Avios, British Airways Executive Club Airline Reward Program Miles, can save you a lot of money, provided you use them wisely!
Foreword: British Airways Executive Club Program Reminder
The British Airways Executive Club program allows you to use your Avios miles in exchange for flight rewards on the Oneworld Alliance airlines.
How much does a flight reward cost in Avios miles?
Unlike other programs such as Aeroplan, there is no destination-based reward structure. It’s a distance-based program: the further you travel, the more Avios miles you’ll need to earn a flight reward. And the more connections you make, the more miles you’ll use. This calculator is available to calculate the number of Avios miles required.
The zones correspond to a distance travelled between your origin and the destination.
0 – 650 miles
2001 – 3000 miles
5501 – 6500 miles
651 – 1151 miles
3001 – 4000 miles
6501 – 7000 miles
1152 – 2000 miles
4001 – 5500 miles
7001 miles and over
Complex to use Avios miles in North America
A few years ago, Avios miles had a real advantage in North America. Zone 1 destinations cost only 4,500 Avios one-way and taxes were not high. This was the case of a flight between Montreal and New York for example. However, British Airways Executive Club has modified its North American award charter to bring it up to the level of the competition (like Aeroplans): 7,500 miles for the same flights in Zone 1.
- Problem: the American Airlines on which these flights operate issues few “SAAver” award tickets – its least expensive award category and accessible with Avios Miles – which has a direct impact on the use of your Avios Miles in North America.
- Solution: Apart from being lucky enough to get promo for short or medium-haul flights, it will be better to use your miles in other situations, which we will present below.
Significant carrier surcharge
Like Aeroplan, attempting to travel on the program’s major carrier – namely British Airways – will penalize you when you try to use your Avios Miles. Indeed, the company applies very high carrier surcharges that will make it completely unattractive to use Avios miles for an economy class ticket compared to a purchased ticket.
Fortunately, by knowing which airlines to use and the destinations that prohibit carrier surcharges, it is possible to get good value out of Avios miles.
How to Earn Avios Miles in Canada
In Canada, American Express and RBC are major partners in the British Airways Executive Club program. Il est donc possible d’accumuler des miles avios en profitant des bonus de souscription de différentes cartes de crédit et en accumulant des miles via vos dépenses.
- RBC offers a British Airways Executive Club card that allows you to earn Avios miles directly.
- RBC also offers, through its RBC Rewards program, the transfer of RBC points to Avios miles.
- American Express, through its Membership Rewards Points program, allows the transfer of Membership Rewards points into Avios miles. Four Membership Rewards cards (except the American Express Cobalt card) allow you to earn Avios miles indirectly.
You can also earn Avios miles through the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. It’s easy to earn Marriott points through the American Express Membership Rewards program: 5 Membership Rewards points = 6 Marriott Bonvoy points.
The best card in Canada for earning Avios miles
In our opinion, the best credit card is the American Express Cobalt Card ! This card allows you to earn 5 Select Membership Rewards points for every dollar you spend on groceries (don’t forget gift cards…) and restaurants. That’s 6 Marriott points per dollar! Quite exceptional compared to the 2 to 3 points earned with the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Cards!
These Cobalt Membership Rewards points are special: they are called “Select” and cannot be converted directly into Avios miles (or Aeroplan Miles). However, they can be converted at a ratio of 5:6 into Marriott Bonvoy points!
And since Marriott Bonvoy points can be converted into Avios miles at a ratio of 3:1, (or even 2.4:1 by converting in increments of 60,000 points to 25,000 Avios miles, with Marriott offering 5,000 bonus miles) this makes the Cobalt Card a “very” indirect transfer partner of the British Airways Executive Club program!
Your spending on groceries and restaurants on the American Express Cobalt Card earns you 2 Avios miles/dollar… which is unheard of! Think about it: the “official” RBC British Airways Executive Club card earns you only 1 Avios mile per dollar!
How to make the best use of your Avios miles
The aim here will be to make the most of the British Airways Executive Club system:
- By leveraging the zones shown above
- By using certain companies
- By travelling to certain destinations
Companies to use with your Avios
Aer Lingus: North America – Dublin
To travel between North America and Europe, one company stands out: Aer Lingus. Unlike British Airways, the Irish airline does not apply a carrier surcharge.
It operates flights to Dublin from Toronto, Boston, New York, Hartford, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles Philadelphia.
Aer Lingus started a Dublin-Montreal route in 2019! A great opportunity to use avios miles.
In the future, the company even plans to create direct links to the European continent (outside Dublin).
To book flights with your Avios miles on Aer Lingus you will need:
- to ceate an AerClub account (Aer Lingus’s loyalty program)
- This account will allow you to identify yourself on avios.com (the identifiers are identical)
- To combine avios miles between your British Airways Executive Club account and Avios.com
Here is an example for a one-way economy class ticket between Toronto and Dublin (found following a question from a member of the milesopedia Facebook group).
The company also operates a flight out of Hartford (CT), which can beinteresting for Montrealers with a car and travelling as a family! Here is an example of a flight for only 13,000 avios miles and $21 one way tax!
Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong, Vancouver or New York
The Asian company Cathay Pacific allows you to travel at a lower cost because it does not charge any carrier surcharge either! Of course, you will find the most flights from its hub in Hong Kong as we presented in this article.
For example, here is a short flight from Hong Kong to Taipei costing only 4,500 Avios miles and $19.
Or a longer flight from Hong Kong to Singapore costing only 10,000 Avios miles and $19.
You should also know that there is a flight from Vancouver to New York… and all classes of travel are regularly available (economy, premium economy, business and first class).
Japan Airlines to travel to Japan
Flights to Japan are very expensive. However, it is possible to save a lot of money with Avios miles by using them on Japan Airlines.
The company does not charge carrier surcharge and since the flight distances are short, you will not spend a lot of Avios miles! Here is an example between Tokyo and Osaka for only 4,500 Avios miles and 3$:
Qantas in Australia
If you plan to travel to Australia, consider using your Avios to travel on Qantas! We wrote a whole article about it.
Here is an example of a flight from Sydney to Melbourne for only 4,500 Avios miles and 17$.
LATAM in South America
Finally, if you travel in South America, remember to use your Avios miles on LATAM.
Here is an example of a flight from Sao Paulo to Lima for only 12,500 miles and $65.
Making good use of the zone system
They’re called “sweet spots”.
East Coast Cities
Even though American is increasingly reluctant to issue award tickets, you can still come across some bargains. This can be for flights between Montreal and New York (LGA).
Or Montreal and Miami (very rare though, especially in winter) for only 10,000 Avios miles.
Or even New Orleans through Philadelphia as I did recently! For 2 adults, 1 child and 1 baby: 46,500 miles, luggage included!
Japan from the West Coast
Japan Airlines allows you to fly to Japan from Vancouver for only 25,000 Avios miles and $46.
Hawaii from the West Coast
American and Alaska Airlines provide access to several airports on the Hawaiian Islands from the West Coast (Bellingham, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle).
The good news is that if you can depart from one of these airports, it will only cost you 12,500 Avios miles and low taxes one way!
For example, here is a flight from Los Angeles to Kahului (OGG) on American for 12,500 Avios miles and 7$ one way.
Europe with British Airways, Iberia, Finnair
Travelling within Europe is generally cheap thanks to the many low-cost airlines such as Ryanair or Easyjet.
However, on some routes, it can be interesting to use Avios miles as we did with Air Berlin (the company no longer exists) between Stuttgart and Malta: 15,750 Avios miles saved me $500.
As you can see, the British Airways Executive Club program is worth the detour if you know how to use it! As you can imagine, we do not recommend that you use your Avios miles on British Airways. The surcharge imposed make using your miles for economy class useless. And the business class trip between Montreal and London is not the best cabin, as Matthieu confirmed… Only first class stands out (available from New York in particular) by being qualified as “the best business class”… that means a lot! I was able to confirm this during my flight in a British Airways B747.
In short, you will use your Avios better for all the other situations mentioned above!
Here are a few cards that allow you to indirectly earn Avios miles, as we have seen above.