Often Overlooked Routes For Redeeming British Airways Avios

Filed Under: Awards, British Airways
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As I mentioned previously, over the coming days and weeks you’ll see the occasional post from a fellow reader who has applied to write for OMAAT on an ongoing basis. It’s possible that posts will still be in the publication queue after we’ve announced our decision, so we’ll be publishing these anonymously. We hope you enjoy the different perspectives!

Some folks seem to malign the British Airways Avios program as “worthless” given its reputation for high redemption levels on long-haul flights and excessive surcharges.

But like most of you know, distance based award charts offer some real opportunities. And with British Airways Avios readily transferable from Chase, Amex, and SPG currencies, program members have multiple pathways to pad their Avios balances.

Earn Avios through multiple cards

As a Chicagoan based out of a oneworld hub, I have been a power user of Avios since the program’s 2011 inception. This is coming from someone who has never actually flown a plane with “British Airways” painted on the outside. Try explaining that to a layperson.

I also happen to be a millennial, with an affinity for wanderlust and a healthy aversion to commitment, and a tendency towards booking several short haul flights per year within 21 days of departure.

The last-minute travel bug reaches peak severity during polar vortex season!

No thanks Chiberia, 7,500 Avios and $5.60 later you can catch me in Palm Beach

I need a loyalty program which rewards its members with generous regional redemption rates but doesn’t stick it to them with close-in booking fees.

Enter Avios, my raison d’etre.

Not a bad chunk of the continent in reach with just 7,500 Avios

Given oneworld’s broad footprint, valuable Avios redemption opportunities touch almost everywhere. And while using Avios for the shortest Tier 1 and Tier 2 flights is an obvious use, there are some great values for longer flights in certain markets as well.

Zone // Flight DistanceEconomy
Off Peak // Peak
Premium Economy
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Zone 1
1-650 miles*
*Not available in North America
4,000 // 4,5005,750 // 6,7507,750 // 9,00015,500 // 18,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
6,500 // 7,5009,500 // 11,25012,750 // 15,00025,500 // 30,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
8,500 // 10,00012,750 // 15,00017,000 // 20,00034,000 // 40,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
10,000 // 12,50020,000 // 25,00031,250 // 37,50042,500 // 50,000
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
13,000 // 20,00026,000 // 40,00050,000 // 60,00068,000 // 80,000
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
16,250 // 25,00032,500 // 50,00062,500 // 75,00085,000 // 100,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
19,500 // 30,00039,000 // 60,00075,000 // 90,000102,000 // 120,000
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
22,750 // 35,00045,500 // 70,00087,500 // 105,000119,000 // 140,000
Zone 9
7001+ miles
32,50 // 50,00065,000 // 100,000125,000 // 150,000170,000 // 200,000

General rules for pinpointing sweet spots in the British Airways award chart include:

  • Identifying routes which fall within the first few distance zones
  • Matching identified routes with expensive cash fares using search tools such as airline websites, Google Flights, and OTAs (e.g. Kayak)
  • Searching for sufficient British Airways or partner award space using BA’s award engine and tools like Expert Flyer

Routes where there is a single program or partner airline operating between a city pair are often great candidates for maximizing Avios value given the absence of price competition.

Let’s take a quick trip around the globe to scan a few hidden yet valuable routes.


Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong – Penang, Malaysia

Cheapest round trip business class fare = $1,242
Redemption cost: 40k Avios + $61
Minimum return: 3 cents per Avios
Award space: multiple seats available on most dates

Although the distance between Hong Kong and Penang clocks in at 1,483 miles placing it in British Airways’ Zone 3, expensive business class fares still make Avios redemptions an attractive option for this route.

Cathay Dragon is the only airline which directly services this city pair and operates the route mostly twice daily via A330s. The 24 regional business class recliner seats seem sufficient enough for a four hour flight.

Penang island is one of those unique Eastern melting pots fused together from Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultures. Nowhere does this better manifest than in the food, which is just so mind blowingly good that the local fried rice and curry are worth the Avios alone (maybe don’t try a hypothetical points vs cash return valuation on this one though 😉 ).

I took full advantage of this street foodie’s heaven on earth when I visited as a college “student” during the Spring 2008 voyage of Semester at Sea. Ahhh the fantasy life that is Semester at Sea, how I miss thee.

Hawker stall on Penang Hill, home to the best fried rice on the planet

Keeping the hard sell going, Penang itself may not actually even be the ultimate destination for travelers on this route. Penang is an ideal jumping off point to grab a ferry or a short hop flight to the “Jewel of the Kedah,” the blonde beach paradise island of Langkawi.

Ben has written about the aspirational (for some) St. Regis Langkawi, and other resort options include an SPG category 5 Westin, an SPG category 5 Andaman Luxury Collection hotel, a Tier 2 Ritz Carlton, and a Four Seasons.

The Westin Langkawi

An interesting future possibility?

Keep an eye on potential Avios redemption route Guangzhou – Phu Quoc, Vietnam, if Ben’s prediction of China Southern joining oneworld materializes.

At 1,095 miles, the route would just barely slot into Zone 2 requiring 15,000 Avios each way in China Southern’s regional business class.

Service into Phu Quoc is still quite limited, and so given China Southern’s extensive route network (e.g. LAX, SFO, JFK, YVR, and YYZ), the airline is presumably the most convenient option to reach the Vietnamese island for many of you in North America and beyond.

Vietnam’s government has created a masterplan to transform Phu Quoc into the next Phuket or Bali by 2020. The plan may well be a stroke of genius. I don’t know about you guys, but I am already experiencing some major FOMO from recent trip reports reviewing the category 6 JW Marriott.

An Intercontinental is opening this May and a “six star” Regent property is scheduled to open in 2020, which will hopefully be available for booking with IHG points given the recent acquisition announcement.

Also, what’s the deal with hotel properties self-rating themselves as greater than five star? Seven star Burj Al Arab? Predictions for the first eight star property?

North America

American Airlines, Miami – Liberia, Costa Rica

Cheapest round trip economy class fare = $722
Redemption cost: 15k Avios + $75.38
Minimum return: close to 5 cents per Avios
Award space: at least one seat available on most dates outside of early to mid summer

Cheapest round trip business class fare = $1,141
Redemption cost: 30k Avios + $75.38
Minimum return: close to 4 cents per Avios
Award space: 27 dates with at least one seat available through May; only 12 dates with at least one seat available from June through the end of the calendar year

The distance between Miami and Liberia is 1,101 miles, which puts it in Zone 2.

Again, American Airlines is the only airline which directly services this city pair and operates the route mostly twice daily via A319s. “Business class” is equipped with eight standard domestic first class seats.

Flying this three hour route in economy, which has more award availability and tends to return greater points vs. cash value than business redemptions, will be good enough for most.

Given the popularity of the Hyatt Category 4 Andaz Papagayo as well as the presence of properties such as Marriott’s Category 8 El Mangroove Autograph Collection, redemptions for upscale accommodation are in the offing for points obsessed OMAAT readers.

South Africa

Comair (Kulula) Cape Town – Port Elizabeth

Cheapest round trip business class fare = $489
Redemption cost: 15.5k Avios + $100 (off-peak)
Minimum return: 2.5 cents per Avios
Award space: multiple seats available on most dates (peak & off-peak)

The distance between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is 403 miles placing it in BA’s Zone 1.

Comair operates this intra South Africa route once daily via a 737. Its 15 “business class” seats in three 2×3 rows don’t exactly scream luxury width, but given that it’s such a short flight, the value of sitting up front is as much about ease of boarding and deplaning than it is about in-flight comfort.

Low cost carriers SA Airlink and FlySafair also service this route directly, though Comair is the only airline to offer a premium cabin.

Because Comair is an Avios program member along with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Air Italy (Meridiana), Flybe, and Vueling, flyers wishing to redeem British Airways Avios on Comair flights also have access to marginally cheaper off-peak awards.

The drive between Mossel Bay east of Cape Town and Storms River Mouth near Port Elizabeth, known as the “Garden Route,” is highlighted in National Geographic’s “Drives of a Lifetime” coffee table book. See it for yourself by taking the wheel east from Cape Town and flying back!

Tsitsikamma National Park, Garden Route

South Africa is a country that is just so tremendously rich in natural beauty. It is one of those places where the more you go, the more there is to always see. I guess I will have to keep going back. 😉

Bottom line

BA’s distance based award chart combined with oneworld’s extensive network opens up some fantastic short haul redemption opportunities around the globe.

I hope that at the very least I was able to pass on a few interesting sweet spots. Even better if some of you are now spinning your wheels on routings where BA Avios might provide outsized value.

What do you think of these highlighted Avios redemptions? Are you tempted to book one? What other Avios maximizing routes do you feel are overlooked?

As a reminder, this post was guest-written by a fellow reader. Feedback is appreciated, but please keep the comments kind and constructive.

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. A nicely written piece. But the subject matter is unremarkable and retreaded from many other blog posts in the past.

    And somehow it leaves me wondering whether this guest author has much more left in the hopper as a permanent writer. (To that end, perhaps Ben & Tiffany might consider having their finalists identify what their next ten posts might be to ensure that they have some meaningful content left in their tanks).

  2. Why even hire writers? Let everyone add a post and let VERIFIED readers vote on them the good ones will come up but there is value to be had in the not popular ones as well.

    Pay them using Google analytics (click per post or whatever)

  3. I thought non-BA flights were all priced at Peak prices so would half the table be irrelevant to the article given it doesnt focus on BA?

    Also one route per region seems pretty weak? What about some of the interesting 5th freedom flights, like QR between Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires? And mid-haul flights that have long-haul hard product, like Cathay between Tokyo and HK?

    As Avios is my primary points currency, I was hoping for some nice tips. Didnt get anything from this and not sure a beginner would either (like how to earn the points from flying, shopping portals…)

  4. Yeah I don’t think there’s much here that’s novel. Using avios for shorthaul travel on Oneworld partners is a pretty standard topic on the blogosphere, and I think any of your readers could have picked some fine routes to write an article on.

  5. @Rich, if Avios is your primary points currency, do you have any thoughts on ease of redemption on AA flights?
    Like the Guest author, I’m based in Chicago and would be looking to redeem most of the points I can get through CC-signups on short-haul AA flights. This post makes it sound as though that’s really easy to do, but the internet consensus seems to be that there is, in fact, almost never any AA availability through the BA site.

  6. Great ideas for trips! This is why I enjoy coming to this blog. I hope more of these type of articles to come

  7. I know it’s fairly well known but BA Avios on AA from LAX to Auckland seems to be the cheapest way from Cali to the south Pacific. 35K Avios and minimal fees seems like a good deal IMO

  8. @weiskel – I’m now based in NYC (previously London, hence the Avios connection). I tend to use mine for trips to South America where for 50k you can get to Brazil, Chile, Argentina, etc in Economy though I do use cash and points on these as my own preference. Via Miami, you have even more choice but the above highlights just one route where I’d be looking to highlight Central and northern South American, as well as destinations in Brazil like Brasilia, Manaus, etc that cost a lot in any class. These more frequent routes tend to have 7 Economy seats available pretty far out (I booked Santiago a month ago for a trip in August) and then again a few weeks before. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised and again, in trying to conserve points to spread use, I’ll happily do a red eye in Main Cabin Extra for 50k Avios when the paid fare can be 2-3k often in Economy. Not everyone’s idea of maximizing value but when you want to not spend case cash.

    From Chicago, I’d personally combine Avios redemptions from other American hubs with a cheap internal positioning flight as you may find long haul destinations less ‘interesting’.

    Also seasonally expensive routes (JFK-SFO/LAX/SAN) can be great use. Given one-way fares are getting really competitive, I’ve used for a family of 3 where returns are expensive. Again, I find these with plenty of time ahead.

  9. “…but the internet consensus seems to be that there is, in fact, almost never any AA availability through the BA site.”

    Or the AA site in my case from ICN.

  10. nothing exciting.

    i have personally redeemed many tickets from HKG on CX using avios, JNB to Victoria Fall using BA reward flight saver (did you even mention that?) How about intra Alaska?

  11. Again, you have readers judging the writing almost solely on content. While “write what you know” might apply to a novel or screenplay, that’s the wrong thing to expect of the candidates here. I think this is one of the better pieces so far. No forced humor and we get to know a few quick facts about the writer that help set up the rest of the article.

  12. @Alan intra-Alaska used to be a fantastic deal when it was 4500 Avios/one-way. There was even a trick to earn Alaska miles on those, making the miles spent a wash.

  13. Given the general, justifiable, negativity towards BA’s fees I think an article like this is quite refreshing. Sure it’s nothing new – that short haul avios redemptions are a reasonable deal. But so is booking F out of HKG to LHR since they can’t charge a fuel surcharge from there.

    On the AA front, I used to use avios on AA quite a lot but recently (in the last couple of years) I’ve found them quite hard to come by on the routes I want so tend to cough up for domestic ‘first’ and collect the TPs instead.

    One place I’ve had good results in the past is east coast Australia routes with Qantas. Never had much trouble finding a flight on the day I wanted, and when I’ve turned up at an airport early 75% of the time they’re more than willing to get me on an earlier flight. Which is more than BA seem willing to do – many a time I’ve been hanging around Dublin twiddling my thumbs.

  14. Ach, it is true there are good uses of Avios out there. I’m not so convinced on the Miami-Liberia (Costa Rica) route given that Fort Lauderdale-San Jose (Costa Rica) has a ton of $200 r/t availability. The distance between Miami and Liberia is 1,101 miles, as you note, but only 1137 miles between FLL-SJO. So at 15.5k Avios + $100 (off-peak) that’s not a great use of Avios, given how close FLL and MIA are as well as how close LIR and SJO are.

    I’d also say (sorry to nitpick) CPT to PLZ is not a great use of Avios at 15.5k Avios + $100 (off-peak), given that one-way car rentals in ZA are typically quite expensive and car hire out of CPT can be along the Garden Route eastbound and via a slightly different variant returning.

    Again sorry these two examples I didn’t love. Upgraded Points has a list of the 40 best ways to redeem Avios and I keep a printout of it with me wherever I go because there are a number of really awesome super-valuable redemptions on it. (And no I’m not pimping for their site, which I seldom even look at.)

  15. Jeez, give the guy a break! Do people seriously expect something truly unique in these Guest posts, in the manner of a PhD? I found this interesting and I’m guessing a silent majority of readers will have as well. All the guest posts have offered ideas and strategies or perspectives that add value to the site and opportunities for readers.

  16. And don;y forget the two-for-one award redemptions if you put 30K a year on the BA Chase card. I’ve used them three times now for round-trips to London.

    In fact anyone who takes out the BA card with its 100K bonuses will, along with the 30K in actual dollar spend, have enough points for two round-trio flights to London even from thee west coast.

  17. Good Post
    I think I went to Hawaii with my points BUT lots of other places u can Go . Keep an open mind u Bloggers .
    My newest one KLM (Blue) where I can get a Deal @ a place I want to Go .


  18. Post is too long to say so little. I don’t need/appreciate worn-out ideas or French lessons. Keep looking…

  19. I’d also add that if the powers that be can find somebody to do the research and write articles like this on a regular basis then Ben can concentrate on what he does best, viz push out his trip reports

  20. Wife and I both did the 100K BA avios thing. We live in a little town that AA only flies about 4 good non-stops. We wanted these points for our repositioning to those cities for better seat availability for business class.

    Big problem though, AA has stopped making those non stops from here to the jumping off cities nearly impossible to find, thus making the avios kinda worthless for us.

    We just need to use them in other places which makes this a pretty good article.

  21. A lot of these comments are disrespectful and the commenters absolutely clueless about the fact that these guest writers were given strong suggestions on what topics to write on. I think this piece was the best guest article yet, and agree that it showed humor while showing range as well. Ya’ll could not be less welcoming to these newcomers who spend time, research and effort to contribute.

  22. I liked the article. I’m not new to the hobby, But I am new to BA. I have an upcoming trip to Europe where I am using Avios for a VIE-LHR overnight-POR haul. The BA agent assisted me with booking at the Sofitel at the airport and it seemed like a pretty nice package for the points plus cash. I also thought that The piece was well written, I liked the humor, and appreciate having somebody from perhaps the perspective of a younger age group to encourage me to adventure more. Definitely will be looking into Asia for the winter. But FOMO? IMHO spell it out!

  23. Wow — Many of the readers had sharp comments — seems a bit unfair. I thought the article was interesting and helpful.

    I have 190,000 Avios in the BA system and another 10,000 Avios in the Iberia system (and I am considering shifting more to Iberia and redeeming for AA flights from there as I hear it is less restrictive).

    I’ve been trying to use these points when I can mostly for North American travel where there are no fuel surcharges and If I can spend down 30,000 Avios a year, that’s a lot (meaning that it is hard to do — unless you want to burn them).

    I just want to remind people that BA knows that its interface to AA is limited, so you are encouraged to call the BA call Centre rather than rely solely on the Executive Club portal when investigating flight availability.

  24. The value of Avios and AAdvantage miles should be devalued in wake of AA’s new policy to severely restrict point-to-point flights. You used to be able to get 7.5k one-way flights on PIT-BOS, PIT-DCA, PIT-LGA, and PIT-JFK almost any day of the week. Now, they will often only show you options with connections for 12.5k and an undesirable schedule. That makes the value of the points worth less since using them is made more difficult.

  25. Surprised by all the negative comments. If you’re more advanced, skip this post. But a lot of people don’t know this stuff.

  26. It’s not clear. Are those mileage zones just for the USA, or everywhere? Was hoping for some Europe examples, but can’t tell if that chart applies.

    Also, are these readily available? And what are the cancellation/change penalties within Europe?

  27. Getting good value out of Avios is always a challenging proposition. This piece shows a few possibilities, albeit obscure. The routes and destinations however are skewed very much to a youthful demographic, and therefore of limited interest to middle-aged or older readers. (Just sayin’).
    I think a little editing would be in order, as reminiscences and asides on past youthful exploits not directly related to the writing from an unknown author are not of interest to most readers.

  28. We don’t need to know that you have branded yourself “a millennial”.

    That piece of information added zero to this article.

  29. @jdh It’s about the brand. This site is successful because this isn’t obvious content.

    Here’s the line that caused me to skip to the bottom and enter this comment: “Also, what’s the deal with hotel properties self-rating themselves as greater than five star? Seven star Burj Al Arab? Predictions for the first eight star property?”

    If you can explain how this is relevant to the content for the post, I’ll retract all comments above then. Until then, @Lucky, please hire the China Eastern writer (and Sean M.) and call it a day.

  30. Y’know, I didn’t submit anything to Lucky’s little contest because I figured I wouldn’t have the chops to write about air travel with authority and persuasion. I assumed I’d get blown out of the water by serious AvGeeks writing compelling and informative pieces.

    But then I read these guest posts, and realize I should have made an attempt. Maybe next time.

  31. I would like to mention that AA using avios while it’s spotty to get dates ahead of time if you can hold out to last minute allot of flights tend to open up I book southwest mialege which I can put right back in the account with no penalty and then keep on checking avios and things tend to open up also you don’t pay any extra fees for last minute ticketing with AA through avios

  32. Hey the economy off peak costs 32,500 avios I believe….
    There is a writing mistake in there….
    This blog was helpful anyways….

  33. Writing: 7/10
    Content: 5.5/10
    Given that all guests are allowed to write almost anything under the sky, this is a showcase of their ability and they should write something to impress us in heavy content, yet with fluent writing.
    Unfortunately, this content above (good value in short haul avios redemption) is well covered in blogs and does not go deeper enough (ie, generating an entire excel spreadsheet of all tier 1 to 3 avios pairs – and we can discover many, many pairs we are unaware of), or experiences redeeming lesser known airlines like merdiana with avios.

  34. This is good.

    Oh, and this just in, not everyone who visits OMAAT is an expert in these things, even if the snarky commenting people are.

    This is valuable stuff. Nicely done.

  35. Enjoyed this article and most of the others. Besides the US, I’ve used avios on three other continents , but I still found some I intriguing nuggets in the piece.

  36. Interesting piece. Its something that I am not aware of since I don’t deal with BA. It’s nice to know a little about about them, but I felt the article should go a little deeper. I see many self rightness people in the comments. Just knock it off and long walk on a short dock.

  37. The list is incredibly random and doesn’t seem to give the best routes – just a handful that perhaps particularly interested the author.

    Better options just off the top of my head include many routes in Europe on BA (which also has the fees and taxes capped at £35 return in economy), many domestic routes in South America (e.g. Lima to Cusco is 4,500), Japanese domestic flights and MIA to the Caribbean.

  38. Interesting article although most of the routes aren’t something I’m particularly interested in. I think perhaps if author has some way to leverage his/ her know how from US to Australia using BA miles on Qantas in F that would be great!

  39. I thought that chart was for flights on BA metal and that partners priced differently?
    JAL domestic flights are always an amazing bargain – some of them are actually free in terms of the cash cost for taxes etc!

  40. To experience the Cathay First Lounges in Hong Kong, HKG-TPE in F on CX was absolutely worth the 18.000 Avios for me, especially considering the super low surcharges. Flew in J and then connected onto the short 2 hours hop in F, where a proper First Class meal is also served on board.

  41. Not that great. I say keep this site Lucky only!

    “But like most of you know”? “Like” should be “as.” Question his or her writing abilities. Also the pictures look oddly big.

  42. The theory is interesting but I have never ever found availability on short haul on the BA site. Perhaps my bad luck

  43. I found a lot of useful content and some really good ideas. I found the article to read well and was engaging. Thank you!

  44. Does anyone else cringe at the words like “malign” and “Chicagoan”. The post didn’t really flow for me, personally… you tried to do too much. You’re describing the program, the speculation, list three super random flights, talk about hotels?? Too many photos and subheadings. Why would you use bold text in the entire paragraph? If everything is bold, then nothing is.

  45. My favourite for BA Avios is MEL-PER or vice versa, J class on QF. Nearly all these transcon flights are on A330’s with fully flat beds and ‘international standard’ catering. It’s a 4hr10min flight and the default option is 20k avios plus £10.50. I tend to change the options to 11k avios plus £85. This represents excellent value to me especially factoring in the price of J class domestic travel in OZ (you never see ticket son sale on the transcontinental routes for under £1000 each way on QF).

    It’s also worth noting that the transcons from MEL are particularly good value as PER-SYD comes in almost double than ex MEL at 37,500k avios.

  46. What I’ve noticed is so many of these posts mention Ben and some pointless article/advert he’s posted in the past. Like seriously, can these guys not write a post without sucking up this much??!

  47. It’s the type of piece that I want to see more of. I’m one who has soured somewhat on Avios but has quite a few to use and obvious ways to get more if they’re worth it. The writer is knowledgeable and clearly has much more to say than there’s space for in one post.

  48. In my experience (15+ years of BAEC membership), more of an issue than optimizing points is the award availability (even peak awards) on and around popular travel dates. I mean, most of us are road (I mean air) warriors flying a lot for work. And for work related travel, usually we don’t have to spend avios, except for an upgrade once in a while. And when it comes to vacations, we are usually restricted to a few weeks in summer and around new year … and that’s often where availability ends …

  49. @CSue

    I don’t profess to be an expert, but I do buy flights using Avios several times a year.

    I think the redemption rates for each miles-flown sector are universal. For example, I recently ‘bought’ a Zone 1 flight on Flybe (a partner in the Avios programme) for my sister to fly from Bergerac to Southampton this coming Thursday. The cost was 4,500 Avios and 23.50 GBP (about 33 USD), which includes a 23 kg checked-in bag, as well as normal carry on cabin bags. I believe the flight cannot be cancelled or amended cheaply, but for what I’ve paid I’m not worried!

  50. Fairly interesting post, though I guess these are well-known tricks.

    One thing I’d point out though (as a Hong Kong based Avios user) is that Penang is actually a pretty poor route to use Avios on.

    Much better is to use them to fly to second-tier Chinese destinations which tend to have extortionate fares in comparison to the distance they are from Hong Kong.

    Guilin regularly goes for $250-$300 one-way and $400-$500 return in economy in USD. It is available for 4500 Avios each way plus less than $20 taxes and charges. That’s over 5c per Avios in economy.

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