The sweet spot for Avios points redemption, be it with Iberia Airlines or British Airways or their partners, is to use them for short haul flights. You need as little as 4,500 points for a one way, plus a small fee, for example, to get from London to Dublin, Paris or Amsterdam. The same applies for Japanese and South American domestic flights, amongst a few others.
As you gathered from our previous post, we had successfully redeemed Avios points for our long haul South American flights on Iberia Airlines (Madrid to Lima, Rio to Madrid). After arriving in Lima, Peru, we need to travel on to Cusco, which is the nearest airport / city to start our Inca Trail hike.
Preamble: This article assumes that you have an existing British Airways Executive Club account and some Avios points in it.
We can either book the flights with cash or redeem our points. As usual, we would always check the cash flight first and this becomes our comparative baseline. LATAM Peru (formerly LAN Peru) and Avianca Peru (previously TACA) are the main airlines flying the Lima-Cusco route. LATAM is part of the One World Alliance, while Avianca is part of Star Alliance.
As far as the cash price is concerned, Avianca was significantly cheaper for the dates we were looking for. The base fare was cheap and included free baggage allowance of 23 kg. The fare priced at EUR 103.46 return economy class (USD 118).
On the other hand, LATAM was pricing at EUR 256.86 (USD 294) for similar flights, more than double of that of Avianca. LATAM does not give free bag allowance for the cheapest economy (Light), so we had to use the next fare level (Plus) to make an equitable comparison.
It is undisputed that if we were paying by cash, Avianca would be our choice.
As for the points redemption, we can either go for Star Alliance (Avianca) or One World (LATAM) flights. If you have Avios points from British Airways or Iberia Airlines (or even Aer Lingus), you can use them to redeem for flights operated by Latam. If you are tied to Star Alliance, you can redeem your points for Avianca’s flights through United’s MileagePlus, Air Canada’s Aeroplan, Lufthansa’s Miles and others.
We have a stash of Aeroplan points which we can redeem on Avianca, or British Airways Avios points on LATAM flights. Our search on the Aeroplan website returned a very limited flight option and with no availability for our return leg (CUZ-LIM). We priced it out anyway, just to see what the charges were.
Although the charges were quite minimal (because they are regulated), the 30,000 points required was clearly not attractive.
British Airways Avios gave an appealing option with lots of flight choices (literally all the flights for the day). For a return trip, it was only 9,000 Avios points plus C$20.60 or EUR 13.77 or USD 15.65. (My Avios and Aeroplan were priced in Canadian dollars because I have Canadian accounts.)
At this point you should know that you can also book similar flights using Avios via Iberia Plus. Although Iberia and British Airways are owned by the same company (IAG), they are not made equal. For the same routes, Iberia Plus requires 12,000 Avios points while British Airways Avios needs only 9,000. The charges are the same.
Always ensure that you check between these two programmes for the best redemption rates. In general, British Airways gives poor value for long haul redemption flights, but great for short hauls.
To summarise – Lima-Cusco-Lima:
|Points Required||Redemption Charges||Cash Price|
|British Airways Avios||9,000||EUR 13.77|
|Iberia Plus Avios||12,000||EUR 13.83|
So, it was clear that the choice should either be paying cash for the Avianca flights or redeeming British Airways Avios points for the LATAM flights.
We opted to use our British Airways Avios points for several reasons. Points are meant to be used, not saved forever. They tend to get devalued when the frequent flyer programme changes. The 9,000 points required was very good, and the charges were very palatable.
Booking your flights using British Airways Avios is simple and straight forward. Go to ba.com and login into your Executive Club account. Navigate to “Spending Avios” (under Executive Club menu) and “Book a reward flight”.
In our next post, we will investigate on how to find the most economical way to get a regional flight in South America.