Since the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is back, and I have some upcoming European travel, I thought it was a good time for a (3 part) series on maximizing Avios internationally. Here’s how it will go down:
- Part 1: Intra-European: British Airways, Iberia, airberlin, Finnair
- Part 2: Intra-African: Comair
- Part 3: Intra-Australasian: Cathay Pacific and Qantas
- London Heathrow (LHR) with British Airways
- London Gatwick (LGW) with British Airways
- Barcelona (BCN) with Iberia
- Madrid (MAD) with Iberia
- Dusseldorf (DUS) with airberlin
- Berlin (TXL) with airberlin
- Helsinki (HEL) with Finnair
When searching for routes, reference the airport’s Wikipedia page and the British Airways Avios Calculator. The calculator will tell you the number of Avios required, or Avios + cash, and if the route is bookable and will price out on the website. Trust me, this is a very useful tool.
When searching for availability, consider the opportunity cost of using Avios versus buying the ticket.
Last minute purchases can be expensive, making Avios more valuable. Even better- there are no last minute booking fees! I hate close-in booking fees. If planning far ahead, purchasing the ticket might make more sense. Always compare the cost of purchasing a ticket versus using Avios.
For my upcoming European trip, I could have paid 4,500 Avios and $44 in taxes for a flight from Zurich to Berlin, but a quick search on Orbitz showed that purchasing the ticket would cost only 38.90 GBP or 62 USD. In other words, I would have only gotten $18 in value out of my 4,500 Avios. In this scenario, purchasing the ticket would make more sense, because I will also accrue miles! Don’t forget to take into consideration how many miles you will accrue on a revenue ticket. Miles=money=happiness. Just kidding, but it does equal savings and out of this world travel experiences.
In another example, airfare from London to Paris routinely costs $175-$200 if purchased 1-2 months in advance. An Avios booking will cost 9,000 miles + $45. Alternatively, a Eurostar high speed train ticket will cost $62 each way if purchased in advance.
It’s also worth noting that Avios can be used to create open-jaw itineraries. For example, you may find yourself wanting to spend a week in Paris, then a week in Lyon. You can book London to Paris, then Lyon to London – though you’ll have to get yourself to Lyon from Paris. France’s high speed rail network is impressive and affordable, so no worries there.
Many other European destinations from London are accessible at the 9,000 to 25,000 roundtrip Avios-level. Here are some examples that will allow you to get creative for your European trip, especially if you want to avoid the budget airlines which will nickel and dime you.
According to Marrakech Airport’s Wikipedia page, the city is served by both Iberia and British Airways via Madrid and London, respectively. For those based in London, the flexibility of Avios will allow you to visit both before going back home, London-Marrakech-Madrid-London.
Why not fly budget airlines like Ryanair or easyJet?
European budget airlines are not that much cheaper when you factor in convenience, local transportation, and other fees. Their networks regularly service airports that are difficult to get to. In London, they are based at Luton and Stansted instead of Heathrow and the local transportation options for those airports can easily rack up another 20-40 dollars roundtrip, not to mention your time and effort. That’s huge! The airline also has a reputation for putting passenger safety second. Ehh.
Saving a few dollars here and there won’t make your trip better- instead, it’ll become the obsession of the trip. Sometimes choosing the easier option is better.Many Noobs out there are sitting on a pretty Avios balance because of the previous British Airways Visa 100,000 offer. This offer has now returned! You can also always transfer Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Ink Plus® Business Card with Ultimate Rewards cards into British Airways at a 1:1 ratio.
Another option is transferring Membership Rewards points into British Airways, too. And there’s currently a 30% bonus!
Disclaimer: I do receive a referral if you apply and are approved for the cards mentioned above. I’m grateful if you decide to support the blog by applying through my links!
— Geoff Whitmore