It’s no surprise that the success stories I received this month have been less about life-changing trips that people have taken, and more about upcoming trips that people have booked for the future.
The Reader Success Story for May 2020 highlights Prince of Travel reader MacKenzie M.’s success with the British Airways Avios multi-carrier award, one of the most compelling sweet spots all around, for a trip to Asia later this year.
Many readers have asked for additional data points about this sweet spot since I booked my own Avios multi-carrier award earlier this year, and you can read about MacKenzie’s experience, lightly edited for style, below.
I am a long-time reader, but this is my first time interacting with you or the site. It has been a fantastic source of guidance and inspiration and played a huge role in me being able to book the below itinerary!
My girlfriend and I have always been huge fans of Far Eastern cuisine and our two absolute favourites are Japanese and Thai. Neither of us had been to Thailand or Japan, and we were both very interested in going.
We began accumulating points with cards that had zero or very low fees. We weren’t sure if we would redeem through Aeroplan or Avios, so we did all the low hanging fruit for both programs (RBC Avion, TD Aeroplan, and CIBC Aerogold).
Once those were tapped out, we both got the Amex Gold Rewards Card, as well as one Amex Platinum Card between the two of us. The fees on these cards were a little more intimidating, especially since I had never done a reward flight booking and was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get value out of the programs.
As I started racking up the points, I had to start thinking which rewards program I would use. The moment I read your Avios multi-carrier award chart article, I thought that this was the thing to do! Not to mention that Amex MR and RBC Avion have frequent Avios transfer bonuses of 30–50% as well, which we took full advantage of when transferring over our points.
At first, when I was planning my route, I tried going via the Middle East with Qatar Airways with a layover in Doha (as my girlfriend has family there), but the fees were in the range of $1,200 per person. So I said, forget that, and began looking at the Asia-based carriers. I thought the fees would be lower based on the various articles that I read – and they sure were!
The route I was able to book was as follows, originating out of Toronto:
Toronto to Dallas is with American Airlines in business class. Then Dallas to Tokyo Haneda and then onwards to Bangkok is Japan Airlines business class – that gives us the two non-British Airways carriers that we needed to make this a multi-carrier award.
Interestingly, the Bangkok to Hong Kong segment is a Royal Jordanian fifth-freedom flight in business class, so that should be fun!
I then tried to look for Cathay Pacific business class space on the way back, but unfortunately we didn’t find any award space and we weren’t too flexible with the return date, so I had to book the last leg of the journey (Hong Kong–Toronto) in economy class.
Obviously, all business class would be better, but hey some business class is better than nothing. The fees for this route were only $522 in total ($261 per person). So, the total costs (including credit card fees) came to $780 per person.
I can’t imagine finding this itinerary in economy, much less mostly in business for that price! Looking on Google, the rough price of these flights was $11,000, so I think I came out way ahead.
I think I was justified in using Avios over Aeroplan for this booking, as it allowed me to stop in three cities (Tokyo, Bangkok, and Hong Kong) compared to the two cities that I could’ve visited with Aeroplan after they changed the rules. This is on top of the fact we used the 30–50% transfer bonuses to get our Avios points, making it an even bigger no-brainer. I know the last flight is in economy, but I have only ever flown in economy before so I am sure I can handle returning to my “economy roots” on the last flight.
The trip is planned for October. I know things are a little crazy in the world right now, but we will see what it looks like in five months’ time. Worst case scenario, I have up to 24 hours before my first flight to cancel for a fee of only $58 per person, so it’s not terribly inconvenient on the wallet.
I’m very thankful to you and the other site contributors for giving me a lot of information and please keep up the great work!
However, data points about successful bookings and valid routings still seem to be few and far between, so it’s great to hear from a reader who managed to get it all done.
Compared to the sweet spots that we’re more familiar with, the Avios multi-carrier award definitely makes you think in new and more creative ways.
Remember that you need to combine at least two Oneworld airlines other than British Airways in the same itinerary, in order to price everything according to the multi-carrier chart rather than the regular Avios chart.
The generous stopover policy is also hugely attractive, as you can have up to seven stopovers on the entire ticket (indeed, since the number of segments is limited to eight, that means that you can have a stopover of extended duration between every flight that you take).
For me, this is a great way to check out cities that I might not otherwise spend the time or money trying to visit as a destination itself. For example, MacKenzie didn’t mention if the Dallas stop on his trip is a quick layover or a stopover of a few days’ time, but if it were me, I’d choose to stop in Dallas for a few days since I’m not sure when else I’d be visiting Dallas and seeing what it’s all about.
That eight-segment limit is definitely stricter than, say, the Aeroplan Mini-RTW’s 16-segment later, though. This means that your Avios multi-carrier award will produce best results if you focus on long direct flights rather than short connecting segments, as the latter would quickly eat into your allowed number of segments.
Fuel surcharges is also something to pay attention to. British Airways and Qatar Airways tend to be the worst offenders when it comes to surcharges, and as MacKenzie’s experience demonstrates, removing Qatar Airways and focusing on the Asian airlines (among which Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines will no doubt provide the best experience) lowered the surcharges significantly.
And in terms of the allowable routings on Avios multi-carrier awards, MacKenzie’s trip was a relatively straightforward round-trip to Asia, and it’s my understanding that your routing must indeed be “logical” for the ticket to be issued successfully. That is to say that a round-the-world trip like Americas–Europe–Asia–Americas should be possible, but something like Americas–Europe–Asia–Americas–Asia wouldn’t be allowed.
No matter where you’re headed, though, the Avios multi-carrier award can provide spectacular value and allow you to try out some of Oneworld’s best premium products along the way. Take a look at the award chart, play around with optimizing your routings, and give the British Airways call centre a ring to see what works and what doesn’t.
Thanks for sharing, MacKenzie, and I’ll be sending you 5,000 Aeroplan miles as a reward to get you closer towards the next big trip after this one!
And if you’d like your story to be featured too, send me an email with “[Success Story]” in the subject line for a chance to be selected for the June edition!