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Saving Avios with Direct Flights

In August I thought I had finished up putting together all the British Airways Avios sweet spot posts and maps (for the U.S., anyways) with this post on Avios sweet spots from the Midwest. You can also check out Avios from Florida, the rest of the East coast, and the West coast with maps and ways to make the most of nonstop flights on British Airways partners Aer Lingus, Alaska, American, LAN, TAM and US Airways. But it turns out there is another nice little (very little) sweet spot: direct flights. Big hat tip to Deltahater who commented on my Dallas and Chicago post to remind me of these and give great simple instructions on tracking them down, along with some San Antonio specific examples:

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. (Note – there is no leeway so  this is band 2.)
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

Direct flights and Avios pricing

This would cost 12,000 Avios as two separate segments but since it was a single flight number, it was only 7,500 Avios.

This would cost 12,000 Avios as two separate segments but since it was a ‘direct flight with a single flight number, it cost 7,500 Avios.

What is a direct flight anyway? Anything but direct! The term direct flight is used to differentiate from a non-stop flight. Direct flights do have stop(s), occasionally even with equipment or gate changes, but they have just one flight number. On most domestic direct flights, you can stay on the plane during the stop(s).

British Airways Avios pricing is all based on distance:

BA Chart

BA distance chart – measure from origin to destination on direct flights!

They do not, however, account for the actual routing on any direct flight with a stop. Just check the distance from your origin to destination using Great Circle Mapper.

Making this work from YOUR airport

Unfortunately most of the schedules we’re working with change far too frequently to put together a resource that won’t be out of date in a very short time. So I’ve chosen to show the examples for a couple of cities and how to check your own.

Full AA and Oneworld schedules can be downloaded here. AA’s pdf is only 868 pages. There will be a test. Here’s a look at a page from the schedule for Albany.

An example of some one-stop direct US Airways flights from Albany.

An example of some one-stop direct US Airways flights from Albany.

Note that some of these flights have already been discontinued as routes for these direct flights with stops seem to change very regularly. It’s important to look at the frequency of operation column, which is explained at the beginning of the PDF: 1=Monday, 2=Tuesday and so on, X=Except. So the Albany-Jacksonville direct flight for 7500 Avios that stops in Washington is only operated on weekdays based on the ‘X67’ in that column. Here are the above routes as well as the ones that didn’t make it into that screenshot, mapped, from Albany:

Saving Avios with direct flights

Direct flights with stops shown, served or recently served FROM Albany.

A couple of noteworthy things jump out here: US Airways has far more scheduled direct flights with stops than AA. And these are not necessarily valid routings for the return. Which means, of course, that you should look for routes back home as well as outbound routes if you’re trying to stretch your points by seeking out direct flights.

I found some especially sweet spots  here – there are more but I eventually ran out of time to got tired of looking through the entire schedule. The routes in black work only returning, the routes in red work only going, except Washington-Bogota, San Francisco-San Juan, PR and San Jose-Belize which work in both directions. For the other direction, you could use any program at their usual price. Or maybe you’ll decide to just stay…

Saving Avios with direct flights partial map

A handful of cities’ direct flights to Mexico and the Caribbean – most of these are only 10K Avios on US via CLT or PHX. You can view the map with city pairs here on Great Circle Mapper.

Again, check your own home airport(s), as well as cities you plan to visit, on the schedule and see if there are any surprises! If you find a really great one or one you can use, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to this map.

Booking these direct flights

works just like it should. Where seats are available, they come up as a single flight and price out as a nonstop would. Here’s an example of San Jose – Belize with a stop but no flight change in Dallas

Saving Avios with direct flights

SJC-DFW-BZE correctly priced out at 12,500 Avios and $5.

I said this is a very small deal at the beginning of this post, and I’m not aware of anyone else spelling this out on a blog, for a reason. (Update: per the Frequent Miler’s comment, Jason Steele may have written a post on this possibility on The Points Guy.) Many of these routes are only flown once or twice a week, most only work in one direction, and availability on the entire direct flight isn’t easy to find. So the chances of very many people actually being able to use this is slim. However, I think it’s worth knowing about and briefly looking into anytime you’re planning to fly on a route that might make saving Avios with direct flights a possibility.

On the other hand if you’re like Drew at Travel is Free and have the flexibility to plan trip after trip around promotions and great deals, these ‘extra’ sweet spots might be just perfect for you!


{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Jason October 1, 2014, 1:15 pm

    Couple of your SAT options are noted as operating only once or twice (e.g. MEX operated Sep 7 ONLY) on the AA schedule.

    But good post, might come in handy.

    • Kenny October 1, 2014, 5:13 pm

      Thanks Jason! Yes, some of the examples in the original comment are outdated but I didn’t want to edit it. I’ve also found that US Airways flight numbers change more than are indicated on the AA schedule, so the many US flights listed on the schedule only work for short-notice bookings, unless you happen to stumble onto a direct flight further out. I’m looking for a better way to nail those down since they have far more direct flights than AA.

  • Frequent Miler October 1, 2014, 9:29 pm

    Great post (and thanks for including Detroit). Just for the record, I rember reading about this trick from a Jason Steele post on The Points Guy quite a while ago. Just an FYI.

    • Kenny October 1, 2014, 11:10 pm

      Thanks FM! I updated the post on that. A few more available seats would go a long way towards turning this from an neat little deal that’s just about impossible to use into a really sweet deal especially for Northern non-hub cities.

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