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Why BA Avios points are excellent value for Asia Pacific oneworld redemptions

From tax-free JAL domestic flights in Japan to cheap Cathay Business Class hops to Bangkok, there's good value in holding Avios points in Singapore

People often ask us why we bother with Avios when we live in Singapore. If you’ve never heard of them Avios points are the ‘currency’ of the British Airways frequent flyer program ‘Executive Club’ and also Aer Lingus ‘AerClub’, Iberia ‘Plus’ and Vueling ‘Club’ which are part of the same airline group.

Article Updated: 7th March 2019

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Even more confusing then when we tell people we almost never use Avios to redeem flights on British Airways (with the exception of our recent First Class redemption from London to Washington). That does make it seem a peculiar scheme to be wedded to in this part of the world but we always maintain a healthy Avios balance and here are some of the reasons.

  • British Airways has an excellent online search tool to help you search for and book award seats on all oneworld airlines.
  • One-way redemptions are permitted using Avios, even with oneworld and partner airlines.
  • Avios points never expire, provided you have earned or redeemed at least 1 Avios point in the last three years your entire balance will stay ‘alive’.
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Cathay Pacific Intra-Asia redemptions

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Cathay Pacific operate an extensive network of flights within Asia, including two non-stop destinations from Singapore.

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Cathay Pacific’s home base in Hong Kong. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

Example Redemptions

Singapore (SIN) to Bangkok (BKK) 19th July (Economy)

  • CX712 (A351) Dep 13:25 (Duration 02:35)
  • Cash Cost: S$239.80
  • Avios: 7,500 + £42.30 (S$76.40)
  • Value per point: 2.2 Singapore cents
  • KrisFlyer / SQ Cost: 12,500 miles + S$49.50

Singapore (SIN) to Bangkok (BKK) 19th July (Business)

  • CX712 (A351) Dep 13:25 (Duration 02:35)
  • Cash Cost: S$661.80
  • Avios: 15,000 + £42.30 (S$76.40)
  • Value per point: 3.9 Singapore cents
  • KrisFlyer / SQ Cost: 21,500 miles* + S$49.50

* Updated to 2019 redemption rate

Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG) 12th September (Economy)

  • CX652 (A351) Dep 12:55 (Duration 04:10)
  • Cash Cost: S$290.90
  • Avios: 10,000 + £40.30 (S$72.70)
  • Value per point: 2.2 Singapore cents
  • KrisFlyer / SQ Cost: 15,000 miles + S$47.30

Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG) 12th September (Business)

  • CX652 (A351) Dep 12:55 (Duration 04:10)
  • Cash Cost: S$1,213.90
  • Avios: 20,000 + £40.30 (S$72.70)
  • Value per point: 5.7 Singapore cents
  • KrisFlyer / SQ Cost: 30,500 miles* + S$47.30

* Updated to 2019 redemption rate

There are plenty of other good value Avios redemptions in the region on Cathay Pacific, like Hong Kong to Taipei for 4,500 Avios (Economy), 6,750 Avios (Premium Economy) or 9,000 Avios (Business).

Redeeming the same route on EVA Air using KrisFlyer would cost 10,000 miles (Economy) or 20,000 miles (Business), more than double the Avios levels.

The Wing and The Pier First lounges for 6,650 Avios

Avios might be your cheapest way to access Cathay Pacific’s fantastic Hong Kong First Class lounges – a redemption on Hong Kong to Taipei with Cathay Pacific in First Class will set you back 18,000 Avios + £41.60.

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Alternatively if you’re short of points you can take advantage of one of the ‘part pay with Avios’ options and redeem this flight from as little as 6,650 Avios + £176.60.

Given you can spend hours in the fantastic ‘The Wing’ and ‘The Pier’ First Class lounges in Hong Kong on this redemption, including private cabanas, spa treatments, Champagne, cocktails and a la carte dining, you might well justify this cost.

See our reviews of Cathay Pacific’s First Class lounges in Hong Kong:

Remember you are also getting a 2-hour flight in Cathay Pacific’s excellent First Class seat for this price as well. Cathay is charging S$1,520 for this one-way flight to Taipei in First.

That means 8 cents per Avios point for the 18,000 Avios option, and an insane 18 cents per point for the 6,650 Avios option, assuming you’d be willing to part with the standard First Class ticket cost from Hong Kong to Taipei.

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Japan Airlines domestic flights

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Travelling around Japan isn’t usually a cheap affair, even using their ultra high-speed train network. While there are a few low-cost airlines their cheapest fares usually sell out quickly and prices can therefore be high especially at short notice.

Here’s where using Avios points on Japan Airlines comes in. For just 4,500 Avios for shorter flights and 7,500 for longer sectors you can redeem a one-way economy ticket on JAL using Avios. For most of these flights there are literally no taxes or fees payable, and for some others a very small ‘airport usage fee’ of around S$5.

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Map of JAL Domestic Routes to and from Tokyo. (Image: JAL)

That means as little as 4,500 Avios can save you hundreds of dollars compared with buying firm tickets on these routes.

No Taxes Means No Refund Fee

Another perk of these tickets is that they are issued by British Airways, so you are subject to the BA cancellation policy, not JALs. That’s pretty simple for most award flights – a refund fee of £35 (S$63) applies. However a little-known perk, which wouldn’t normally be of interest, this fee is capped at the taxes paid on the ticket.

Since you are paying little or no taxes on these routes, the refund is basically free. Remember of course the other important BA policy still applies, you won’t get a refund of the Avios used if you cancel less than 24 hours prior to departure (so don’t do that).

There is absolutely no harm in having a few of these domestic JAL redemptions up your sleeve as a backup plan for your trip since they will cost you nothing to refund, provided you remember to do so at least 24 hours before departure, so as not to lose the Avios points themselves.

JAL Availability
Economy class award availability on JAL domestic flights is generally very good

Example Redemptions

Fukuoka (FUK) to Tokyo (HND) 2nd August 2018

  • JL308 Dep 10:00 (Duration 01:40)
  • Cash Cost: S$274.10
  • Avios: 4,500 + £2.00 (S$3.60)
  • Value per point: 6.0 Singapore cents

Tokyo (HND) to Osaka (KIX) 22nd July 2018

  • JL225 Dep 13:00 (Duration 01:20)
  • Cash Cost: S$175.80
  • Avios: 4,500 + £2.00 (S$3.60)
  • Value per point: 3.8 Singapore cents

Fukuoka (FUK) to Sapporo (CTS) 13th August 2018

  • JL3512 Dep 14:10 (Duration 02:20)
  • Cash Cost: S$408.40
  • Avios: 7,500 + £0.00
  • Value per point: 5.4 Singapore cents

Tokyo (HND) to Okinawa (OKA) 26th July 2018

  • JL991 Dep 06:10 (Duration 02:25)
  • Cash Cost: S$441.40
  • Avios: 7,500 + £2.00 (S$3.60)
  • Value per point: 5.8 Singapore cents

Generally we value Avios points at a similar level to KrisFlyer miles – around 2 Singapore cents each. As you can see in all these examples you’re getting outsized value for your Avios on JAL domestic flights.

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JAL fly the Boeing 767 on many of their domestic routes. (Photo: Masahiro Takagi)

A Snag

Here’s a snag when you try to book JAL domestic redemption tickets through the BA website. It’s programmed to always charge you the taxes via credit card payment on top of your Avios, in the same way the KrisFlyer site will charge you for the taxes there and then when you book a redemption ticket using miles.

The problem here is when you choose a city pair where no airport fee exists. Since there are no taxes levied on domestic flights in Japan the redemption is literally displayed as 4,500 Avios + £0.00 or 7,500 Avios + £0.00 in these cases, but the site is still programmed to charge you for the taxes. It will then generate an error at the payment page preventing you from ticketing the itinerary.

JAL no taxes
The kind of taxes and charges we all want to see, however this actually confuses the system and prevents you from booking the flight.

You can get around this by adding a charity donation of £1.00 when booking. If you call BA to book they apparently cannot issue an e-ticket for the routing, insist on a paper ticket (a what?), then charge you the offline service fee for the trouble! Not a method you should go down when adding a simple £1 charity donation will fix the issue and allow the booking to be made wholly online.

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Philanthropy is your key to a tax-free domestic redemption on JAL using Avios!

How about ANA using KrisFlyer?

Redeeming KrisFlyer miles for domestic flights with Star Alliance carrier ANA is a much poorer value proposition than using Avios to redeem on JAL. Largely this is because Japan is ‘lumped in’ with all the other ‘North Asia 2’ region countries (including China and South Korea for example) in the Star Alliance award chart, so all domestic redemptions fall into the same intra-region award rate of 12,500 KrisFlyer miles one-way in Economy Class.

That’s very expensive compared with 4,500 Avios (66% less) for a short domestic sector or 7,500 Avios (40% less) for a long domestic sector on JAL.

Another issue with using KrisFlyer miles for domestic redemptions in Japan is that they cannot be booked online, you must call to make the booking over the phone.

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While the KrisFlyer site will show you availability for ANA redemptions within Japan you have to call to book. An equivalent JAL flight on this route costs 4,500 Avios + £2.00 (around S$3.60).

If you are looking at a domestic flight redemption within Japan therefore and you have both an Avios and KrisFlyer balance you can clearly see how much better value the Avios/JAL method is, not to mention how much easier it will be to book.

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Qantas domestic and Trans Tasman flights

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Redeeming Qantas domestic flights within Australia and between Australia and New Zealand using Avios is often a very good value redemption costing a lot less for most routes than you would pay in Qantas Frequent Flyer miles, or with KrisFlyer miles on Virgin Australia.

Since Qantas is a oneworld partner and the BA website allows you to easily search oneworld redemptions, you’d think it would be a walk in the park to search and book these seats from the comfort of your laptop.

Well for Qantas flights it is simple – but a large number of Qantas-branded services across Australia are operated by their regional subsidiary QantasLink. While you can redeem Avios on these routes they will not show up on the search results through the BA site meaning you’ll have to call to redeem.