Did British Airways Avios Gain Value After The United Devaluation?

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Note: In this post I will not discuss Delta since they do not allow one-way award redemptions.

The question in the title is a simple one.  Did British Airways Avios gain value after the United (and to a lesser extent Delta) devalution(s)?  The short and simple answer is yes.  Any time a competing currency is devalued, then other currencies which stay the same gain value in relation. Of course some day British Airways will once again devalue Avios and then we can have this discussion all over again!

Since British Airways prices out awards based on the distance, I tend to use them for shorter flights within the same region. In many cases you can end up saving a lot of miles and money over competing airlines. One of the best examples of this is using Avios to fly on American Airlines from the west coast to Hawaii.

The total cost for this trip is 25,000 Avios roundtrip. The other airlines charge around 45,000 miles for the same journey. Another great use is short haul flights like JFK-BOS or LAX-LAS which can normally cost a lot of money, but only cost 4,500 Avios each way.

LAX-HNL for 25,000 Avios.  A fantastic deal compared to other airlines.
LAX-HNL for 25,000 Avios. A fantastic deal compared to other airlines.

Examples Of Using Avios Over United MileagePlus

Japan-Korea

Ok so lets look at why Avios now more valuable.  To start, lets take a look at the scenario I discussed last week.  While planning our family trip to Japan, I came to a crossroads.  We want to fly from Japan to South Korea for a few days before flying back home.  At the time, I opted to choose pre-devaluation United miles to get us there.  The reason I chose United was because they allowed us to schedule a long layover in Taipei.  This was an easy way for us to get a taste of a new country.

Great Circle Mapper

Options For This Trip If I Was Booking Today:

  • American Aadvantage: 10,000 miles + $25 (No long layovers possible since the only route is NRT-ICN on Japan Airlines.)
  • British Airways Avios: 7,500 + $55 (Same flight as using American miles.)
  • United MileagePlus: 15,000 + $25 (I could layover in several cities along the way with Star Alliance carriers.)

As you can see, both American and British Airways provide much more attractive options than United. Before, with United only costing 10,000 miles & $30 less, it was a no-brainer to book with them. Today, I would probably forego the long layovers and book with British Airways on this route. If only British Airways didn’t have their pesky fuel surcharges then this would become an even better deal.

NRT-ICN with Avios is 7,500 + $55.
NRT-ICN with Avios is 7,500 + $55.

Intra-Japan

There are other routes like this too.  Intra-Japan used to cost 6,000 miles in coach on United and now it is 10,000.  Most Avios redemptions within Japan would only cost 4,500 Avios. As you can see, Avios are now more valuable for these routes then they were before.  For the record, American Airlines charges 10,000 miles for a one-way intra-Japan flight as well.

United Airlines   Flight Search Results
This same flight would only cost 4,500 Avios.

Intra-Europe

This works in other regions as well.  Europe-Europe flights are now 15,000 United miles, while some routes are as little as 4,500 Avios.  Keep in mind that British Airways does charge fuel surcharges, but they aren’t significant on intra-Europe routes.

For example, a one-way flight from London to Frankfurt now costs 15,000 United miles plus $68.  On British Airways you pay only 4,500 Avios plus $27.  For a longer intra-Europe flight like London-Warsaw, United comes in at 15,000 miles + $90.80 while British Airways costs 7,500 miles + $27.50.

British Airways   Choose your flights3
London-Warsaw is half the mileage cost and the fees are cheaper too!

There are numerous examples like these where United awards jumped up enough to make them uncompetitive.  For example, I might have considered United intra-Europe roundtrip since it allows a stopover and even the possibility of an open jaw.

With the BA award costing half now in terms of miles and less in terms of taxes, I can simply book several one-way awards.  I could take five or six British Airways flights for the cost of flying roundtrip on United.  Each one of these flights would also allow me to stopover for an unlimited amount of time.

How To Get Avios

There are a few ways to get Avios.  British Airways is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.  Both programs transfer to Avios at a 1:1 ratio, although American Express usually runs some sort of transfer bonus during the year.

Additionally, you can get the Chase British Airways credit card.  Right now there is a 100,000 offer floating around.  As you can see, Avios are pretty easy to come by for the miles and points aficionado.

Conclusion

The whole point of this post isn’t to bog you down with specific examples of how British Airways Avios are better than United MileagePlus miles. The point is to act as reminder that all of the other mileage currencies including Avios are now more valuable since United raised their redemption rates.

When it comes to short/mid range flights within regions, you may find that Avios are the way to go now even though they might not have been a few weeks ago. If I was booking our flight from Japan to Korea today, I would have no choice but to use Avios over MileagePlus.  Luckily I got that booking in before the devaluation and was able to add on the layover in Taipei, but my eyes are now more open to the possibilities for short hops with Avios.

Avios are still not the best option for many routes, especially in areas where the OneWorld alliance is weak or for long distances, but they do have more use now than before.  Please let me know if you have any questions!

 


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