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!
For this article, I am going to be examining the other Reward Charts. No, not the one you had as a child to measure good behavior but the only other logical choice: OneWorld Multi-Carrier Partner Redemption Charts.
These delicate charts, vastly different from the standard ‘By Zone’ or ‘By Region’ redemption charts we’re more familiar with, are typically buried just above the Terms and Conditions (find Iberia’s in under 10 minutes though and you win). These charts are used by some OneWorld airlines for when an award ticket contains multiple carriers in the OneWorld Alliance. This is with the exception, almost bizarrely, of the actual program airline itself.
I’ve decided to use British Airways Executive Club and it’s currency, Avios, as the base scheme for the examples. While American Airlines eliminated their Explorer Rewards in 2014, several other OneWorld carriers offer some version of this award, though Avios are perhaps the easiest oneWorld “miles” to earn across the board. Points can be transferred from several Membership Rewards programs (depending on your country), as well as Starwood Preferred Guest). US readers can also build up an Avios balance through Ultimate Rewards and a variety of cards:
And, admittedly, I am British.
The British Airways Multi-Carrier Award Chart
Now, if using this type of award, the Avios chart looks like this:
As is usual for Avios, the price for premium cabins is a multiple of the economy price:
And of course, in addition to the mileage requirements being different, the the rules for this chart are different as well:
- You must use at least two OneWorld carriers that are not British Airways
- You can include segments on British Airways, but you must include at least two other OneWorld carriers
- You are limited to 8 flight segments maximum
- 1 open-jaw connection is allowed
- You cannot connect in your departure airport (if your trip originates in New York, you can’t fly through New York at any point in the journey)
The maximum ticket validity is 12 months, and these awards cannot be booked online. British Airways doesn’t offer a multi-segment redemption search anyway, so each segment needs to be searched individually online, then you must phone British Airways to book.
So why should you care about this chart?
As an example of what can be achieved using this chart, how does up to 35,000 miles flown miles in Business Class for 280,000 Avios sound?
Let’s dig into a sample routing, with a mixture of flights on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and Iberia (remember, BA’s Club World isn’t available under this chart):
Chicago>Hong Kong>Tokyo>Sydney>Auckland>Kuala Lumpur>London // Madrid>Chicago
The London to Madrid is an overland sector, meaning it is up to you to get from London to Madrid before taking the final leg to Chicago. As a bonus, more time can be spent enjoying Europe and potentially seeing other destinations without breaking the maximum number of flights permitted.
Here’s why I like this routing for these purposes
- It includes popular destinations across multiple continents
- These routes typically have decent premium cabin award availability
- Several of these routes are served by multiple oneWorld carriers, further opening redemption options
Now, this potential routing doesn’t technically fully maximize the value of the chart. There is still room for both an 8th segment and/or another 3,008 flown miles before the 35,000 miles limit for this band is reached. This means you could:
- Add an extra segment on any continent
- Swap the London to Madrid overland sector for a flight if a jaunt through Europe doesn’t tempt you
- Use a different US departure point
The “usual” British Airways chart charges by each distance-based segment, and if you booked this as seven individual Business Class redemptions, you would pay 505,000 Avios. Using the multi-carrier chart leads to a whopping 225,000 Avios savings.
A note on choosing cities
When planning your own routing, fifth freedom Flights are your friend. These flights route between two countries that doesn’t include the home country of the operating airline, such as:
- Qatar Airways | Bangkok to Hanoi
- Cathay Pacific | Bangkok to Singapore or Taipei to Seoul/Osaka/Tokyo
- LATAM | Madrid to Frankfurt
- Sri Lankan | Bangkok to Guangzhou
Utilizing these flights will allow more diverse routings and enable you to not exclusively need to stick to countries with OneWorld hubs. I mean, who wants to explain that an airline alliance defined their once in a lifetime trip? I certainly don’t.
Is there a better deal through another oneWorld carrier?
Now, when it comes to other oneWorld airlines and their corresponding award charts, the options range from the good, to the bad, and to the “nothing”. These are:
Let us put that in context of the mileage required. For our ~35,000 mile redemption used above, we’d be looking at the following miles if we booked through another program:
Helpfully, all of the programs have different terms and conditions attached to these rewards that make them an absolute joy to compare. Hopefully, the below is an effective (and I pray, understandable) comparison:
The devil is clearly in the details.
Taxes and surcharges
The most biting part of any redemption is the dreaded, chilling phrase: “Taxes, Fees and Carrier Charge apply.” They are also, sadly, not always made clear.
The main component of these carrier charges is the dreaded “YQ/YR” charge. For a revenue fare the carrier charge is incorporated into the headline price. For a redemption, it can be the difference between a fantastic sweet spot and an award flight that costs more than the corresponding revenue flight does (Looking at you, Lufthansa)!
Luckily, certain countries and their legislators have taken a stance against these and banned / minimized these “fuel surcharges,” including:
- Hong Kong
- The Philippines
Now, to work out the taxes, ITA Matrix is fairly easy to use (for this purpose!). It breaks down the fares into their individual components i.e:
For this flight from Tokyo to Sydney, the total YQ is $101.80, two thirds of the overall taxes for the flight.
So, if our sample routing had started in Hong Kong instead of Chicago, the taxes would have been calculated differently, and looked somewhat like this:
These taxes are estimated as British Airways somehow still adds their own fuel surcharges to Malaysia Airlines redemptions! So this reflects my best guesses based on the gap between the other taxes and the ITA taxes for the flight.
This means there’s a potentially huge savings on the taxes should you choose to depart from certain countries. The key here is the fee component for the entire routing is based on the departing country. So, a departure from Hong Kong would mean the full itinerary would be without YQ. A departure from the US, even routing through Hong Kong, would attract fuel surcharges on every segment.
Positioning to Hong Kong is hardly an easy option, but depending on the type of redemption and your travel plans it could be worth keeping in mind.
For the example route, starting the trip in Hong Kong instead of Chicago would cost 40,000 fewer Avios and save $779.50 in taxes. This is as it’d also push the redemption into the lower band of miles (20,001 to 25,000). To compare:
Chicago>Hong Kong>Tokyo>Sydney>Auckland>Kuala Lumpur>London // Madrid>Chicago
Would be $1,069.50 in taxes, and 280,000 Avios.
Hong Kong>Tokyo>Sydney>Auckland>Kuala Lumpur>London // Madrid>Chicago
Would be $384 in taxes, and 240,000 Avios.
Is British Airways the best program for this type of award?
From the analysis, Asia Miles and JAL Mileage Bank require the lowest miles. JAL miles are difficult to come by, but Asia Miles is a transfer partner of Membership Rewards (in some countries), Citi ThankYou (for premium cardholders in some countries), and Starwood Preferred Guest. They also allow two open-jaws, so for round-trip bookings Asia Miles is certainly worth digging into further.
On the whole, however, I believe the BA chart is likely the most accessible scheme for the majority. Mostly, this is due to:
- Having a “one-way” redemption option
- Being able to add up to 8 flight segments
- A relative ease of searching and booking awards
- Transfering in to Avios via multiple third party partners
I know this is a complex chart, but perhaps this will inspire some of you to use your British Airways Avios in a different way! I tried to convince my Dad that this was a great way to maximize Avios he’s been hoarding for the past 15 years, and the sad result of that conversation was a hotel redemption. Hopefully this attempt goes a bit better. 😉
Has anyone had experience / success in OneWorld Multi-Partner Redemptions? Or a dream trip you’d like to take using the chart?