How do I book a flight with Avios?
Today I want to run through the basics of how to book flights using Avios points.
Fundamentally, it is as simple as going to the ‘spend your Avios’ page on ba.com and putting in the dates you want to fly. However, there are many other nuances you need to understand. Much of it will come from experience, but here are some of the key points.
How many Avios do you need for a flight?
Following a recent revamp of the British Airways website, you can no longer see a simple chart of how much an Avios redemption flight costs. You are expected to plug your route into this ba.com calculator.
Luckily we have a copy of the chart here. The basis of Avios pricing is this simple grid, which prices British Airways flights based on the one-way distance flown:
The zones relate to the distance flown between the capital cities of the two countries you are travelling between.
There are exceptions to these zones, with some routes such as Cape Town being put into a cheaper zone than their distance would suggest.
Short domestic flights in the US are priced differently – see this article.
What about Avios flights on partner airlines?
Flights on partner airlines are priced differently, with pricing generally a little higher and with all flights treated as ‘peak’ dates.
Here is the chart:
How do I know what my flight will cost?
We’ve made it very easy for you. This article (click) lists every British Airways route and the Avios needed, for every ticket class, to book it. You can download the data in a spreadsheet if you want to play with it.
Note that this is the pre-covid list of BA destinations. There is no guarantee that all of these routes will be brought back after the pandemic.
There is a calculator on ba.com which will tell you miles required for any direct redemption flight. You will need to use this if you want to know the cost of a partner flight as my list only covers BA flights.
What are the peak and off-peak dates?
Redemption costs on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus vary depending on whether you fly on a peak or off-peak day.
BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus do NOT have the same peak and off-peak dates.
You can save a lot of points if you apply these calendars smartly. Compared with British Airways, Aer Lingus doesn’t have an October and February peak season during the UK half terms. The April peak season is one week shorter and there’s also no peak season towards the end of May / early June. Redeeming via Dublin on Aer Lingus could save you a lot of Avios during these periods.
Flights with any airline other than British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia will ALWAYS price at the peak rate.
And just to add extra confusion ….
There is another British Airways Avios redemption pricing chart for trips which use two or more oneworld carriers apart from British Airways.
This chart is rarely used but you can find it here. A flight such as London – Doha (Qatar) – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) would price off this chart.
I discuss some uses of the Avios multi-partner reward chart in this article. There is real value in it if you are heading to Australasia for example.
How is pricing calculated for connecting flights?
Pricing is based on EACH individual flight, not the distance between origin and destination. This means that the Avios charged for a particular route can vary depending on how you fly there:
- London to Muscat on British Airways is non-stop and 3600 miles, so costs 13,000 miles in Economy one-way off-peak and 20,000 miles on a peak day
- London to Muscat on a mix of BA and Qatar Airways involves a change in Doha. London to Doha is 3,200 miles and Doha to Muscat is 437 miles. This means your flight will cost (13,000 or 20,000 + 6,000=) 19,000 / 26,000 Avios, one way depending on whether the BA flight is on a peak day. Note that the Doha to Muscat leg on Qatar Airways prices off the partner chart above.
The only exception is when booking a UK domestic connection to/from London to connect to a long-haul flight. No additional Avios are required for this.
What taxes and charges are due on top of my Avios points?
The cost of your reward flight will also include a charge for ‘taxes and surcharges’. This is mainly a fuel surcharge and the UK Government’s Air Passenger Duty.
As an example, London to Abu Dhabi on British Airways, return, has a taxes and charges total of £284 in Economy.
This is, frankly, crazy. You can usually pick up an economy flight to Abu Dhabi or Dubai for around £350 return on BA or one of the Middle Eastern airlines.
Unless you fly on Aer Lingus or Iberia, starting your trip outside the UK, these taxes clearly make Economy redemptions in long haul poor value for money unless you are travelling at peak times such as school holidays. This is why Head for Points usually recommends redeeming in Business or First Class on BA – the taxes will be around £550 per person, return, but this is still a fraction of the usual cash price of your seat.
Taxes and surcharges on European flights are capped at £35 for Economy and £50 for Business on British Airways flights. This means short-haul redemptions are good value in either class.
Using Avios to upgrade
Which airlines can I redeem on?
How early can you book an Avios flight?
At the end, it is easy to learn how to use your Avios to book a flight but as you have now seen there are lots of quirks to learn about.
(This article is part of our ‘BA Q&A’ series which explains how British Airways Executive Club works. You can see all of our ‘BA Q&A’ articles here. )
(Head for Points is the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website with 2.0 million monthly page views. Want to learn more about earning and spending Avios? Click here to read our latest news stories, click here to join our email list and click here to read our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.)
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2022)
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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
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 10,000 Avios.
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.
There are also good bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These are available to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.