, , , ,

Since starting our Selfish Year voyage, Mrs. Selfish and I have flown a total of 58 flights, 28 of which we paid for with points.  The remainder of the flights we paid for with cash, and while none were completely cringe worthy (other than, perhaps the Air Tahiti flight to Bora Bora), they added up to a sizeable sum when combined.

So when I started looking into booking our additional flights in Japan I turned to an often under-appreciated currency – British Airline’s Avios miles.


When to use Avios Miles

British Airway’s Avios miles are almost completely worthless when flying British Airways themselves, thanks to their extremely high fuel surcharges.

However, they are superb points for saving money on short haul flights, especially if your flight matches the following criteria:

1. A short distance flight, ideally less than 1150 miles, or better yet, less than 650 miles. As always, use a tool like the Great Circle Mapper to determine the distance between city pairs.

2. Are you flying in a market where British Airways has strong partners? For instance, are you flying Japan Airlines in Japan? Quantas in Australia? American Airlines in the States?

3. Is the market you’re flying in expensive? Japan is a really good fit here, as is America in some cases.

Some Real World Examples

I used Avios in Japan for two of our flights – from Fukuoka to Osaka, and from Komatsu to Tokyo.


Fukuoka to Osaka for 4,500 avios vs. $237 on Kayak ($.0526 per point)


Komatsu to Tokyo, Haneda for 4,500 vs. $238 on Kayak ($.0528 pp)

Japan Airlines has great coverage in Japan, and provides excellent service. Cheaper carriers like Jetstar Japan serve more popular routes, like Tokyo to Fukouka, but in general flights in Japan are expensive. British Airways Avios miles work extremely well here.  The flight from Fukouka to Osaka was only 297 miles, and the flight from Komatsu to Tokyo is only 198 miles, yet both flights were almost $240.

Transfer Partners

British Airways is a transfer partner with nearly everyone. If you’re focusing on transferring third party points in, your main transfer partners are Starwood, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and American Express Membership Reward Points:

  1. Starwood – transfer in at a rate of 1:1.25 when transferring points in denominations of 20,000 points. Points can post in a few days to a couple of weeks. ANALYSIS – not worth it.  Starwood Points are far too valuable.
  2. Chase Ultimate Rewards – transfer in at a rate of 1:1, post within minutes. ANALYSIS – a little expensive, but good for topping off your BA account if you need a few more miles.
  3. American Express Membership Rewards – transfer in at a rate of 1:1, post within minutes.  Often offer transfer bonuses. ANALYSIS: Winner!

If you have access to all three points, then MR points are the clear winner – especially when they are having a transfer bonus as they are now.

Additional Information

1. Million Mile Secrets has a guide on how to use British Airway’s website to redeem Avios miles.

2. For more information on transfer partners check out my short series on how to travel hack your way around the world.

3. Mile Value has a great article on using Avios for cheap flights to Hawaii from the West Coast on Hawaiian Airlines.