While not unexpected, the upcoming devaluation of the Krisflyer programme still came as a blow to many. Come on, who likes to pay more for the same thing? Like it or not, award programme is still subjected to real world inflation. So after all the posts about Krisflyer, I shall talk about something different: AVIOS.
Avios is the frequent flyer programme used by British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. I joined the Avios programme via the British Airways Executive Club on the recommendation of a friend who is truly an expert flyer. Being part of the OneWorld Alliance, one can earn Avios by flying on OneWorld partner flights. British Airways has a special family programme where up to 6 members can be part of a household account where miles are being pooled. This is where things get interesting. Each individual member earn their own miles / tier points (that goes towards their own elite qualification) but the miles they earned will be pooled under the family account (which can be utilized by all members of the family account).
This is slightly different from Qatar’s or Emirate’s family account where family member only earn a fraction of the miles which goes into the head of family’s account (for QR, the amount earned goes up as one goes up the tier).
Another advantage of Avios is that the miles will not expire as long as the account is active (activity is not limited to flying only, miles transfer from credit card is counted as well).
If Avios is so good, so why not choose Avios over Krisflyer? Well, these are the few reasons I why I still choose Krisflyer over Avios:
- Better hard product of Singapore Airlines. I still prefer Singapore Airlines over British Airways. No doubt, Singapore Airlines’ J and F products are no longer considered cutting edge, I will choose SQ’s 1-2-1 Business Class anytime over BA’s 2-4-2 Business Class
- More credit card transfer opportunities. While almost all local credit cards can transfer their points to Krisflyer, not many can transfer their points to Avios. Only Amex and Citibank can do that.
- Lack of BA flights out of Singapore. Flights on BA metals ex-SIN are only to London and Sydney. Your choices of destination is more limited.
- Expensive long haul redemption rate. BA F from Singapore to London cost about 119k (for off peak) while SQ F was about 91k. This imbalance is now less obvious with KF’s upcoming devaluation (119k vs 115k). Redemption on partner airline for long haul flights is equally (if not more) expensive.
- Difficulty in fulfilling the required flights needed for membership progression. For those who are traveling on revenue tickets, there are many elite earning opportunities for flights originating from South East Asia (with good promo fares). I recently flew MAS to Incheon with a fare of $1068 and a return flight ears 360 tier points (40 x 2 for SIN-KUL and 140 x 2 for KUL-ICN). That is just 40 tier points short of getting to Bronze level for the British Airways Executive Club. Qatar (QR) and Finnair (AY) occasionally has very good fares out of Kuala Lumpur (KUL), Bangkok (BKK) and the famous Colombo (CMB). Sometimes, you can get excellent fares out of Singapore too!
The bad thing however is one needs to do 2 flights (regardless of class) on BA to qualify for Bronze (on top of the 400 tier points) and 4 flights to qualify for Silver. Outside of Europe, you can only choose from flights to U.K. and 5th freedom flights (e.g. SIN-SYD). Alternatively, you can consider getting BA code-share flights within the region (you will need to do your homework to find one).
What can I do with Avios then? From my recent dummy search, I found that Avios is good for short haul regional flights i.e. Intra-Europe flights originating from U.K. and Asia regional flights on OneWorld partner airlines. Few examples:
- SIN-KUL on MAS. Yes, not everyone fancy traveling on MAS (especially post 2014). However, you only need 9000 Avios for a one way J from SIN to KUL (this direction gives you a better value than the return leg as one can get a return J ex-KUL at only $200+ SGD). JAL Mileage Bank will cost you 30,000 miles for the same route (be it one way or return) while you need 12,750 KF Miles (or 15,000 after March 23). This can be a good way to spend those odd Avios you have in your account (and it comes with lounge access to Qantas’ Business Class lounge in Terminal 1).
- Regional flights on Cathay Pacific (CX) to HKG from CGK/KUL or SIN. It cost about 20,000 Avios on CX vs. 23,375 on SQ (27,500 after March 23). Product wise of course CX is likely inferior to SQ’s (unless you are flying on SQ’s old 777-200 or A330).
- Cathay Pacific First Class. The only destination Cathay uses its 777-300ER (with First Class) is to Narita (NRT) and Jakarta (CGK). It cost about 40,000 Avios for regional First Class. Best use will be from NRT to HKG where you have about 5.5 hours of flight time (vs. 4 hours for HKG to NRT). For flights ex-HKG, one can try the famed CX’s First Class Lounges in HKIA while for flights ex-NRT, JAL’s First Class Lounge is open for usage. The only drawback? No pyjamas and no caviar (not exactly a deal breaker).
- Club Europe flights. As European cities from LHR/LGW falls under Zone 1 / Zone 2 – Off Peal Club Europe flights require about 7750 to 12750 Avios (vs. 27,500 miles on Star Alliance Partner airlines). Club Europe cabin is nothing to shout about. It is essentially Economy seats with one blocked centre seat and with slightly better food. However, it comes with priority check in, screening and priority boarding with lounge access. This is a good way to lessen the irritation of going through a messy LHR. Club Europe flights are also spared the exorbitant U.K. Air Passenger Duty for premium class travel by virtue of the distance (due to the big jump from Band B onwards).
There are many other ways Avios will come to good use. If one has many miles to spare, one can try taking the F on A380 with their elegant interior (and the English Afternoon Tea). Why not relive the good old days flying on the Queen of The Skies? British Airways is one of the few airlines left still flying their venerable Boeing 747-400. Perhaps doing a transatlantic on LHR-JFK / JFK-LHR and try out their famed Concorde Room (and the Elemis Spa)?
End day, gauge yourself how many miles you can earn. Unlike cash, this is something one should avoid keeping too much. My motto when it comes to miles is still: EARN IT AND BURN IT FAST!