A Deep Dive Into The Best Way To Use Miles To Fly American Or British Airways Between The US And London

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London. Photo: Diliff [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
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A dive into the zany world of award booking:

It’s been a while since I did a deep dive into the miles and taxes needed for a route. It’s a labor intensive process, but I wanted to see how things stand for a sample redemption for travel next year. If you’re not ready to book travel yet, consider bookmarking this post for future reference.

When you book an award ticket with miles, the miles, taxes, and fees required can vary greatly depending on which miles you use. This post will compare just how many miles you’ll need for a single route with several different mileage options and much the taxes and fees can vary based on which miles you use.

I picked flights from Boston to London on 1/18/21 and from London to Boston on 1/25/21 on American and British Airways. Mileage rates and taxes between other east coast US cities and London should be identical to this.

Tax rates in the charts below have been converted into USD, so the exact amount may vary based on currency fluctuations. Taxes and fees have been rounded to the nearest dollar.

While saver mileage rates typically stay the same regardless of the cost of a paid ticket, the paid rates for the flights on the dates above are also given to compare the value of using miles versus paying for a flight. Chase Sapphire Reserve points on the other hand directly correlate to the paid price of a flight at a value of 1.5 cents per point. The cost of a paid flight is also broken down to show what the actual taxes and fuel surcharges are on the paid flight compared to the fees on an award ticket.

Flights to London are a notoriously poor award option due to fuel surcharges and the UK’s hefty taxes on long-haul flights from London. But is there value to be had?

I took a look at rates for Boston to London one-way, London to Boston one-way, and Boston to London round-trip, and then compare them to see if you’re better booking 2 one-way awards or a round-trip award.

The conclusions are pretty typical. The value for redeeming miles in business and first class is better than in economy. But it’s also interesting to see how fuel surcharges can range from zero to moderate to extremely high, depending on which miles you use. And it’s interesting to see that there’s little rhyme or reason for whether an award will be cheaper as 2 one-way tickets or 1 round-trip ticket, so it’s always worth checking both ways when redeeming miles for an award.

One potential “hack” is to fly back from another city in Europe in order to avoid the UK taxes on departing from London and some airlines may offer a free stopover to do that, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. However the advantage of using miles is that you can book a one-way ticket without the huge premium found on paid tickets. That adds a lot of flexibility to your travel plans.

Below are 7 comparison charts for each class of service offered by American and British Airways on this route. In them, I’ll compare the miles required if you redeem AA, Alaska, British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Iberia, JAL, or Qantas miles. Yes, there are more mileage booking options available, but I think this is a good start. 😀

All of these awards can be booked directly on each mileage program’s website, with the exception of using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles to fly on American. However those can be booked via the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles chat function.


Here are the mileage transfer options (and a way to save on fuel surcharges) for the airlines in the charts below:

  • American (AA):
  • Alaska:
    • Transfer from Marriott at 60K:25K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott starting from 330K:100K ratio and get 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.
  • British Airways (BA):
    • Transfer from AMEX instantly at 1K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Chase instantly at 1K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott at 60K:25K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott starting from 330K:100K ratio and get 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.
    • Earn up to 100,000 Avios with the Chase BA card.
    • Chase BA cardholders will get a rebate on taxes and fees up to $100 in economy/premium economy or up to $200 in business/first class on your first 3 one-way or round-trip award bookings from the US on BA flights annually. The credit is per reservation, so you’ll want to book passengers on separate reservations to maximize the benefit. The charts below do not account for this rebate, but they will substantially change the math for BA flights using BA miles if you have the BA card.
    • Chase BA cardholders will get a companion pass valid for a BOGO award in any class on BA if they spend $30K in a calendar year.
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles:
    • Transfer from AMEX instantly at 1K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Capital One at 2K:1.5K ratio
    • Transfer from Citi at 1K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott at 60K:25K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott starting from 330K:100K ratio and get 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.
  • Iberia:
    • Transfer from AMEX instantly at 1K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Chase instantly at 1K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott at 60K:25K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott starting from 330K:100K ratio and get 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.
    • Earn up to 100,000 Avios with the Chase Iberia card.
  • JAL:
    • Transfer from Marriott at 60K:25K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott starting from 330K:100K ratio and get 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.
  • Qantas:
    • Transfer from AMEX instantly at 500:500 ratio
    • Transfer from Barclays Arrival Premier at 1.4K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Capital One at 2K:1.5K ratio
    • Transfer from Citi at 1K:1K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott at 60K:25K ratio
    • Transfer from Marriott starting from 330K:100K ratio and get 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.

  • Chart 1: Flying on American in Economy

  • Notes:
    • While Qantas has the lowest mileage rates, booking with a few thousand extra American, Alaska, or JAL miles will allow you to avoid fuel surcharges. Cathay Pacific also has no fuel surcharges, but mileage rates are a bit higher.
    • If you are going to use BA or Qantas points, book as 2 separate awards to save on the fuel surcharges.
 
American: Boston to London one-way in economy

American: London to Boston one-way in economy

American: Boston to London round-trip in economy
Savings by booking round-trip or 2 one-way awards
Paid flight$769, including $200 fuel surcharge and $29 tax$1,680, including $152 fuel surcharge and $180 tax$867, including $438 fuel surcharge and $189 tax$1,582 savings by booking round-trip.
Chase Sapphire Reserve51,266 points112,903 points57,770 points106,399 point savings by booking round-trip.
American22,500 miles+$622,500 miles+$17845,000 miles+$184No difference
Alaska22,500 miles+$1822,500 miles+$19145,000 miles+$209No difference
British Airways20,750 miles+$22920,750 miles+$32941,500 miles+$626$68 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Cathay Pacific27,000 miles+$627,000 miles+$17954,000 miles+$185No difference
IberiaN/A, Round-trip flight requiredN/A, Round-trip flight required42,000 miles+$626Round-trip required.
JAL23,000 miles+$623,000 miles+$17845,000 miles+$1841,000 mile savings by booking round-trip.
Qantas20,300 miles+$22520,300 miles+$33240,600 miles+$622$65 savings by booking 2 one-way awards

  • Chart 2: Flying on American in Premium Economy

  • Notes:
    • Premium economy redemptions are limited to just AA and Qantas miles, with American being a much better value unless you have Sapphire Reserve points to use.
    • Booking a round-trip award with AA miles enabled the ability to book a less expensive web special. These awards aren’t eligible for date changes, but you can redeposit the miles and cancel the trip and that’s free if you do it 60 days before the flight.
 
American: Boston to London one-way in premium economy

American: London to Boston one-way in premium economy

American: Boston to London round-trip in premium economy
Savings by booking round-trip or 2 one-way awards
Paid flight$1,003, including $250 fuel surcharge and $29 tax$2,364, including $152 fuel surcharge and $302 tax$1,342, including $538 fuel surcharge and $309 tax$2,025 savings by booking round-trip.
Chase Sapphire Reserve66,866 points158,876 points89,476 points136,266 point savings by booking round-trip.
American40,000 miles+$640,000 miles+$29980,000 miles+$305
(Web special: 70,000 miles+$305)
10,000 mile savings by booking round-trip and selecting web special
AlaskaN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A
British AirwaysN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A
Cathay PacificN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A
IberiaN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A
JALN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A, cabin not available for redemptionN/A
Qantas42,200 miles+$22542,200 miles+$45384,400 miles+$742$64 savings by booking 2 one-way awards

  • Chart 3: Flying on American in Business Class

  • Notes:
    • JAL is the big winner here at just 80K miles and no fuel surcharges.
    • Booking a round-trip award with AA miles enabled the ability to book a less expensive web special. These awards aren’t eligible for date changes, but you can redeposit the miles and cancel the trip and that’s free if you do it 60 days before the flight.
    • Booking with American, Alaska, Cathay Pacific, or JAL avoids fuel surcharges.
    • BA, Iberia, and Qantas miles have fuel surcharges, but the Qantas surcharges in business are much lower than BA. In both cases, you’ll do better by booking 2 seperate one-way awards rather than a round-trip.
    • Rather than using BA Avios, you can transfer those miles into Iberia Avios and save 24,000 miles and pay significantly less in fuel surcharges.
 
American: Boston to London one-way in business

American: London to Boston one-way in business

American: Boston to London round-trip in business
Savings by booking round-trip or 2 one-way awards
Paid flight$7,206, including $650 fuel surcharge and $29 tax$8,480, including $267 fuel surcharge and $302 tax$3,226, including $1,338 fuel surcharge and $310 tax$12,460 savings by booking round-trip.
Chase Sapphire Reserve480,400 points561,303 points215,076 points826,627 point savings by booking round-trip.
American57,500 miles+$657,500 miles+$299115,000 miles+$305
(Web special: 100,000 miles+$305)
15,000 mile savings by booking round-trip and selecting web special
Alaska57,500 miles+$1857,500 miles+$312115,000 miles+$330No difference
British Airways62,000 miles+$67962,000 miles+$569124,000 miles+$1,647$399 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Cathay Pacific61,000 miles+$661,000 miles+$299122,000 miles+$305No difference
IberiaN/A, Round-trip flight requiredN/A, Round-trip flight required100,000 miles+$747Round-trip required.
JAL42,000 miles+$642,000 miles+$29980,000 miles+$3054,000 mile savings by booking round-trip.
Qantas57,000 miles+$22557,000 miles+$453114,000 miles+$742$64 savings by booking 2 one-way awards

  • Chart 4: Flying on BA in Economy

  • Notes:
    • The fewest amount of miles for a one-way from Boston to London goes to BA at a bargain 13K miles and just $64 in fees. This is especially great if you’ll combine a trip with another city in Europe and fly home from there, thereby avoiding London departure fees.
    • AA and BA miles have very low fees in economy and you’ll do better booking round-trip travel with them, versus other airlines having less fees with 2 one-way awards.
    • If you use JAL miles you’ll save $60 on the fees by booking 2 one-way awards, but you’ll wind up spending an extra 1,000 miles.
 
BA: Boston to London one-way in economy

BA: London to Boston one-way in economy

BA: Boston to London round-trip in economy
Savings by booking round-trip or 2 one-way awards
Paid flight$783, including $200 fuel surcharge and $29 tax$1,719, including $152 fuel surcharge and $179 tax$867, including $438 fuel surcharge and $189 tax$1,722 savings by booking round-trip.
Chase Sapphire Reserve52,200 points113,836 points58,036 points108,000 point savings by booking round-trip.
American22,500 miles+$6422,500 miles+$29845,000 miles+$296$66 savings by booking round-trip.
Alaska32,500 miles+$23732,500 miles+$28565,000 miles+$647$125 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
British Airways13,000 miles+$6413,000 miles+$29826,000 miles+$296$66 savings by booking round-trip.
Cathay Pacific27,000 miles+$20027,000 miles+$32354,000 miles+$582$59 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Iberia13,000 miles+$22913,000 miles+$32926,000 miles+$626$68 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
JAL23,000 miles+$20023,000 miles+$31245,000 miles+$572$60 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Vs.
1,000 mile savings by booking round-trip.
Qantas24,500 miles+$22524,500 miles+$33249,000 miles+$622$65 savings by booking 2 one-way awards

  • Chart 5: Flying on BA in Premium Economy

  • Notes:
    • There are no great mileage options here, but using BA Avios are decent and you’ll save $118 by booking 2 one-way awards instead of a round-trip. Using Sapphire Reserve points can make sense here.
    • Fuel surcharges apply to all airlines here, though Alaska has the lowest fees and the biggest savings achieved by booking 2 one-way awards instead of a round-trip.
 
BA: Boston to London one-way in premium economy

BA: London to Boston one-way in premium economy

BA: Boston to London round-trip in premium economy
Savings by booking round-trip or 2 one-way awards
Paid flight$1,017, including $250 fuel surcharge and $29 tax$2,413, including $152 fuel surcharge and $301 tax$1,346, including $538 fuel surcharge and $309 tax$2,084 savings by booking round-trip.
Chase Sapphire Reserve67,800 points159,810 points89,743 points137,867 point savings by booking round-trip.
American40,000 miles+$22940,000 miles+$45080,000 miles+$747$68 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Alaska42,500 miles+$23742,500 miles+$40685,000 miles+$767$124 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
British Airways26,000 miles+$27926,000 miles+$45052,000 miles+$847$118 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Cathay Pacific43,000 miles+$20043,000 miles+$45686,000 miles+$703$47 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Iberia26,000 miles+$27926,000 miles+$45052,000 miles+$847$118 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
JAL30,000 miles+$20030,000 miles+$44559,000 miles+$692$47 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Vs.
1,000 mile savings by booking round-trip.
Qantas48,500 miles+$27548,500 miles+$45397,000 miles+$842$114 savings by booking 2 one-way awards

  • Chart 6: Flying on BA in Business Class

  • Notes:
    • JAL is the winner here at just 80K miles and $692 round-trip.
    • Booking with AA, Cathay Pacific, or JAL avoids some of the huge fuel surcharges.
    • If you’re booking with Alaska, BA, Iberia, or Qantas, it is absolutely critical to book these as 2 one-way awards instead of a round-trip to realize savings of $374-$574!
 
BA: Boston to London one-way in business

BA: London to Boston one-way in business

BA: Boston to London round-trip in business
Savings by booking round-trip or 2 one-way awards
Paid flight$7,220, including $650 fuel surcharge and $29 tax$8,490, including $272 fuel surcharge and $301 tax$3,254, including $1,338 fuel surcharge and $310 tax$12,456 savings by booking round-trip.
Chase Sapphire Reserve481,333 points562,236 points216,943 points826,626 point savings by booking round-trip.
American57,500 miles+$27957,500 miles+$569115,000 miles+$848No difference
Alaska60,000 miles+$68760,000 miles+$406120,000 miles+$1,667$574 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
British Airways50,000 miles+$67950,000 miles+$569100,000 miles+$1,647$399 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Cathay Pacific61,000 miles+$20061,000 miles+$523122,000 miles+$703$20 savings savings by booking round-trip.
Iberia50,000 miles+$67950,000 miles+$569100,000 miles+$1,647$399 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
JAL42,000 miles+$20042,000 miles+$51280,000 miles+$6924,000 miles AND $20 savings savings by booking round-trip.
Qantas61,200 miles+$67561,200 miles+$573122,400 miles+$1,622$374 savings by booking 2 one-way awards

  • Chart 7: Flying on BA in First Class

  • Notes:
    • JAL is once again a winner here at just 120K miles and $692 round-trip. Booking round-trip saves 10K miles and $20 in taxes.
    • Booking with Cathay Pacific or JAL avoids some of the huge fuel surcharges.
    • If you’re booking with AA, Alaska, BA, Iberia, or Qantas, it is absolutely critical to book these as 2 one-way awards instead of a round-trip to realize savings of $374-$574!
 
BA: Boston to London one-way in first class

BA: London to Boston one-way in first class

BA: Boston to London round-trip in first class
Savings by booking round-trip or 2 one-way awards
Paid flight$12,530, including $650 fuel surcharge and $29 tax$11,399, including $272 fuel surcharge and $301 tax$4,475, including $650 fuel surcharge and $309 tax$19,454 savings by booking round-trip.
Chase Sapphire Reserve835,333 points754,703 points298,343 points1,291,693 point savings by booking round-trip.
American85,000 miles+$68485,000 miles+$569170,000 miles+$1,647$394 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Alaska70,000 miles+$68770,000 miles+$406140,000 miles+$1,667$574 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
British Airways68,000 miles+$67968,000 miles+$569136,000 miles+$1,682$434 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
Cathay Pacific87,000 miles+$20087,000 miles+$523174,000 miles+$703$20 savings savings by booking round-trip.
Iberia68,000 miles+$67968,000 miles+$569136,000 miles+$1,647$434 savings by booking 2 one-way awards
JAL65,000 miles+$20065,000 miles+$512120,000 miles+$69210,000 miles AND $20 savings savings by booking round-trip.
Qantas89,800 miles+$67589,800 miles+$573179,600 miles+$1,622$374 savings by booking 2 one-way awards

Feedback:

As always, I’d love to hear your comments on how to improve the format of this post and whether it’s helpful to you!

If readers are interested in making this into a series of posts, I’m open to suggestions for other routes and airlines to research as well.

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38 Comments On "A Deep Dive Into The Best Way To Use Miles To Fly American Or British Airways Between The US And London"

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Good Vibes

Great post. I can only imagine how much work it took to make it.

How about an “All About” about NYC-LAX?

menach

Maldives

Mimb

This is fantastic, thank you. Maybe you could do east coast to the Caribbean?

Bklyn

Thank you!

Incredibly helpful.

N.B: jfk-lhr (the popular tatl route) has higher ba taxes than bos. Lgw lower…

Abey

Very helpful !! I think if you would place the transfer options, spread the information of in multiple posts each focused on a different parts of the booking process, people would process the info better. In any case very informative

Mendel

When it’s broken down to several posts it can get confusing.
I personally appreciate a single post with the full picture.
I think the way Dan breaks up the article to different sections addresses your concern.
Thanks Dan!

joel

ba surcharges nyc – lon one way were 93 for a long time, then dropped to 64, it recently spiked to 229, however periodically drops back to 64, so seems to be some type of system error going on there

BA

Lhr-USA will be a lot cheaper on the fuel surcharges if originating TLV ETC. Why is that?

Mike

Thank you Dan! Always good to have this bookmarked.
Would you be open to making a post of which airline programs allow 3rd party bookings and which are strict and audit accounts?

Mk

Great post!
Would love to see such a chart for nyc – tlv!

yankel

great post
specifically focused on the actual booking and not transfer is ideal.
seems to target less of the beginners who would need more guidance on transferring etc

as far as other options, maybe jfk-lax/sfo starting with one alliance and then move to the next, one at a time due to complexity of transfer partners etc

chaz

excellent post. always enjoy a throwback post. although this is a more advanced post it is still very informative and a great reference when booking this cross pond route. i would have done Jfk though, since a large portion of readership and most lids live in this neck of the woods. one more very important factor, please explain to the audience how domestic travel is generally based on two one way fares where is international travel many times,a round trip fare can be cheaper then a one way fare. I get the one way vs round trip u.s. to Israel question all the time.Thank you again. and dont forget folks there is only one GURU!

CUBS FAN

And how does Jetblue’s new 2021 LHR route factor in to all this? Is there any advantage to transferring Chase to Trueblue for this route? After running the math using Trueblue .015 cent average redemption rate, a flight priced below $350 one way might be worth but I guess that’s no different than using Chase points via travel cash redemption option. Am I missing an angle here with Jetblue?

VCE_JEW

Maybe a post of Best ways to use Virgin Atlantic miles, so many people i speak to dont now about it and it saves me tons on Delta One all the time!!

Confu

Make sure to update if/when AA is bookae through jetblue

Nick

Should be some big difference using BA UK account especially ex LHR

BKYW

Thank You. I don’t care for this route, but in the future if possible add a note about change / cancellation policies. That can make a difference too.

Thank you

4yourinfo

Let me chime with my request EWR/PHL/NYC to Canada/Toronto – any good options

Abe

Thanks for the post very nice. On a different subject to qualify for turkish elite status does it go by calender year or by 12 month from when u start earning

Value

Wow, Thanks! This post is extremely useful. Any easy way to find it in the future?

OD

dont care for this route
but NYC-SAN OR NYC-TLV would be of interest

jack

Should many of these posts on NYC – TLV

BT

Great post! Keep them coming.
Just a few things
1) tickets in Y are usually way cheaper than the example in your post making the CSR a no brainier
2) Delta often has flash sales for around 20k round trip (maybe even less).
3) another option is to fly in and take a train out to a different city in Europe to avoid the taxes. Way easier than flying.

And when will Citi TYP transfer to AA ?

tassojunior

More interested in the assorted bargain routes as many of us are flexible. Example: The BA and Virgin extra cheap one-ways to LHR. Not just the 13K + $64 BOS to LHR but most US cities BA is dirt cheap 1-way to LHR. From DC Virgin is often even cheaper at 10K plus $100. I enjoy stopovers in London en route to Europe, (which is usually $100 to or from London).

John

Great post would like to see UA / DL / VS from ewr

Jacob

Great post, thank you!

Feedback per your request:

A) Why BOS? And why AA & BA?

B) It would be helpful to give a short summary at the end (or beginning).
E.g. in this case, AA for AA flights, BA for BA flights, and Sapphire Reserve points are very obviously the clear winners for economy (maybe cash, depending on how much you value their points).
That can save someone a lot of reading time .

C) IMHO most people don’t care to know the price on every single possible carrier and mileage program (though that would be lovely, it’s a waste of extra work on your end). What people do care about (and you surely know this and agree) is the “sweet spots” of every mileage program.

Alternatively, instead of being categorized by mileage, it can be an article on the cheapest mileage flights to Europe in general, or cheapest to TLV, or cheapest NYC to west coast in general (instead of choosing LAX/SFO etc), et al.

I think these will appeal to more people (cf other blogs) and also doesn’t require a detailed breakdown of every single possibility that exists. Just the best ones.

These are the types of articles I look for when I’m planning travel. Surely I’m far from the only one.

Thanks!

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