British Airways Avios are an awesome points currency as long as you understand their Achilles heel, the fuel surcharge.
When you use United miles you never pay a fuel surcharge. When you use Delta miles you generally won’t pay a fuel surcharge (exceptions include flights originating from Europe and flights on select partners). When you use American miles you generally won’t pay a fuel surcharge (except if you want to fly on British Airways, the only way to fly on BA without paying a fuel surcharge is by using LAN Kilometers which can be obtained via Starwood Starpoints).
However when you use British Airways Avios you will normally pay a fuel surcharge, though there are lots of exceptions that make up the bulk of the value of the Avios program.
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on Aer Lingus. A flight from Boston to Dublin or Shannon is just 12.5K Avios in coach or 37.5K in business. From there you can fly elsewhere within Europe without paying fuel surcharges. Plus you can fly to Boston from cities like Buffalo, NYC, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or Washington DC for just 4.5K Avios. Aer Lingus flights can only be booked over the phone.
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on Air Berlin, making them a potential way to fly to Israel without fuel surcharges.
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on Alaska. These flights can only be booked over the phone.
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on LAN. Many of these flights can only be booked over the phone.
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on Niki. They fly from Israel to Vienna for 10K Avios.
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on TAM. Many of these flights can only be booked over the phone.
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on American within the Western Hemisphere
–There are no fuel surcharges for flights on USAirways within the Western Hemisphere
–There are no fuel surcharges for Qantas flights within Australia.
-There are no fuel surcharges for JAL flights within Japan.
–Fuel surcharges on award-winning carrier Cathay Pacific are relatively low and you don’t even need to fly all the way to Hong Kong (though you should-great city with awesome kosher food, airport lounges with kosher food, and a business or first class flight you’ll never forget!) to get a taste of their awesome service, seat, pajamas, and amenities. They fly a daily 777 nonstop between JFK and Vancouver.
–You can significantly cut the fuel surcharges when flying on Iberia by transferring your BA Avios into Iberia Avios
–British Airways 5th Freedom Flights (flights that don’t depart from or arrive to the UK) have significantly lower fees. For example even though Singapore-Sydney is a longer flight than NYC-London the fees in first class on Singapore-Sydney are less than half of those from NYC-London.
–As long as you have earned a single Avios within the past 12 months then fuel surcharges for intra-Europe and intra-Africa flights will be very low. You can transfer points from AMEX, Chase, or Starwood to activate that benefit.
Until last week Qantas charged a heavy fuel surcharge for paid flights to and from Australia. British Airways passes along the same fuel surcharge that applies to paid flights on partner airlines. That made long-haul flights to Australia an exceptionally poor value for your Avios.
Now Qantas has dropped that fuel surcharge for flights that originate in Australia (which caused this $444 price mistake that was honored)
That means you can book a one-way or round-trip ticket on Qantas from Australia without fuel surcharges.
A round-trip coach ticket on Qantas from Sydney to JFK is now 100K Avios plus about $116 in taxes.
A one-way coach ticket on Qantas from Sydney to JFK is now 50K Avios plus about $87 in taxes.
However a round-trip ticket from NYC to Sydney will still be slammed with $861 in fuel surcharges and taxes.
Of course you can also use 75K AA miles plus $116 tax for a round-trip ticket for a Qantas flight regardless of origination and American doesn’t pass on the fuel surcharge if you use AA miles. You can even transfer 60K Starpoints into 90K AA miles right now.
However it’s easier to earn BA Avios than AA miles, so if you’re not flush with AA miles or Starpoints, then this is a welcome development.
If you’re short on AA miles for example you can even use 37.5K AA miles+$28 to fly from JFK to Sydney and then use 50K Avios+$87 for the return flight.
The easiest way to search for award space for 50K Avios each way for a flight between Sydney and JFK is to use AA.com and search for a flight between Sydney and Los Angeles:
On the calendar page, toggle the number of stops option to nonstop only:
Generally speaking if there is nonstop availability from Sydney-Los Angeles there will also be nonstop availability from Los Angeles to JFK on Qantas’ special LAX-JFK tag-on flight that can only be booked together with the flight from Sydney.
Once you find a date that has nonstop space to Los Angeles you can confirm that there’s space to NYC on that date as well.
The advantage of routing via Los Angeles (and not Dallas) is that since the Qantas flight retains the same flight number all the way from Sydney to JFK via Los Angeles, British Airways only charges you the mileage required for a single leg as it’s marketed as a “direct” flight.
Once you’ve identified valid dates on AA.com, you can logon to BA.com and book the flight that you found on AA.com.
If BA.com isn’t finding it or is giving you an error just give BA a call and don’t forget that you may need to HUCA to find a competent rep. You can use any of their offices to book, including:
US: 800-452-1201 (7:30am-8pm EDT)
Singapore +65-6823-2095 (9pm-5:30am EDT)
Israel: +972-3-606-1515 (2am-9am EDT)
UK: +44-191-490-7901 (2:30am-3pm EDT)
Once again, there is still a fuel surcharge for flights originating from the US. Hopefully though Qantas (and other airlines) will continue to pare those back as well…
The same story appears to apply to other countries. There are no fuel surcharges from Sydney to London one-way or round-trip but there are fuel surcharges from London to Sydney.