Is British Airways’ Multi-Carrier Award Chart A Good Deal?

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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!


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.

Say what?

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.

So, if you want to book through British Airways and their Avios using this chart, you cannot fly on British Airways flights (insert on-trend comment here). 😉

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:

Earn Avios with these 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
  • No British Airways flights are allowed
  • You are limited to 8 flight segments maximum
  • 1 open-jaw connection is allowed

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?

To calculate the mileage of a potential routing, either the Great Circle Mapper or the JAL Distance Checker work well, though the former is more user-friendly.

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
  • etc.

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
  • etc.

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
  • Brazil

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?

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Comments

  1. Nobody calls it “Malaysia Enrich”. And it’s Malaysia Airlines, not Malaysian. For an aspiring mileage expert these mistakes are especially glaring.

  2. With Asiamiles you have to come back to your origin country, but with BA multi carrier you don’t have to, which is more flexible.

  3. absolutely brilliant and I urge you in the comments section to have some type of contact info. I would gladly pay you a fee to help me book this exact award.

    Well done.

  4. This is a great article, clearly written and summarized on something complex and that has eluded by understanding for a while. Genuinely impressive first post, not too detailed and so I’m with @Michael on this. Little points like Malaysian / Malaysia Airlines, who cares when the content is really valuable!

  5. Writing: 8/10 (good)
    Content: 6/10 (sorry for being harsh. If this article is on a comparison of different oneworld award charts from various members of the alliance, or a mathematical comparison between a short haul redemption vs a very long haul one, it would make more sense. This article simply points towards the existent of such a chart within BA, and it is not because it is well hidden, but because it is practically useless. If you have a lot of starpoints to transfer, and you want an OW award chart, u really do not dump it into BA. Their OW partners fare much better. So its a long article with limited relevancy – yes, we may have a few BA butt in seat miles folks who do not redeem upgrade award/companion award/short haul premium awards, and have lots of BA avios to do these. But those transferring starpoints or cc points can do much better for long haul awards, elsewhere. Ie., in asia miles.)

  6. Yes, please, more of this kind of analysis is needed. As somebody who has tried to make sense of which chart applies where… this is useful, even if I have no avois to burn. Comparison to other carriers is very good too, having this in one place requires about a week of digging through various websites. Appreciated.

  7. From recent experience, I can confirm that BAEC allows multi-class itineraries, but you are charged the highest class booked for the entire itinerary. So even if one sector is in First and the rest in Business, you will be charged First for the entire trip.

  8. Also know as Oneworld RTW fare bookable as cash or points. QANTAS only allow 5 stops if on points . From 5 stops for cash.

  9. This is my vote for best guest post yet. More obscure/unknown topic that’s extremely useful pretty good writing. Some of the others have had more interesting/entertaining writing but this was definitely the most informative.

  10. Nice article I think you have done a good job with a decent amount of
    research so don’t take any above criticism too personally it’s good that you have the chance to have a go.
    The Qantas RTW award fares on points are good although limited a bit in terms of options, For Aussies like myself Qantas points can be earnt very easily, So that program is more relative to me
    KrisFlyer also has a pretty good RTW award fares for Star Alliance flights also which is also relative to me as I can earn virgin Australia points easily to convert to KrisFlyer miles.
    Depends what part of the world your in and what points/miles currencies we all use.

  11. For clarity, I’m not sure this is true:

    “You must use at least two OneWorld carriers
    No British Airways flights are allowed”

    The rule as I understand it (and heaven knows this is complex and most BA agents don’t understand it either) is:

    “You must use at least two oneworld (sic) carriers excluding British Airways”

    These two statements are not the same …. BA flights are allowed I think.

  12. Wow, that was impressive! Thanks! He’s definitely hit the top prize for Guest articles up til now!

    @Raffles: that’s interesting. I fly ex-LON so would be glad to know. Could always use QF codeshare on EK to SYD otherwise (and why not!?) but for the return leg from the US, it would be handy.

  13. We did Avios Redemption ORD-NRT-HKG-DPS-KUL-BKK-DOH-(MLE-AUH-LHR)-YYZ in multi class, half F and half in J. Also included one flight on BA metal, 7 segments and one open jaw (started in ORD and ended in YYZ). Segment from MLE-LHR was an AA award on a separate ticket.

    I ended up cancelling Malaysia flight KUL-BKK in favour of cash purchase and was refunded 120k Avios even though it was only priced at 20k individually.

    I’m not sure about what band our total miles fell into but it only cost 680k for 2 people when i was expecting over 720k. Im curious about why we got such a big refund for succh a short segment being dropped.

    I love Avios because when transferring from RBC points (Royal Bank of Canada) to BA Avios there is a twice per year promotion that grants a 50% bonus. This is on top of earning 1.25 points per dollar on everyday spend with the RBC Visa Avion Infinite Privilage. Effectively making 1.85 Avios per dollar on everything with no limits. 1.5M Avios earned for $800k in annual spend. No sign up bonuses.

    This route allowed us to experience the best of one world (and Etihad) all in one trip.

  14. I am guessing multi-class is prorated.

    Also found availability for all segments which was over new years in T-18. Many city pairs available with OW if your flexible.

  15. My mind just got blown. I have been reading here for years and never commented before. I’ve booked some amazing and complex award bookings and this guy killed it with this post. I loved the writer who posted about her China Eastern mishap trip and her article WAS great and her writing style was witty and jokes probably better BUT aside from Lucky or Dan on Dan’s Deals, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a single, stand alone post that was this informative. Not only did he bring out the sweet spot of this BA chart clearly, his graph with the comparison of all the partners was so detailed, well researched and helpful. But he didn’t stop there and added the layer about originating in a country that outlawed YQ, which I had never heard about. He packed a minimum of 3 articles into this one and you could get tons more offshoots from it. Now I want to know details of how exactly to maximize a similar Asia Miles redemption. And what about JAl? Would a JAL booking like this, including Emirates, be better total value than trying to use them for an Emirates flight? Or Quantas asks for the same miles as BA but could I then include EL AL segments if I booked with them? Or what would be the difference in other airlines award booking YQ costs when orginating in Hong Kong vs. let’s say Singapore or Australia. A great writer not only tells a story but leaves you wanting to read more and waiting impatiently for the next installment, and this writer hands-down accomplished that more than anyone else guest posting AND 95% of writers in the whole travel blogosphere. Kudos to the guest writer and I hope to hear so much more from you!

  16. Fantastic article. I never knew this but is great to find out.

    Also the business class would be best on all these airlines than BA anyway

  17. Once again, random thoughts on the Guest article . . .

    1) From a “writing perspective,” it is a well-written piece.

    2) From an “editing perspective,” it leaves a lot to be desired. A good editor would/should catch things like “British Airways Executive Club and it’s [sic] currency, Avios”; “Malaysian [sic] Airlines”; or “The ‘usual’ British Airways chart…” (you mean the British Airways chart, don’t you?).

    >>> NOTE TO “K”: “Malaysia Enrich” is the name of their mileage program, just as Iberia Plus and Asia Miles are the names of Iberia’s and Cathay Pacific’s programs, respectively. There is no error here.

    3) From a CONTENT-driven perspective, it needs a lot of help. As examples, let me suggest a few things:

    a) The author says that ALL of these charts are difficult to find on the various carriers websites (e.g.: “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]”). So you couldn’t provide any links? The vast majority of links are to other OMAAT articles, except links to BA telephone numbers across the world and the JAL Distance Checker.

    b) The author explains that to use BA Avios, the flights are booked through BA and governed by BA’s rules, but that you cannot fly on BA metal. So far, so good. But if one looks at the routing, the RTW flight begins and ends in Chicago, and the “rules chart” included in the article CLEARLY states “Same Start and Stop Location: NO” for BA. Is this a writing error, and editing error, or a content error? It has to be (at least) one of these.

    Etc., etc., etc.

  18. Although the topic isn’t very interesting (IMO), the information content is highly impressive. Great research comparing the different programs.

    My vote for Best guest post so far.

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