This is a good opportunity to top up your British Airways Executive Club balance with Avios to use for cheap last-minute Business and Economy Class flights on Qantas in Australia, American Airlines in the US, and Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific in Asia.
Note that this offer is only for current Executive Club members, so do sign up for an account now if you don’t already have one to take advantage of the next offer. Details are below.
Why this guide is useful
Avios are great for redeeming short-to-medium flights on oneworld partner airlines.
For example, you’ll only need 20,000 Avios for a one-way Business Class hop between Auckland/Wellington/Christchurch and Sydney (versus 36,000 Qantas points). Purchasing with this 45% bonus means that you can score this flight for ~$552 NZD + taxes instead of cash tickets which retail from $800.
Qantas Domestic Business Class in Australia are even better value. You’ll only need 9,000 Avios one-way between Sydney and Brisbane (versus 16,000 Qantas points). Purchasing with this 45% bonus will cost you ~$249 NZD (+ taxes) instead of cash tickets which retail from $900.
You will need an active British Airways Executive Club account to take advantage of this offer. If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up for a British Airways Executive Club account here.
Now, you’re not allowed to have an Australian or New Zealand address on the account (very strange), but they’ll only be sending you a membership card to the address (which you don’t really need anyway), so consider borrowing an address from a friend or family member overseas, or just making a realistic one up.
Why this guide is useful
- Current offer: 20-45% bonus (tiered)
- Ends: 25 November 2018 at 23:59pm GMT
- Best value redemptions: short-to-medium non-stop domestic Business Class flights within Australia, the US and Japan
- Book awards online or phone: most awards can be searched for and booked on the British Airways Executive Club website. If not, expect long wait times, which are reduced if you call their number in Singapore (provided later in the guide)
Here are the tiers:
- Purchase or Gift 1,000 – 15,000 Avios and receive 20% bonus Avios
- Purchase or Gift 20,000 – 35,000 Avios and receive 30% bonus Avios
- Purchase or Gift 40,000 – 90,000 Avios and receive 35% bonus Avios
- Purchase or Gift 100,000 – 200,000 Avios and receive 45% bonus Avios
You can purchase between 1,000 and 200,000 Avios during this promotion, which is double the maximum points you can usually buy in one year.
At the top end, this would have you buying 290,000 Avios for a total of $5,523 USD, at a cost of 1.90 USD cents per mile.
There are usually two purchase links to choose from (which we explain below), with British Airways Executive Club being the most useful for travellers in Australia and New Zealand (but that is the only active one for this particular promotion):
Note: As Avios expire after 36 months of inactivity in your account, make sure to keep your account active by earning/redeeming points regularly.
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Why Avios redemptions break a cardinal rule
Whilst generally the frequent flyer community will tell you not to purchase points without a specific redemption in mind, British Airways Avios could be the exception to the rule.
This is due to a unique utility – whilst the greatest value in purchasing points is normally for a long-haul redemption in a premium cabin, Avios are great for a short-notice domestic trips when prices are often sky high.
For this reason, many advanced points collectors like to make sure they always keep a supply on hand.
The basics: BA and Iberia
Avios are the frequent flyer loyalty currency of IAG (International Consolidated Airlines Group), the parent company of Qantas’ oneworld partner airlines British Airways and Spanish flag carrier Iberia. Points can be transferred between the two programs (BA Executive Club and Iberia Plus) with ease.
There are three separate (yet intertwined) Avios programs:
The price for BA and Iberia Plus Avios differs based on the Euro exchange rate.
British Airways Executive Club will be of the most use to New Zealand travellers. This is the main focus of this article, and later on we’ll cover how each can be leveraged for their own benefits.
As a result, it pays to join each of these programs to get the most out of the Avios currency and associated loyalty programs.
It’s also worth noting that British Airways devalued their program in April 2016, so another devaluation would be unlikely in the immediate future.
Avios sweet spots
Whilst British Airways has devalued their award chart in recent years, they remain excellent value for short-haul awards on oneworld partner airlines.
Here are three examples:
- A one-way ticket from either Brisbane to Sydney or Sydney to Melbourne both fall into their lowest bracket at under 600 miles. At this level, a one-way ticket will set you back 4,500 Avios in Economy or 9,000 in Business. Compare this to 8,000 and 16,000 Qantas points respectively.
- Brisbane to Melbourne is over the 600-mile mark so will fall into the next bracket: 7,500 in Economy or 15,000 in Business. Once again this is considerably less than Qantas’ 12,000 and 24,000.
- Auckland/Wellington/Christchurch to Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane is 10,000 Avios in Economy or 20,000 in Business, compared to Qantas’ 18,000 and 36,000. This is about the maximum distance where purchasing points outright can represent any value.
Unlike most other purchased miles, Avios can provide good value for Economy flights, especially when redeeming last-minute. And unlike on their major international routes, last-minute Qantas domestic and Trans-Tasman awards are easy to come by.
Similar short hops can be useful around Asia on other oneworld partners such as Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, or in the US on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
Like many points redemptions, maximum value is obtained when redeeming for shorter flights with a high cash price.
Avios award pricing
British Airways Executive Club has a distance-based award chart (similar to Qantas), with each segment pricing separately.
British Airways-operated flights offer peak and off-peak award pricing, meaning that the amount of points you will pay will depend on the date you wish to travel.
Partner awards all price at the peak rate. You can check whether the date you want to travel on falls under the peak or off-peak award chart by checking the calendar linked from this page.
British Airways have a well-earned reputation for their high fuel surcharges. To be fair, though, they aren’t really any worse than those levied by Qantas. They also don’t pass on any additional surcharges on domestic and Trans-Tasman Qantas flights.
For a short hop such as Auckland to Sydney, the additional taxes are around $46, both in business and economy.
An official award chart isn’t posted online anymore. Instead, British Airways offers an online award calculator where you can enter your origin, destination and class of travel to find out the cost of an award.
I’d also recommend using Wandering Aramean’s Avios redemption calculator which also shows you multi-flight routes which may be cheaper to redeem for than a direct flight.
When to transfer Avios over to Iberia Plus
One feature of the various Avios programs that differs to most others is the ability to transfer points between each other at a 1:1 ratio.
The main advantage here is being able to access Iberia Plus’s redemption rules with your purchased British Airways Executive Club Avios, or to purchase Iberia Plus Avios and move them over to British Airways if there is a different deal running between the two programs.
Whilst generally almost identical to the British Airways program, Iberia plus publishes a slightly different award chart for flights they operate, and a different on-peak/off-peak calendar.
Iberia does not fly to Australia or New Zealand so this may be of no use for domestic travel in either country, but for some very specific redemptions, it pays to have a look at both charts and see if it may have some value.
One particular sweet spot is Band 4 and 5 Business Class redemptions. This allows one-way bookings in Business Class from New York/Boston to Madrid for 34,000 Avios and Chicago/Los Angeles/Miami to Madrid for 42,500 Avios.
By comparison, these are 50,000 and 62,500 Avios on British Airways. Also, Iberia Plus does not levy fuel surcharges when flying on Iberia-operated flights, increasing the savings.
Head For Points has a complete guide on how to transfer points between the two programs.
One key point to note is that your Iberia Plus account must be 90 days old and must have earned at least 1 Avios point to be able to purchase and transfer miles.
The easiest way to fulfil this requirement is to simply credit your next Qantas or oneworld flight, car hire or hotel stay to Iberia Plus.
Iberia Plus also regularly runs discounted award redemption offers.
Making bookings using Avios
The British Airways website is one of the most complete search engines around when it comes to displaying partner award availability. It includes Qantas and the other oneworld airlines that service New Zealand.
The tool won’t allow you book a mixed cabin ticket, connections greater than four hours or stopovers (except in London). If you require any of these in your award, you’ll need to call them.
Anecdotally, expect a long hold time, though I have yet to make a booking that I have been unable to make online, so can’t verify this myself. One piece of advice mentioned on FlyerTalk is that the shortest hold times can be had by contacting their Singapore office on +65 6622 1747.
An alternative way to get Avios: transfer from Marriott Rewards and/or Amex Membership Rewards
The other easy way for New Zealanders to acquire Avios is by transferring through Marriott Rewards, which are a points partner of American Express Membership Rewards.
Summing up: why are Avios important to a New Zealand traveller?
Avios, when earned or purchased at a reasonable cost, are perfect for more expensive short-haul Australian domestic or Trans-Tasman redemptions, whether in Economy or Business Class, in Australasia, Asia and the US.
Keep an eye out for future Avios sales and you may be able to purchase to immediately redeem an Economy or Business Class flight at reasonable prices.