Reader Yuliya asked the following question on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog, and I figured I’d answer it here since I assume at least some others can benefit from the answer:
I am very happy to learn about your blog I am new to the mileage concept.
I have about 105,000 avios points (mostly came with the credit card promotion). I would like to use them for Europe so I tried using ba website but it seems that taxes/surcharges are higher than the actual ticket.
Thank you so much for your help.
There’s no doubt British Airways miles have been devalued massively since the program’s rebranding a couple of months ago. Nonetheless if you do still have a balance of Avios points, like Yuliya, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, it seems like Yuliya is trying to use points for economy, given that the taxes and fuel surcharges are about as much as the actual ticket. And unfortunately Yuliya is correct, since fuel surcharges make up the majority of a fare between the US and Europe nowadays.
In the past British Airways would only impose fuel surcharges for award redemptions on their own flights, and not their partner airlines’ flights. But in the meantime they also impose fuel surcharges for award redemptions on their partners for transatlantic flights. For example, a coach award between Miami and London on American will run you over $600, in addition to the miles:
So obviously that’s not a very good use of miles. Along the same lines, British Airways imposes fuel surcharges for redemptions on all of their partner airlines in the meantime, with the exception of LAN (on all routes) and American (though they do impose fuel surcharges for travel to Europe and Asia).
This raises the question, how do you get more value out of Avios points?
Use miles for first or business class
$600 is a lot to pay for a coach award, but if you can pay a similar amount in taxes and fuel surcharges for business class to Europe, it becomes a comparatively better value. Nonetheless if flying to London in first or business class the taxes will be a good bit higher, given that the UK charges a high air passenger duty for premium cabin passengers. Still, I’d rather pay $800 for a business class ticket than $600 for a coach ticket, given that a business class revenue ticket could be over five times as much as a coach ticket when paying cash.
But not everyone values first and business class travel, and would rather stick with visiting as many different places as possible, even if it’s in coach.
Use miles to travel to South America
British Airways doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for award travel on American or LAN to South America, so you could save a ton of cash by instead using your Avios points to travel to South America. For example, New York to Buenos Aires roundtrip will only run you about $100 in taxes.
Travel to Hawaii
In many instances, Avios points actually leave you best positioned for award redemptions to Hawaii. Since their award chart is distance based, British Airways only charges you 25,000 miles plus about $20 in taxes for a roundtrip ticket between Los Angeles and Honolulu. That’s the lowest redemption rate among any airline.
Use miles for a last minute award/short distances
It’s no secret that the biggest benefit of the new Avios program for shorthaul flyers is that the award chart is distance based, which makes some routes a real bargain. But another thing to keep in mind is that many airlines charge close-in ticketing fees of up to $75, so you can save quite a bit bit by booking through British Airways, since they don’t have close-in ticketing fees. Los Angeles to San Francisco roundtrip is only 9,000 miles plus $5 in taxes/fees. When booking last minute, that’s a real bargain.
Anyway, nothing earth shattering here, but those are just a few alternatives to using Avios points to travel to Europe, and there are tons more.