British Airways 5th Freedom Flight Trinidad – St Lucia

If you are island hopping around the Caribbean for birding, you need to visit some of the smaller islands that aren’t quite so easy to get to with miles.  More about that later.  But if you need to go to both Trinidad & St Lucia, both birding hotspots you are in luck!  You can book a flight on British Airways for a mere 4500 Avios!  It’s a huge 777 with full service and business class if you want to spring for 9000 Avios.

I didn’t have enough Avios for business but I did get a quick look at the cabin as we passed through.


Somehow I managed to snag the first row of economy (maybe an elite got upgraded) and the roominess was a real luxury which I appreciated for the 1 hour flight.dscn3997

Look at all that legroom!dscn4004

My “office”!dscn4005

The flight was spot on time and we soon landed at St Lucia’s larger Hewanorra (UVF) airport.  dscn4006

Airline Review: Comair (British Airways), South Africa

Considering what a bargain these flights are with Avios, I was very pleasantly surprised at what a great airline South Africa’s Comair is!

Business class is basically Euro-business, a normal economy row with the middle seat blocked.  You do get better food though.  Since these flights are never more than a few hours, unless you really want to burn some Avios, I would stick with economy which is also very comfortable and has decent meal service.

IMG_2594 IMG_2595 IMG_3578 IMG_3579 IMG_3580

In most cases, you will be boarding and dis-embarking via staircases so plan your carry-ons accordingly.  We use backpacks so this was no problem.IMG_3577

Bargain Flights Around Southern Africa With Avios

If you are heading to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia or Mauritius, Avios are your best friend!  British Airway’s subsidiary, Comair has a good network in the region.


Use GC Mapper to find out the mileage on each route.


Use the Avios Award Chart to see how many Avios for each segment.  In the example above, you can see that Jo-burg to Durban, Port Elizabeth, Victoria Falls and Harare are in the 1st zone and cost 4500 Avios.  Jo-burg to Windhoek or Cape Town cost 7500 Avios and Mauritius costs 10,000 Avios.  All flights are easily booked online.


ALERT – Iberia Devalues Avios Without Notice, Could BA Be Next? (False Alarm)

UPDATE:  Thankfully this has been proven a false alarm.  Iberia’s award chart has always been the same since they converted to the Avios system, it just hadn’t been published in chart form before.  British Airways has confirmed they don’t have plans to devalue Avios.


This is all over Feedly (various blogs) and Flyertalk but I’m hat-tipping Matt from Saverocity for alerting me first, a good reason to subscribe to his newsletter!

Avios are a favourite miles currency of mine for use in South America on LAN, and can save you a bundle on intra-Peru fares!  I personally would also use them on Qantas for short-haul flights and on Comair (BA partner in South Africa) for my upcoming African adventure.

The current chart on British Airways (and Iberia up to today) was very attractive for short-haul, though once you get over 2000 miles into the 10k Avios zone you are probably better off with American AAdvantage miles.


Here is the new chart posted on Iberia’s website.  The same rates apply to non OneWorld partners Avianca, Taca and a few others.  Currently redemptions on Iberia and British Airways are the same as the old chart above.

Iberia only allows round-trip redemptions on partners so if British Airways follows suit, the rates below would be half that for a one-way since they do allow one-way redemptions on partners.  Awards under 600 miles will cost 9750 Avios.  601-1000 miles will cost 12000 Avios.  At this point, most redemptions with Avios cease to be a good deal  and you are better off with American AAdvantage (providing THEY don’t devalue)!  Bear in mind that BA charges YQ fuel surcharges on most partners and AA doesn’t.

If you have travel planned up to July 2015 requiring use of Avios, I recommend you book it asap!

New Iberia Chart


LAN flights under 2000 miles within South America, also routes that AA has across two zones such as LIM-VVI (Lima to Santa Cruz, Bolivia).

Qantas flights under 2000 miles (must be QF metal, no Jetstar or codeshares).

BA flights on Comair within South Africa, I also used them for JNB-MRU as the taxes are cheaper using Avios.



Alert: Possible Savings On British Airways Flights For US Dividend Miles Going Away

I have already blogged about US Airways leaving Star Alliance and joining OneWorld.  This means that awards to certain destinations popular with eco-tourists now have to be booked with British Airways as they are the only OneWorld partner flying there.  Typical routes affected would be:

  • Europe to Central/South America  (you can use Iberia or LAN on some of these)
  • North America/Europe to Africa
  • Europe to Asia or Australia

British Airways adds exorbitant fuel surcharges to its awards.  Up to now there has been a glitch in which the YQ fuel surcharge has not been added.  Just this morning, a major US-based blogger (TPG) who is monitored by the airlines blogged about the glitch.   It is now just a matter of time that US Airways will shut it down and start adding YQ charges.  If you are planning an award that involves British Airways, NOW is the time to book it!  Here is an example of what it looks like:

Search on Chicago to Johannesburg

The fuel surcharge on this ticket is highlighted in yellow.


Currently US Airways is not charging this YQ tax.  You still have to pay the gov’t taxes regardless of how you buy the ticket.

If you want to go to South Africa and need to use British Airways, you can currently save the $500 – that buys a few days of safaris!  Once the glitch is fixed, which most people think will happen within a day or two, you will have to pay the $500 even when redeeming an award.

Bottom line:  If your dream award using US Dividend Miles involves British Airways, book now, don’t delay!

Airline Alliance References – One World


Air Berlin (AB)

American Airlines  (AA)

British Airways  (BA)

Cathay Pacific  (CX)

Finnair (AY)

Iberia  (IB)

Japan Airlines (JL)


Malaysia Airlines (MH)

Qantas  (QF)

Qatar Airways (QR)

Royal Jordanian  (RJ)

S7 (S7)

SriLankan Airlines (UL) – 1 May 2014


US Airways (US)


If you are new to miles and points, the best thing is to figure out which one of these programs will offer the best redemptions at the lowest cost in both miles and taxes.  Some airlines have fuel surcharges which can add a substantial cost to your award ticket.  From the One World airlines, I use  American Airlines,  Qantas, British Airways and Iberia.  No matter where you live in the world, it will probably work out best for you to use American’s AAdvantage program to accumulate your miles unless you are seeking status with an airline you frequently fly on.  I am expecting that people attracted to this blog will be the sort who travel for leisure and are saving up for an aspirational trip to one of the great ecotourism spots in the world.   If you are based in the USA (or even an expat American like me)  it’s pretty easy to get huge credit card sign up bonuses and if you are based elsewhere, you can use American Express Membership Rewards to transfer to AA via Starwood’s SPG program.

Since I live in Australia, I also have Qantas because I get points simply for shopping at Woolworths and linking my phone and internet with Optus to them.  Gotta love free points that just come from day to day living!

British Airways and Iberia both use Avios which can be excellent value for short hop awards such as domestic awards in the USA on American and Alaska Airways,  Australia on Qantas and South America on LAN.

These links are also good if you want to check out an airline’s route map to see where they fly, join their frequent flyer program and see what you can do to earn miles by flying on partners, staying in hotel partners and patronizing their other partners such as credit cards, shopping malls, phone companies and survey companies.

This is a just a very brief overview of the One World alliance and there is so much more to learn.  The best source of information is on FlyerTalk where each airline has its own forum, most forums have wikis or “read this first” posts to get you started.  I will be going into some programs more in depth as the subject relates to building your ecotourism dream trip.