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US Airways Award Bookings Using BA Avios, as low as 4,500 Avios one way

Old Aug 13, 2014, 5:37 pm
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Last edit by: beltway
With US joining OneWorld in early 2014, British Airways' mileage currency (Avios) offer a potentially advantageous option for redeeming for award tickets, especially on shorter flights.

What are the relevant characteristics/rules for redeeming Avios?
  • Avios is charged per individual flight segment. The cost for a single connecting itinerary AAA-BBB-CCC is the same as the cost of two separate tickets for travel AAA-BBB & BBB-CCC.
  • Avios uses a distance-based chart. (See below.)
  • First-class travel costs 3x as many Avios as coach. Unfortunately, this generally makes domestic F redemption unattractive with Avios. In general, US front-cabin seats are treated as first-class for purposes of Avios redemption.
    • Effective April 28, 2015, first-class awards will cost 4x the coach award price.
  • Business class travel costs 2x Avios. Some North American airlines consider the front cabin to be business for Mexico and Central America routes.
    • Effective April 28, 2015, business-class awards for segments >2000 miles long will cost 3x the coach award price.
  • You can redeem one-way awards with Avios.
  • Avios is region-agnostic. (That is, a given distance costs the same regardless of whether it traverses one or more world regions.) Thus, Avios can provide great value when flying to Hawaii for those who fly coach and can do so in one segment.
  • There is no ticketing fee for online booking. If you call instead of booking online, there is a $25 ticketing fee. (Some people have success in getting this fee waived when an itinerary cannot be booked online, making a phone call unavoidable.)
  • There is no close-in ticketing fee.
  • BA charges $55 to cancel or change a ticket. However, if you cancel online, your cost is capped at the amount of taxes/TSA fees paid; for domestic itineraries on US, this will normally be much less than $55. (This workaround does not apply to changing a ticket online, which will incur the full $55 fee.) You must cancel one day in advance to get the Avios redeposited.
What are the mileage bands in the Avios award chart?
  • 1-650 mile flight: 4,500 Avios
  • 651-1151 mile flight: 7,500 Avios
  • 1152-2000 mile flight: 10,000 Avios
  • 2001-3000 mile flight: 12,500 Avios

The full chart for redemptions until April 28, 2015 can be found here. Starting April 28, 2015, a new chart will apply.

One enterprising blogger has created interactive maps showing potential destinations reachable on US in each of the mileage bands from DCA, PHL, CLT, and PHX.
What's an example of Avios being better than booking an award on US using Dividend Miles?
Consider the cost to fly from San Diego to Phoenix, a route under 400 miles. US charges 25K miles R/T, plus $38 (includes $25 ticketing fee), plus a $75 close-in fee for any booking within 14 days of departure. BA will charge 9,000 Avios R/T plus the TSA security fee.

If you live in a gateway city and can fly to Hawaii nonstop, investigate whether booking with Avios is more attractive. Example:
PHX-HNL is 2917 miles. A R/T with Avios is 25K miles (12,500 each way). A R/T with US is 40K miles.
What's the process for redeeming Avios?
Go to the Avios award search page; log in; and enter your desired itinerary.
Great! That sounds easy! What's the catch?
Unfortunately, there are several practical restrictions on redeeming Avios for domestic travel on US, especially when attempting to book online.
  • Most importantly, US "low/saver" awards must be available. (You can confirm award availability at the lowest level by searching on the US site directly or by using a third-party service such as Expert Flyer.)
  • The BA search tool cannot generate partner itineraries that include more than one connection. (You can still book each segment as an individual ticket, although doing so will create problems if you wish to check luggage all the way through and/or if you miss a connection owing to flight delays.)
  • Even where US has low-level award availability, the Avios search tool will often fail to display it. This is especially true on routes with numerous flights in a single day (such as the DCA-LGA, LGA-BOS & DCA-BOS shuttles), but occurs regularly on numerous routes. There is no workaround except calling BA reservations.
    • Recommendation: Always search for one-way awards. The BA search tool is known to display no availability in either direction on round-trip searches when awards are in fact available in one direction but not the other.
  • The BA search engine will accept metropolitan area pseudo-codes (WAS, LON, PAR, NYC, etc.) as well as individual airport codes. For better results, try both (e.g., DCA, BWI & IAD as well as WAS).
OK, I managed to make an award booking despite all these pitfalls. How do I get my US FF# into the reservation in order to enjoy my US elite benefits?
The American Airlines Twitter team (@AmericanAir) can modify a reservation to enter your US or AA FF#.

Several FTers also report success using the Finnair website ("Choose manage booking and put in your BA confirmation code"). However, this method allows the FF# on a given itinerary to be changed only once; it will not allow subsequent changes.
I want to change my seat but the BA site never gave me a US record locator. What's the solution?
Look up your reservation on the US site using the BA record locator.
How can I accumulate Avios?
  • Fly British Airways.
  • Credit OneWorld flights to British Airways.
  • Open a Chase British Airways credit card, ideally with a generous sign up bonus.
  • Move Chase Ultimate Reward points (CSP, Ink Plus, Ink Bold) to your BA account.
  • Move AMEX Membership Rewards points to your BA account, preferably during the 2-3 times a year when a bonus is offered.
  • Move SPG points to your BA account. 20K SPG points yields 25K BA Avios, and bonuses have been offered once a year.
  • Form a household account (see BA forum for discussion) so that miles can be pooled.
Credit: Much of this wiki is based on post #1 by SanDiego1K.
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US Airways Award Bookings Using BA Avios, as low as 4,500 Avios one way

 
Old Mar 30, 2014, 7:53 pm
  #1  
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US Airways Award Bookings Using BA Avios, as low as 4,500 Avios one way

Once US becomes part of OneWorld, those of us with Avios (British Airways mileage currency) are going to find redemption on shorter US flights to be more attractive than with US miles. Let me attempt to highlight some important characteristics of Avios.
  1. Avios is charged per individual flight segment
  2. Avios is charged per distance of that segment
  3. Coach is 1x Avios for a mileage band; first is 3x Avios. Unfortunately, this generally makes domestic F redemption unattractive with Avios.
  4. Business is charged 2x Avios. Some North American airlines consider the front cabin as business for Mexico and Central America routes. Unfortunately, reports in this thread are that US markets them as F.
  5. You can redeem one way awards with Avios
  6. Avios is region agnostic. Avios can provide great value when flying to Hawaii for those who fly coach and can do so in one segment.
  7. There is no ticketing fee
  8. There is no close in ticketing fee
  9. Should you call to book, there is a $25 ticketing fee
  10. BA charges $40 to cancel or change a ticket

Avios Mileage Bands
  • 1-650 miles 4,500 Avios
  • 651-1151 miles 7,500 Avios
  • 1152-2000 miles 10,000 Avios

Awards using Avios need to be booked on the BA website. BA charges for booking by phone. There are no additional fees for domestic awards beyond the security fee charged by any carrier. There are no close in booking fees.

A real world example is the cost to fly from San Diego to Phoenix. This route is under 400 miles. If I book in the next couple weeks, US charges 25K RT miles plus $108 (includes $25 ticketing fee plus $75 close in fee). BA will charge 9,000 Avios RT plus $5 security fee. I generally prefer one way awards. Avios provides that flexibility. I can get it for 4,500 Avios.

Using Avios for US flights to Hawaii

If you live in a gateway city and can fly to Hawaii nonstop, investigate whether booking with Avios is more attractive.

Example:
PHX-HNL - 2917 miles
Avios band: 2,001 miles - 3,000 miles for 12,500 Avios

RT with Avios is 25K miles. RT with US is 40K miles.

Note that the low band of US awards must be available in order to do an Avios booking.

How to accumulate Avios
  1. Fly British Airways
  2. Credit OneWorld flights to British Airways
  3. Open a Chase British Airways credit card, ideally with a generous sign up bonus
  4. Move AMEX points to your BA acount, hopefully during the 2-3 times a year when a bonus is offered (credit phlwookie)
  5. Move SPG points to your BA account. 20K SPG points yields 25K BA Avios. (credit dtremit)
  6. Form a household account (see BA forum for discussion) so that miles can be pooled

And from the BA flyer perspective: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/briti...lub-guide.html

Last edited by SanDiego1K; Apr 1, 2014 at 10:11 pm
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 8:08 pm
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Last I checked, a good source of Avios without flying BA was to transfer AMEX points, especially when they run one of their occasional bonus point promos.

Presumably a cheaper way into domestic F on US using Avios exists for a US Platinum of Chairman who earned the "upgrades on domestic award travel" special dividend (85K miles flown or 105 segments). Any reason to think this wouldn't work if this was paid for with Avios so long as the DM # is on the award reservation?
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 9:21 pm
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Originally Posted by phlwookie
Last I checked, a good source of Avios without flying BA was to transfer AMEX points, especially when they run one of their occasional bonus point promos.

Presumably a cheaper way into domestic F on US using Avios exists for a US Platinum of Chairman who earned the "upgrades on domestic award travel" special dividend (85K miles flown or 105 segments). Any reason to think this wouldn't work if this was paid for with Avios so long as the DM # is on the award reservation?
From my 1 experience redeeming an award in Y and getting upgraded, I had a CP desk agent tell me that the way the upgrades work is that the computer is flagged to let you upgrade an itinerary in the "X" bucket. So, assuming (likely) that the Avios award ticket books into "X", then yes, a CP/Plat w/ the 85k special dividend will get the upgrade.
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 9:49 pm
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US Airways flights now show online on BA's site ... friend of mine says he already booked, although I haven't tried and some are reporting problems with ticketing.

PHL-AUA in First shows 30,000 Avios which is 3x the economy rate, so unfortunately the "coded as First" thing bites again.

Last edited by amolkold; Mar 30, 2014 at 9:58 pm
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 10:12 pm
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I'm ex-YYZ (Toronto)

I see YYZ-DCA/PHL/CLT routes on Avios, but very very limited availability into Oct 2014, so much for hoping for 9000 RT short-haul

but seems to price out okay for 3 seats in Y though
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 10:29 pm
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Originally Posted by amolkold
US Airways flights now show online on BA's site ... friend of mine says he already booked, although I haven't tried and some are reporting problems with ticketing.
Yeah, I keep getting shut out at the final step. After the attempt to charge my card for the fees goes through, I get the following message:

"Error. We're sorry, we are unable to process your request. Please contact your local British Airways office."
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 11:16 pm
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Originally Posted by amolkold
US Airways flights now show online on BA's site ... friend of mine says he already booked, although I haven't tried and some are reporting problems with ticketing.

PHL-AUA in First shows 30,000 Avios which is 3x the economy rate, so unfortunately the "coded as First" thing bites again.
I think that's because US markets its flights from the NA gateway to the Carribean and Central America as first class, whereas AA (and UA and DL) market them as business class. Hopefully that will change soon.
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 11:43 pm
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Originally Posted by Fanjet
I think that's because US markets its flights from the NA gateway to the Carribean and Central America as first class, whereas AA (and UA and DL) market them as business class. Hopefully that will change soon.
Darn.
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Old Mar 30, 2014, 11:54 pm
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Nice primer -- thanks SanDiego1K!

Another method to add to the list is transferring SPG points to BA.
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Old Mar 31, 2014, 12:30 am
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K
Once US becomes part of OneWorld, those of us with Avios (British Airways mileage currency) are going to find redemption on shorter US flights to be more attractive than with US miles. Let me attempt to highlight some important characteristics of Avios.
  1. Avios is charged per individual flight segment
  2. Avios is charged per distance of that segment
  3. Coach is 1x Avios for a mileage band; first is 3x Avios. Unfortunately, this generally makes domestic F redemption unattractive with Avios.
  4. Business is charged 2x Avios. Some North American airlines consider the front cabin as business for Mexico and Central America routes. Unfortunately, reports in this thread are that US markets them as F.
  5. You can redeem one way awards with Avios
  6. Avios is region agnostic. Avios can provide great value when flying to Hawaii for those who fly coach and can do so in one segment.
  7. There is no ticketing fee
  8. I'm unaware of a close in ticketing fee

Avios Mileage Bands
  • 1-650 miles 4,500 Avios
  • 651-1151 miles 7,500 Avios
  • 1152-2000 miles 10,000 Avios

Awards using Avios need to be booked on the BA website. BA charges for booking by phone. There are no additional fees for domestic awards beyond the security fee charged by any carrier. There are no close in booking fees.

A real world example is the cost to fly from San Diego to Phoenix. This route is under 400 miles. If I book in the next couple weeks, US charges 25K RT miles plus $108 (includes $25 ticketing fee plus $75 close in fee). BA will charge 9,000 Avios RT plus $5 security fee. I generally prefer one way awards. Avios provides that flexibility. I can get it for 4,500 Avios.

Using Avios for US flights to Hawaii

If you live in a gateway city and can fly to Hawaii nonstop, investigate whether booking with Avios is more attractive.

Example:
PHX-HNL - 2917 miles
Avios band: 2,001 miles - 3,000 miles for 12,500 Avios

RT with Avios is 25K miles. RT with US is 40K miles.

Note that the low band of US awards must be available in order to do an Avios booking.
A big benefit of using BA Avios points for US flights (rather than AA/US miles) is the often cheaper cost to cancel or change the award booking, as long as it is done at least 24 hours in advance. [Cancel works better for me, and so I choose one-way redemptions most times.] That said, this element may be out or on its way out today or soon.

BA has no rapid redemption fee for online bookings at least but has some other kind of general fee (which is sometimes waived) if booked over the phone. [BA waives the telephone booking fee for me whenever I ask for it because of some trouble or limitation with the booking engine.] I have booked hundreds of AA and other OW (and some non-OW) short-/mid-haul flights using BA's program, and this year I've also been making such bookings even for departures a few hours from booking. In all of these bookings -- which cover most OW carriers -- I've not been hit by any rapid redemption fee from BA yet at any point since BA changed to Avios.

This is why I always now eagerly anticipate Amex to BA transfer bonuses.

Last edited by GUWonder; Mar 31, 2014 at 6:19 am
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Old Mar 31, 2014, 1:48 am
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Funny thing is that:

PHX-SFO is 651 miles = 7,500 oneway
PHX-OAK is <= 650 miles = 4,500 oneway

From CLT, 650 miles take you to lots of places - it goes far enough to FLL but not to MIA. It goes to ALB but not BOS. It goes to ORD but not MKE. It goes to MSY also.

Another application of this is of course US Air Shuttle.
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Old Mar 31, 2014, 2:05 am
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BA is giving double Avios for US flights until June 30th. However, I'm not sure if it's for North America/UK/Ireland only. The promo header made that description; but the T&Cs didn't specify.
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Old Mar 31, 2014, 10:02 am
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Originally Posted by Fanjet
BA is giving double Avios for US flights until June 30th. However, I'm not sure if it's for North America/UK/Ireland only. The promo header made that description; but the T&Cs didn't specify.
http://www.britishairways.com/travel...s/public/en_us is the link and http://www.britishairways.com/en-us/...ing-avios.html is the earning chart. It seems there is no catch?
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Old Mar 31, 2014, 1:04 pm
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the big issue is availability

I started this thread a few weeks ago when I saw that the big problem in using this otherwise terrific deal would be availability:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/us-ai...ard-seats.html

I'm not sure we really need 2 threads on what will inevitably lead to the same discussion: the benefit is great, but good luck finding seats -- especially since you really need nonstop flights to make the Avios redemption worthwhile.

I've been looking at flights from several different markets and my observation is that it's a real PITA to find availability in both directions. If you're VERY flexible -- aka, retired, and you can fly anytime you want -- you'll find this a terrific opportunity. If you're trying to get away for the weekend, you'll undoubtedly be annoyed. If you find something you can use, take it -- because it's not going to be like you can hop on a plane anytime you want.

So far, my limited observation is that they don't load many additional seats. Like there's a 50-seat flight I've been looking at for this Friday that's still 1/3rd empty, but no additional award seats have been made available.

And then there are times when it will be essentially impossible to find award seats. Like good luck using Avios to get away for the Memorial Day weekend. I must have looked at 2 dozen routes, and just gave up. Of course, given that the US airline industry has become an oligopoly, it's not surprising that they want to sell all their seats at peak time (and CAN sell these seats), leaving zero for award travel.
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Old Mar 31, 2014, 1:10 pm
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Originally Posted by iahphx
I started this thread a few weeks ago when I saw that the big problem in using this otherwise terrific deal would be availability:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/us-ai...ard-seats.html

I'm not sure we really need 2 threads on what will inevitably lead to the same discussion: the benefit is great, but good luck finding seats -- especially since you really need nonstop flights to make the Avios redemption worthwhile.

I've been looking at flights from several different markets and my observation is that it's a real PITA to find availability in both directions. If you're VERY flexible -- aka, retired, you can fly anytime you want -- you'll find this a terrific opportunity. If you're trying to get away for the weekend, you'll undoubtedly be annoyed. If you find something you can use, take it -- because it's not going to be like you can hop on a plane anytime you want.

So far, my limited observation is that they don't load many additional seats. Like there's a 50-seat flight I've been looking at for this Friday that's still 1/3rd empty, but no additional award seats have been made available.

And then there are times when it will be essentially impossible to find award seats. Like good luck using Avios to get away for the Memorial Day weekend. I must of looked at 2 dozen routes, and just gave up. Of course, given that the US airline industry has become an oligopoly, it's not surprising that they want to sell all their seats at peak time (and CAN sell these seats), leaving zero for award travel.
That is my experience as well; US has some last minute availability during slack periods (read: hard to fill up planes), primarily because they can ding folks with the usual fees AND a $75 fee on last-minute awards, which, in conjunction with taking 25,000 miles off the books, is better than an empty seat... but it's not like you're going to be seeing loads of availability. Those studies that show that US doesn't release a lot of award availability are flawed in a number of ways, but they do get that right.
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