (you also get Main Cabin Extra seats for free).

    • You should get flagship as silver/sapphire. I do regularly in ohare and miami

  2. Following on from a few commentators have said about the value of avios, do you have any recommendations how to calculate what sort of slush pot of avios to keep in reserve? BA and Iberia allow you purchase 100,000 a year each program. That’s not a lot for regular biz/F travelers. But transferring too many into avios means you can miss out on other nice things in other programs. Given that the very worst avios can do is to become a defunct product overnight, how do you work out how much you should keep in reserve before diversifying?

    • Shoestring says:

      It’s far more than that – BA and IB both seem to be offering the +50% promotion twice a year, with a 200,000 + 100,000 bonus each time. So you can easily buy 1.2m each pa at little over 1p each. Costing you £12,000 at the extreme end of comfortable stash.

      I set our own stash requirements at 250,000 as that’s what we burn each year, give or take a few cash tickets (we can’t get 5 Economy flights on Avios so somebody has to get HBO).

      However, I am much more comfortable having more than 250K in the bank.

      • So you take what you spent the previous year, probably add a bit to cover for inflation and enhancements. Sounds as good a plan as any.
        I wouldn’t be comfortable buying that amount just to stash in one program. Also we fly to the middle east a lot and with Al Baker’s threats of leaving OneWorld, recently offering generous own airline promotional bonus points and now bringing back the call center, I want a bit more security than all avios. Thanks Shoestring.

  3. Jerry Mandel says:

    When you see that BA does not fly that route, go on down to see partner availability (AA).

  4. I have a AA San Diego to Chicago flight booked in economy. Can I upgrade using Avios online at AA or BA? Thanks. Nick

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