Domestic Flight Options Using Ultimate Rewards

I hope everyone here in the U.S. had a great 4th of July! I used some of my points towards cheap domestic flights for the holiday. This information will not be new for any frequent points travelers, but for those new to the game hopefully it will help. I had read quite a few blog posts on how to book cheap point-based domestic flights, but this was my first attempt.

The standard awards on United, Delta, US or American Airlines tend to be above 20,000 miles roundtrip (with some variation) for domestic flights. That’s a significant amount of miles that could be put towards a future business or first class flight to somewhere far away! So I looked into some cheaper options. I had heard of using Avios to fly on British Airways, but had never tried. British Airways award flights can be booked as distance-based awards. The shortest British Airways distance-based award cost is 4,500 Avios – or 4,500 Chase Ultimate Reward points since they transfer directly. Luckily the flight I was interested in fit within this range. To see how many Avios your flight would require, you can use the calculator on the British Airways site here. You can use Avios to book flights on British Airways partner airlines, and in this case I booked a flight on American Airlines. In order to book the flight, I transferred 5,000 (increments of 1,000) Ultimate Reward points into my British Airways Executive Club account to convert them to Avios. The transfer was almost instantaneous. I then went to the British Airways website and was quickly able to book the flight I wanted – and even booked it for someone else flying as the passenger and had no problems whatsoever. All I had to do was use my account and put the passenger’s details in for the flight. The only downside was that we were unable to choose a seat until check-in. In the end, the flight down cost 4,500 Avios and $2.66.

Unfortunately, American Airlines does not fly out of the airport I wanted to book the return flight from. The good news is that Airtran does. Airtran flights are bookable through Southwest. And guess what? Southwest is a direct transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards as well! “Wanna get away” fares are very reasonable for points-based travel through Southwest Rapid Rewards. The direct flight I wanted was 6,180 Rapid Rewards points for a Wanna Get Away fare, along with $2.50. Not as good as the 4,500 for the British Airways award, but still much better than 10,000+ required by other airlines! Similarly to the British Airways point transfer, the Southwest Rapid Reward points appeared almost immediately. I was able to book an Airtran flight for another passenger by simply entering their details after logging into my account. We were again unable to choose a seat until check-in.

For both options it was a simple matter of logging into Ultimate Rewards and selecting the travel partner to transfer points to, and I highly recommend either option! Ultimate Reward points can come from 5x spending at Office Stores using the Ink Bold or Ink Plus. In which case they can be “manufactured” by purchasing $200 gift cards for $6.95. Using this method to replace the points would mean the British Airways flight would cost $33.94 and the Southwest flight $45.45 including taxes.  Since most flights tend to be $180 and up for this route, I was very pleased with the two options to get a domestic flight for about $80.

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About Rebecca

I'm an engineer who is new to the points game. Hoping to share my discoveries as I collect points to travel the world.

One response to “Domestic Flight Options Using Ultimate Rewards”

  1. thewanderingaramean says :

    The BA site is pretty bad at calculating the points required if a connection is involved. I built a site/tool to help with those calculations: http://www.wandr.me/Avios-Calculator.aspx. It is surprising sometimes how shifting the connection point can change the award costs, not necessarily how you’d think it should.

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