Last week I wrote about the three transatlantic British Airways partners that, due to the distances involved and the fact that taxes and fees are low on these routes, make even post-devaluation Avios redemptions competitive with cash or (depending on your other balances) award redemptions using other loyalty currencies. Those routes again are:
- airberlin flights between New York City and Dusseldorf or Berlin, Germany;
- Iberia flights between Boston or New York City and Madrid (after transferring Avios to an initialized Iberia Plus account);
- Aer Lingus (not a oneworld member, but a British Airways partner) flights between Boston and Dublin, Ireland.
These redemptions — even post-devaluation — are great values in business class compared to cash (between 2.45 and 9.8 cents per Avios) and decent values compared to other airline miles. If nothing else, you should be aware of them because it's an additional option if you can't find award availability on your first-, second-, or third-choice airlines.
Judging by the comments to that post, you might think travel hackers are indifferent to this problem, on the grounds that it's better to build a trip around award availability on airlines you actually want to fly.
But for people with more restricted schedules (not me, but my understanding is this applies to most people in the working world), being aware of as many options as possible maximizes the chances of scoring a cheap award flight instead of being stuck paying retail to sit in economy.
A whole different problem, however, is the very real issue that you may not want to go to Ireland, Germany, or Spain!
Searching for cheap onward connections
A good first stop when thinking about Avios redemptions is the Wandering Aramean's Avios Map. Type in an airport code and you'll see all the possible non-stop Avios redemptions. Be sure to cross-check those flights with Google Flights or another flight search site, however; Seth's data are often out of date or inaccurate.
The Avios Map tool has two drawbacks: it doesn't show the taxes and fees for the route, and it only goes up to the 12,500 Avios distance band (so flights between New York and Germany don't appear, even though they're terrific values on airberlin). Still, if you're piecing together a multi-stop itinerary, you're likely sticking to shorter routes anyway, since Avios prices increase so rapidly with each additional leg and distance band.
After finding the routes you're interested in, plug them into British Airways' Avios calculator (and Iberia's if your flight is operated by Iberia) and look for the taxes and fees you'll incur. Don't forget to check the return as well; departure taxes vary wildly between airports.
This is basically brute force work, but if you're rich in Avios (or cheap Ultimate Rewards points), it's also a great way to travel around the world for next to nothing.
A few fun finds
These are literally just the first couple of options that jumped out at me in 30 minutes of clicking around using the exact procedure I described above:
- Berlin-Abu Dhabi. 12,500 Avios in economy, 25,000 Avios in business (will be 37,500). $48.24 in taxes and fees outbound, $21.78 in taxes and fees return. From Abu Dhabi, continue on Etihad virtually anywhere in the world.
- Dublin-Prague/Vienna. 7,500 Avios in economy, 15,000 (unchanged) Avios for intra-Europe business class. $51.90 in taxes and fees outbound from either, $68.25 return from Vienna, $53.86 return from Prague.
- Madrid-lots of places!
Take Iberia everywhere, but beware Iberia weirdness
Once you get to Madrid, you have a ton of great options, but you need to beware of Iberia's intense weirdness. For example, here's an Iberia-operated flight to Tel Aviv booked with British Airways Avios:
Here's the same flight booked with Iberia Avios:
I'm not going to get into an argument about whether 7,500 Avios are worth more or less than $45.59 (more), I'll just point out that this Iberia flight, unlike ones departing New York and Boston to Madrid, incurs more taxes and fees using Iberia Avios than British Airways Avios.
When the Iberia devaluation takes place on April 1, and the British Airways devaluation on April 28, 2015, it'll become even more important to check, every single time, which currency makes your awards cheaper overall.
Here's another cool option to Moscow's Domodedovo airport, booked with British Airways Avios:
And the same flight booked with Iberia Avios:
Obviously these flights are only a small sample of those operated out of Berlin, Dublin, and Madrid by British Airways partners, but I hope they illustrate the possibilities of plugging together Avios flights as a way to navigate to, from, and around Europe. If you spot any other long-distance, low-fee gems, feel free to share them in the comments!