Book Flights With Avios  feature image

How To Book Flights With Avios

The ultimate goal of earning Avios is to spend it on improving your travel experience. What could possibly be a better reward for a passionate traveler? As a currency reward system, the whole point of earning Avios is being able to spend them.

Once you get into the swing of things, you can start setting your own goals and consider booking flights with Avios.

This could be a massive goal like a Transatlantic flight with Avios, or a smaller goal, like an inter-European flight. Personally, I’m saving for a Transatlantic upgrade — but more on using Avios for upgrades later.

In this guide, I’ll give you a rundown on how to book flights using Avios. It is an easy process once you know the ropes, but knowing what to expect and the nitty-gritty details of it all is handy. Here’s what you need to know about caching in your hard-earned Avios.

Snapshot Verdict

Planning to book a flight with Avios and want to know how much you’re going to need?

Generally, you’ll need more than 10,000 points for short-haul flights and between 25,000 and 60,000 points to fly long haul in economy alone.

Avios is a global reward currency used across airlines within the Oneworld Alliance. Avios can be redeemed through various platforms, and the best three to book through are British Airways, Iberia, and Avios.com.

For the sake of this guide, we’ll focus on booking through the British Airways’ Executive Club. But it’s important to know that you have other options. It all depends on how you collect, so have a dig around other Avios platforms if BA isn’t for you!

What Are Reward Flights?

I think it’s important to understand the reality behind booking flights using Avios. It sounds like a great deal — and that’s because, mostly, it is — but let’s get really clear on how these flights are classified and what you get out of them. There are some limitations.

Any flight that you book using Avios is called a ‘Reward Flight’. Instead of paying, you’ve exchanged your Avios for a flight. It’s a pretty nifty deal, and Reward Flights are a significant motivator behind so many people joining airline reward programs.

You can get Reward Flights in all fare classes, including economy, business, and first class. The higher the fare class, the more Avios you’ll need to exchange for the flight. The further your Reward Flight flies, the more Avios you’ll need.

You get the idea. In essence, you get out what you put in. The more Avios you can scavenge, the higher your Reward Flight value will be.

Are Reward Flights Totally Free? 

Here’s the caveat I warned you about; Reward Flights are not totally free. 

You are still responsible for taxes, fees, and carrier charges. British Airways break down precisely what these taxes entail and why they exist on their website:

British Airways screenshot of Government taxes and fees and carrier charges

These extra costs can range from $50 to $500 depending on your route and destination.

For example, a flight from London to Sydney costs over 50,000 Avios points. You can use 50,000 Avios and get the flight as a Reward Flight. However, you then have an additional cost of $465 in taxes, fees, and carrier charges.

Is it still worthwhile redeeming Reward Flights? Yes, I’d say it is definitely still worth doing. But be mindful that those additional charges can quickly tot up, and you want to avoid going into the redeeming process thinking anything is completely free.

Reward Flights are a great way to get the main flight cost covered, leaving you with dramatically lower costs to pay on remaining additional factors like tax and carrier charges.

How Many Avios Do You Need to Book a Flight? 

Roughly speaking, I’d recommend saving upwards of 10,000 Avios to begin your flight redeeming journey. 

10,000 Avios is approximately the amount you’ll need to snag low-cost short-haul flights in economy. If you are just starting out collecting Avios, this is a realistic goal to aim for in a four- to six-month period, obviously depending on your collection patterns.

To push your fare class up to business class on short-haul flights, you must save between 15,000 and 20,000. For example, a business class flight from Miami to Cancun costs 16,500 Avios and an additional $40 in extra charges.

For long-haul flights in economy, you really need to start saving upwards of 50,000. That is around the mark you need to hit to snag routes such as London to Sydney — essentially any flight that covers mega-distances. 

In short, how many Avios you need to book a flight depends on whereyou want to go, whenyou go, and what fare classyou want to get there in.

Avios Prices Rise With Zones and Air Miles

The way the program measures flight distances is straightforward; it just breaks down the flights into different zones. There are one to nine zones in total, each increasing in miles.

Zone Miles

Zone 1 is the cheapest, ranging up to only around 650 miles.

Zone 9 is the most expensive, exceeding 7,000 miles.

Avios Have Off-Peak and Peak Prices

One way to make your Avios stretch further is to book off-peak flights.

We all know the benefits of traveling off-peak anyway; better deals, fewer crowds, and a better overall travel experience. So it’s worth sticking to those less sought-after dates when booking flights with Avios.

Depending on which platform you book through, it will notify you of off-peak and peak experiences in different ways. British Airways Executive Club lists whether a day is off-peak or peak as you are scanning through flight availability, which is super handy.

So, How Much Should You Save?

I know it’s easy to get lost in all of these details. And to be honest with you, the point targets are general markers rather than concrete goalposts; the number of Avios required varies drastically depending on routes.

I’ll try to simplify things, though. Here is a very simplistic breakdown of how necessary amounts of Avios vary depending on fare and distance, assuming you are taking a one-way flight:

How Many Avios For Economy Flights?

  • Short haul: 10,000 – 15,000
  • Long haul: 40,000 – 60,000

How Many Avios For Business Class Flights?

  • Short haul: 15,000 – 20,000
  • Long haul: 120,000 – 15,000

How Many Avios For First Class Flights?

  • Mid-haul: 40,000 – 50,000 
  • Long haul: 170,000 – 200,000

Note On First Class Short-Haul Flights

For First Class on short-haul flights there is limited availability, typically offered on journeys upwards of 2,000 miles.

5 Steps to Booking a Flight Using Avios 

As you already know, you can book flights using Avios through different platforms.

For this guide, though, I will concentrate on booking flights using Avios through British Airways Executive Club. This is one of the easiest ways to book flights using Avios, especially given the fact it’s one of the most popular airline reward programs.

There are just five simple steps you need to take note of:

1. Log In To Your British Airways Executive Club Dashboard

Okay, this first step shouldn’t be particularly mind-boggling so long as you have your passwords handy. Just enter your login details, and it will bring up your main dashboard.

While you’re there, take a quick look at the top right-hand corner of your screen. This is where you’ll see your current Avios balance. Remember what we said earlier about how many Avios you need per different flight types, and see if the flight you want is realistic.

If it is, click on your ‘Spending Avios‘ tab on the menu to your left and then click ‘Reward Flights‘.

2. Input Your Desired Flight Details

Click the option to ‘Book Now‘ (you may have to scroll down to the bottom of the page), and it will bring up a flight search tool.

Here is where you input all your essential flight details, such as the start and endpoint, whether you want one-way or return, and passenger numbers. You can also choose which fare class you wish to fly.

3. Choose Whether You Want Stopovers

When you click ‘Search‘, it brings up an extra webpage asking whether you want a direct flight or a stopover. This is an excellent option if you want to make the most of your trip, and you can decide how many days you want to layover for if you want an extra holiday in between.

Otherwise, you can just click to say you want a direct flight.

4. Select Your Flight

This is the fun part where you get to choose your Reward Flight. A horizontal menu of dates is at the top, advising you of availability and whether the flights are off-peak or peak. You can click each date to browse your flight options.

Keep in mind that Reward Flights sell out just like any other flight. Just because it’s a ‘Reward’ doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed unlimited spots, so book in advance for the best deals

5. Process Payment

Lastly, it’s time to process your payment and complete the booking. You’ll be previewed the total number of Avios that the flight costs, and the option to confirm that you are happy to complete the exchange.

At this point, you’ll also pay for any extra charges, like taxes and carrier charges.

If it’s here that you realize you don’t have enough Avios for your choices, it will offer you the chance to purchase Avios. Redeem your Reward Flight, and start looking forward to your trip!

How To Earn Avios to Book a Flight 

Earning Avios to book a flight is really simple. You can earn Avios through airline reward programs, collecting points for things like hotel bookings and standard flights. It’s all about getting creative.

If you find yourself a little short on your perfect Reward Flight, there are a few ways to boost your score. You can earn Avios to book flights through the following means:

  • Booking hotels through the British Airways Executive Club’s shopping portal.
  • Taking eligible flights and listing your membership number during booking or claiming as per your airline reward program’s requirements.
  • Renting cars through eligible partnerships.
  • Topping up fuel through BP. 
  • Booking a British Airways Holiday(hotel and flight or hotel, flight, and car).
  • Signing up for rewards cards at grocery stores.
  • Registering for a partnered credit card, like American Express.

Earning Flights Through Travel

I am a British Airways Executive Club member, so I earn Avios through BA’s system and partners. This isn’t the only airline rewards program you can earn Avios through, but it is one of the most popular options. 

I primarily collect points by spending through the Executive Club portal, and finally received my American Express Credit Card, which is already making a huge difference.

As an example of how you can tot up points, I am currently on a work trip in Belfast. Here is a rough total of my forecasted points earnings from three days of short-haul work travel:

  • Return Flights: $177 with Aer Lingus in Economy Flexible = 177 points with Amex, 300 points through Aer Lingus partnership.
  • Accommodation:$250 through Airbnb = 250 points with Amex, 750 through the Airbnb portal. 
  • Meals and Activities:Approximately $200 = 200 points with Amex.

Once I claim my eligible flights, I will have around 1,677 points, which will be put back into future travel. You can see how things quickly tot up, and this is just on a short-haul flight with minimal spending.

Book Airbnb through BA

One of the best ways to earn Avios for travel is on regular trips. You can really maximize your earnings by claiming on parts of your travel that you’d already be spending on. For instance, booking your Airbnb through the Executive Club portal can earn approximately 3 points per dollar spent

Booking accommodation and flights and spending on an Amex also makes a huge difference. Tactically booking accommodation and having a partnered credit card is a fantastic way to dramatically boost the Avios you earn through travel. You want to earn Avios on more than just flights alone when traveling. 

Do You Earn Avios and Tier Points on BA Reward Flights? 

This is actually a critical point to cover. You do not earn Avios and Tier Points on BA Reward Flights.

This may seem a little annoying. I think it is probably to stop people from being able to steam their way up the Status Tiers too quickly. Otherwise, you could essentially swap your Avios for Tier Points in a very beneficial loophole.

It’s a pain, but the whole point of collecting Avios is that it’s challenging. It makes sense that they don’t want any loopholes.

Each airline reward program has a slightly different policy on collecting Reward Flights, so it could be worth looking around at the latest policies. However, as a general rule, it’s a safe bet to rule out earning when catching Reward Flights.

Other Ways to Use Avios

There are plenty of other ways that you can redeem Avios other than just flying. The whole point of Avios is that it’s a flexible reward currency. This means you have lots of travel-related things you could reward yourself with instead of an air fare.

I’d recommend weighing up all the different ways of redeeming Avios and seeing which provides you with the best value for money. Here are the best ways to use Avios besides a boarding pass:

Hotel stays

hotel reception check-in

Points booked for hotel stays are a huge bonus of the Avios rewards program. You can book hotels using your points through a variety of platforms. However, I feel the easiest way is through British Airways Executive Club.

You simply log in and navigate to the ‘Spending Avios‘ menu tab and click on the ‘Hotel Stays‘ option. From there, you’ve got your very own points-based search engine.

Hotel stays start as low as 10,000 points and rise to 100,000 for multiple nights at luxury properties.

You may have city taxes to factor in on top of your hotel stay, but these will be less than the extra costs when using Avios for flights.

Car hire

You can find car hire in the same way through the British Airways Executive Club. EC members even get a free additional member, which is a nice touch.

Cars start as low as 20,000 for two days. If you are over 25, you can swap your Avios for car hire hassle-free.

Flight upgrades

first class flight cabin

OK, so this is flight-related – but what a treat, right? Flight upgrades are among the most rewarding ways to spend your Avios.

On select bookings (usually, you have to have already booked Economy Flexible, not the Lowest Economy option), you can pay an additional fee in points to upgrade your fare class on a standard cash-paid flight. 

Upgrading from economy to business on a Transatlantic flight costs around 20,000 to 25,000 Avios. On short-haul flights this is notably less. Why not treat yourself to that different level of luxury?

Flight upgrades are what I’m now concentrating on saving my Avios for. That is unless I get distracted by hotel stays along the way. We’ll see!

Final Thoughts: Booking Flights With Avios 

Phew. We’ve covered a lot of ground today, but it’s important you fully understand the whole process when looking to book flights with Avios. After all, it’s your hard-earned points — you want them to go as far as possible, don’t you?

I recommend factoring in those extra tax and carrier charge costs when booking flights with Avios. I’d also recommend pausing to evaluate whether this specific flight provides the best return on your points investment.

Sometimes, you might get more out of an upgrade experience or even hotel booking. Always bear in mind that there are more ways to redeem Avios than just on flights. If the shoe fits, it fits – but if it isn’t a perfect match, keep looking.

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