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Ultimate Honeymoon: The Caribbean for Free with British Airways Avios
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Ultimate Honeymoon: The Caribbean for Free with British Airways Avios

by jeffreyFebruary 21, 2014
TEST

Why the Caribbean?

Here’s our fourth installment in the Ultimate Honeymoon series: the Caribbean.

the-caribbean-map

The Caribbean is a highly desirable place for honeymooners from the US:

  1. It has world class beaches, snorkeling, scuba diving–all that one might want on the traditional honeymoon
  2. The proximity to the US makes it easy and (relatively) cheap
  3. On certain islands, you could split your time between beaches and exploring tropical rain-forests, but it might be hard to pry you away from that pristine beach.
  4. At a max of 2-5 hours from the US, it’s just so convenient

How to Get There:

Pay for Airfare

Deciding which island in the Caribbean will probably be the hardest part of your planning–there are just so many choices. To throw out a few data points on airfare, U.S. to:

  • Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Jamaica etc… ≈ $519 – $670
  • Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Saint Vincent, Sint Maarten etc… ≈ $690 – $1,120
Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 9.28.50 AM

Sample cash airfare prices

So, yes, heading just a few hours to the southeast of America can easily cost you $1,000+ per person! Now here’s how to do it with airline miles (for free!):

Use British Airways Avios miles/points

The first thing to know about British Airways Avios points is that, because British Airways is a member of the Oneworld Alliance, you can use its points to book flights on American Airlines. The great news is that American Airlines basically has a monopoly on flights to and within the Caribbean.

Furthermore, British Airways/Iberia Avios miles are :  on the surface, it seems like you’re getting a bad deal on award redemptions. But, as with anything involving miles, it opens up possibilities to find great values on non-stop short distance flights.

Partner awards that especially interest me are the direct flights from Miami on AA. In many cases, Miami ends up being a short hop to exotic and foreign destinations. A big thing I look for when I travel is to get away from what’s familiar and comfortable — and you don’t necessarily have to travel across the globe to achieve that. Using your British Avios to book on American Airlines can be your answer to a relatively inexpensive honeymoon in this part of the world.

Benefits of using British Airways Avios to consider when researching:

  • As briefly stated above, British Airways’ award chart has some great values for getting from the U.S. to the Caribbean:Avios-award-Chart

How to get British Airways Avios

  • Earn 50k Avios by signing up for a Chase/British Airways credit card:Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 9.49.20 AM
  • You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Avios (see bottom of post for tutorial on transferring). Points transfer at a ratio of 1:1 so you’d need in the ball park of 18,000 to 80,000, depending on distance and if travel is in economy or business class. Currently, the best American Express signup bonus is for the Premier Rewards Gold card with a bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points–not a great deal. It’s been 50,000 – 75,000 points in the past, so you might want to wait for that offer again:

    Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 10.46.29 AM

    Not the best signup bonus but still useful if you need AMEX points

Sample Itinerary

Sample dates of: Monday, Sept 15 to Monday, Sep 22

Day 1: Dept New York-JFK to Antigua-ANU
Day 1-4: Relax on Antigua
Day 4: Fly from Antigua-ANU to Tobago-TAB
Day 4-6: Explore Tobago
Day 6: Take early morning ferry from Tobago to Port Of Spain. Sightsee a bit before taking a flight from Port Of Spain-POS to Miami-MIA. Spend the night in South Beach.
Day 7: Fly from Miami-MIA to Newark-EWR.

nyc-anu-tab-mia

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 5.31.09 PM

Price to book this itinerary with $cash x 2 = $3,108 for a couple

nyc-anu-tab

Total Avios miles needed: 64,000 Avios + $255 total for 2 people

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 5.51.37 PM

Analysis = return of 3.86 cents/mile on your BA Avios or AMEX Membership Rewards points is pretty awesome.

Destinations Leaving New York


View AAtoCaribbeanOnly-FromNYC in a larger map

legend

Dept Arrive MilesZoneRT EconRT Biz
JFKNew York - KennedyBDABermuda, Bermuda 762215,00030,000
JFKNew York - KennedyPAPPort Au Prince, Haiti 1530320,00040,000
JFKNew York - KennedySJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico 1603320,00040,000
JFKNew York - KennedySTTSaint Thomas, U.S.V.I1629320,00040,000
JFKNew York - KennedySKBSt Kitts, St Kitts and Nevis 1743320,00040,000
JFKNew York - KennedyANUAntigua, Antigua and Barbuda 1779320,00040,000
EWRNewark, NJ CURCuracao, Netherlands Antilles 1997320,00040,000
JFKNew York - KennedyBGIBridgetown, Barbados 2094425,00050,000

Destinations Leaving Dallas-Ft. Worth-DFW


View AAtoCaribbeanONLY-DFW in a larger map

legend

Dept Arrive MilesZoneRT EconRT Biz
DFWDallas/Ft. WorthMBJMontego Bay, Jamaica 1548320,00040,000
DFWDallas/Ft. WorthPLSProvidenciales, Turks and Caicos1699320,00040,000
DFWDallas/Ft. WorthSJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico 2166425,00050,000

Destinations Leaving Miami-MIA


View AAtoCaribbeanONLY-MIA in a larger map

legend

Dept Arrive MilesZoneRT EconRT Biz
MIAMiami, FLFPOFreeport, Bahamas 11219,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLNASNassau, Bahamas - Paradise Island 18319,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLMHHMarsh Harbour, Bahamas 20519,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLELHEleuthera Island, Bahamas 22619,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLGGTGeorge Town, Bahamas 32619,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLGCMGrand Cayman, Cayman Islands 45519,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLMBJMontego Bay, Jamaica 52719,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLPLSProvidenciales, Turks and Caicos57919,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLKINKingston, Jamaica58819,00018,000
MIAMiami, FLPAPPort Au Prince, Haiti 714215,00030,000
FLLFt. LauderdalePAPPort Au Prince, Haiti 721215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLPOPPuerto Plata, Dominican Republic 740215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLSTISantiago, Dominican Republic 752215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLBZEBelize City, Belize - International 769215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLRTBRoatan, Honduras 769215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLSDQSanto Domingo, DR849215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLSAPSan Pedro Sula, Honduras 869215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLLRMLa Romana, Dominican Republic 890215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLPUJPunta Cana, Dominican Republic 911215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLBDABermuda, Bermuda 1045215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLSJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico 1046215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLSTTSaint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 1108215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLAUAAruba, Aruba 1137215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLSTXSaint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands 1140215,00030,000
MIAMiami, FLCURCuracao, Netherlands Antilles 1196320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLSXMSaint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles 1224320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLSKBSt Kitts, St Kitts and Nevis 1271320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLANUAntigua, Antigua and Barbuda 1333320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLPTPPointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe 1376320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLFDFFort De France, Martinique 1469320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLUVFSt. Lucia, St. Lucia - Hawnorra 1506320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLGNDGrenada, Grenada, 1540320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLBGIBridgetown, Barbados 1613320,00040,000
MIAMiami, FLPOSPort of Spain, Trinidad 1624320,00040,000

Intra-Caribbean Flights with Avios

British Airways flies a surprisingly large number of routes within the Caribbean.  These options can save you hundreds of dollars if you’re interested in doing some island hopping and really opens up your possibilities. Here are the destinations served:

intra-carib

Legend: Red = British Airways operated flights (confirmed bookable with Avios)
Green = Codeshare American Airlines, operated by Seaborne Airlines (confirmed bookable with AA miles, not positive about Avios)

As stated in the caption, any flight in Red on the map or with a designation of BA in the below chart is 100% bookable with British Airways Avios miles. All of the flights are under the 651 miles threshold and therefore qualify as “Zone 1” and will only require 4,500 Avios miles for a one-way flight.

The flights in Green are operated by Seaborne Airlines and codeshared as American Airlines flights. The American Airlines site confirms that you can book Seaborne Airlines flights with American AAdvantage miles (link): “Use AAdvantage miles to book award travel on Seaborne flights to or from San Juan, Puerto Rico and the routes noted below, with the AAdvantage participating airline awards. These awards allow travel on any combination of AAdvantage participating carriers.” It does state that, to book a flight, you’ll have to call the American Airlines reservation line to inquire about award availability and to book. A quick search on AA.com confirmed that the award space isn’t visible online. When I searched for British Airways Avios space on one of the Seaborne Airlines routes, San Juan-SJU to Fort-de-France-FDF, it came back that the route isn’t operated by BA or any of its partner airlines. This could mean that it is not possible to book the Seaborne Airlines routes with Avios or that you simply have to call British Airways to book– in the same way you must call AA to book with their miles.

Dept Arrive MilesZoneOW EconCarrier
ANUAntigua, Antigua and Barbuda SKBSt Kitts and Nevis 6214,500BA
GNDGrenada, Grenada, UVFSt. Lucia13114,500BA
UVFSt. LuciaPOSPort of Spain, Trinidad 21714,500BA
PLSProvidenciales, Turks & CaicosNASNassau, Bahamas39914,500BA
TABTobago, Trinidad and Tobago ANUAntigua41714,500BA
ANUAntigua, Antigua and Barbuda PUJPunta Cana, DR44414,500BA
GCMGrand CaymanNASNassau, Bahamas46714,500BA
------------------------
SJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico VQSVieques, Puerto Rico 3914,500AA/BB
SJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico EISBeef Island, BVI9614,500AA/BB
SJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico VIJVirgin Gorda, BVI10314,500AA/BB
SJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico PTPPointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe33114,500AA/BB
SJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico DOMDominica, DR36914,500AA/BB
SJUSan Juan, Puerto Rico FDFFort De France, Martinique 42414,500AA/BB

Here’s a quick comparison of how much money you could save by booking one of these routes with points instead of $cash$:

uvf-pos

Sample booking and analysis for one-way flight from Saint Lucia-UVF to Port Of Spain, Trinidad-POS on Oct 13

anu-puj

Analysis for one-way flight from Antigua-ANU to Punta Cana, Dominican-PUJ on Oct 8 = great value of 4.83 cents return on your Avios!

How to Book an American Airlines Award with British Airways Avios

  1. Search AA.com –> Book Award Travel for available dates. If you’ve made your mind up on a destination, then search until you find dates that will work and make notes. If you’re flexible on destination but have fixed dates, then I suggest searching all of the routes and making detailed notes– this will help you put the puzzle together later. Full guide on searching American Airlines availability.
  2. If you don’t already have the miles, Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to BA AviosScreen Shot 2013-05-17 at 6.07.24 PM

  3. Login to BritishAirways.com –> Executive Club –> Spending Avios –> Book flights with Avios and search the exact dates and cities you found from the AA website. If all is well, you should find your flights. Proceed through the booking process.
    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.38.44 PMScreen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.39.42 PM
    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.39.59 PM
    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.41.11 PM.png
    I always select the top choice which represents points due + taxes only. Any of the choices further down are essentially giving you a choice to buy Avios for 1.3 cents. Some might see this as a good deal, others not. Personally, I skipped it because, with the promo going on, I can transfer AMEX points to BA Avios at a cheaper price than buying those same miles for 1.3 cents/Avios. For example, if you expect to earn 1.5 cents/points on your AMEX and you add in the 35% bonus, you’ll find that you can transfer AMEX miles to Avios at a cost of 1.11 cents/point vs buying them for 1.3 cents.
  4. All done! You can now head back to AA.com and add the new itinerary to your account by searching the flights and dates. This should load up your full reservation in the American Airlines system and allow you to review and pick your seats.

BOTTOM LINE: Using British Airways Avios miles could be your answer to free honeymoon flights to crystal clear waters and great beaches without having to travel too far from home.

Distance based awards differ from normal awards in that the number of miles required varies upon the distance travelled. Often times, with British Airways Avios for example, it is based on distance by each segment. Traditional awards have specific values for each region, for example a Delta award from ANYWHERE in the US to ANYWHERE in Europe is 60k in economy.

About The Author
jeffrey
jeffrey