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Award Booking Sweet Spot: Dallas and Chicago Using Avios

I wish this one were sweeter, I really do. After all, this is the one Avios sweet spot that includes my home airport. But as sweet spots go, using Avios through and out of Dallas and Chicago is like a diet drink. They can add cherry and chocolate flavor (or berries and cream and whatever other concoctions they’ve come up with) but unless there’s some sugar in there, it just won’t be that sweet. Similarly, as long as AA releases comparatively few seats out of Dallas and Chicago, they lag behind the other Avios sweet spots we’ve looked at from the West Coast, the East Coast and Florida. Still, there’s lots of great potential here, so let’s look at some maps of what we can do from the middle of the country using Avios.


Within 649 miles of these AA hubs, nonstop flights to DFW and ORD cost 4,500 Avios. 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:

BA Chart

Since BA counts two-class first class as ‘First’ requiring 3X the points, Economy makes the most sense for most domestic flights in this post as there are no premium economy or business class seats offered according to BA’s program.

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.

Update: Iberia recently changed their award chart for flights on partners other than BA, Iberia, Meridiana and Vueling, to a new chart with much higher prices especially on short flights. Since The Freequent Flyer asked about an IB Avios redemption on Twitter, this devaluation of Iberia Avios has exploded on the blogosphere along with concern and speculation that BA might change their rates to match. You can read thoughts on this possibility on the Saverocity Forum, and here on Flyertalk. I might wind up having to rewrite all of these Avios sweet spot posts as LAN or JAL sweet spots if BA does in fact follow IB, since LAN and JAL have what amount to a similar distance-based programs. Except LAN is metric.

Distance band 1: 4,500 Avios each way

These are all of the cities that fall within the green circles in the first map. There are a couple of airports in Mexico here, but the Chicago-Canada possibilities are likely more useful to more people.

Click Chicago or Dallas for full maps and lists of city pairs on Great Circle Mapper.

Like we covered in the East coast post, these flights can be perfect for positioning. In San Antonio, we often find flights to DFW only open up during the last 21 days. We can use Avios on a separate ticket, continue on any oneworld alliance ticket and airline and be protected by AA’s misconnect policy. Of course these are also excellent values for getting to and from Dallas and Chicago.


Distance band 2: 7,500 Avios each way

This band covers segments from 650 to 1149 miles. More of us get positioning opportunities, these hubs get excellent values to most of the country, and DFW – Mexico deals are really sweet.


Click Chicago or Dallas for full maps and lists of city pairs on Great Circle Mapper.

Distance band 3: 10,000 Avios each way

This band covers segments from 1150 to 1999 miles. All routes in the lower 48 states and Canada from DFW and ORD not shown in the first two bands cost 10,000 Avios, so I’ve put just the international routes on this map. A few years ago, it would have included several more Caribbean destinations, but AA has moved most of its service to those to Miami.


You can have some real fun here especially if you combine this with a United itinerary within Central America and Northern South America.

See, for 20,000 United miles you can fly roundtrip within the Caribbean, Central America and Norther South America. WITH a stopover. So for 20,000 Avios and 20,000 United miles, you could do a trip like this and stop for as long as you like in each city! Here’s an extremely cool example, I recommend studying up Travel is Free’s United stopover post if you want to try this:

20K Avios 20K UA

Four cities, 40K miles! The additional stops in the UA ticket are not shown.

Distance band 4: 12,500 Avios each way

Not much here this time, but we do get couple more international routes.


Until Venezuela gets settled down, good luck actually getting the CCS route.

Distance bands 5 and 6: 20,000-25,000 Avios each way

Business class on these routes will require double the number of Avios at 40,000 or 50,000 each way.


Red routes are 20K, Black routes are 25K. To Dublin on Aer Lingus using BA Avios, surcharges are around $50 each way. To Madrid using IB Avios, surcharges are around $100 each way.

Once again, I have not included AA, BA or US flights to Europe since BA fuel scam surcharges make these unreasonably priced, and AA and US flights can be booked without surcharges with AA or US miles.



{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Deltahater August 27, 2014, 12:36 pm

    great work. I do think though that we need to differentiate between non-stop and direct flights.
    I am pretty sure that you can use avios on a direct flight with the same flight number even if it includes a connection.
    As you mentioned SAT has few non-stop flights. However, there are several flights via a hub (DFW or PHX) that have one flight number. For example, US 2736. SAT-PHX-MZT. 1632 miles, but it counts as band 1 as the non-stop distance is 653miles. I am assuming there is some leeway for 3 miles. .
    US2865 AVL-SAT is 1014 but 1189 routed via CLT. Since Avios counts the non-stop route, this is a band 2 award, not band 3.

    SAT-IND is 985, vs SAT-CLT-IND at 1,522 , qualifying you for band 2.
    SAT-MEX is 685 vs SAT-PHX-MEX at 2,094, qualifying you for band 2
    STL-SAT is 786 vs STL-CLT-SAT at 1,670, qualifying you for band 2

    The point is that you have many more options looking for direct flights rather than just non-stops.
    How do you look for direct flights?
    I downloaded the PDF version of AA’s timetable. Then selected my city and looked for flights with unsual long flight times. (STL-SAT 7 hours, or anything on a RJ over 4 hours) and then looked for that flight at aa.com or usair.com seeing where it connected. Then I used greatcircle mapper to identify the distance between the two cities non-stop to see which band I fall into.

    I am sure this will work for almost any AA/US city, especially non-hubs.

    Last year I could travel SAT-SJD for 7,500

    • Kenny August 27, 2014, 1:37 pm

      Deltahater, thanks for the dynamite work and concise instructions on searching for ‘direct’ flights! Unfortunately there is no leeway so I expect the 653 mile example will be 7500 Avios, but still a great deal. You’ve given me a bunch of homework!

    • john December 26, 2014, 4:56 pm

      do you know if this trick still works? I’m able to see availability on the 2 individual segments, but the direct flight doesn’t come up on ba.com. Did you have to call?

      • deltahater December 27, 2014, 6:03 am


        what flight are you referring to? Also give me dates and I’ll look into it

        • John December 28, 2014, 12:53 am

          Thanks for the reply deltahater.
          For example I’m looking at PIT-(DCA)-MCO on 1/15. PIT-DCA shows availability in F on US4597, and DCA-MCO also shows availability in F on US4597. The flight number is the same for both segments, but it doesn’t come up as an option for the PIT-MCO search. Thanks if you can help!

  • John December 28, 2014, 12:51 am

    Thanks for the reply deltahater.
    For example I’m looking at PIT-(DCA)-MCO on 1/15. PIT-DCA shows availability in F on US4597, and DCA-MCO also shows availability in F on US4597. The flight number is the same for both segments, but it doesn’t come up as an option for the PIT-MCO search. Thanks if you can help!

  • Deltahater December 28, 2014, 7:42 am

    very bizarre. I can see it on aa.com and on expertflyer. but ba.com does not pull it up. Maybe it has to do with it being a USexpress flight?
    I would try calling ba.com and see if they can force this for you. Maybe Kenny has a better idea?

    • Kenny December 28, 2014, 7:46 am

      Sorry for the slow reply – I’ve been traveling. All the cases I have come up with work but yours doesn’t as you found. I’d call BA and might try, rather than forcing anything, just asking for availability on US4597 PIT-MCO.

      • John December 28, 2014, 11:43 am

        Thanks for the replies.. I called BA and was able to get it to price at 12000 avios. The agent didn’t see availability on the direct flight PIT-MCO, but when I told him to try the 2 segments through DCA in the end it priced at 12,000 avios in F (he also offered to waive the phone booking fee since it wasn’t available online). Is there any way to do a multi city avios booking? If so we could probably get it to work online. Do you have any examples of where it shows the direct flight online?

      • john December 28, 2014, 11:53 am

        On 2nd thought I just looked at the chart and see that PIT-MCO should be 15000 in F. I wonder what happened here? The agent said it would be 12000

        • Kenny December 28, 2014, 2:13 pm

          Actually US, AA and AS domestic first class are charged the ‘first’ price by BA, not ‘business’, so that ticket should be 22,500 Avios. If you managed to get it for 12K I’d say that the agent did something manually, and enjoy the bargain!

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