Every airline’s frequent flyer mileage program comes with its own unique set of benefits and right now the stars are aligned on British Airways’ Executive Club program.
Not only does BA employ a generous distance-based award redemption chart which allows for very cheap redemptions on relatively short-distance partner flights, but for the next two weeks you can collect up to a 30% bonus when you buy Avios, which are the award currency of British Airways (similar to Qantas Frequent Flyer points).
This promotion ends on September 19th – for more details, and to buy your Avios online, click to BA's Purchase Avios page.
BA’s distance-based awards chart works very similarly to the Qantas redemption chart.
But while the bottom end of the awards chart is not very low when it comes to flight distance, it's much lower on the number of points required.
For example, any economy class oneworld or British Airways partner airline flight under 650 miles in distance will cost you only 4,500 Avios, while a business class redemption will set you back just 9,000 Avios.
The lowest redemption level using Qantas Frequent Flyer points is 8,000 points for an economy flight under 600 miles and 16,000 for the equivalent in business class.
While it's difficult to make a direct comparison between the two reward currencies, Qantas points can't be earned or bought at a rate anywhere near as good as the current Avios promotion.
British Airways sells Avios online with the maximum purchase of 24,000 Avios – which earns you an additional 7,200 Avios under the 30% bonus promotion – costing US$685.
That gets you to 31,200 Avios, which is just 300 Avios short of earning you seven free short-distance economy flights
You can easily close that 300 Avios gap by crediting activity with a British Airways partner airline to your BA Executive Club account.
For example, a single night stay in a Hilton property or a one Sydney-Melbourne flight on Qantas will earn you 500 Avios.
Once those Avios are sitting in your Executive Club account you’ll able to tap into some great value on selected short-range flights which would usually cost hundreds of dollars each.
Here are some examples:
London to Berlin – a 590 mile flight on British Airways which regularly sells for more than $200.
New York to Detroit – a 502 mile flight on American Airlines which you’ll rarely see for less than $500.
New York to Toronto – a 366 mile flight on American Airlines which usually sells for over $200.
You can even plan ahead for next year’s ski season – Qantas’ season flights from Sydney to Mount Hotham are 304 miles and will set you back $190 each way.
If you want to splurge and fly business class on some short-leg flights you’ll be looking at redeeming US$195.70 worth of Avios – a very attractive rate given that most of those flights will cost you far more than that if you’re paying with cash.
(Put your Qantas Frequent Flyer number on the booking during checkin to ensure you get the appropriate level of lounge access, baggage allowance and priority boarding that your status entitles you to, although as an Avios award flight you won’t earn status credits or frequent flier points.)
Joining BA’s Executive Club
There’s one small catch to this: BA doesn’t allow residents of Australia (or other countries in the south-west Pacific) to join its Executive Club frequent flyer program.
But all’s not lost. The only reason BA needs your address is to send out your Executive Club membership card.
If you’ve got a friend, family member or colleague in almost any other country, now’s the timer to call in a favour – the use of their mailbox!
Alternatively you could go ahead with a fake address, or use the address of a hotel or even a post office – they’ll simply away the letter containing your membership card. But you don’t really need that because you’ll be advised of your Executive Club membership number once you sign up online.
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About Angus Mordant
A freelance photographer from Sydney currently living in New York City, Angus' passion for scuba diving and traveling means he's most often found 30 metres underwater or 30,000 feet above sea level.