Book British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 2 – What Does a Distance Based Award Chart Mean?
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.Update: Beginning February 2, 2016, British Airways will no longer offer 1-way, short-haul (under 650 miles) coach award tickets on partner airlines in North America for 4,500 British Airways Avios points. Instead these flights will cost 7,500 British Airways Avios points.
I get a lot of questions on British Airways Avios points, and started a series on how to use British Airways Avios points a long time ago and finally finished writing it.
British Airways Avios points are 1 of my favorite airline points because they’re so flexible.
Book British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro:
- Part 1 – Love it or Hate it: An Introduction to British Airways Avios Points
- Part 2 – What Does a Distance Based Award Chart Mean?
- Part 3 – Taxes and Fees
- Part 4 – What Else Can I do with British Airways Avios Points?
- Part 5 – Using British Airways Avios Points to Upgrade Paid Tickets
- Part 6 – Using Cash and Points
- Part 7 – Household Accounts
- Part 8 – The British Airways Companion Pass
- Part 9 – How to Find Award Availability
- Part 10 – The Best International Awards Using British Airways Avios Points
- Part 11 – The Best Domestic Awards Using British Airways Avios Points
- Part 12 – The Best Short Distance Awards Using British Airways Avios Points
British Airways Avios points is a distance-based program, where the price of an award ticket depends on the length of each flight in your itinerary. Usually, other airlines (including most US airlines) have region-based programs, which charge for award tickets based on the regions regions of the origin and destination cities.
How Do Distance-Based and Region-Based Programs Compare?
For example, American Airlines has a region-based program while British Airways Avios is a distance-based program. Both airlines are members of the oneworld alliance.
Some trips are better booked with American Airlines miles, like international Business Class or First Class flights with connections. But you get a better deal using British Airways Avios points on nonstop, domestic, coach flights.
1. Bangkok to San Francisco on Cathay Pacific
You would use 67,500 American Airlines miles for a 1-way Business Class award ticket from Bangkok, Thailand, to Hong Kong, China, on Cathay Pacific and a 1-way First Class award ticket from Hong Kong to San Francisco on Cathay Pacific.
Because that’s the price for a First Class ticket from Asia Zone 2 (Bangkok) to North America (San Francisco).
However, British Airways charges a separate price for each flight in your itinerary. So the same flights would cost you 120,000 British Airways Avios points!
- 15,000 British Airways Avios points from Bangkok, Thailand, to Hong Kong, China, in Business Class
- 105,000 British Airways Avios points from Hong Kong, China, to San Francisco in First Class
So you would save 52,500 miles (120,000 British Airways Avios points – 67,500 American Airlines miles) using American Airlines miles.
However, British Airways Avios are great for short-haul flights that are otherwise expensive with cash.
2. New York to Toronto on American Airlines
Because British Airways Avios is a distance-based program, short flights are priced much cheaper than in region-based programs. So any flight that is less than 650 flown miles costs only 4,500 British Airways Avios points 1-way!
For example, New York to Toronto is a short flight (357 miles). A round-trip ticket for the weekend of December 20, 2014, to December 22, 2014, on American Airlines would cost ~$274.
Or you could pay 25,000 American Airlines miles and ~$59 in taxes. But this means you’re paying 25,000 American Airlines miles for ~$214 of the fare, which works out to ~0.86 cents per mile (~$214 fare / 25,000 American Airlines miles). That’s not a very good value!
However, you would only pay 9,000 British Airways Avios points + $56 in taxes for the same flight! I’d rather pay 9,000 British Airways Avios points instead of 25,000 American Airlines miles!
In this case, using Avios points is a much better deal!
Are There Other Benefits to Using British Airways Avios Points?
1. Unlimited Free Stopovers
With British Airways Avios points, you pay for flight as if they were separate trips.
For example, if you book an award ticket from Washington, DC, to Tampa, with a connection in Miami, you would pay 12,000 British Airways Avios points:
- 7,500 British Airways Avios points for the Washington, DC to Miami flight
- 4,500 British Airways Avios points for the Miami to Tampa flight
But, this means you can have a free stopover in Miami! Most airlines require you to connect to your next domestic flight within 4 hours.
But British Airways allows you to have unlimited free stopovers in your connecting cities, because you are paying for the flights separately. Although, you may have to pay a small amount of extra taxes.
2. You Can Mix Cabin Classes
Also, if you need to mix First Class and coach on the same itinerary, you only pay for the class you use on each flight.
Let’s say you want to book a 1-way award ticket from Tulsa to Chicago. But the only available award seats from Tulsa to Dallas are in First Class, and from Dallas to Chicago are in coach on American Airlines.
If you used American Airlines miles, you would pay the First Class price since 1 flight is in First Class. So you would pay 25,000 American Airlines miles 1-way!
But with British Airways Avios points, you’d pay 21,000 British Airways Avios points:
- 13,500 British Airways Avios points for First Class from Tulsa to Dallas
- 7,500 British Airways Avios points for coach from Dallas to Chicago
How Many British Airways Avios Points Do You Need?
|British Airways Avios points required for each flight|
|Travel Distance||Coach||Premium Economy||Business Class||First Class|
|0 to 649 miles||4,500||6,750||9,000||13,500|
|650 to 1,149 miles||7,500||11,250||15,000||22,500|
|1,150 to 1,999 miles||10,000||15,000||20,000||30,000|
|2,000 to 2,999 miles||12,500||18,750||25,000||37,500|
|3,000 to 3,999 miles||20,000||30,000||40,000||60,000|
|4,000 to 5,499 miles||25,000||37,500||50,000||75,000|
|5,500 to 6,499 miles||30,000||45,000||60,000||90,000|
|6,500 to 6,999 miles||35,000||52,500||70,000||105,000|
In general, the base price for each flight is based on a coach ticket. The prices go up as follows:
- Premium Economy (not offered on most airlines): 1.5X the price of coach
- Business Class: 2X the price of coach
- First Class: 3X the price of coach
You have to pay the British Airways Avios points rate for each flight separately.
Unfortunately, you have to pay 3X the price of coach when flying domestic American Airlines First Class, US Airways First Class, and Alaska Airlines First Class (which are all more like Business Class).
Although, there are 2 major exceptions:
- American Airlines flights between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles or San Francisco have a Business Class cabin, which is only 2X the price of coach
- Some American Airlines flights from Miami to Los Angeles also have a Business Class
Also, international flights on American Airlines (including flights to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean) have Business Class, so you only pay 2X the price of coach.
British Airways Avios points is a distance-based program, which means you can get short-haul tickets for relatively few points!
You’ll pay 4,500 British Airways Avios points 1-way in coach for flights under 650 miles. And you get unlimited free domestic stopovers. If you used miles from a US based airline, like American Airlines, you’d pay 12,500 American Airlines miles 1-way. And you don’t get a free stopover.
But it’s usually better to use region-based programs, like American Airlines, for longer flights, connecting flights, or international award tickets in Business Class or First Class. That’s because you’ll pay a flat rate for the entire flight regardless of the distance flown. If you used British Airways Avios points, you’d pay for each flight separately, and for long-haul flights that can get quite expensive!
Where have you gone with your British Airways Avios points?
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