As we start to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and Americans take to the skies again, ticket prices are rising, especially for domestic flights. Hopefully, you’ve been taking some time to build up your points balances through your credit cards. Perhaps you’re now wondering what to do with them.
The good news is that there is outsized value to be had by transferring your points to British Airways’ loyalty program. You can then use them to book flights on American Airlines. Although you could also use American Airlines’ own AAdvantage miles to book the same flights, Avios often offer lower redemption rates.
This how-to guide covers what British Airways Avios are and why they’re valuable, especially on domestic flights within the US. It also details the exact steps to follow to book an American Airlines flight using your Avios.
What Are British Airways Avios?
Avios are the points currency for the loyalty program British Airways Executive Club. They are also the same currency that Spanish carrier Iberia uses for its Iberia Plus frequent flyer program, and Irish airline Aer Lingus uses for its AerClub program. (All three airlines are owned by the same company, International Airlines Group.)
How Do I Save Money by Using Avios on American Airlines Flights?
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples…
Say you live in Denver and want to jet to Miami for the Labor Day long weekend in September. You search on Google Flights and the cheapest nonstop roundtrip flight booking paying with cash is $237.
However, you can reduce your out-of-pocket cost by more than 95% by using Avios instead. You’ll fork out 22,000 Avios for this redemption and pay the obligatory $11.20 in taxes (instead of over $200 when paying in cash).
If you wanted to fly Business Class, that would cost a whopping $833 in cash, which is almost quadruple the cost of the Economy Class flight. However, you could use 44,000 Avios (just double the cost of Economy Class) and pay the same amount of taxes ($11.20).
Looking at the math in this example, you’re getting a value of 1 cent per Avios by using your points to fly Economy Class. In Business Class, it’s 1.9 cents, which is almost double the value. (Most frequent flyer bloggers value Avios at ~1.3 cents, so anything at or above that is a good redemption.)
It’s up to you how you use your points. You may just want them to get you from A to B, or you might want to splurge on your trip and use your points for a more luxurious experience.
Let’s look at another scenario...
Say you live in a secondary city such as Austin (like I do) and spot a cheap international ticket flying out of a bigger airport nearby, like Houston or Dallas/Fort Worth. You may wonder if it’s worth driving there and paying for parking, or if you’ll need to fork out some more cash for a short connecting flight.
Indeed, AA is the only airline that flies between Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth. That means that the airline can routinely charge over $100 for the short 40-minute flight.
Your points to the rescue. How about 7,500 Avios + $5.60 taxes instead? Much more palatable. This redemption gets you a value of 1.3 cents per Avios used.
Just make sure to book a flight that allows you enough time to pick up and recheck any luggage and get to your connecting flight.
How Do I Use Avios To Book Cheap American Airlines Flights?
- Go to the British Airways Executive Club website
- Log in to your account (you can sign up for one for free here)
- Enter your desired flight route, date/s, class of travel and number of travelers
- Select flights that have award availability
- Transfer required points from your credit card/s (if needed)
- Fill out your personal details
- Make payment
Which American Airlines Flights Offer The Best Value With Avios?
- Nonstop flights, e.g. Miami to Chicago (instead of Miami to Chicago via Charlotte)
- Domestic US flights as well as flights within The Americas (with taxes from only $5.60 one-way)
- Monopoly routes, like Dallas/Fort Worth to many Texan cities, on which AA is the only carrier
- Shorter flights, i.e. under two hours
- Flights during peak travel periods, such as Thanksgiving and Spring Break
How Do I Earn British Airways Avios?
The easiest way to earn British Airways Avios is through credit card welcome bonuses and ongoing spend. You can transfer the following flexible points currencies to Avios:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (at a 1:1 ratio)
- American Express Membership Rewards (at a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes they offer transfer bonuses of up to 40%)
- Marriott Bonvoy (at a 3:1 ratio, but you get a 5,000-Avios bonus when you transfer at least 60,000 Bonvoy points)
You can also buy Avios but usually you’ll only want to do this to top up your account if you’re short of the required points for a redemption.
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British Airways Avios offer great value when booking American Airlines flights, mainly on domestic routes.
You’ll get the most bang for your buck when booking shorter, nonstop flights, especially if AA is the only carrier operating on that route. You can also find savings when travelling during peak periods like the festive season.
It’s free and easy to set up a British Airways Executive Club account. Then just search for your desired flight/s and transfer the required points over from your credit card. If you’re unsure how to do this, search for something like ‘How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club.’
Remember, you’ll still need to pay the taxes on your redemption, which start at $5.60 one-way.
Finally, if you need to add your Known Traveler Number for TSA Pre-Check and/or pre-select your seats, you’ll need to do that on the American Airlines website, not the British Airways one. You can do this after you make your booking.