British Airways Avios have become my most valuable points, pre-Avios it was for long-haul to South America, now it is for short-haul on otherwise exorbitant routes, such as New York-Toronto. I would not exclusively hold Avios but they have made possible some great trips that no one else could affordably facilitate.
My weekend trip from Melbourne to Tasmania prior to my official business trip was a cool 4,500 for the flight down and no last-minute redemption charges, though no availability for a Sunday return so had to purchase a one-way revenue trip as part of my Virgin Australia Airpass.
Business trip concluded I am starting the weekend with a flight to Ayers Rock via Sydney and then out to Brisbane, again via Sydney. Because of the connection those were 14,500 each way. That may be more than redeeming via American, I was in such a hurry I forgot to check, but with the Amex Membership Rewards transfer bonuses for Avios I should still be out ahead. Too bad the Qantas flights did not offer the Avios & Cash option because I like to stretch Avios.
To get back from Tasmania and later to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea I bought a 3-segment Virgin Australia Airpass. The savings are not breathtaking but are significant. The pass is quite flexible, no need to connect cities, it includes a checked bag, main restriction is that it requires initial purchase of 3 segments. Need to be non-Australia/New Zealand resident, address and payment method must be non-AU/NZ and must certify that you are not yet arrived in-country. I will devote a future post to this. In theory I could have redeemed Virgin Atlantic points for this but I had to book overnight and the call center was closed. At the time I could not find enough online information on how Virgin Atlantic redemptions on Virgin Australia work, if I get another shot out here I will research for the Perth-Christmas Island-Cocos (Keeling) Islands route.
Australia is cripplingly expensive and the current AUD to USD exchange rate makes it all the worse (Australian shoppers head to the US with empty suitcases and lengthy shopping lists). Hotel-wise, even Best Westerns and Choice Hotels routinely go for $150-200. I needed a hotel next to Melbourne Airport last night, the Holiday Inn was some crazy $250 or 15,000 points + $70 so I stayed at the serviceable Quality Hotel and joined Choice Privileges. With zero points in the account they upgraded me to their capacious executive room.
I have had little need for Choice Hotels in the US, usually I can get higher-end hotels for similar prices through Priceline. Since other bloggers are too snooty to dip their toe into Choice (or they know/assume the audience is small), I will take a look at the program and see what I find.
Australia has been abuzz with talk of the Qantas-Emirates tie-up. The Financial Review’s Unravelling the Qantas Frequent Flyer Code has details on the points and status ramifications. Key for Qantas flyers: if you like status, make sure that Emirates flights are coded as Qantas.