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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 to cut the cost of Avios flights

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 Club World Business Class on a ‘peak’ day – this prices off the BA reward chart, not the partner chart shown above – plus £502.

Flying direct on Qatar Airways, you pay 124,000 Avios return in Business Class plus £500.

Frankfurt, though, is just in Zone 4This means you pay only 77,500 Avios return in Business Class from Frankfurt to Doha.  Taxes are £479 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 £306 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 £70 tax saving compensates partially – and, of course, you’re flying Qatar Airways in the amazing Qsuite if you choose the right aircraft.  

In any event, it has historically been VERY hard to get seats on the direct British Airways Singapore service so you may end up looking for an alternative.

(Whilst we are using Doha as an example here, there is actually an even sweeter spot to Singapore. Frankfurt to Singapore on Cathay Pacific, changing in Hong Kong, is only 114,750 Avios + £113 one way. This is a great deal if you want to minimise taxes and charges.)

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
  • Malaysia Airlines ex-Kuala Lumpur

… as well as generic charts from Delhi and Singapore.

Note – and this is very important – that the charts in the Flyertalk article 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.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (April 2023)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (21)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Doc says:

    Useful article. However on the point of Ex-EU redemption, when I tried to do a economy RFS from the UK connecting to a QR business class redemption from EU on a single booking, BA refused to ticket this since it said they cannot do a economy on BA connecting to business class with QR on one ticket as a redemption. Have I been misinformed?

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Even if you could it’d be expensive as you’d be hit with high apd etc

    • Rob says:

      Yes. You don’t want to do this anyway, though, because it adds £160 of APD.

  • Mikeact says:

    Using a multi partner award can make it even more inviting, but you have to be creative and patience is the top priority. We’ll be on our third go next year…..maybe, who knows.

  • Russ says:

    It’s an easy hop to Frankfurt from Heathrow and the Canadian lounge is exceptionally good if you can get in. Hopefully they’ll put the A380 back on this route.

  • Nick G says:

    I did ex Frankfurt last year on Qatar. Going out we stayed overnight and caught the morning flight to Doha on Q suite. Coming back we left Doha early morning on the A380, and a good 4-5hrs before the connection on to Heathrow. No issues at all. In fact we’ve done it twice now!

  • Will says:

    Why not publish the correct rates? Useful but not that useful….

    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.

    • Rob says:

      MY charts are correct. I am talking about the charts on the Flyertalk thread.

  • J says:

    I want to travel to Tokyo (or other Japanese cities if it’s cheaper)
    My base is LHR. What’s the cheapest avios/cash route in business? I don’t mind flying from other €U countries. Say LHR – MAD economy and then business on Iberia to Japan?

  • Doug M says:

    Mostly I’m firmly in the ex-EU pay cash. I’ve done a good number of these over the last few of years. The key thing is being relaxed about the process, if you’re a worrier by nature it’s probably not a good idea. 4 to 5 hours seems like a long time, but if something does go wrong it’s nothing. Overnighting may seem to be safe, but if you book the last flight of the day, with an early departure the following day you’re not really leaving any time for disruption. If you’re a big luggage traveller I’d also avoid it. Definitely a cheap way to travel, often paying between £1k to £1.2K for business to the USA, but it comes with risks.

    • Harry T says:

      Good points. I’m doing my first one to the US next August – LUX-LHR-BOS-LHR-BRU. Cost £683 each for BA J. Upgraded to First each way using 20k Avios per person per leg. Bargain! We will travel to LUX the day before at least. Good opportunity to have a mini holiday.

      • The real John says:

        Boston is only about 6 hours away. Having done a Toronto trip like this once, I really don’t think it’s worth spending a further 6 hours going to Luxembourg and back just to have the main flight in J.

        I now would only book something like this when the trip to the short-haul destination is just as important as the trip to the trans-Atlantic destination. (Or preCOVID if I really wanted the TPs, but I don’t need TPs for another 18 months and not sure whether I will care by then)

        • Doug M says:

          The average flight time to Boston is 7.5 hours, you’ll be on the plane for well over 8 hours.
          A back to back LHR-LUX-LHR would be a little over 3 hours.
          You may not want to bother, but describing both as 6 hours is a nonsense.

    • Always_in_the_air says:

      I would definitely agree. I fly a lot and am very happy with short turnarounds, but my wife isn’t so much. When we do this together I try and make sure there is one more flight after the planned flight when I can still make the connection, however, this is not always possible, especially at the moment.

      Also much easier if you only have hand luggage!

      Just a note, if you have separate tickets, you checked in online, and are not passing through security (ie you stay airside) the airline systems may not register as you arriving at the airport for the flight and you may be marked as a no-show (at least that is what i was told when transiting SYD), so best to get you pass scanned at the lounge or go to a check-in desk airside, both can sort it out.

  • Paul says:

    If I want to use existing stash of BA Avios to fly ex-Dublin do I swap BA miles to an Avios account or do I have to open an account with Aer Lingus and move them to that in order to redeem?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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