Though the British Airways Executive Club may seem like the most logical choice for collecting miles toward a free flight to London, the proposition is not as straightforward as it seems — you’ll have to navigate a tangled web of quirks that may befuddle the average flyer.
If you’re planning an overseas excursion to Europe – particularly to the UK – the British Airways Executive Club may seem like the most logical choice for collecting miles toward a free flight. Afterall, British Airways is Great Britain’s largest carrier and a member of the world’s largest airline alliance – oneworld.
However, the proposition of British Airways Avios is not as straightforward as it seems. Far from being the best option for a free flight into London, Avios carry high fees for overseas flights that cost almost a third of the fare. And, while you can find some great values on short flights within the same continent, availability is severely restricted, and you’ll have to navigate a tangled web of quirks that may befuddle the average flyer.
See related: Best credit card for airline miles
Why should you get this card?
For frequent flyers of British Airways, the British Airways Visa Signature offers generous rewards, including the opportunity to earn 100,000 Avios after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months and a Travel Together Ticket each year you spend $30,000.
|Other things to know:
British Airways Avios value
In terms of value, British Airways Avios fall low on the chart for a major airline program. We estimate them to be worth around 1.4 cents per mile, falling below major competitors, American Airlines, Delta and United:
How we value Avios
To estimate the value of Avios, we’ve taken the pricing from a sampling of economy class fares across a variety of dates and popular routes within and from the U.S. to other countries, divided each fare by the number of Avios, and then calculated the overall average.
How to value Avios yourself
We’ve told you how we value Avios, but ultimately the value of points and miles is subjective and boils down to value of the item that you redeem them for. Here are some questions you should ask yourself in trying to determine the value of your Avios.
- What redemption option do you have in mind? While airfare is your most likely redemption option, British Airways does offer other ways to redeem Avios, including merchandise and other types of travel rewards – most of the options offer a poor return on Avios, which drastically reduce their value. On the other hand, the British Airways Avios & Money option could boost the value of your Avios.
- What’s your destination? Having a destination in mind before you commit is especially important with the British Airways program, because, as you’ll see from our pros and cons section below, many destinations come with unexpected fees and spotty availability. You’ll find that the value of award flights will vary drastically and unexpectedly by each destination.
- When do you want to travel? You should also check flight awards around your intended travel days and times – British Airways offers peak and off-peak pricing for flight awards, so Avios can be less valuable during more popular travel times, not to mention, there may be no award space available at all.
- How far away is your flight? Since pricing for British Airways award stays fixed over time, you’ll find that Avios become more valuable when you book closer in to your departure date, if you’re lucky to find the space.
On top of these questions, you’ll need to determine whether Avios are flexible enough to meet your needs (more on that below).
Calculating the value of Avios
To calculate the value of Avios, you can simply take the amount that you would have to pay in dollars for your intended redemption option and divide it by the number of points. Note – you’ll want to be extra sure to subtract the taxes and fees from the cost of your airfare, since British Airways tends to tack hundreds of dollars of fees onto many of its flight awards:
Avios Value = Rewards Value (in dollars) – Taxes and Fees/Number of Points
The value that you come up with will be a rough estimate. There are countless factors that can affect the value of an airline mile, such as the value of the miles that you lose out on by not paying for an award in cash, the lowest possible price you get on the flight by checking back repeatedly over time, the lowest possible airfare you could get by booking with a competing airline or website, and so on. But for making a value comparison between airline loyalty programs, the above formula should help.
How flexible are British Airways Avios?
While airline and hotel programs that fall low in value usually score high on flexibility, it seems that the British Airways Executive Club rates low in both value and flexibility. Overall, we find British Airways Avios to be far less flexible of average airline mile. Here’s a summary of their pros and cons:
- Avios don’t expire as long you earn or redeem them every 36 months.
- British Airways has excellent coverage overseas and decent coverage domestically through its oneworld alliance partners, including American Airlines.
- If you’re willing to do a lot of digging, you can find some exceptional values in the British Airways chart.
- You can really stretch your points with off-peak awards – redemptions start at only 4,000 Avios – and off-peak awards are scattered liberally throughout the schedule.
- Flights throughout the U.S. with British Airways partners can be particularly reasonable, starting at only 7,500 Avios for an off-peak award, and British Airways charges very low fees for these flights.
- The awards chart is distance-based, which means you can get better-than-average values on short flights that are more expensive.
- Since award flights are all booked as one-way fares, you can book multicity itineraries and stopovers without having to pay extra points.
- You can book rewards flights at the last minute (and for a good value if you can find availability) without having to pay a close-in booking fee.
- British Airways has a very flexible Avios & Money option, allowing you to redeem as little as a third of the required miles for an award flight and to pay the remainder in cash. This option is available on many flights, and it’s often a great value.
- Avios are very difficult to redeem – British Airways has tight limits on award seats, making it difficult to find availability to many destinations (2 out of 3 flights that we checked had no award space).
- The value of miles fluctuates wildly, so – unless you’re very flexible on how you redeem your miles – it’s uncertain whether you’ll get a good return on them.
- The rewards program is extremely complex – you’ll have to navigate your way through fees and unexpected routings that can make it difficult to get a good value on your miles.
- The British Airways award website can be cumbersome and confusing.
- British Airways charges hundreds of dollars in fees for its overseas flights – you’ll be paying about a third of the price of the ticket in cash.
- You’ll have to pay a $25 fee for booking over the phone, and a fee of up to $80 for making changes to the date or time of your rewards flight.
- The British Airways program will be updating its chart on May 30. According to research from The Points Guy, the update won’t be too drastic, but it will result in a devaluation of Avios across the board.
Are Avios worth it?
The average flyer – especially one inexperienced using airline miles – may find that Avios are not worth the hassle. Avios can be extremely valuable when put to the right use. For instance – if you’re considering transferring miles from your Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate rewards account into another airline program, the British Airways could be a good option, especially for those looking for short flights within North America.
However, if you’re hoping to use a sign-up bonus to fund your next flight, you should do some digging into the British Airways program to make sure that it offers the flight coverage that you need. In the end, you may be better off pledging your loyalty to a program with more flexible rewards points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards.
See related: Best ways to earn British Airways Avios, Best ways to redeem British Airways Avios, British Airways elite status, Booking a flight with British Airways Avios, British Airways shopping portal guide