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Award Booking Sweet Spot: East Coast Using Avios

In the last sweet spot post, we looked at Miami and other Florida Avios booking sweet spots. Let’s move north to the other five East Coast cities with BA partner service to much of the rest of the eastern U.S. as well as international service: Boston, Charlotte, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. The goal here is to identify sweet spots based on your origin city which we are compiling in the Award Sweet Spots By Origin page under the Resources tab at the top of the page.

EC Avios

Within 649 miles of hub airports, nonstop seats on AA or US add 4500 Avios to the international routes noted in this post. Map courtesy of Free Map Tools

Like several other foreign award programs, British Airways Avios and Iberia Avios are distance-based programs. Since each segment is priced separately, these favor nonstop flights or combinations of flights that make the most of the Avios distance bands:

Since BA counts two-class first class as First, Economy makes the most sense for most cases in these Domestic and Caribbean examples as there are no premium economy or business class seats offered according to BA’s program. All partner flights other than BA and Iberia are at ‘peak’ pricing.

You can find great resources on booking flights with Avios in this post and this complete guide, both by Travel is Free. BA Avios and AMEX Membership rewards points can also be transferred to Iberia Avios to save on fuel scam surcharges when redeeming on Iberia flights. Otherwise, BA’s interface is a lot easier to work with. Rather than focusing on the programs, let’s look at the possibilities on a series of maps, and some ways to make them work even if you don’t live on the East Coast:

Distance band 1: 4,500 Avios each way

These are perfect for positioning to the hubs we’ll see to connect to international flights, as well as for short-haul trips within the eastern U.S. Unlike the West Coast where Southwest has an extensive network of nonstop flights, AA and US are much more likely to have the best nonstop options up and down the East Coast. Besides the U.S. routes, there are 4 Canadian cities included as well as one in the Bahamas. For some reason, CLT-New Orleans squeaks in here even though it’s 651 miles.

Clear as mud! You can click on each hub city for the full Great Circle Map page for that city: Boston, Charlotte, New York(JFK), Philadelphia, Washington(DCA)

Besides giving an amazingly good deal on flights on the map, these routes are perfect for positioning if your city, like many, sees very few award seats open up until 21 days before the flight when AA and US begin charging close-in booking fees. BA doesn’t charge close-in booking fees. The problem is that many carriers open up seats on international routes 10 months or more in advance, but not the needed flights to the hub. Of course we don’t know how AA will open award seats in 10 months, but it’s worth spending 4500 Avios each time a flight opens up to be able to lock in the longhaul flight you want.

Unlike positioning with most other airlines, AA will protect your ticket if you are connecting from any AA flight to any Oneworld ticket. So if, in an extreme example, you wound up booking a pair of tickets JFK-Hong Kong-Phuket and another pair Knoxville-JFK-Hong Kong-Phuket on Cathay Pacific using AA miles, you can safely book those last two needed TYS-JFK seats on the same flight at 4,500 Avios each when they become available. Or with cash if it comes to that. No need to cushion the schedule like you would need to with any other positioning option. The full AA policy is here:

AA to/from AA or a oneworld® Carrier
If a customer is holding separate tickets on AA or another oneworld carrier, customers holding separate tickets where travel is on oneworld airlines should be treated as through ticketed passengers. In the event of a disruption on the originating ticket, the carrier responsible for the disruption will be required to reroute the customer to their final destination. The ticket stock of the second ticket must be of a oneworld carrier, eligible under the Endorsement Waiver Agreement. You may contact AA Reservations 1-800-433-7300 (U.S. and Canada) or outside the U.S. and Canada, reference Worldwide Reservations Numbers for additional information if the separate ticket is for travel on a oneworld carrier.

As I read it, it would NOT protect you if your onward ticket is booked using a non-oneworld program since your onward ticket would then be booked on the ticket stock of, say, Alaska Airlines, on oneworld flights. Exactly how a gate agent would handle this, I don’t know and couldn’t find any datapoints or info to confirm this one way or the other. I have seen statements that this misconnect protection is a oneworld policy, but as far as I can tell it is only an AA policy.

Distance band 2: 7,500 Avios each way

This band covers segments from 650 to 1149 miles. The Caribbean flights that come into play here make for some amazing values, and many more of us get positioning opportunities. First class seats on these domestic and shorthaul 2-class flights counts as first class and require 30K Avios each way.

Click for the full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

Distance bands 2 and 3: 10,000 and 12,500 Avios each way

This is where it gets really fun! The difference in cost is so slight that I’ve bunched these together. All domestic AA, US, CX and AS flights from these East coast hubs are either shown above for shorter flights, or within the 10K-12.5K bands, so I’ve left them off this map to focus on the international flights available.


Click for the full map of 10K routes and 12.5K routes.

There are no surcharges on the AA, US and LAN routes to the Caribbean and South America, and under $100 in surcharges roundtrip on the Aer Lingus routes to Ireland. Business class seats to Ecuador and Ireland cost 37.5K Avios each way.

Distance bands 4 and 5: 20,000-25,000 Avios each way

This is a big jump from 12,500 points, especially when you’re booking for 4 or more, but can still be an excellent value. There are no surcharges on the routes to Germany and South America, under $100 surcharges roundtrip to Ireland and around $150 surcharges roundtrip to Madrid if booked with Iberia Avios. Also shown is Royal Air Maroc’s route to Casablanca. This route is interesting as it should allow a stopover in Morocco on a trip to Europe – we love variety! The Royal Air Maroc chart is below, for booking with Iberia Avios. I’m not sure what surcharges Iberia has on AT flights, but the YQ on a RAM itinerary I looked up is around $300 roundtrip. I have not included AA and US flights to Europe since BA fuel scam surcharges make these unreasonably priced, and they can be booked without surcharges with AA or US miles.

20K routes are red and green, and 25K routes are black.

20K routes are red and green, and 25K routes are black.

This Iberia Avios chart, unlike the chart above, combines the total travel distance rather than each segment.

This Iberia Avios chart, unlike the chart above, combines the total travel distance rather than each segment.

Routes in blue are 48K IB Avios roundtrip, red routes are 60K.

Getting to Europe on  Royal Air Maroc – Routes in blue are 48K IB Avios roundtrip from JFK or Montreal, red routes are 60K.

Info on Royal Air Maroc is sparse, but I thought I’d include it to see if it sparks any ideas! And Morocco is on our short list of next international trips. I want to drive this road:

Atlas Mtns Road


{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Drew August 15, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Displaying the routes/prices this way is creative and smart. I just wish I had thought of it.

    • Kenny August 15, 2014, 11:14 pm

      Thanks Drew! Feel free to borrow or steal any of them, and I’m sure you can put some good ones together. I love maps!

  • Kumar August 15, 2014, 12:58 pm

    Excellent post, Kenny. Very useful for people like me who lives near CLT.

  • harvson3 August 15, 2014, 4:24 pm

    I like this post. The points about multiple segments and no last-minute fees are useful, and things I often forget/overlook. Thanks.

  • Narayan August 15, 2014, 10:51 pm

    Now that my friend is extremely useful for me….Boston and NY and me in between !!

  • Robert August 16, 2014, 11:09 am

    If only LAN had their seats available for the redemption of Avios to Ecuador. On two occasions I actually found it dificult to find any seats at all. Besides, LAN does not operate from JFK to UIO. Instead they fly to GYU which I believe would require a bit more miles. There are however flights from MIA to UIO.

  • Skywardbd August 17, 2014, 7:43 am

    Love the pictorial map display! Thanks!!!!!

  • Robert November 20, 2014, 1:27 am

    Great maps. You have CLT-MSY on the 7.5K map, but even though gcmap says its 650 miles, for whatever reason it prices as 4.5K. I was pleasantly surprised when I booked it for a weekend jaunt back in August.

    • Kenny November 20, 2014, 8:38 am

      Thanks, Robert! I did note that and fix the map if you click on CLT in the caption, a few weeks ago. I guess I was too lazy to fix the actual map!

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