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British Airways has brought back a promotion it has run in the past and it’s slashing the cost of long-haul Economy Class Avios redemptions in half for travel commencing later this year.
The discounted Avios price will appear in the search results automatically as long as the following criteria are met:
- Bookings must be made before 17 June 2018
- Travel must take place between 1 September 2018 and 31 May 2019
- Valid for Economy Class bookings only
- Book at BA.com
It doesn’t look as if this is valid for bookings on BA’s partners (Cathay Pacific is still pricing up as it would normally) but as BA.com can’t show AA flights right now I’m not sure if transatlantic joint venture partners are excluded too.
Importantly, this is available for flights originating outside of the UK – I’ve just tested a booking out of LA and I was offered the half-price redemption.
Here are some of the more popular destinations (out of London) together with the number of Avios you’ll need (Off-Peak/Peak) for a roundtrip Economy Class award in this sale:
- Dubai – 13,000/20,000
- Hong Kong – 19,500/30,000
- Los Angeles – 16,250/25,000
- New York – 13,000/20,000
- San Francisco – 16,250/25,000
- Singapore – 22,750/35,000
On the face of things there are some tempting looking redemptions there …but is this deal actually any good?
How Good Or Bad Is This Sale
The problem with Economy Class Avios redemptions has never really been how many Avios are required – the issue has always been the high surcharges British Airways adds to award flights.
British Airways may have halved the number of Avios needed for a long-haul award redemption but there’s no discount on the surcharges….so what to these deals look like?
I’ve picked two popular routes and compared the cost of an Avios redemption (in the sale) with the cash cost of the fare. Here are the results:
Example 1: London – New York
Off-peak season award 2 – 6 November 2018
Award flight cost: 13,000 Avios + $496 surcharges
Cheapest non-stop full service carrier (per Kayak): $399
Cheapest non-stop British Airways fare: $487
Peak season award 15 – 27 December 2018
Award flight cost: 20,000 Avios + $496 surcharges
Cheapest non-stop full service carrier (per Kayak): $485Cheapest non-stop British Airways fare: $545
This is a very good example of just how bad British Airways Economy class awards can be – the value is terrible.
For both off-peak and peak seasons it’s possible to book a roundtrip fare to New York for less than the surcharges British Airways is charging on top of the Avios requirement.
Technically speaking you could say that using Avios on these flights actually values them at less than zero – that’s a sobering thought isn’t it?
Even if you’re so wedded to BA that you can’t possibly fly with anyone else you would still be less than bright if you chose to part with Avios rather than just book the cash fare.
In the off-peak example it’s cheaper to book the BA cash fare rather than book with Avios and in the peak season example 20,000 Avios is saving you just $49….so you would be getting $0.0024 of value out of each Avios.
Example 2: London – Hong Kong
Off-peak season award 2 – 9 February 2019
Award flight cost: 19,500 Avios + $455 surcharges
Cheapest non-stop full service carrier (per Kayak): $667 (Virgin) or $677 (Cathay)
Cheapest non-stop British Airways fare: $740
Peak season award 12 – 17 April 2019
Award flight cost: 30,000 Avios + $455 surcharges
Cheapest non-stop full service carrier (per Kayak): $707
Cheapest non-stop British Airways fare: $1,341
Things are definitely more interesting here.
For the off-peak dates the math works out to look like this:
Booking with Avios saves $212 compared to the cheapest fare (you’re getting ~1.10 cents of value out of every Avios) and it saves you $258 compared to the cheapest BA fare (you’re getting ~1.46 cents of value out of every Avios).
For the peak dates the math works out to look like this:
Booking with Avios saves $252 compared to the cheapest fare (you’re getting ~0.84 cents of value out of every Avios) and it saves you $886 compared to the cheapest BA fare (you’re getting ~2.95 cents of value out of every Avios).
I’m going to ignore the fact that booking a cash fare means that you’ll earn Avios and Tier points (which also have value) as that will just makes things too complicated – if that’s important to you simply do your own calculations – so I’m just going to comment on these on a like for like basis.
I value Avios at around 1.0 cents each so I would actually be just about ok with redeeming Avios in the off-peak example.
It wouldn’t be a great redemption by any means but it’s easy to forget that loyalty currencies are meant to help us keep money in out pockets just as much as they’re meant to help us book aspirational travel and I quite like the idea of saving $200+ on a fare.
In the peak season example it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s a terrible idea to use Avios (0.84 cents of value per Avios is quite woeful) but that may not be the correct conclusion to draw.
Checking other fares for the same date appears to show that Virgin’s fare is an outlier here as, for example, Cathay’s fare for the same dates is a lot closer to BA’s than it is to Virgin’s:
In this peak season example the way forward would be to book the Virgin cash fare (that’s pretty obvious) but there’s a strong possibility that Avios could save you money on other days.
In a lot of cases you should still continue to avoid using Avios for Economy Class awards even when the number of Avios required is halved – the surcharges make the awards uneconomical.
During peak season (especially the school vacations) Economy fares are generally very high so don’t dismiss the use of Avios during those periods out of hand.
Check each route on an individual basis and don’t make any assumptions – I’ve no doubt that there will be times of the year when certain routes are very expensive to book with cash and where the avios redemption (while the 50% sale is on) makes a lot of sense indeed.