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Interesting anomalies in Avios reward pricing you can exploit

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Some Avios redemptions are ‘disproportionately’ cheap because they fall right on the edge of an Avios pricing band.

If you know how to use this knowledge to your advantage, you make decent savings in Avios and/or taxes on your next long-haul redemption.

How can Avios pricing anomalies make flights cheaper?

Until Aer Lingus rigged the game by forcibly moving it into the higher band, Dublin to Boston was the prime example of this.  At 2,993 miles it used to be a bargain as it fell into the cheaper “sub 3,000 miles” pricing of 75,000 Avios return in Business.  Instead of paying 100,000 off-peak or 120,000 peak Avios on a direct BA flight from London, you could make a chunky saving by taking a cheap flight to Dublin to start your journey.

Aer Lingus eventually decided to spoil the fun.  It has now decided that Boston is 8 miles further away than it really is, so it now costs 100,000 or 120,000 Avios depending on whether it is a ‘peak’ day.  There is no Avios saving compared to flying BA from London, although the substantial £400 tax saving remains.

Back in 2013, spurred on by an article I wrote on the topic, the team at Flyertalk produced some fantastic diagrams to highlight potential pricing anomalies.  These make it easy to spot interesting redemptions which might be surprisingly good value.

I have only focused on one example in this article, but if you click here to visit Flyertalk you will see them for virtually all oneworld airline hubs.

This example chart shows Avios pricing bands for Qatar Airways, radiating out from Doha (click to enlarge):

Qatar distance map

The numbers refer to the nine Avios pricing bands for flights on partner airlines (click to enlarge):

BA reward flight avios redemption prices on partner airlines table

Let’s take a look at the Qatar Airways chart in detail.  A green dot means that the city is in the lower priced band.  A red dot means that the city is in the higher priced band.

An example to Doha:

London to Doha, as you can see, is Zone 5.

Flying direct on British Airways, you pay 120,000 Avios return in Business Class on a ‘peak’ day – this prices off the BA reward chart, not the partner chart shown above – plus £448.

Flying direct on Qatar Airways, you pay 124,000 Avios return in Business Class plus £452.

Frankfurt, though, is just in Zone 4This means you pay only 77,500 Avios return in Business Class from Frankfurt to Doha.  Taxes are £417 return.

As you get a return Avios flight on British Airways to Frankfurt for 9,000 Avios plus £35, you can save 33,500 Avios on peak date Business Class redemptions to Doha by connecting in Frankfurt, albeit with an Economy connecting flight.

(A warning – if you book both flights on the same ticket, the taxes figure will jump up because you will need to pay long-haul Air Passenger Duty.  If you book both flights on separate tickets, you could be in trouble if you miss your connection.  The choice is yours.)

An example to Singapore:

You will also see that Singapore is conveniently placed on the edge of Zone 5.  This means that, whilst connecting usually means a bad deal when redeeming with Avios, in this case it works out OK.

Frankfurt to Singapore via Doha is 100,750 Avios plus £263 tax (business, one-way). 

London to Singapore on BA, non-stop – a VERY tricky seat to find – is 105,000 Avios plus £393 tax one-way on a peak day. 

Add in 4,500 Avios + £17.50 for a one-way flight to Frankfurt and the Avios cost is roughly equal.  Clearly one of these trips requires three flights and the other is direct, but the £113 tax saving compensates partially – and, of course, you’re flying Qatar Airways in Qsuite if you choose the right aircraft.  In any event, it is VERY hard to get seats on the direct British Airways Singapore service so you may end up looking for an alternative.

There’s more ….

You can spend ages playing with these charts and working out options.  Over at Flyertalk you will find them for:

  • Aer Lingus ex-Dublin
  • American Airlines ex-Los Angeles
  • American Airlines ex-New York
  • American Airlines ex-Chicago
  • American Airlines ex-Dallas
  • American Airlines ex-Miami
  • Cathay Pacific ex-Hong Kong
  • Iberia ex-Madrid
  • LAN ex-Santiago
  • Malaysia Airlines ex-Kuala Lumpur

… as well as generic charts from Delhi and Singapore.

Note – and this is very important – that these charts were created before the 2015 Avios devaluation and the 2019 partner airline price rises.  All of the Avios pricing examples given in that thread are now wrong and you will need to re-work the numbers.  The charts themselves are still accurate, however, as the Avios bandings did not change.

All of the charts can be found in this Flyertalk thread.

(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. O/t has anyone received a response from the IHG status match yet?

    • No, although the application page did state I should check the app for progress making me think I would not hear from them direct.

    • Are you referring to the IHG to Star Alliance Gold status match??

      I got it today (early morning as Japan time), had applied two weeks ago when it first launched.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      Yes, although it was THE most singular painful thing I’ve ever done with on offer.

      They took two weeks to verify that I worked for an eligible company (They could have just emailed my registered email address!).

      Despite several calls to customer services, with reps who couldn’t understand the rules, I got nowehere.

      So, imagine my glee when, THREE weeks later, my INSTANT platinum was finally achieved.

      Pith poor, IHG, if you’re reading.

      • That was a different match. The new one is open to anyone.

        • Sundar says:

          What is this new star alliance status open to everyone ?

          • IHG March, not Star match.

          • It’s not a Star Alliance match that is open to everyone… it’s the ‘To IHG’ match – i.e. from Hilton or Marriott etc. There was an article a couple of weeks ago.

          • Sundar says:

            ok, thanks. Yeah saw that. Getting Spire through spend currently, so not interested.

  2. Eli Goldberg says:

    Redemptions with Air lingus are a real bargain as far as tax is concerned!
    Just looked into NYC to MAN, the same goes for NYC-LON, it’s 25,500 avios (peak) and in avios.com (anyone still remember that website) it asks for £209 tax. Call BA and it’s £53!

    • Mikeact says:

      We use Iberia exMadrid for some remarkable savings , both Avios and charges.

  3. Mikeact says:

    @Rob. Just wondering if you would be able to have a word with your friend Prospero about getting it updated as I have found it so useful. In fact I believe there are a number of volunteers over there who would be more than happy to help out. I’m not sure it was ever included as a Sticky but it is certainly a valuable resource.

  4. OT: But you may be able to use Avios to get there! Yes hotel has become bookable with points for the F1 weekend – the last weekend in November. 3 nights for 75k or cash price of £3.5k.

    • Sorry missed some critical info: the Yas hotel in Abu Dhabi and you can use Marriott points.

      • Was this definitely showing? Been looking out for these dates for a while but they are still blocked for me.

    • Booked, thank you BLT. Seems if you’re booking with points you only have 24 hours if you want to cancel without penalty.

  5. The_real_a says:

    O/T Thanks to whoever it was suggesting eatigo app for Asia. Some friends have just enjoyed a seafood buffet for around £10 (50% off) at the Sheraton Riverside Bangkok. I’ll be making good use in a couple of weeks.

  6. Hardy says:

    Ok – so I have spent 10k on my BAPP, I cannot apply any MR card until Oct 2019 because of new Amex rules. What is the best way for me to earn most avios along with sign-ups? Any recommendations?

    • Shoestring says:

      you *can* actually apply for new Amex cards, you just won’t get the sign-up bonus (assuming you cancelled Gold or Plat Oct 2017) but you would get the referral bonus and be able to earn Avios on a different card.

      So you *could* get a new Gold card and earn Avios @2.67/ £1 (assuming you hit the £15K spend to trigger the 10K MR points bonus.

      Or get Green with a referral, then upgrade to Plat for £20K bonus, nearly as good as waiting 2 years for your new Plat sign-up bonus (And better than a new Gold sign-up bonus).

      Assuming you don’t want to do that, you have no choice but to keep spending on the BAPP if you insist it’s Avios earning only that interests you.

      Other people are waiting it out by earning Virgin miles on one of the 2 cards available.

      • Hardy Makkar says:

        Thank you very much. This is very helpful.

        • Shoestring says:

          sorry it’s 1.67 MR/ £1 points on Gold UK spend (2.67 on foreign spend)

          vs BAPP 1.5 UK/ £1

      • Harry T says:

        Harry, what’s your strategy moving forwards?

        • I’m going with Harry and getting as many referral points as I can from BAPP and SPG. Who knows if there will still be any sign up bonuses in 2 years? The only exception is that the OH and I are going to now wait 2 years and see if Amex Platinum is still an option for a sign up bonus at that point (as long as it’s still unaffected by holding other non-MR cards). If so, it’ll be a quick in and out as the benefits don’t justify the fee for us.

        • Shoestring says:

          I’m keeping a Gold card going for now, in year 2 so £140/ year – I reckon I can easily offset that with a few referrals, Amex statement offers, Amazon offers, 2 lounge passes & others @£20 – I’ll earn 2.67 MR points/ £1 by spending exactly £15K pa (and no more – no need to worry about using it abroad as the 2.99% fee is largely offset by the 2.67 MR points on foreign spend, it’s no worse than buying Avios @1.1p/ point

          plus a green card for self & wife, upgrading to Plat from time to time

          rest of spend on Virgin

          • Shoestring says:

            yep same mistake 1.67 MR points / £1 UK spend

          • Harry T says:

            Thanks! So you’re carrying Green and Gold long term? Is that a Gold credit or charge?

            Why not the BAPP or SPG long term? I’m interested in your reasoning.

          • Shoestring says:

            Mainly because we don’t collect for hotel points, no need at the moment. Just Avios & Virgin.

            Green is just tactical, Gold Charge is perhaps longer term, we’ll see – not looking further forward than 12-18-24 months at the mo

          • What happens to MR accounts when holding two MR cards at same time? I’ve never done that before but I’m thinking of applying for gold credit, I already have green charge.

          • Grant says:

            They merge – either automatically or by request.

            I was holding Gold credit and then got Green to do the upgrade to Plat. My Plat MR account got merged with my Gold and I have one MR balance – this happened without me asking.

            My wife however got Green in order to cancel her Plat and keep the MR points alive. Ended up with separate MR accounts for each and had to ask CS to merge them before she cancelled Plat.

          • Thanks Grant.

      • LewisB says:

        Do you have the buy 20k avios for £335 plus 10k bonus avios on your BAPP? May be worth considering…

  7. 2 questions:
    1. What’s easiest way to check aerlingus availability?
    2. Am I right in thinking with 241 voucher to USA it’s better to go with BA or is it still worth going via Iberia/aer lingus?

    • Harry T says:

      1) Avios.com – I had to make an Aer Lingus account and use those login details for Avios.com as my old Avios account was transferred to BAEC.
      2) you can only use the BA 241 on BA metal. Apologies if I misunderstood your question.

      • 2) – if you’re avios rich, the Aer Lingus option is better, if you have less avios and don’t mind paying the BA surcharges, the 2 4 1 option is better.

    • Lady London says:

      1. Use UA. Only lowest class award available to you. BA should see same. If not huaca on BA as this source usually v. accurate.

    • You can’t. You can look at avios.com but that does not match what ba.com sees, and you want to book via the ba.com call centre due to the massively lower taxes. avios.com overstates what ba.com sees.

      No simple answer to 2) as it is all down to route and even the day you travel due to varying peak/off-peak rules. Remember Iberia to New York is 68k in Business + £175 whilst BA is 100k (off-peak) + £550.

      • Thanks all for replies. It seems even with 241 BA isn’t exactly the best which I have always assumed. I wouldn’t classify myself as Avios rich but I can stretch if financially better.

    • I have a subscription with expertflyer.com it can show mileage seats on Aer Lingus and many others.

  8. With the Qatar map you have to keep in mind that short haul regional premium cabins aren’t necessarily cheaper. QR operate economy and first only on regional flights, costing more points.

  9. pauldb says:

    I think the most useful band to know the limits of is Band 1. Have concocted some great holidays around the fringes: MRS, GOA, MXP, SZG, BGO (RIP). It’s basically throw-away-avios required and usually easy value to pay up for CE. On the other hand it probably explains why I’ve never been to VRN!

    • Simon says:

      I agree. BIO for northern Spain. Sad about the loss of Biarritz.

      • pauldb says:

        +1: have family near BIQ. Having to go via BIO next month, so at least that’s economic.

  10. James says:

    That’s those soon to be amended then.

  11. James67 says:

    OT

    To use Amex Platinum cafe hire insurance, Do I need to pay for the rental on the card, or can I use my 0% FX card?

    • If it’s a UK Platinum card, you can pay with any card and you’re still covered. Can vouch for this from experience, and I think Rob can too (there’s an article on here somewhere).

    • No, you can use any card.

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