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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 (116)

  • bill says:

    Any whisper of IB doing another 90,000 Avios promo ?

    • Rob says:

      Unlikely 🙂

      It was the Friday of Queen’s Club, which was last week, when it launched.

  • nick says:

    OT:
    I have a BA amex 2-4-1 voucher.

    Right now, I can book 4 inbound flights for OCT half term.

    If the 4 outbounds ever become available, can I :
    a) separately book them online as 1 ways- then call BA to link and apply the 2-4-1
    b) just call BA and tell them to book the 4 outbounds, link to the existing inbound bookings and apply the 2-4-1?

    • Anna says:

      I think you might struggle here as the flights need to start in the UK. Unless your holiday is flying from Manchester to London or similar!

      • Anna says:

        Apologies, I thought you meant you wanted to book your inbounds now using the 2 4 1, which wouldn’t work. I think either option is technically possibly IF you get an accommodating CSA.

  • TravelHacker says:

    These are not interesting anomalies… If someone posted the most interesting avios anomalies/hacks here it would break the website 😉

  • Taylor says:

    OT: sorry can’t find an answer online

    Can you get into No1 clubrooms with Priority Pass
    I can reserve online for £15pp, but is this the only charge? So if two of us are going can we get 2 other people in for total £60?

    • Shoestring says:

      That’s the only charge.

      The other No1 lounges are £5 to reserve, ie your higher reservation cost covers the fact it’s a more expensive Clubroom.

      ISTR there are codes floating around (20%) that usually also knock 20% off your reservation cost if the 2 of you fancy saving £6

      try HSBCADVANCE20

      • Shoestring says:

        4 of you is fine as you can both take a guest (assuming it’s a Plat PP)

        now try & save £12 with HSBCADVANCE20 & don’t tell your mates

  • Derek Beech says:

    Sorry to digress but just had a worrying conversation with AMEX

    I am a holder of an AMEX Blue, had dropped my BAPP just over 12m ago.. reading here I had understood that applying for the Gold Preferred Rewards CC i would still qualify for the welcome bonus of 12K if spend £3K in 3 months (had been referred by a holder at work) for that card

    I called to ask a question, which I mention later, but the customer service rep I spoke to went off to check and his reply was that because I had held “a” personal AMEX credit card (regardless of it being BA or Nectar) I would NOT qualify for a welcome bonus!
    .
    .
    .
    .the reason I had called in the first place was, I had scrolled down to the link in the terms & conditions of my “your card has been activated ” email and that took me to a page for the Gold Preferred Rewards Card (didnt say Credit Card) saying welcome bonus was 20k for £2K in 2 months – instead of 10k for £3K in 3 months!

      • Derek Beech says:

        Doh!

      • Derek Beech says:

        So having been referred to the GPCC do I or my referee still get anything if I retain the card for a few months or should I just bin AMEX so can start the 24m clock?

        • Harry T says:

          The person who referred you will get a referral bonus if you’re accepted for the card. You will not get a sign up bonus, according to the new AMEX rules.

          I don’t think you’re currently eligible for a sign up bonus on any AMEX card if you currently hold a BA card and a Gold card. So you’ll have to weigh up the merits of holding either or both of your cards long term.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I’d bin the free BA and start the clock for the BAPP in 24 months.

          Keep the Gold if you can spend £15k on it this year and you’ll get 10k bonus. The £10k for 3k spend isn’t really worth the hassle of you ask me.

          Unless you want to start a 24 hiatus for the platinum card.

  • BS says:

    Has anyone got a mysterious amex MR credit, as ‘c**hback credit’ on their MR account?

  • Oli says:

    Dont forget on the DOH-FRA route Qatar operates an A380 with F cabin on one of the two daily services. Lots of good availability on the route to FRA, booked on F for this coming Saturday @ 51,500 Avios + £100 tax.

    Im currently flying Q-Suite on the JFK-DOH route. The experience has been right up there with Emirates F. The crew are fantastic. Only issue to note is that at least 4 suites had seats that wouldn’t function, it was fine as half the cabin is empty but worth checking your seat as soon as you board if you have a busier flight and want to be moved to a seat that works

  • TimM says:

    Warning – this may be the first comment ‘on topic’ on this thread …..

    One origin not mentioned in the Flyertalk guide is Manchester which now has 8 weekend Summer-only destinations operated by BA Cityflyer Embraer 190s – ‘the poor man’s Concorde’. Of these Malaga is the bargain as not just near the edge of a price band but beyond it. It is priced Band 2 but the distance is actually 7 miles further at 1157.

    I have often read Rob’s reality check for travelling business on Cityflyer that there is no empty middle seat and no lounge at LCY. There is a BA lounge at Manchester, the donut shaped lounge where the hole affords views of the hoi-polloi below. the savvy traveller however wouldl take advantage of the same-sized, all window or aisle seats in economy, the still-included onboard food and drink and pay for the 1903 lounge instead.