As promised a couple of weeks back, this week I am taking a comprehensive look at Avios points and the ways in which you can earn and best spend them.
Avios points are essentially the currency for British Airways and their frequent flyer loyalty program; British Airways Executive Club. However, there are actually 4 loyalty programs that use Avios as their airline mileage currency of choice. These are:
- British Airways Executive Club (BAEC)
- Iberia Plus
- Aer Lingus (Aer Club)
This article has information that is largely relevant to BAEC, and avios.com. Although you should take the time to enrol in all 4 schemes, it is unlikely you will have much use for Iberia Plus and/or Aer Club on a regular basis.
You can currently use the ‘Combine My Avios’ tool to move your Avios between BAEC, Avios.com and Iberia Plus at no cost. At some stage, this function will presumably be extended to the fairly new Aer Club scheme as well.
HOW TO COLLECT AVIOS
Despite being a frequent flyer program by name, there are in fact many ways to earn Avios points through BAEC and indeed avios.com apart from flying. On that basis, I am going to concentrate on methods that earn Avios through non-flying techniques. Some of these avenues are unique to one of the schemes and some are available via either one. They include:
- Transferring American Express Membership Rewards points – BOTH
- Converting Tesco Clubcard points – BOTH
- Transferring Heathrow Rewards points – BOTH
- Converting Shell Drivers Club points – BOTH
- Completing surveys with Rewards for Thoughts and e-rewards – BOTH
- Travelling on the Heathrow Express – BOTH
- Booking airport parking – BOTH
- Purchasing foreign currency – BOTH
- Chic Outlet Shopping Villages – BOTH
- Magazine Subscriptions – BOTH
- The Gate365 shopping portal – BAEC
- The Avios eStore shopping portal – AVIOS.COM
- Car rentals – BAEC
- Holding a British Airways American Express cards – BAEC
- Holding the Lloyds Bank Avios credit cards – AVIOS.COM
- Staying at a hotel partner – BAEC
- Making a BA Holiday booking – BAEC
Through some of the above options, members will seek to accrue significant quantities of Avios points that can be redeemed in numerous ways.
HOW TO REDEEM THESE POINTS
Most pertinently perhaps, Avios can be redeemed through BAEC for flights on BA or indeed any of the 15 members of the oneworld alliance such as Cathay Pacific or American Airlines as well as partners such as AerLingus.
BA promises to release two business class seats (Club World) and 4 economy seats (World Traveller) for redemption, 355 days before the flight. This release typically occurs on or within 30 minutes of midnight UK time. Though not guaranteed, First Class and Premium Economy seats may also become available at that time or at any point prior to the flight. The popularity of the route along with other factors will then determine if and when additional seats are released for redemptions.
Notwithstanding the fact that some taxes are still payable on these redemptions, for many, collecting Avios allows them to experience travel in Business or First Class that they would never have otherwise been able to afford. As discussed a number of weeks back, there is also often excellent value to be had by utilising Reward Flight Saver for short-haul European redemptions.
There are also some non-flight redemption options for cashing out your Avios via BAEC or avios.com. These include wine and hotels, although they are generally seen as offering poor value versus redeeming for flights.
THIS IS ALL VERY WELL FOR THE SOLO TRAVELER BUT THIS IS NO GOOD FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR
Incorrect. Although early planning is definitely advised. Waking up in October and saying; ‘I want to find 4 seats in business class using miles to Sydney over Christmas and New Year’ is unlikely to yield a fruitful outcome.
The key to successfully redeeming Avios points especially in premium classes is having a little flexibility, be it regarding destination airport or date of travel, to secure the number of seats you require in your preferred class of travel.
HOW MANY AVIOS ARE NEEDED FOR FLIGHTS
You can check how many Avios you would need to fly to a particular destination by plugging in the details to this ‘Reward Flight Calculator’ on ba.com.
You must be logged into BAEC to use this search function, although you need not have any Avios in your account to do so. However, in order to explore Reward Flight Saver prices, you must have earned a minimum of one Avios point in your account within the last 12 months.
CAN MY POINTS EXPIRE?
Yes. After 3 years of inactivity on your account, your Avios will expire. However, given the plethora of Avios-collecting activities available, no one should ever encounter a situation whereby they are forced to allow a large pile of Avios to expire. Following the guidance available here on Tricks of the Trade should hopefully ensure such a possibility never occurs!
CAN WE POOL OUR AVIOS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS?
Yes. Though not a de rigueur feature of most frequent flyer programs, both BAEC and avios.com offer Household Accounts of some description. The various rules and requirements do differ considerably between the two schemes though, and I hope to take a proper look at these variances in a separate article in the not too distant future.