How to fly cheaper on British Airways than American Airlines

What's the Deal with Conor Knighton

From royal baby bumps to boy bands, our attention has been focused on news coming from the United Kingdom, but one British export you should also be focusing on is air miles.

British Airways Avios miles can actually be the cheapest way to fly here in America if you know the right tricks.  Most U.S. frequent flier programs have a fixed award chart. For example, if you want to fly from New York to LA, it will cost you 12,500 American Airlines miles each way -- but so would flying to New York to Chicago, or New York to DC, Dallas to Portland.

British Airways uses a distance based system instead of a chart system. Shorter trips require fewer miles. A trip from 1 to 650 miles is only 4,500 miles each way. Trips with 651 to 1150 miles will cost you 7,500 air miles each way, and so on.

Here's the trick - British Airways is a partner of American Airlines. So, for short distances, you can stretch a British mile pretty far.

A short flight from LaGuardia to Charleston West Virginia is only 444 miles. Which means it's going to cost you 9,000 Avios miles round trip -- or 25,000 American Airlines miles. Looking at it this way, you can see how booking with the British miles can be better.

Also, American charges a $75 fee to use your miles if you're not an elite flyer and you're booking within 21 days of your trip. British Airways doesn't have last minute partner fees.

For short, direct flights within America, British Airways miles are almost always a better choice than American. And strangely, because of taxes, they're some of the worst miles you can use to fly to London.

If you're looking for British miles, you can:

  • Start crediting your American flights to British Airways
  • You can transfer points from partners like American Express
  • Sign up for a British Airways credit card.

If you do sign up for credit card, there are certain big spender offers that give you 100,000 miles which would let you fly 11 round trips between New York and Cincinnati for example.

It sort of feels like flying on the wrong side of the road, but it works.

Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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