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How to use British Airways Avios for American Airlines flights

by on Fri November 4, 2016 • 5 Comments
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British Airways Avios is the points program affiliated with British Airways, and since it is a partner with American Airlines, Avios points can be a good way to book an award flight on American Airlines flights.

We’ll walk through how to book them, but before that, keep in mind some guidelines for using Avios on AA flights:

  • Try to spend Avios on nonstop short-to-medium haul flights.
  • Avoid using them for long international flights (they get expensive).
  • Avoid using them for first / business class flights (also too expensive to be worth it).

As long as you follow these simple rules, you’re golden. Not only can you get a great value out of Avios – you can sometimes get even better values than with American’s own AAdvantage miles.

That’s because Avios charges based on how far your fly according to this price chart, instead of which ‘zone’ or geography you’re flying to. The prices and distances you see are for one way. A roundtrip will be double the price, and all American Airlines flights are at the ‘Peak’ Avios price.

aviosmilecardschart

First, look for award space on AA.com

You can only use Avios on American if AA has ‘Saver’ awards available. You can check this availability on BA.com  – every flight you see there is bookable with Avios – but you can only search for one day at a time, while AA.com allows you to see a 30-day calendar all at once.

Once you see that calendar on AA.com it’s easy to filter for nonstop flights – just click the drop down on the left. Using Avios is generally a better deal on nonstop flights since it charges separately for each connection.

nonstopaa

Here we have found a nonstop flight that works for our travel goals. Note that if we booked this flight with American miles it would cost us 20,000 miles, but since we’re planning to use Avios that’s not the price we’ll pay.

aahawaii

Let’s fire up BA.com and see what price we get with Avios. Enter your itinerary and the available date we had found on AA.com to begin the search.

basite

Here is the same American flight we had found on AA.com: the only difference is, it’s going to cost us 12,500 Avios instead of 20,000 American miles – a great deal! You can book right away from this page if you have the Avios in your account.

avios125k

How to calculate how many Avios you need

BA.com has a handy online calculator, but it will only calculate a nonstop segment. For example, the flight below between New York and Los Angeles will cost you 12,500 miles only if you find nonstop availability. In case of a connecting flight, the cost will be higher.

Here are some examples for other city pairs. All prices are for oneway travel.

  • DFW-MCO: 7,500
  • ORD-LHR: 20,000
  • JFK-LIM: 20,000
  • LAX-NRT: 25,000
  • MIA-GRU: 25,000

You can easily find distances between any two cities on Great Circle Map. You can also use the Wandering Aramean’s Avios calculator, which comes especially handy because it displays all options for your itinerary including connecting flights.

Dealing with connecting flights

British Airways calculates your costs segment by segment, so you will almost always pay more Avios for connecting flights. That means, if you don’t live in a major hub, most of your flights would be via a third city and cost you more Avios.

However, there are exceptions, albeit they are few and between. Using the Wandering Aramean’s Avios calculator, let’s try to find our options between Miami and Buenos Aires.

As you can see, a nonstop flight between Miami and Buenos Aires costs 2,500 Avios more than a connecting flight via Lima. Of course, the second segment between Lima and Buenos Aires wouldn’t be on American, but this just illustrates that connecting flights aren’t always more expensive, although in most cases, they are.

Beware fuel surcharges on Transatlantic flights

Simply put, don’t use Avios to book a Transatlantic American Airlines flight. Even for a Transatlantic flight from New York, which is cheap in Avios, you will pay a lot in fuel surcharges. Add infamous Heathrow taxes for a round trip flight, and now you’re paying as much in fees as you would on a regular cash ticket, but still using miles on top.

aviossurcharge

Some great Avios values on American flights

If you’re looking for deals, here are some reasonably cheap routes with Avios…

You can fly for only 7,500 points one way from:

  • New York to Bermuda
  • New York to Montreal/Toronto
  • New York to Chicago/Nashville
  • Miami to Mexico/Caribbean (Cancun, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Aruba, etc.)
  • Miami to Central America (Nicaragua, Costa Rica)
  • Los Angeles to Vancouver/Denver

10,000 points from:

  • New York to Dallas/Cancun/Dominican Republic
  • Miami to Phoenix/Montreal/Minneapolis/Ecuador
  • Houston to Philadelphia/Seattle/Los Angeles
  • Chicago to Cancun/Cabo/Seattle
  • Los Angeles to Chicago/Atlanta/Mexico City

12,500 points from:

  • New York to Vancouver
  • Miami to Lima/Manaus (Brazil)
  • Chicago to Anchorage/San Juan
  • Dallas to San Juan/Bogota
  • Los Angeles to Anchorage/Hawaii/San Jose (Costa Rica)

So if you have lots of Avios from your BA flights, or Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards points from your spending, keep Avios in mind the next time you want to book a flight on American. It might be cheaper than any other option.

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5 thoughts on How to use British Airways Avios for American Airlines flights

  1. Julie Tinsley

    I was looking at a flight from SMF to PHX (641 miles according to great circle mapper). BA says it’s 7500 points one way, where as your chart above says 4500. Am I doing something wrong?
    Thanks, Julie

    Reply
    1. Jeff

      That chart is slightly misleading. The 4,500 tier was removed for US flights last year. That tier now only applies on non-AA flights.

      Reply
  2. David

    I have, or was, been using Avios for over 2 years now to get short haul flights. The problem for the past several months is that availability for routes that in the past always had availability now has no availability. The use of Avios for flights on American Airlines is practically worthless for me. I hope others have better luck.

    Reply

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