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Interesting anomalies in Avios flight 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.)

Comments (117)

  • 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.

  • James says:

    That’s those soon to be amended then.

  • James67 says:


    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?

  • Martin H says:

    O/T with apologies if not appropriate use of the thread, requesting a favour if anyone happy to sign in a guest at LHR A gates lounge around 12.30 today. We are a family of 3 and only status for 2 to enter. Many thanks

    • Alex M says:

      if the third person is a child asking politely usually gains entrance to the lounge in my experience.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Not any help to the poster, but a general suggestion – any thought on HfP setting up a Google Doc spreadsheet (or similar) so people can offer or request guesting into lounges?

      There’s something similar on one of the FB frequent flyer groups I’m in, and might be something of value to various readers.

      • Rob says:

        The airlines don’t like this. Flyertalk was forced to close its thread under airline pressure, and they don’t even take any money from the airlines (whilst we do).

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Fair enough, that makes sense. The FB groups are closed, so obviously the audience is a bit more restricted!

  • Nick G says:

    OT slightly…


    In October family of 3 we have BA CE flights from LHR – FRA via Iberia (via the cheap way on last year’s promo!). The next day we have QR flights booked on Q suite (no doubt change!) to DOH booked using avios on BA. 10 nights later we are flying back DOH – FRA on QR again in J, land at 1300hrs then onward to LHR at 1740hrs. I’m flying back with my son on that flight, my wife an hour later on the 1845hrs.

    So the BA flights are on separate PNR’s as are the QR flights. we have a good insurance policy in place of course as well. Thinking worst case if there is a delay am I right in thinking;

    1. EU261 is not in play as its a NON EU airline flying INTO Europe?
    2. QR have no responsibility as the onward flights are on different airlines, AND separate PNR’s?
    3. Do BA have no responsibility as we will be flying in on QR on different PNR’s?

    Hope that all makes sense?!

    • Shoestring says:

      1 – 3 yes, all correct

      no chance you can make them re-ticket you, no duty of care, BA have been known to be lenient & let you get the next flight sometimes, though

    • Adrian says:

      With regards to 2. With separate tickets and pnr’s BA will not help you but on your return QR will interline your bags as long as your next flight is on a one world carrier (such as BA) and you meet MCT at the airport and with 3hrs and 40 mins I’m sure you do. Just ask in DOH for your bags to be checked all the way to LHR (I normally show them my itinerary and or/boarding pass). Cathay will also do this for you.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      QR will check you in for your BA flight, print your boarding pass and through check your bags. I think you’ll be fine.

      It’s really just starting ex EU flights that has become a pain with BA as they won’t interline bags on separate flights anymore and that can make what seems like reasonable lay overs seem tight.

  • Tom says:

    OT: I am flying to Bali tomorrow. Yesterday I had a fall and hurt my back, doctor has said it will be 2 or 3 days before I am feeling better. I am in pain today but not as bad as yesterday. If I go tomorrow and my back gets worse am I covered on Amex Platinum travel insurance or is this now a “pre-existing medical condition”. My argument against it being that would be the alternative would be to cancel the whole trip now so I am not trying to game the system. Any opinions welcome!

    • Autumn says:

      Tom, I’d say go to Bali, check in to your hotel, and book yourself a treatment. Your back will be sorted 😉

    • GeorgeJ says:

      The difficulty you may have is that the cancellation cover and the medical cover will probably be in two separate pools and the underwriters (Axa for medical and in my case Chubb for cancellation – this is the dollar card) will have different interests. Look at your policy document to see who are underwriting, Amex dont do insurance themselves.
      The only suggestion I can make is; 1) has your doctor advised against travel, if he has, dont do it and take the cancellation option and get your doctor to sign off on your condition.. 2) if he hasn’t then advise Amex and ask them if you are covered and if not cancel (and get your doctor to sign it off as before).
      Normally pre-existing conditions are matters which existed before the date the insurance was taken out (eg a heart condition), not something relatively minor which occurs during the period of cover – however you are right to be careful, insurers do look at the minutiae.

      • Tom says:

        Thank you both. The doctor did not advise against traveling (did not endorse it either though). I will give Amex a call and see what they say! Fingers crossed!

        • Lady London says:

          If you’re not at least in J then don’t travel. You’ll need a flat bed to have any chance of making it. ,:-)

    • GeorgeJ says:


      I should also say that its matter of degree. If the likely treatment for this is only going to be a bit of physio then Autumn’s advice is good. Just either pay it yourself or try a claim and dont get too excited if it fails. I have done that myself on at least two occasions (back issues caused by lifting stuff and falling off a bike). For one I won the claim, for one I didnt, cost GBP200, not the end of the world and a lot less trouble than cancelling a trip.

      • Tom says:

        I think it is likely to just need a few physio sessions. I have gone from not being able to move yesterday to moving OK today but bending over or standing up still being almost impossible (sciatic pain). My flight isn’t until the evening tomorrow so will leave it to the last minute to call it off if there is zero improvement from now. Thanks again for your advice!

        • Cat says:

          Also, make use of all support services you can. Contact the airport to see what support they can give you getting across the airport. Use Airporter to get luggage to the airport.
          I hope it works out!

    • Andrew says:

      This is a REALLY important question, and one of the range of reasons why I don’t value the American Express Platinum value proposition at all.

      The health insurance is not valid for pre-existing conditions which, as unbelievable as it is, is pre-existing AT THE TIME OF TRAVEL – not at the time of booking.

      The cancellation protection of course is only valid when a doctor warrants that it is bad enough to prevent travel.

      You can see how easy it is to fall into the crack between these two terms. If you book your holiday, and then AFTER that are diagnosed/treated/cured of anything from a broken leg or sprained ankle to a heart condition – you are have zero coverage for any condition/complication connected to this when on holiday. You are liable for all medical expenses.

      You’d think if you developed a condition after booking then you would still be covered, or if they weren’t covering you you’d be able to cancel regardless of being fit for travel. This is exactly how the HSBC Premier travel insurance policy works – for any condition after booking you can call them, they will either provide cover or cover the cancellation of the trip. It’s specifically written into the policy document.

      American Express has no such policy wording, If you call them and ask they will confirm:

      !! You are 100% liable for all medical issues unless they are net-new and occur during your trip (ie not pre-existing)

      !! If you can’t stomach that risk, you are 100% liable for the cancellation of your trip unless a doctor will sign you off as unfit to travel for the date of your holiday.

      Happy to be proven wrong but recently found this out to my cost.

      • SimonW says:

        So if I sprained my ankle in 1983, then go on holiday and sprain the same ankle in 2019, you think you arent covered for the latest sprain?!

        • Andrew says:

          Obviously the definition of pre-existing still applies, the point is the gap of what happens AFTER you book. That said the pre-existing conditions statement is still pretty bad (emphasis mine). If that sprained ankle was in fact a heart condition or a blood clot in 1983 and you have something even *indirectly* happen on your holiday – no coverage.

          No claims arising directly or indirectly from any Pre-existing Medical Condition(s) will be covered.

          “Pre-existing Medical Condition(s)” means:

          – any past or current Medical Condition that, during the ***2 years prior*** to You applying for Your Card and any Cards on Your Account, or prior to any Trip (whichever is the most recent), has given rise to symptoms or for which any form of treatment or prescribed medication, medical consultation, investigation or follow-up/check-up has been required or received; and

          – any cardiovascular or circulatory condition (e.g. heart condition, hypertension, blood clots, raised cholesterol, stroke, aneurysm) that has occurred ***at any time*** prior to You applying for Your Card and any Cards on Your Account, or prior to any Trip (whichever is the most recent).

      • John doe says:

        A person books a holiday 9 months in advance, 6 months later, person is diagnosed with advanced cancer. You think Amex should still cover that person going on that holiday ? The risk is now much much MUCH greater that a claim will be made, than it was when the holiday was booked.

        • John Doe says:

          Person may however be perfectly fit enough to travel. The obvious answer is, if diagnosed with anything that Amex won’t cover that it is felt by the person that they need cover for, seek insurance that will cover. If insurance can not be found for a viable cost, this may be an indication that travel should not happen and it’s best to forfeit the cost of the holiday.

          • Shoestring says:

            You’re condemning anybody with something quite serious to a life of no more travel…if insurance were unaffordable because I fell into that category, I think I’d just stick to EU travel and trust to EHIC

          • Lady London says:

            Was that until October, Shoestring?

          • Shoestring says:

            issue not decided just yet… 🙂

            there’s still hope

        • Andrew says:

          Agreed that the insurer may well not want to cover conditions that arise after booking due to risk of high medical fees. The answer is to cover the cancellation of the trip if insurance can’t be provided.

          Insurance is supposed to cover unforeseen risks for the consumer – being left high and dry with an abandoned holiday or risk of medical bills due to a condition post-booking seems like something I’d want to insure against.

          A big hole in a now even more expensive product vs better cover provided by even a free packaged bank account (with high eligibility criteria I grant you).

          Another example – per-item limits for loss: Amex £500, HSBC Premier £650.

          Claims handling: Amex sends *all* baggage/possessions loss claims for validation (I was told this week), 10 day waiting time currently. HSBC Premier settles at least some on the spot (data point of 1).

          Amex – requires travel *and* some insured purchases (e.g. hotel/activities for trip cancellation) to be made on the card. Amex charges 3% for EUR and USD forex purchases and very deceptively an extra ~2% for non-GBP/EUR/USD currencies by converting the currencies first to USD and then to GBP. All these extra fees could have bought a dedicated insurance policy! ex-OSL to SYD for 2 pax.. £1.8k each, £3.6k total, 5% forex charge = £180 just for your flights! Plus 5% on pre-paid hotels, activities, car hire that you want cancellation cover for. HSBC Premier covers regardless of what card you used to pay.

          Most recent Amex claim for £200 denied due to very bizarre interpretation of the policy wording by the insurer, quickly overturned by Financial Ombudsman Service and paid in full – really not the service you’d expect from an Amex product.

          I have no particular love for HSBC I’m just shocked after recently taking out Premier and reading the policy/benefits to find out just how much of a waste of time Platinum is!

      • GeorgeJ says:

        Andrew & Others
        I would agree that the GBP card is pretty restrictive when it comes to pre-existing conditions. However the international currency card, which I use, is rather better and covers risk after booking (as well as giving 240 days cover through to age 80).

        The definition is much more specific and easy to work around and is as follows:

        11) Pre-existing medical conditions known to You, when You applied for Your Card and any Cards
        on Your Account, or prior to booking Your Trip, whichever is the most recent, for which You:
        a. have attended a hospital as an in-patient during the last 12 months;
        b. are awaiting test results or on a waiting list for an operation, consultation or investigation;
        c. have commenced or changed medication or treatment within the last three months;
        d. require a medical, surgical or psychiatric check up every twelve months or more
        e. have been given a terminal prognosis;
        f. know of any reason, which may necessitate any Trip to be cancelled or cut short.

        Of course if in doubt take out a specific policy with all ailments declared.

      • Insurer says:

        This back condition is not pre-existing – ask FOS if you don’t believe this.

        If it were me, I’d be on that plane with a large glass or two of champagne.

    • Polly says:

      Same thing w my OH..l insisted we take our F 241 to kul as he could just abour walk numbed by Ibubrufen ..then onto Bali next day. Warm pools helped immediately. So go for it.
      Unfortunate but hope it works for you. Hospital v cheap there..and dentistry! All the ozzies go there for their dentistry..

  • Keith says:


    I’m thinking of redeeming my points and companion voucher for a trip to Mexico CIty, but don’t really know why – something’s just telling me it might be a fun place to explore. Personally I always find the ‘trying to decide where to go’ bit harder than the ‘collect the points’ bit.

    Anyone ever been? Any idea of what area to stay in? Quite like to do a bit of a trip when I’m away – any ideas on good places to visit / spend a few days in outside the city?

    Thanks for any help.

    • Rob says:

      Here is a Flyertalk article I wrote in 2006 on my 2-weeks in Mexico –

      Note that the security situation in some of the places we mentioned may have changed since then.

      • Keith says:

        Amazing – thank’s very much

        • Matt says:

          Puerto Vallarta is a short domestic flight from Mexico City. Lots of friends have recommended it, and it’s on my list of places to go. Accommodation is extremely good value there albeit you won’t find high end luxury. If it’s the latter you’re after then Punta Mita is just down the coast and has a four seasons and st Regis if I remember correctly off the top of my head.

        • Ben says:

          We visited last year for Christmas and I was very pleasantly surprised, La Condesa and Independencia are two areas I would recommend. Lots of good food and parks to walk around. I only spent 3 days there during my way to Colombia but I would definitely head back there.

    • Anthony Edwards says:

      I’m going in October, using all our points and companion vouchers (family of 4).

      Friend who used to live there says the place to stay is La Condesa. Airbnb’s look amazing value. Ubers are easy and plentiful.

    • Cat says:

      I highly recommend Isla Holbox, for what it’s worth, although it’s at the other end of Mexico. I also really liked Tulum, but know it’s much busier now than it was when I went a few years ago. Between the Mayan ruins (Tulum, Chichen Itza, Coba), all the cenotes to swim or dive in and the stunning beaches, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy. Generally the Yucatan is lower risk than other parts of Mexico. If you want a slightly safer alternative city to Mexico City, Merida is supposed to be amazing. I hope that helps.

    • Bagoly says:

      The internet has lots of “Mexico is dangerous” stories.
      About ten years ago there were some robberies by taxi drivers of their passengers in Mexico City and the reputation has stuck in America.
      I went for work several times in the last few years and felt perfectly safe, even flagging down local taxis in the street.
      The Old (Colonial) City built on top of temples of the pre-Spanish empire is worth several days.

      The countryside varies from perfectly safe to extremely dangerous (although so long as your response to being robbed is to promptly hand over your wallet, injury/death is much less likely) – do your research on where and how to travel carefully.

      • Keith says:

        Thanks so much for your help everyone. This is all really helpful.



        • krys_k says:

          I echo Cat. Been to Mexico City twice on a 241 in First and then flew to Cancun. Hired car and drove all around the Yukutan and Qunto Rio. Holbox is great, if a little dear and kind of not Mexico at all, rather for tourists, but great beaches and chill out place. Rio Largardo is not far, and you can see flamingos, crocodiles, pink lake. Cancun and Tulum are not for me as they are just packed heavy with tourists and the beaches in Tulum are full of seaweed. Thank global warming for that – wasn’t like that 15 years ago when I first went (and neither were the prices). I liked Valladolid, another sleepy town and good explore Ek Balam and centotes (in fact if you have your own car finding cenotes in the middle of nowhere is just great). By far the best place I went was Bacalar lake – so much to see and do, very few European tourists, great food, rapids are amazing, day trips on the lake a super highlight – some of the finest beaches in the world. Assuming that you have Hilton Gold via Amex Platinum – Hilton Reforma is fantastic upgrade to lounge + breakfast; great views over the city and wonderful welcome.

          • Chabuddy geezy says:

            I agree Condesa and Roma next to it are great to stay in. Restaurants I recommend are La Capital and Lalo for brunch

          • Cam says:

            I had 3 days in the Yucatan earlier this year, tacked on to business travel. We drove from Cancun to Merida and back, stopping at Valladolid and Chichen Itza. Both Valladolid and Merida has a great feel, very different than the touristy areas. Driving was easy on the major roads, even with the worst rental cars I have gotten in the past 15 years (leaky tire, some plastic that snapped off the undercarriage in the first 50 miles – will avoid Budget in the future!).

    • GeorgeJ says:

      Writing this from Mexico at the moment, albeit the Yukatan!
      Have been to Mexico City a couple of times recently, it has great sites (especially around the Cathedral, Plaza Major) and an absolutely world class Museum of Anthropology in Chahultepec Park.
      If you don’t want to venture as far as either of the Coasts (though internal flights are cheap and plentiful) take an express bus to San Miguel Allende. It is an old colonial town with much of its original architecture, it has a large expatriate population so services such as hotels (a great Rosewood if you are willing to pay a bit more) and restaurants are first rate and enough to do for a couple of days. First class express buses in Mexico are good and safe, it would take @ 4 hours including getting out of Mexico City to the expressway.

    • rams1981 says:

      In January I also went to Mexico City. Spent a few days there before flying to Merida. Did the sites there and then drove to Tulum. Lots to do there including nice beaches if that’s your thing. Then we flew back to Mexico City from cancun. We really enjoyed it all.

  • Ammar says:

    OT – just applied for the Virgin Money Paid Card – already hold the free one. Application denied, just wondering if i did appeal in writing and if the decision is overturned will it result in me getting the 30k bonus points or not as it is soon to the cut off date next week for this promotion?

    • Rob says:

      Unlikely they will overturn this as it is now strict policy.

      Did you apply using the same email address? Many have found that using a different email fools them and you get approved regardless of the rule …

      • Ammar says:

        Yes I did use the same email address. What do you advise then:
        1) Wait for 6/12 before applying again or cancel free card then wait 6/12 before applying?
        2) when did the policy change? Must have been unlucky.

        Will look at the creation IHG one