I tend to be a rather last minute person, and also nest many ex-LHR (and Europe) tickets to the USA. After taking advantage of a £500’ish one way British Airways Club (business class) fare during the Black Friday sale, with a return in June, I arrived in Boston without a return ticket to Europe. This brings us to the question of developing the best strategy for business class award travel USA to London.
After a few days in Boston at the Mandarin Oriental, I decided to pop down to Atlantic City to see some friends and also see for myself the state of Borgata transitioning to a MGM property. This left me with optimally finding a ticket back to London from Philadelphia (PHL) which is the closest airport to Atlantic City with daily nonstop service to London.
British Airways Avios Award PHL-LHR
I happen to really like to fly first class, and happen to like the British Airways lounge and facilities at PHL (Philadelphia International Airport). I often joke that I am “so over business class.” Which truly is a joke, since overall British Airways First Class is just a small upgrade from business class. I am very positive about the British Airways product and inflight experience, and find T5 (Terminal 5) at LHR to be one of the best in Europe.
I set an alert on ExpertFlyer.com, since there were no British Airways (first or business class) Avios award tickets available for my preferred date. Turns out that space became available within 48 hours of me setting the alert, and about 4 days prior to departure.
In truth, British Airways Avios has very high taxes on award tickets. For this route, the taxes for both Club (business class) and First Class are £357.77. In comparison a similar (SkyTeam – Delta) award with Delta SkyMiles or Flying Blue has significantly lower taxes. Even with an Avios award seat available on the date I desired, there was a better option to get from Philadelphia to London. Personally, with the taxes the same for both business class (Club) and first class awards on British Airways, some might find more value in spending more miles to redeem the first class award seat.
A Better Option
When available, Delta SkyMiles low awards (also available as Flying Blue awards) are an excellent value for one way award redemptions to Europe in business class. Before the recent devaluations to the American Airlines and United Airlines loyalty programs there were often better redemptions, but in 2017 these are turning out to be some of the better options. In this case, I would be redeeming for Delta One (Delta business class) nonstop PHL-LHR.
Instead of spending 50,000 or 68,000 Avios + £357.77 on an award ticket you can redeem an equivalent award ticket on Delta PHL-LHR for 62,500 Flying Blue award miles + €22.63 or 70,000 Delta SkyMiles + $5.60 (note : this award used to be 62,500 SkyMiles in 2016) Ironically it takes fewer Flying Blue miles instead of SkyMiles even though the award is a Delta One (business class) award.
Pro tip : Always consider miles and taxes required when transferring miles for an award ticket. For example if transferring from AMEX Membership Rewards, it might make more sense to transfer to FlyingBlue instead of Delta SkyMiles and save 7,500 miles but spend about $19.00 more in taxes. At 1cent per mile, the 7,500 miles saved would be worth around $75. Of course, this assumes similar transfer rates for Flying Blue and SkyMiles, which is not always the case for European and other international Membership Rewards programs.
Good to Have Options
As things continue to evolve in the world of Miles+Points, it is all about the options. Options to redeem the best awards with lowest taxes. Options to transfer from Miles+Points currencies like AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to the programs that have the best award redemptions. This happens to be an example that worked out “perfectly.” Exact flight day and a nonstop flight in a premium cabin. Also, having the ability to use Avios or FlyingBlue miles based on earning through flying and “quick” transfers from American Express was helpful. In this example, I happened to transfer from AMEX Membership Rewards to FlyingBlue to redeem this award ticket. After some research and coordination, I will be sitting in 1A from Philadelphia to London (PHL-LHR).