While I’ve no intention of trying to usurp sites like the BA section of Flyertalk or the excellent Headforpoints, Avios (the British Airways version of an air miles scheme) have formed a key part of my trip planning so far.
Avios is probably the most successful frequent flyer currency in the world. That said, many cattle class flyers find the earning rates pretty poor these days and never create enough value to buy a flight with their points.
The June trip to Boston / New England has seen me cash in all my British Aurways Avios to fly first class with Chris. Avios are cancelled on death so it seemed a fairly logical decision at the time. The miles I had would have got us to Dubai, New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Boston was chosen as a destination because I love my American driving holidays.
The cost was 272,000 Avios plus around £1100 in what BA calls “taxes” for the two of us. You earn 125 Avios on a Manchester to London flight, but many of my Avios were accrued from hotel loyalty schemes, an Anerican Express card, filling up with petrol at Tesco and even completing online surveys in moments of boredom! A couple of bargain business class flights to the USA out of Dublin also made a major contribution.
My other use of Avios for this year is my internal flights within Australia. For 15,000 plus around a tenner at a time I’ve bagged business class flights from Sydney to Brisbaine, Brisbane to Cairns and back, Brisbane to Adelaide and Adelaide to Melbourne. Cattle class would be cheaper at 7,500 Avios, but there was no availability on my preferred flights.
Business class for these relatively short flights includes lounge access, a bigger seat with more generous leg room and a meal on the plane. Typical cash fares tend to be upwards of £300 for a couple of hours in the air compared to less than half that for an ordinary economy seat. I can’t justify paying the cash, but Avios accrued from a few Clubcard points make it worth treating myself. As I’m not driving in most locations I fully intend to utilise the free booze in the lounges and on board.
Except I ran out of Avios before booking my final flight within Australia. My stepson Matt rescued me with a £3 Tesco Clubcard voucher which I converted to 720 much needed Avios and saved me an obscenely high cash fare. I am open to the idea of others flogging me their Tesco clubcard vouchers at face value!
I was quite excited to see LATAM flights in Chile could also get booked with BA Avios. And then disappointed when none of the flights I’d like to travel on had availability and demanded ridiculously high cash fares. Sky Airline might not be part of Avios but they are a budget South American flyer that suits my sense of value much better.
Separate to my BA Avios I hold a less flexible Avios.com account. This will only book flights that start and end in the UK with British Airways being a central player. Awkward as 95% of their flights depart or return to London. I have accrued enough points to get to Ibiza or Malaga and back when BA launch new services on their Cityflyer subsidiary in May. A sneaky break in the sun might be in order.
But I do need to consider my health. If I become ill in Boston, the land of the free and extremely large medical bill is not where to be. 13,000 Avios each (plus “taxes”)will fly both me and Chris home and availability of reward flights at short notice is common. So ideally I need 26,000 Avios sat in a pot just in case. I’m currently 5,000 short. I’m not sure I have the will to complete the surveys needed to earn those!
My return flight from Australia may give rise to another problem where a pot of Avios can help. I start and end my flight down under in Helsinki. At the time of booking the business class seats were half the price I’d have got from the UK. As this gave the opportunity to see a few hours of Finland I decided to go for it. Additional Finnair flights from Manchester to Helsinki were booked for non-refundable cash.
I made an error in booking the flight back to Manchester just 90 minutes after the scheduled landing time of my Melbourne > Qatar > Helsinki flight. A mad dash to recover hold luggage from Qatar Airways and check it back in with Finn Air has a high risk of failure.
If I successfully sweet talk the Qatar check in staff in Melbourne to route my bag through to Manchester I’ll be ok. Failure could see me miss my final flight. To book on the next flight at short notice will need me to raise a small mortgage. Burning 7,500 Avios may get me back to Manchester. But it’s possible I’ll need 15,000 if BA force me to fly to Heathrow and into Manchester from there.
So for me Avios have been good for a massive treat. Excellent for internal flights in Australia. They might get me to somewhere warm and Spanish too once the football season ends. They’re also a useful insurance policy if things go wrong.
in other words, it’s probably worth claiming frequent flyer rewards from non-budget airlines like BA. They might have an unexpected use in a future crisis.
Meanwhile, I really do need to turn my focus to Malta. I’ve applied very little thought to what I’m going to do there.