Part five: Flying on miles

If you have followed parts 1-4, you should be sitting on a pretty impressive pile of miles from credit card sign up bonuses and spend, shopping and flying more ‘efficiently’ (in terms of mile accumulation). But how best to redeem them?

There are three main ways that I have used; Reward Flight Savers, Redemptions and Part Pay. I will discuss each of them, and highlight where they offer the best value in my opinion.

Reward Flight Savers

These are designed to be simple redemptions for people who have earned at least 1 Avios point in the preceding 12 months. There are 105 destinations available on RFS.

RFS Map

The deal is that you only pay £35 in taxes and fees for a return in Economy, or £50 in Club Europe. The amount of Avios you pay depends on distance. Domestic returns are 9,000 Avios and short haul in Economy to places like Nice and Berlin. Slightly further afield, like Rome or Madrid, will set you back 15,000 and Moscow or Larneca is 20,000 Avios. One ways are just half the Avios and cash, and Club Europe Avios costs are double. These are all peak pricing; off-peak is slightly cheaper.

These are great value and have helped me out in sticky situations when I needed to travel at very short notice to Rome last summer.

Redemptions

These are the more headline-grabbing deals allowing people to fly in First class for very little money. Couple this with an American Express 2for1 voucher and you have the potential for some great redemptions. Like the RFS, there is a cash and Avios element; cash is determined by the prevailing rate which will be the same as that charged on a cash fare and Avios cost depends on the distance and the cabin.

Taking Washington, D.C. (or any other East Coast US destination like JFK, EWR, or BOS) as an example, a return is First class is 160,000 Avios and Business 120,000, World Traveller Plus 80,000 and Economy 40,000 per person.

I looked into availability for this route in October was amazed at just how good the redemption would be. I had selected outbound on the A380 in First and Business inbound on the 747 so that I would be able to sample these cabins on these aircraft. For two people, using the AmEx 2for1, this came to 140,000 Avios and £961 which is fantastic value even without comparing it to the cash price.

LON-WAS AmEx 2for1

Which I did – and was blown away! For the same seats on the same planes at the same time, the cheapest cash ticket is £11,733.10. That puts a nominal value of 7.69p/Avios; if you get 2p/Avios then you are doing exceptionally well.

LON-WAS Cash - Same flights same class

However, I would never pay that, so the economy class ticket is a more realist comparison. In this example, the cost of that is £2693.10, giving 1.24p/Avios which is still good value.

LON-WAS Cash

Clearly, redeeming Avios like this can be excellent value. You will, however, also find that sometimes it is not, most commonly when redeeming for economy class flights.

I redeemed 109,000 Avios for a LHR-SIN-SYD-CBR-MEL-DXB-LHR ticket for my wife last year to go to the wedding of a very good friend; as it was in term time, I wasn’t able to go, otherwise the AmEx 2for1 voucher would have been very welcome! At face value, this was worth 0.64p/Avios which is not good value, but it was a real cash saving – we would have bought a cash ticket otherwise. On the up-side, I was able to upgrade the SIN-SYD leg into First for 40,000 Avios giving lounge access at SIN and SYD (and probably LHR now I come to think of it!) which was useful on such a long journey.

You can also redeem Avios on other oneworld partners, but I have not had any experience of this. You can find out more here.

Part Pay

This is, as the name suggests, when you can pay partly in cash and partly in Avios. The rates are shown below.

Part Pay

This can be particularly useful if you are needing to get a few more Tier Points for a status threshold; a return in Club Europe would get you 80TP and you could save £100 off the cost – especially if you are Avios-rich.

This can also be very lucrative when there are special offers from time to time. As happened last September, it was possible to save £500 per person using 30,000 Avios. This also worked with sale fares and exEU tickets. I was able to combine all of these for 2 returns CPH-LHR-SFO in the summer for £750 each. These tickets earn normal Tier Points and Avios so, as a Silver member, I will get back about 25,000 of the 30,000 it cost me for the discount.

I was planning on using the AmEx 2for1 for this trip, but this would have cost me 150,000 Avios and £1386 in taxes according to the BA website. Instead, I spent £1500 and a net of 15,000 Avios which is a much better deal.

So what is best?

These are three ways that I have used my Avios. You can also upgrade with them which where you buy, say, a Club World fare and use your Avios to move up into First, but I have no experience of this; technically my SIN-SYD upgrade was a cancel and rebook.

There is no right or wrong redemption. As I have shown above, there are circumstances where there can be huge difference in value.

As a general rule:

  • RFS are best for flights in Europe.
  • Redemptions, particularly with 2for1 vouchers, are best for LHR – XXX flights where XXX is a direct premium route with plenty of availability.
  • Part Pay is best when it can be combined with a sale fare and a bonus, or when getting the lowest cost is paramount.

 

It is confusing! Do get in touch if you want any advice on your upcoming redemption.

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