The usual conversion ratio is 1:1, so this bonus makes it an effective ratio of 1:1.5. You need to transfer a minimum of 10,000 Avion points (which would equal 15,000 Avios), but you can transfer in increments of 1 point thereafter.
RBC Avion points seem to be one of the most popular Big 5 bank points currencies in Canada, and I routinely get emails from people who seem to have accumulated hundreds of thousands of Avion points over the years, and are looking for optimal ways to redeem those points for travel, ideally in premium cabins.
Well, it doesn’t much more optimal than this 50% conversion bonus, so in this article, we’ll have a look at some of the best opportunities available to you by transferring your Avion points over to British Airways under this 50% bonus.
Before we begin, remember that if you want to earn additional RBC Avion points to take advantage of this bonus, there’s currently an offer on the RBC Visa Infinite Avion that gives you 20,000 Avion points with the First Year Free, which would effectively translate to 30,000 Avios under this bonus.
Supercharging the British Airways Avios Sweet Spots
Naturally, one of the best ways to leverage this 50% bonus is to take advantage of existing sweet spots within the Avios program (i.e., redemption opportunities that would’ve been a good deal even without the 50% bonus in place).
Prior to looking at the specifics, though, it’s worth taking some time to remind ourselves of how the British Airways Avios program works in general, because it’s quite dissimilar from many of its fellow frequent flyer programs. In particular:
Avios is a distance-based program, meaning that the number of miles you pay is somewhat proportional to the distance you fly
Avios charges you the cumulative total of the miles required for all segments on your itinerary, so in general, you are effectively penalized for having multiple connections
Avios can be redeemed on Oneworld partner airlines as well as a few select other airlines (Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, etc.); note that there are no redemption partners that fly domestically within Canada
Redemptions on select airline partners – in particular British Airways – will come with significant fuel surcharges
Award Chart for British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Vueling
Award Chart for all other airlines
Taken together, the above quirks of the program mean that Avios are generally best redeemed on direct flights instead of itineraries with connections (because of point #2 above), and within the pool of direct flights, the value is typically better when redeeming on short-haul flights rather than long-haul flights (because of point #1 above).
With all that said, let’s remind ourselves of the best sweet spots for Canadian travellers that emerge from this state of affairs, and how they can be supercharged to even greater value by the current 50% bonus from RBC Avion.
1. Toronto to Dublin for 8,667 Points in Economy or 33,333 Points in Business
Since we know that Avios imposes significant surcharges on British Airways flights (especially in premium cabins), one of the best alternatives to British Airways if you want to redeem Avios to Europe is to fly with Aer Lingus instead.
The Irish airline’s East Coast routes tend to fall within 4,000 miles in distance flown, which means that the price for a one-way flight during off-peak periods is 13,000 Avios in economy class or 50,000 Avios in business class. With the 50% transfer bonus from RBC Avion, that’s equivalent to 8,667 Avion points in economy class or 33,333 Avion points in business class, respectively.
That economy class price, in particular, is pretty jaw-dropping. Even with paid economy fares as low as they are these days, it’s still quite an incredible deal to redeem fewer than 10,000 points for a one-way transatlantic flight, especially when you consider that a single new application for the RBC Visa Infinite Avion would already earn your more than enough points for this redemption with no out-of-pocket fees.
One-way flights in business class are also very attractive at just 33,333 Avion points one-way, especially given Aer Lingus’s relative generosity in releasing business class award seats on the Toronto route.
You’ll want to consult the Aer Lingus peak/off-peak calendar to see whether your date of travel is designated as off-peak; if it’s peak, then you’ll pay higher rates of 20,000 Avios (equivalent to 13,333 Avion points with the 50% boost) in economy class, or 60,000 Avios (equivalent to 40,000 Avion points) in business class, which aren’t much worse in terms of value either.
Keep in mind that Aer Lingus flights do not show up on the online Avios search engine, so you’ll want to use either ExpertFlyer or United.com (another one of Aer Lingus’s partners) to search for availability before calling Avios to book.
2. Seattle to Dublin for 10,833 Points in Economy or 41,667 Points in Business
The Toronto–Dublin sweet spot is hugely beneficial for East Coast folks, but Western Canadians shouldn’t feel left out either – you’ll just have to make your way down to Seattle before continuing onto Dublin on Aer Lingus for 16,250 Avios in economy or 62,500 Avios in business, which correspond to 10,833 Avion points or 41,667 Avion points under the 50% bonus, respectively.
As before, these prices are valid on off-peak dates; travelling on a peak date would see the Avios price points shoot up a bit higher, but could still be worth the convenience of flying direct from the West Coast to the British Isles without having to connect via the eastern seaboard.
3. West Coast to Hawaii for 8,667 Points
Another popular Avios sweet spot is achieved through Alaska Airlines’s flights between Seattle and Hawaii, which fall under 3,000 miles in distance flown and therefore cost 13,000 Avios in economy class, which is equivalent to 8,667 RBC Avion points.
This is a spectacular deal for those who can easily make their way down to the Seattle area. For example, you could bring your family of four over to Hawaii for just under 70,000 RBC Avion points round-trip – as a point of comparison, Aeroplan would charge you 80,000 miles just to fly two people over!
Like Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines flights don’t show up on the Avios search engine, so you could use ExpertFlyer to search for award space (look for Alaska’s “saver” space to identify the flights that would be bookable via Avios) and then call Avios to book.
4. North America Short-Haul, Starting at 6,000 Avion Points
American Airlines short-haul flights can be a great use of your Avios, providing that you can find availability (which isn’t always easy). Routes like Vancouver–Los Angeles, Toronto–Charlotte, or Montreal–New York usually cost 9,000 Avios one-way in economy class.
But with the 50% conversion bonus from RBC Avion, those rates get slashed as low as 6,000 Avion points one-way, which is an extremely compelling price for a quick weekend getaway.
Looking beyond North America, I’ve found American Airlines redemptions to present good value when travelling to the Caribbean and Latin America as well, particularly around popular travel periods like Reading Week or March Break.
During these periods, the cost of cash flights tend to inflate, but it’s not uncommon to still see up to seven award seats on American’s flights from Miami to the various Caribbean islands. Transferring your RBC Avion points over to Avios prior to December 15 can therefore give you a huge boost towards planning your southbound getaway for early 2020.
5. Oneworld Short-Haul, Starting at 4,000 Avion Points
Of course, the short-haul sweet spot can be generalized to Oneworld short-haul flights all over the world because of Avios’s distance-based nature, with one important difference: whereas flights within North America cost at least 9,000 Avios in economy class, Oneworld flights elsewhere in the world begin at 6,000 Avios for the lowest distance band (fewer than 650 flown miles), and that equates to 4,000 Avion points under the 50% bonus.
The possibilities for cheap side-trips all over the world are endless: you could use this supercharged sweet spot to hop around the Middle East on Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian, Australia on Qantas, South East Asia on Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines, or Japan on Japan Airlines, just to name a few.
And we haven’t even considered flights operated by British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Vueling, which are subject to an even more favourable award chart that begins at only 4,000 Avios in economy class or 7,750 Avios in business class (and therefore a staggeringly low 2,666 or 5,167 Avion points, respectively) for off-peak flights in the lowest distance band!
One of my personal favourite uses of Avios is on short-haul British Airways flights from Zurich, Geneva, or Frankfurt to London, which allows me to avoid the hefty UK Air Passenger Duty that I’d otherwise have to pay if I booked long-haul flights straight out of London.
Imagine paying just 5,167 Avion points for business class on these flights, which gets you lounge access, additional checked bags, and fast-track immigration – that’s like paying Ryanair prices for a seamless business class experience!
Time-Sensitive: 10–50% Avios Discount on British Airways Flights
Not only does the RBC Avion 50% bonus amplify the existing Avios sweet spots as described above, but it actually coincides with another potentially lucrative promotion that Avios is running right now (which I probably should’ve gotten around to writing about earlier, but hey, better late than never…)
In particular, for bookings made by November 21, 2019 and for travel through April 30, 2020, the Avios prices of British Airways flights will be slashed by 50% in economy class or premium economy, and by 10% in business class or First Class.
If you were to stack this promotion with the RBC 50% transfer bonus, you’re effectively going to be booking British Airways economy class or premium economy class tickets at one-third of the usual Avios price point, which is an incredible opportunity that almost certainly will not be seen again for quite some time.
The question remains, though, as to whether you should be redeeming Avios for British Airways long-haul flights in the first place, because of the carrier surcharges that Avios imposes on these flights. Nevertheless, the good news is that the fuel surcharges aren’t too bad on economy class and premium economy class, and that’s where the larger 50% discount is being offered.
For example, Toronto–London would usually cost 13,000 Avios in economy or 26,000 Avios in premium economy on off-peak dates, and with the time-sensitive 50% discount applied, they’ll only cost 6,500 Avios or 13,000 Avios. And on top of that, if we were to take advantage of the 50% bonus from RBC Avion, then we’re really only spending 4,267 or 8,667 Avion points, respectively, for the one-way journey.
(Let’s just pause here, before we talk about the fuel surcharges, and think about those numbers for a second. You can redeem fewer than 5,000 points for a transatlantic flight – that’s just downright bizarre when you spell it out.)
So, how much are the fuel surcharges here? About $260 or $300, respectively, in economy and premium economy.
But when you consider that 8,667 Avion points is practically nothing in the world of redeeming points for travel (where most serious international redemptions go for much higher), the $300 in surcharges really doesn’t seem too bad at all for a transatlantic flight in premium economy, does it?
Besides Toronto, I actually think that this opportunity would be especially well-suited to those of you living in either Vancouver or Montreal, where you have the option of booking the direct British Airways flight to London, but would need to book separate positioning flights if you wanted to take advantage of other Avios sweet spots to Europe.
Under ordinary circumstances, you might be hesitant about redeeming Avios for the direct British Airways flight, but with a 50% discount and a 50% transfer bonus in play, the value proposition may well have shifted dramatically.
And as the cherry on top, British Airways is known to be extremely generous with award availability, so you shouldn’t have any issues simply logging into your Avios account, searching for your desired British Airways flights (which should reflect the 50% discount until November 21), and booking right then and there.
If you’d like to combine the 50% discount on British Airways flights with the 50% RBC bonus, but you haven’t actually converted your RBC Avion points yet, then you need to take action today. RBC to British Airways transfers typically take two business days to complete, and that November 21 deadline on the former promotion is fast approaching.
Other Redemption Ideas
Because of point #2 that I mentioned above – namely, the fact that Avios penalizes you for having connections on your itinerary by charging you the cumulative price of each segment – it’s usually considered impractical to “stitch together” multiple segments on a single Avios itinerary the way one might stitch together, say, an Aeroplan one.
But the 50% bonus could definitely move the needle here. As an example, I was recently helping a Points Consulting client who wanted to redeem her Avion points for a flight to Tel Aviv in business class, with a stopover somewhere in Europe.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using Avios in ordinary circumstances, I ran a few searches and realized that redeeming Avios was very much a realistic possibility in this scenario.
A Toronto–Dublin flight in business class would cost 50,000 Avios, followed by Dublin–Madrid (20,500 Avios) and then Madrid–Tel Aviv (31,250 Avios) on Iberia. In total, she’d pay 101,750 Avios, but with the 50% transfer bonus, that’s equivalent to only 67,900 RBC Avion points – which is a very favourable rate to be paying for a one-way flight to Israel in business class!
As a point of comparison, Aeroplan would charge you 82,500 miles for the one-way journey between North America and the Middle East; furthermore, a “stitched-together” Avios redemption usually consists of entirely separate reservations for each segment, which effectively allows you to build as many stopovers as you’d like at any intermediate point along the journey.
So even if your travel goals don’t exactly align with the “best of the best” Avios sweet spots as described above, see if you can try your hand at putting together a journey on your own, since it would likely still represent an excellent use of your RBC Avion points.
Taking this one step further, another idea might be to make use of the Avios Oneworld multi-carrier award chart, which takes effect when you have two or more Oneworld partner airlines on the same itinerary.
These tickets need to be booked over the call centre, and may require a fair bit of effort to put together, but can deliver truly unparalleled value if redeemed in the right way – especially with a 50% bonus bringing down the already generous mileage rates even further.
The 50% bonus from RBC Avion to British Airways Avios is turning out to be one of the most useful transfer bonuses we’ve seen in a long time, especially given how easy it is to rack up RBC Avion points quickly and the fortuitous overlap between this promotion and Avios’s very own 50%-off promotion on economy and premium economy tickets.
I hope many of you are able to take advantage of the transfer bonus sometime before December 15, especially those of you who’ve accumulated a healthy stash of Avion points over the years and are looking to redeem them for maximum value!
(Banner photo by OneMoreWeekToGo)