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Award Booking Sweet Spot: Florida using Avios

If anyone were to choose a location to live based on travel hacking award seat availability, they should look long and hard at South Florida. Not that I’m suggesting anyone actually move there just for an extra travel hacking edge. But we might be thinking about it, or jealous anyway. Let’s take a look at just the Avios angle of the award deals the lucky bastards our Floridian friends have available. You can see the rest of the sweet spots we’ve already looked at in Award Sweet Spots By Origin page under the Resources tab at the top of the page.

SOFL Avios

Within 649 miles of Miami, nonstop seats to MIA 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 is a distance-based program. Since each segment is priced separately, it favors 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 Caribbean examples 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. 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 in South Florida:

Distance band 1: 4,500 Avios each way

This band, up to 649 miles, includes 9 Caribbean destinations from Miami. First class seats on these routes cost 18K Avios each way.


Caribbean destinations that can be reached with 4500 Avios from Miami. Full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Distance band 2: 7,500 Avios each way

This band covers segments from 650 to 1149 miles. An amazing deal to the rest of the Caribbean, and most of Central America. First class seats on these routes cost 30k Avios.


7,500 Avios routes. Full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Distance band 3: 10,000 Avios each way

This band, 1150 to 1999 miles, catches the rest of the Caribbean and Central American destinations served by AA from Miami. Business class seats cost 20K or 40K each way depending on the cabin configuration.


10,000 Avios routes. Full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Distance band 4: 12,500 Avios each way

This band, 2000 to 2999 miles, includes a pair of South American options: Lima on AA or LAN, Manaus on AA or TAM, or Belem on TAM. From Lima it’s another 4,500 Avios to Cusco. Business class seats on these routes cost 37.5K Avios each way.


Great deals from Miami to South America! A connection or stopover in one of these cities may save miles rather than flying all the way to Southern S. America. Full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Distance band 5: 20,000 Avios each way

This band, 3000 to 3999 miles, gets you deeper into central South America. However, several of these destinations can be reached using less points by adding a stopover in one of the zone 3 or 4 city. Business class seats on these routes cost 60K Avios each way.


20K Avios routes on AA, LAN or TAM from Miami. Full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Distance band 6: 25,000 Avios each way

Europe: While these Iberia and Aer Lingus routes do have surcharges, they are relatively reasonable at ~$50-$120 per person as long as you transfer your Avios from BA to Iberia before redeeming (for IB flights only). I look at those as 5000 – 12,500 Arrival points added to the Avios points required when comparing to other programs, and since availability is often much better on these routes it is worth including them. The AirBerlin routes in blue have no surcharges. Business class seats on these routes cost 75K Avios.

Florida-Europe routes in distance band 6

Florida-Europe routes in distance band 6. Iberia in red, Airberlin in blue, and Aer Lingus in green of course. Full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

South America: The remainder of South America fits in this distance range. Several of these cities are served nonstop by TAM or LAN as well as AA, and Santiago and Sao Paulo also have service to Orlando.

Routes in green are served from both Miami and Orlando.

Routes in green are served from both Miami and Orlando. Full map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Dishonorable mention: British Airways also has nonstop service to London from Miami, Orlando and Tampa for 25K Avios per person each way in coach. However once you multiply their fuel scam surcharges by 3 or more passengers, you’re looking at a very expensive family award trip.

Using this sweet spots from the rest of the country

Unfortunately positioning to Miami isn’t nearly as easy as the last sweet spot we looked at from the West Coast. At least not if you live in a Southwest-centered city with no nonstop service to Miami like we do. If you do have nonstop AA service to Miami, you can add the required number of Avios from the chart at the top of the page  and simply book your trip at BA.com or by calling in if only the individual segments show up.

When we used our points to get Bonnie’s cousins from Barbados to San Antonio in June 2013, we booked their flights to Miami with positioning flights from Fort Lauderdale to San Antonio and back on Southwest. The transfer takes about an hour, using a free shuttle from each airport to/from the rail station and a $5 train fare. Details and schedules are here. There are several other potential positioning options to FLL as well if you find a good fare sale that makes it worthwhile.

As another example, we currently have a hold (with AA miles) on a trip to Europe next summer which makes creative use of positioning to get home from Miami, which is the only airport with business class seats to Europe on dates that work for us. Our outbound is ok if a little crazy: SAT-PHL-MIA on US and MIA-MAD on AA. Returning, I can’t get back to San Antonio or anywhere I can position from without an overnight layover. So we have Madrid-MAD-IAH on AA, and I will book a one-way car rental from Houston-San Antonio (3 hours) as well as a positioning flight FLL-HOU-SAT on Southwest, and since both the car rental and Southwest flights will be fully refundable we can decide which we want to do when the time comes. Such are the joys of booking from a smaller airport with 4 passengers!


Our return options. Whatever works – Git-R-Done!

In case you’re not familiar with the term, this flight to get your family ‘in position’ for the flight you want is referred to as a positioning flight.

What you should know about positioning:

  • You are not protected against delays as you are with a single ticket. If your first flight is delayed and causes you to miss your second flight, you will be at the mercy of the airline operating the second flight to get a new ticket or, if you’re fortunate, an agent could allow you to travel on a later flight. Especially on the outbound leg of a long-planned trip your family is looking forward to, I think it’s worth planning an overnight layover at your positioning destination. This actually works very well with most of these westbound trips as you can leave in the afternoon (after school or work) and get to the west coast in the evening, and then continue on to Hawaii or wherever in the morning.
  • Southwest Airlines flights booked with points are very positioning-friendly. If you miss your flight, you get your points back! So you can book two flights from your positioning point to home: one with a ‘normal’ layover of 2 hours or so, and a later one just in case. If all goes well and you are on time for the first flight, you can go ahead and cancel the later one while waiting at the gate. If you don’t cancel the flight, the taxes you paid will be available for use on a later flight. If you do cancel, they can be refunded. Note that this cancellation only applies to refundable tickets and award Wanna Get Away tickets, NOT paid Wanna Get Away tickets.
  • Book one-way tickets for all travel that involves positioning if possible. The worst case scenario is the cancellation of your first positioning flight due to weather. When you miss that next flight, your entire ticket may be cancelled. If you book only one-way tickets and this happens, at least your return trip is intact if you can find an alternate route or program for your outbound trip.

I think I caught all of Florida’s Avios international sweet spots, but please let me know if I missed some! Cover photo courtesy of History Miami.


{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Leana@ Milesforfamily August 3, 2014, 8:00 pm

    Very nice, as usual! I agree, Avios program is ridiculously lucrative for us, Floridians. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to take advantage of the best deals yet. I’ve been trying to get to St. Lucia for quite some time. It is a very good deal for 20K Avios roundtrip, especially since fares from Miami run over $600. However, the schedule isn’t that great for us, since we live about 3.5 hours from Miami, and flights leave early in the morning. That would add overnight in Miami, and my husband said it’s too much trouble, so we went on a cruise instead.
    I also have had my eye on Miami-Lima route for 25K Avios, quite a deal. But then we have an issue of an altitude sickness in Machu Pichu, not recommended for small kids.
    I agree, Southwest is great for positioning flights. I booked a fare for my in-laws when they flew from Boston-Dublin, naturally with the help of Avios. One note of caution: If you cancel “Wanna get away” fare, you’ll have a year to use the points. Not a problem for most in this hobby, but something to be aware of.

    • Kenny August 3, 2014, 10:52 pm

      You must use travel funds within a year on a paid Wanna Get Away fare, but I have cancelled WGA award tickets and the points go back in my account with no restrictions, and you are given the option to have the taxes refunded or save them to be used later. If you choose that option they must be used within a year.

      • leana@ Milesforfamily August 4, 2014, 6:51 am

        Interesting. Perhaps I did it the wrong way, because I remember it said I had 1 year to use the points. Thanks for clarification.

        • Kenny August 4, 2014, 11:26 am

          That is odd, there should be nothing like that with RR2.0 points. Old RR1.0 standard awards and paid ticket funds would expire, though. International travel may be subject to a different policy, I’m just booking my first int’l WN trip today.

  • JC August 4, 2014, 9:18 am

    Thanks Ken, very informative.

  • Kumar August 4, 2014, 10:44 am

    This is excellent, well researched, original article. Kudos and keep it rocking, Kenny 🙂

    • Kenny August 4, 2014, 10:41 pm

      Thanks Kumar!

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