Nobody likes a devaluation and having been devalued up to 39%, you may be wondering how much value remains in the British Airways Avios program. The answer is “it depends.” This isn’t my favorite award program, but it can be a very good program if you have specific uses in mind.
Avios Are Easy to Earn
Unlike many airline award currencies, it’s easy to earn Avios. In fact, there are often fairly ridiculous promotions. Many transferable points work with Avios (including HSBC, American Express and Chase), often with transfer bonuses. In fact, in line with the devaluation, the signup bonus for the Avios card has increased in lockstep.
What Has Changed
The biggest impact of the devaluation, in percentage terms, is on short flights. For example, a flight under 650 miles and entirely outside of the United States previously cost just 4,500 Avios in economy class. This flight will now cost 6,000 miles. Flights up to 1,151 miles in economy class cost only 7,500 Avios.
These prices have gone up—a lot. The shortest flights now cost 6,000 Avios, and a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles will now cost you 9,000 Avios. The impact is even greater in premium cabins, where a 500-mile flight will cost you 12,500 points in business class.
The impact is milder with longer-haul flights—with the caveat that apart from certain “sweet spot” exceptions, these were never a great deal anyway.
What Hasn’t Changed
What hasn’t changed is the way that the Avios program works in general, or the incredible value you can get from “sweet spot” redemptions. I won’t rehash all of this here, but in general, Avios work best for nonstop flights in economy class and to expensive destinations. Many of these flights are still a good deal when purchased with Avios—they just aren’t quite as good as they used to be. However, while Avios was an automatic go-to currency for me before, it will no longer be for certain flights.
My Favorite Sweet Spots
Intra-Japan flights: Most flights within Japan cost less than $3 in tax and 6,000 Avios. Before, it was an insane bargain. Now, it’s simply a good deal. In a country where a one hour train ride can easily cost $100, this is (usually) still a no brainer.
Intra-Asia flights on Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon and JAL: Intra-Asia flights can be very expensive, but are still relatively cheap with Avios. Routes such as Hong Kong to Yangon or Tokyo to Seoul are still a great deal. One thing that changes the equation somewhat versus the past is the growth of low cost carriers. If you’re going to Bangkok, it can often be a better deal from nearly anywhere in Asia to use a low cost carrier like Air Asia versus Avios (which I value at about 1.2 cents per point).
Flights within South America: It’s often insanely expensive to fly within South America, so while availability on Oneworld partner LATAM can be hard to find, it’s exceedingly valuable. Even at the new pricing, you’ll be hard-pressed to ever find a better deal than Avios for a flight within South America.
Last-minute flights on American or Alaska Airlines: Avios doesn’t charge a last-minute booking fee. If you need a last-minute flight that would otherwise be expensive, and you can find award availability, Avios can still be a good deal even at the higher prices.
Flights to and within Alaska on Alaska Airlines: Flying to Alaska is insanely expensive. And if you thought getting there costs a lot, getting around Alaska costs even more. Even at the new higher rates, Avios can still represent good value. Remember, availability for Alaska Airlines flights doesn’t appear on the British Airways Web site so you’ll have to search for availability with other Alaska partners (such as Cathay Pacific or American) and call British Airways to book.
Flights from the West Coast to Hawaii on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines: These are now slightly more expensive, but cost just 13,000 miles. That being said, while this used to be an unbeatable deal, it’s turning into an average deal. Other airlines, such as Delta, have often matched the low Avios pricing from West Coast airports. Additionally, Southwest has entered the market, with award pricing that has been even lower. If you’re able to find availability, it’s still a good deal—just not as good a deal as before.
Know Before You Book
British Airways Avios remain an absolutely terrible deal for long-haul flights, especially in premium cabins. They always were. They’re now a somewhat less good deal for short and medium-haul flights. For me, they will no longer be an automatic “go-to” currency for short flights. However, this wasn’t a wholesale destruction of the program, or worse, a move to opaque variable award charts. I’ll still acquire Avios when I can do so cheaply, and will happily burn them on the sweet spots that remain.
[Featured Image: Flickr/ Gary Bembridge]