This article explains how to redeem Avios for domestic flights in the United States.
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.
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 £9 of taxes in Economy.
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.
|Reward flight prices on BA partner airlines (plus taxes, fees and carrier charges)|
|Zone||Distance||Economy||Premium Economy||Business Class||First Class|
|* zone 1 does not apply to internal flights in North America|
In 2016, 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 making a dummy booking on ba.com. Unfortunately Alaska Airlines flights are not (yet) shown on ba.com, although they are likely to be once Alaska Airlines joins oneworld in Summer 2021.
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 (13,000 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 Chicago (7,500 Avios each-way, American)
- Miami to Key West (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 26,000 Avios return in economy include:
- Miami to Lima
- US West Coast to US East Coast
- 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?
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, New York LaGuardia, 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. Click through for our full article on that topic.
Annoyingly, you won’t 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 learn more about how to maximise your Avios redemptions?
(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.)