American and British Airways recently kicked off a promotion for roundtrip travel in premium cabins/near-full fare economy between the U.S. and Europe, September 25th, 2012 through January 31st, 2013. The promotion has tiers according to the number of trips taken:
- First roundtrip: 15k AAdvantage miles (or Avios)
- Second roundtrip: 35k AAdvantage miles (or Avios)
- Third and subsequent roundtrips: 50k AAdvantage miles (or Avios)
While I normally don’t dwell upon paid business class (or even full-fare coach), American’s terms include British Airways World Traveler Plus fares booked into W, E, and T. Since I received my BA visa from Chase, I’ve been wondering what I would do with the Avios I’ve been accumulating.
British Airways offers a rather sane route for international upgrades. Upgrades with Avios are available to the next cabin of service if there is award availability for that cabin. (This might be less than ideal in its own way, but it feels far more straightforward than looking through United.com for “R” inventory to confirm upgrades at booking.)
Since BA considers its premium economy product (World Traveler Plus) a separate cabin between its coach product (World Traveler) and its long-haul business class product (Club World), one has to purchase a premium economy ticket to upgrade to business class. The base Avios for JFK-LHR is 20k, so the cost to upgrade (in terms of Avios outlayed) is 10k in each direction.
I’ve been looking to fly BA Club World for some time, but I haven’t quite begun to tolerate the rather steep fuel surcharges levied by BA (for nearly all of its awards) or by AA (for BA-operated awards). To put this into perspective, consider a simple roundtrip between New York and London in business class the MLK weekend this upcoming January. As a baseline, I’ll lookup the cost of booking this trip as an award with American.
Great. 50k miles each way makes 100k roundtrip… but that range of $2.50 to $700.00 in “Taxes and Carrier-Imposed Fees” is rather ominous.
If it sounds ominous, it probably is ominous. The total cost of this award is 100k AAdvantage miles and $972.60. Booking as an outright award with British Airways is similarly grim, 80k Avios and $1151.25:
Now that we have BA flights with business class award space available, we can price a premium economy itinerary with ITA to get a feel for the cost of upgrading a revenue trip. Since AA showed availability on only the BA flights out of Newark (and not JFK), we can request only those flights from ITA:
With a price in mind, we can now go book via BA’s website, booking a flight with cash and upgrading with Avios. As expected BA186 and BA189 are available.
Chase has been offering 10% off BA-operated itineraries booked via BA.com for its US-based cardholders. This discount ends at the end of the year for outbound travel occuring in 2012, so it is unfortunately not applicable to this particular trip. Nonetheless, as this trip is booked into a “T” fare bucket, it does qualify for the promotion that I began this post with.
This particular trip costs 20k Avios points and $1751.25, but it earns miles on the itinerary (approximately 7.6k with class-of-service bonus) and under the US-Europe roundtrip promotion (15k for the first roundtrip). Recall, the net costs of an AA award operated by BA were 100k AAdvantage miles and $972.60. Factoring in the opportunity cost, there is a tradeoff of 122.6k AAdvantage miles for $778.65 and 20k Avios points. Even under the most optimistic of valuations for Avios (1:1 with AA), booking BA-operated flights with AA offers a platry 0.76cpm valuation.
Other possible routes to London in Club World include waiting for a business class fare sale ($2012 roundtrip, as we saw this summer) or booking a much more sanely priced, AA-operated award. For my sample dates of travel, only AA First Class was available on the outbound flight, bringing the total for the roundtrip to 112.5k AAdvantage miles and $286.70.
Delta has unveiled a similar promotion for flights between the the U.S. and London in business class/near-full fare economy. Since I don’t collect Skypesos, I haven’t spent much time thinking about how to make efficient use of it.