For Free Domestic Flights, Better to Collect Southwest or British Airways Points?
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If you travel frequently within North America, you can save miles and points by using British Airways Avios points for short-haul award tickets on its partners Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways.
But which program is a better deal for domestic travelers?
Let’s look at what you should consider when deciding between British Airways Avios points or Southwest points for your domestic award travel! Or if it’s worth considering both programs!
What’s the Deal?
Now is an excellent time to think about boosting your British Airways Avios point or Southwest point balance.
You’ll earn a total of 100,000 British Airways Avios points when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the 1st 12 months of opening your account. That’s a lot of money, but remember there are plenty of ways to meet minimum spending requirements.You could get 22 short-haul (under 650 miles) 1-way coach flights on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, or US Airways with the sign-up bonus! It’s a terrific deal if you can manage the minimum spending.
That’s worth up to ~$715 in Southwest flights, and double that if you have a Southwest Companion Pass!
So which is a better deal for you?
1. Consider Your Home Airport
Link: Southwest Route Map
Enter your home airport into the Wandering Aramean Avios Tool to see where you can fly non-stop on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, or US Airways.
And to check Southwest, visit Southwest’s route map and hover your mouse over your city to see where you can fly!
If you live in a large city that’s served well by Southwest AND British Airways’ partners Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, or US Airways, you’re lucky! You’ll have lots of choices when it comes to booking award tickets.
For example, Chicago and Dallas are hubs for both American Airlines and Southwest.
But if you live in a smaller city, your options may be limited to 1 or 2 airlines. Or there may be differences depending on which region of the country you’re in.
For example, here in Austin, there aren’t many non-stop routes that can be booked with a relatively small number of British Airways Avios points.
Remember, if you book a connecting flight using British Airways Avios points, you’ll pay per segment. Which is often not a deal at all!
But looking at the Southwest route map, there are far more options. Southwest has a revenue-based frequent flyer program, which means the number of points required for an award ticket depends on its cash price.
That’s why Emily and I travel almost exclusively on Southwest for domestic flights! Plus, with the Southwest Companion Pass, we can fly almost 2-for-1!
2. Where Do You Want to Go?
Is most of your travel short hops to nearby cities? Or do you prefer vacations further away?
It’s worth checking routes you fly frequently, or destinations you plan to visit, to see if they’re served better by Southwest or British Airways partners.
For example, if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, you can’t get there on Southwest! But you can fly Alaska Airlines and American Airlines using British Airways Avios points from the US mainland.
Plus, folks on the West Coast can get to Hawaii for just 25,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip in coach. That’s the cheapest and easiest way to fly to the Aloha state!
But if you’re dreaming of a Disney vacation, there are far more cheap options for flights to Orlando on Southwest from many cities, especially those on the East Coast.
If you’ve earned the Southwest Companion Pass, this could be a no-brainer!
3. What Kind of Traveler Are You?
If a reserved seat or flying Business or First Class is important to you, using British Airways Avios points on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways might be a better choice.
But keep in mind, these airlines charge for checked bags in coach! Unless you have a card which gives you a free checked bag on domestic flights, like the Bank of America Alaska Airlines, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, or Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® cards, you’ll pay $25 for your 1st checked bag. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
You won’t get a seat assignment on Southwest, and they don’t have a true Business Class, but everyone gets 2 free checked bags. That can be a huge money saver!
4. Solo Flyer or Group Travel?
Airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways only release a certain number of award seats each flight.
And it can be tricky to find more than 1 or 2 seats on the same plane during peak times! Unless you’re the type of person who plans travel well ahead.
So if you fly often in a group or with your family, you might have trouble finding award seats on the same flights if you book with British Airways Avios points.
On Southwest, as long as there’s a paid ticket available, you can book it with points. Even at the last-minute!
And partners can stretch their points by earning the Southwest Companion Pass. Your companion flies with you for nearly free on paid and award tickets.
That said, the number of points required depends on the price of a paid ticket. So if you find yourself flying at peak times, like holidays or spring break, you’ll often pay more.
But that’s better than no available award seats at all!
What If You Need More Points?
To stock up on British Airways Avios or Southwest points for a trip, there are easy ways to earn both (other than from paid flights)!
Don’t forget, you can also buy Southwest gift cards at office supply stores and earn 5X points or 5% cash back with cards like:get fewer British Airways Avios points when you transfer American Express Membership Rewards points.
Both types of points are excellent for booking domestic award flights. But to decide which you should collect, consider:
- Your home airport
- Where you plan to travel
- How you like to travel (coach, Business, or First Class)
- Whether you often fly solo or in a group
In some cases, it may make more sense for you to focus on collecting points in 1 program.
But if you live in a city equally well served by Southwest and British Airways’ domestic airline partners (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways), consider collecting both!
What’s your favorite way to book domestic award tickets?
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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)