How to redeem Avios points for low tax US American Airlines domestic flights (Avios Redemption University, Lesson 13)

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

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, 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?

You can see the full list of all 15 articles in the ‘Avios Redemption University’ series here.

(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.)

British Airways IS rolling over tier status for its On Business scheme members - although their points are still stuffed
How to save tax on US Avios redemptions by flying with Aer Lingus (Avios Redemption University, Lesson 12)

Click here to join the 15,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Double Rewards
Amazon ad
AMEX Gold 20,000 bonus points
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Peter K says:

    I though US domestic flights were only economy and “first”, not business?

    • Chabuddy geezy says:

      Some of the transcontinental flights have business and first.

    • ChrisC says:

      Depends on the airline and how they describe it.

      ‘Domestic First’ is not the same as Transcontinental or International First.

      And remember that with most US airlines Lounge access comes via status or paying for a membership than via the travel class of your seat.

  2. We’ve just rebooked a holiday next Jan/Feb using my returned Amex companion voucher.

    It was fortuitous this article came out today, as it made me look at a one way flight we need from Miami to Panama City. 11000 avios each, plus taxes of £5.50 each. On top of that a checked bag each IS included, unlike internal flights where they’re not. Well chuffed with that!

    I looked at the flight the other way (was a toss up between two cruises) and the taxes from Panama City to Miami were £129 each. Weird!

    Flights and cruise all easily cancelled if things not back to normal by January (and I think it’s a 50 50 chance to be honest). Just needed something to look forward to!

    • Mikeact says:

      We found, although a bit annoying, the £30 per case was not a problem compared to checking the actual fare for the day….and ‘First’ was usually difficult to get on Avios due to AA upgrade vouchers etc that many regulars were presenting at the gate etc. But all in all, a really good way to get around the US, particularly if you have Skyteam miles to use with Delta as well.

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.