Well, it is here. Just about 3 months ago, I wrote about how the death of the 4,500 Avios award in the United States was here and we did not have long to take advantage of it. In just over a week (February 2), that award for travel in the United States will be gone forever. This is your chance to lock in your awards now. Find out what you need to know as you book these flights.
Last Week To Book The Best Domestic Awards
Here is what British Airways had to say about this when it was announced back in October:
We’re going to be making a change to the Executive Club pricing structure for shorter reward flights originating or terminating within the United States of America. From 2 February 2016, reward flights will start from 7,500 Avios, instead of 4,500 Avios, plus taxes, fees and carrier charges (“TFCs”) from $5.60 USD.
Only those reward flights that currently cost 4,500 Avios for a one way flight in Economy, 9,000 Avios for Business Class and 18,000 Avios for First Class plus TFCs will increase; to 7,500 Avios, 15,000 Avios and 30,000 Avios plus TFCs respectively. All other Avios reward flight pricing will remain the same as it is today.
So, starting February 2, the popular short-haul awards on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines (and the lesser known one of TAM between NYC – Toronto) will go from 4,500 points each way to 7,500 points each way. That effectively eliminates the <650 mile award zone and merges in into the <1,151 mile Zone 2 for travel in/to the United States. These are really the best domestic awards (except for great SW sales that pop up at times) and they will soon be gone.
What You Need To Know About The Best Domestic Awards
So, what should you know as you go to book these flights?
Book Now, Cancel Later (Low/No Fees)
British Airways has some very low fees when it comes to award cancellations (compared to domestic airlines). The charge is typically $55 for the redeposit of the Avios into your account. But, you can instead opt to just lose the taxes/fees you paid. For tickets within the US, that means a simple $5.60 for each one way ticket.
That is cheap for being able to save 3,000 Avios by booking now! In fact, if you have to cancel, you may even get refunded that amount (when I charge it to my PayPal account, I always get the $5.60 refunded – YMMV)! So, make any bookings you want now and then worry about cancelling them later if the trip is not going to work out.
As of today, you can book through January 13, 2017. If you need travel later than January 20, you will have to wait until February 2 and that will mean paying the higher Avios award.
Book AA Online, Call For Alaska
For reservations on American Airlines, you can do all of that right online at British Airways award site. For award travel on Alaska Airlines, you will need to call in to book it. See this page to find the number you will use.
Before you call, make sure you check Alaska’s award page for availability on the flights you want. You will need to check for the saver/lowest level awards to be able to book them with Avios.
No First Class – Only Economy Class
Remember, this is for flights that are under 650 miles. That is very little time in the air and you almost certainly will not need to do that hop in first class – especially when they will charge you 4 times the amount to do that (18,000 Avios)! So, do not think that just because it is not available in economy that you will take the first class option as it should not be an option if you value your Avios!
Getting More Points
More programs transfer into Avios than any other, except for Singapore Airlines. You can transfer points in from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards (1:1 – 1,000 minimum), American Express’ Membership Rewards (250:200 – 1,000 minimum), and SPG’s Starpoints (1:1 – 5,000 Avios bonus when transferring 20,000).
Except for SPG (which can take over a week to transfer), you still have time to transfer from either Chase or American Express to your British Airways Avios account. They transfer instantly (you may need to sign out of your British Airways’ account and sign back in) and will have what you need. The better value to transfer is Chase, if you have it, because of the transfer ratio.
Booking Your Award(s)
To see a breakdown on how to book these awards, check out this post. It is very easy and you can be done in no time! If you do not see the flight you want showing available, keep checking to see if it pops up before February 2!
Only Affects North America
Finally, this change is only targeted at those flights in North America. If you take advantage of oneworld airlines around the world using the <650 mile award pricing with British Airways, then you will continue to be just fine! Unfortunately, it is the US and those of us who fly to/from AA and Alaska hubs who will be hammered with this change.
Do not let the best domestic awards escape you! Even if you have never booked one of them before, if you have Chase or Amex points, you can get booking for only 9,000 points roundtrip. That is a steal!
For our home airport (and nearby), we have used them for travel to Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, DC. It is a great way to get some of the most expensive short-haul tickets for just a handful of points. But, you have to move on it soon!
Have any other questions about these awards? Let me know in the comments!