The Basics

Using British Airways to Fly In America and Using American to Fly In Europe

Written by Charlie

Award travel can be a peculiar thing. Sometimes what we are used to being normal get slightly twisted when it comes to award travel.

Take, for instance, the fact that (for many) the best miles to use for award travel in America are not those of an American carrier but British Airways. It return, some of the best award redemptions for travel in Europe is not with a European carrier but with American Airlines. How is that for different!

Yet, it is true! Now, for some people that have a myriad of points in numerous programs, there are other programs that could offer a better option and selection, but for mainstream award travel, you will find that it can be more useful to use British Airways awards for travel in the US and to use American Airlines award travel for travel in Europe.

Travel in Europe

American Airlines offers one-way award travel within Europe for only 10,000 miles while British Airways offers flights under 650 miles (non-stop) for 4,500 Avios one-way. The problem is that many flights throughout Europe require a connection which would push the required Avios up (since it is per segment and distance of the segment). In one such instance, if you want to travel to Iceland from anywhere in Southern Europe, you will face at least one connection (with Air Berlin). That would require 17,500 Avios for a one-way redemption (based on the distance between segments and only two segments). If you throw another connection in there, the cost will go up to 22,000 Avios for a one-way trip.

American Airlines Europe

The price in British Airways Avios for the flight below.

American Airlines Europe

This trip on US Airways only costs 9,000 Avios – in contrast to the 25,000 US Airway miles it would cost.


Counter that with American Airlines who offers the same itinerary for only 10,000 miles one-way. In this scenario (of which European travel has many of), the best to use would be American Airline miles for 20,000 miles round-trip. I used 10,000 AA miles for my award trip to Iceland last year and it was an exception savings over what it would have required had I paid cash.

Travel in the US

On the flip side, travel in the US can be done on the cheaper award side if you can use British Airways Avios for most of your travel. I have written about this several times before (here and here for a couple of them) so will not rehash all of that information again here. But, if you are traveling to one of several large cities (hub cities for American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and US Airways – like New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami, Dallas – to name a few), then using British Airways Avios for travel to those cities, as long as you are under 650 miles away, is definitely the way to go. A round-trip ticket for a non-stop flight under 650 miles is only 9,000 points – compared to American Airlines or US Airways 25,000 miles for the same exact itinerary.

American Airlines Europe

Award option using American Airline miles for travel in Europe – only 20,000 AA miles round-trip!

Even if you are not going to one of those cities, as long as you only fly within 650 miles from your connecting hub to your destination, your cost will still only be 18,000 points for the round-trip. That is 7,000 fewer miles than AA would charge you for that same trip.

Think Outside the Box

I hope this helps you to think a little bit outside the box of what is practical and useful when it comes to points and miles. Do not just go automatically with what you feel is the only option. You may be surprised to find that there are other options and some at extreme cost savings.

I have done this type of award travel myself several times – short-haul trips in the US using British Airways Avios and trips in Europe using American Airline miles. I like it and think it brings a positive option to the award travel arsenal. It just might take a bit to get used to, however. 🙂

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

1 Comment

  • Your analysis is excellent. Not unlike the Star Alliance, where it is often best to use Kris (Singapore) or ANA miles for flights on United (depending on origin/destination) (since those programs charge fuel surcharges on Lufthansa (and I think also ANA) flights), and use United miles to book Lufthansa flights (since no fuel charges are levied)..