Ranking Most of Atlanta’s Starwood Hotels – 2013 Edition

Last week I completed a stay at my 7th different Atlanta area Starwood hotel since January 1, 2013.  In fact, this was my 10th different Starwood hotel nationwide for 2013 (The other 3 were Sheraton Chattanooga, aLoft Asheville, Four Points Sheraton Asheville).  The Atlanta hotels have a lot to choose from and to offer, and vary greatly on location, “WOW Factor”, quality of product, quality of service, and platinum breakfast offering.  I will rank them on these crude criteria on a 0 – 5 scale, with 0 being awful, and 5 being best in class.  The contenders are, in no particular order:

Location

  • 5 – Westin Atlanta Buckhead
  • 4.5 – W Atlanta Buckhead
  • 4 – W Atlanta Midtown
  • 3.5 – Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter
  • 3 – Westin Atlanta Perimeter North
  • 3 – W Atlanta Downtown
  • 1.5 – Sheraton Atlanta Galleria

Buckhead is no doubt the entertainment and nightlife capital of Atlanta.  Sure, Midtown, Little Five Points, Inman Park, West Midtown, Vinings, and the suburbs all have some nightlife and entertainment to offer too.  However, Buckhead gives you the highest concentration of this stuff.  The Westin Buckhead is slightly closer to Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza, which gives it the location edge over the W Buckhead.  The W Midtown has decent walkability, including Piedmont Park, and many restaurants, and clubs.  And all the Buckhead and Midtown properities are walkable to MARTA (which is sometimes more of a liability than an asset).  The Perimeter Mall area is less exciting, but is more accessible to the north side of town.  The Le Meridien wins here over the Westin Perimeter because it is closer to Perimeter mall, and walking distance from many restuarants.  The Westin Perimeter is a giant business park, which doesn’t “feel” as exciting of a location than the Le Meridien.  The W downtown, is, well in Downtown.  Walking distance there is nothing too exciting, except for the sporting venues.  Unless you had to walk to something nearby, I would take the W Midtown in a heartbeat over the W downtown.  The Sheraton Atlanta Galleria is next to the Galleria mall, which is a marginally upscale suburban mall.  It is driving distance from some nice restaurants, including two favorites of mine, Canoe and OK Cafe.  And it has decent access to I-285, US-41, and I-75, but that is all the location has going for it.

Winner: Westin Atlanta Buckhead (by a hair)

WOW Factor

  • 4 – W Atlanta Buckhead
  • 4 – Westin Atlanta Buckhead
  • 4 – W Atlanta Midtown
  • 4 – W Atlanta Downtown
  • 4 – Atlanta Le Meridien
  • 1.5 – Sheraton Atlanta Galleria
  • 1 – Westin Atlanta Perimeter North

 All the hotels in this category with a 4 ranking are relatively new.  In fact, the Le Meridien, which is a renovated W, opened last month.  For Atlanta, they are in the top of their game.  The W’s are a little funkier, and the Buckhead W has a non-private shower, which might be an issue for some traveling with a non-intimate companion.  The Le Meridien has a brand spanking new concierge lounge, which is big and pretty compared to most, and certainly nicer than the Westin Buckhead concierge lounge.  The Sheraton Galleria and the Westin Perimeter North are both clean and comfortable.  But that is about it.  The Sheraton is the kind of hotel that reminds you that you are out of town away from family and friends and are just another statistic business traveler.  The rooms are on the bigger side there, but less comfortable and cozy than the other hotels.  The Westin Perimeter North suffers from the same maladie, only it is smaller and dingier.  It has the Westin Heavnley Bed, that is great, but the two rooms I have stayed in had a damp smell to them, and the lobby and rooms feel kind of worn.

Winner: Five-Way Tie (W’s Downtown, Buckhead, Midtown; Westin Buckhead; Le Meridien Buckhead)

Quality of Product

  • 4.5 – Atlanta Le Meridien
  • 4 – W Atlanta Midtown
  • 4 – W Atlanta Downtown
  • 4 – W Atlanta Buckhead
  • 3.5 – Westin Atlanta Buckhead
  • 2.5 – Sheraton Atlanta Galleria
  • 2.5 – Westin Atlanta Perimeter North

The Quality of Product follows the same trend as the WOW factor.  The Atlanta Le Meridien takes the cake, because it is new, and very comfortable.  It didn’t hurt that my stay two weeks ago featured a corner suite, that was easily 1,000 square feet.   And they pump in some kind of smell in the lobby that I love, I don’t even know how to describe it.  My wife thinks I am crazy.   It would be a five if it wasn’t currently still under renovation.  Right now only floors 12 – 8 are open, with 7 – 2 and the lobby under serious renovation.  The W’s and Westin Buckhead have all the comforts you would expect from higher end W’s and Westins.  In fact, their beds, showers, couches, etc. are nicer and more comfortable than mine at home.  I would rather be home, because it is my nest, but if I am going to be away it is nice to have top quality amenities.  The Westin Buckhead oddly does not have a bar, knocking it’s product points down one notch.  The Sheraton is comfortable, but less comfortable than the bed and amenities I have in my own home.  The same with the Westin Atlanta Perimeter, except that I almost rated it a 2.  It got the .5 because they have the dual shower head, referenced here.  That is pretty neat.  Also as a Platinum you get a free day-pass to the next door Concourse Athletic Club, a full-service gym.  Otherwise it is drab and passable, but not exciting.

Winner: Four-Way Tie (W’s Downtown, Buckhead, Midtown; Le Meridien Buckhead)

Quality of Service

  • 4.5 – Atlanta Le Meridien
  • 4.5 – W Atlanta Midtown
  • 4.5 – W Atlanta Downtown
  • 4.5 – W Atlanta Buckhead
  • 4 – Westin Atlanta Buckhead
  • 3.5 – Sheraton Atlanta Galleria
  • 3.5 – Westin Atlanta Perimeter North

The differences in service qualities narrow between our contenders.  While the W hotels always go out of their way to get you what you want, Whenever, Wherever, the Le Meridien seems to have strong service woven directly into its customer experience.  From the way that you are greeted at the front desk, to the professional kindness of the concierge lounge attendant, you feel like you are at a customer service focused team.  The other hotels all have what seem to be experienced staff who recognize my Platinum status, and address my random questions and concerns.  The staff was a smidge shakier at the Sheraton Galleria and Westin Perimeter, but overall still good to excellent.  The Westin Perimeter had no hesitation in helping me track down an invoice from a past stay and e-mailing it to me, even if that stay was at the Le Meridien.

Platinum Breakfast Offering

  • 4.5 – W Atlanta Buckhead
  • 4.5 – W Atlanta Midtown
  • 3.5 – W Atlanta Downtown
  • 3.5 – Westin Atlanta Buckhead
  • 3.5 – Sheraton Atlanta Galleria
  • 3.5 – Westin Atlanta Perimeter North
  • 3 – Atlanta Le Meridien

As a Platinum SPG member, I am entitled to free complimentary breakfast at any starwood hotel, which I can select as my check-in amenity.  In addition, some hotels have a concierge lounge which I have access to for free breakfast there.  Either way, I get free breakfast, and in Atlanta Starwoods some are better than others.  I’ll start with the low-end of the list, the Le Meridien.  the Le Meridien has a beautiful, new concierge lounge with friendly attendants as I mentioned above.  This really could be a 4.5 level ranking.  My only niggle which takes it to a 3 is the selection.  They have pastries and fruit, which are of a very high quality and variety.  They have high-end coffee and tea.  But they don’t have any hot entrees.  No proteins, no eggs, hot oatmeal, grits, nothing.  Maybe this is an interim thing while the rest of the hotel is under renovation and only 4 floors are open. But either way, it is a miss compared to every other Atlanta Starwood.  Even the Sheraton Galleria gives you a breakfast coupon for their standard lobby buffet, which includes multiple hot items and waiter service.  The same goes for the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North.  The Westin Buckhead has a concierge lounge, without waiter service but with a hot and cold variety of entrees.  The W Atlanta downtown sets aside a small room for a standard continental spread, which works but isn’t particularly exciting.  The real winners here were the W Atlanta Buckhead and the W Atlanta Midtown.  For me, a 5 would be complimentary breakfast, including room service breakfast.  So a 4.5, is very strong, and the next best thing, complimentary breakfast a la carte off an actual restaurant menu of high quality.  And both of these W’s come through.  The W Atlanta Buckhead has the Cook Hall restaurant in the lobby.  My server informed me that the breakfast coupon given to me a check-in was worth a whopping $38 of food and drink from their menu.  I really enjoyed the fresh fruit plate, and chicken sausage personally.  The W Atlanta Midtown offers $38 of food and drink from their breakfast menu at Spice Market.  In both cases, you are served by an actual waiter, and can choose from freshly cooked to order breakfast food of your choosing.  Now that is outstanding.

The Bottom Line

The W Buckhead is Our Winner

The W Buckhead is Our Winner

In each of my crude categories, the W Buckhead, W Midtown, and Westin Buckhead earned an average score of 4 or higher, putting them in the top tier of Altanta Starwoods I have reviewed.  The Le Meridien and W Downtown come close, and are just a few small things away from being in the top tier.  The Westin Perimeter and Sheraton Galleria, are passable and clean, but not exciting for the weekly road warrior.  So which hotel do I have booked for my upcoming trip to Atlanta?  The answer may surprise you.

You see, my client I am visiting is in extreme North East Atlanta, where John’s Creek meet’s Suwanee.  All 3 W hotels, and both Westin’s are easily 45 minutes to 1 hour from that location each way in rush hour.  The Sheraton would be 1.15 hours at least.  That leaves me with the Le Meridien and the Westin Perimeter North.  The Le Meridien is far and away a better hotel than the Westin, however my company’s negotiated rate is $40-100 less per night, AND the Westin offers free full service gym access for SPG platinum members at the private gym club next door.  For someone trying to get back in shape, that is very competitive compared to the Le Meridien’s standard hotel gym.  So I will be at the Westin Perimeter North until a better rate can be had at the Le Meridien or I start working with a client in a different part of town.

 

Strategy Behind Where to Go and How to Book It

The Trip of a Million Lifetimes: Strategy Behind Where to Go and How to Book It

Spreadsheet I created to visualize and tinker with dates for this trip

Spreadsheet I created to visualize and tinker with dates for this trip

 

The trip of a million lifetimes took a great amount of planning.  And trade-offs.  And hoping for the best.  You see, airlines typically make their limited award seats available 330 days ahead of time.  Thus if it is April 1, 2013, you can book flights, assuming they are available, from April 2, 2013 – February 28, 2014.  Some airlines, Qantas in particular, release seats 360 days ahead of time.  However, US carriers like American can’t access those seats until 330 days ahead of time.  So in that 30 day gap, Qantas members may book up those seats and by the time the 330 day booking window arrives, all the seats you wanted may be gone.  I started researching this trip in January 2012, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to collect the credit card, airline, and hotel points required to book this until late in 2012.  And if we booked in late 2012, say November 2012, 330 days out gets us to October 2013.  So if we wanted a 10 week trip, then 10 weeks from October 2013 would start us in August 2013.  Thus I set a goal of early August to mid-October 2013 for our trip.

Here were some guiding principles about our trip which impacted how we booked it:

  • We wanted to spend a long time in South America.  Both of us have traveled extensively, yet have never set foot in South America.
  • We had been to Europe a great deal, but still had a couple spots we wanted to hit up.  In particular Greece, Vienna, and somewhere in Russia.
  • We wanted to hit up a couple spots in Asia.  We have already been to China and Malaysia, and I to Thailand.
  • I have always wanted to go to New Caledonia.  I have learned French during my time living in Switzerland, and these distant french colonies have always fascinated me.  It didn’t hurt that there are wonderful Starwood resorts in New Caledonia.
  • While I have been to New Zealand in 2009, we have never been to Australia.  So Australia was high on our list.
  • While we each had 200,000+ US Airways miles, I realized that All Nippon Airways (ANA) and American Airlines were an exceptionally better value for an around the world trip.  US Airways wants 300,000 miles per ticket for an around the world trip, and you only get 4 stopovers total!  On the other hand, ANA’s around the world ticket gives you 8 stopovers (although only 3 in Europe) and American’s around the world ticket (Oneworld Explorer Award) gives you up to 15 stopovers.  And they are distance based.

I knew booking way out in advance was important to get some of the more popular long-haul legs like Australia to the USA.  On the other hand, booking 330 days in advance, we would have no problem getting many of the short-haul legs, like Lima to Cuzco.  I performed countless searches, did test bookings 330 days in advance, and read many blogs to prioritize the most difficult to get award seats to the easiest to get award seats.  Here is a rough summary of my analysis:

 

  1. Australia direct to USA or USA direct to Australia is a tough ticket in business class on Star Alliance or OneWorld.  On star alliance there is United’s LAX/SFO – SYD which is tough but possible to get in business class.  Air New Zealand’s LAX/SFO/YVR – AKL is almost impossible to find available in business class.  In the last 18 months, I have never seen one day available for these flights in either direction!  Qantas has some availability LAX/SFO/DFW – SYD/MEL/BNE, but almost never during peak season.  The availability is usually there 330 days out and then dries up within a week or so.  LAN between Australia/New Zealand to South American almost never has availability either, and this was an option.  Thus, I figured Qantas’s SYD – DFW direct would be our goal.  It would let us get home to Charlotte from DFW on the return.  It showed some limited availability 330 days out.  And this means that we had to do Austrlia last.  Since we would be booking in November 2012, if we did DFW – SYD first, it would be for August 2013, only about 270 days out, and I never saw business class availability last that long.  So we would get DFW – SYD right at 330 days out.  This would mean that other earlier parts of the trip would have to be booked 270 – 330 days out, and not right at the 330 day window. So we had to find other availability we could expect to be there at 270 days out.
  2. Since it would be the earliest part of our trip, only 270 days out, I figured Charlotte to South America in business class would be a tough ticket.  Luckily American Airlines and LAN have great variety of routes out of Miami, also a direct flight from Charlotte.  Thus we aimed to go for CLT – MIA – LIM – CUZ to start our trek in Cuzco.  We also wanted to hit Lima, Easter Island, Santiago, Mendoza, Buenoes Ares, and somewhere in Brazil.  Other than the tourism beauty of Brazil, we would also be able to avoid about $1,000 in fuel surcharges by incorporating (and starting) a ticket out of Brazil.  More on that later.
  3. Getting to New Caledonia would be harder on Star Alliance than OneWorld.  For Star Alliance, there are only flights twice a week on Air New Zealand from Auckland to NOU (Noumea).  For OneWorld, there are daily flights to Brisbane and Sydney.  I started thinking of using Noumea as a pivot point.  That is the end of one ticket, and the start or re-start of an open-jaw of another.
  4. South America to Europe direct has some limited, but possible business class availability.  I ran searches from Buenos Ares and Sao Paulo to Europe, and Turkish Airlines had great availability, at least one-two flights every other week.  Swiss Air has a nice product to Zurich, but was almost never available.  Lufthansas’s product was only decent, and not very available.  Thus I set my sights on Sao Paulo – Istanbul since availability would be decent, the product is very good (with actual chefs cooking your food), and it would give us alot of flexibility to hit our Europe destinations.
  5. Lima/Santiago to Easter Island is a long flight, with decent availability in business class.  We know we wanted to hit Easter Island.  It is only serviced by LAN, daily from Santiago and only twice a week, seasonally, from Lima.  Lima to Eastern Island would be ideal, which should some seasonal availability.  However, if we had to, we would settle for Santiago – Easter Island.
  6. The remainder of the flights wouldn’t be too hard to get 2 business class seats, either within Europe, within Asia, from Europe to Asia, or from Asia to Australia/New Zealand.

I paid for a 3 months subscription to the KVS Availability Tool, which made looking up availability very easy.  I think it was only $20, so money well worth it.

So now that I had locked down the guiding principles, and determined difficulty to book, it was time to piece together a draft itinerary, to see how availability looked.  I began doing this in September 2012, knowing I would want to really book in November 2012.  The challenges and assumptions behind the draft itinerary were:

  • Get CLT – MIA – LIM – CUZ for +/- one week from when we wanted to start the trip
  • Be able to get all the inter-South America trips I wanted, even if in Economy.  This included: CUZ – LIM; LIM – IPC (Easter Island); IPC – SCL (Santiago); SCL – MDZ (Mendoza); MDZ – AEP (Buenos Ares); and AEP – IGR (Iguacu Falls).
  • Get GRU (Sao Paulo) – IST (Istanbul) after 3-4 weeks in South America
  • Be able to get all the inter Europe flights I wanted, even if in Economy.
  • Be able to get most of the Europe to Asia flights I wanted.
  • Be able to easily bridge Asia to Australia/New Zealand/New Caledonia.  As it turns out, I discovered United Airlines, who offers one-way availability, offers Japan to New Caledonia for only 10,000 miles in Economy, 20,000 in Business, and 35,000 in First.  And to get to New Caledonia from Japan, you have to go through Australia or New Zealand, which would cost 60,000 in First normally if New Caledonia wasn’t the destination of the one-way ticket.  More on that in a later post.
  • Assume I would get most of the inter-Australia flights in Business.
  • Assume I would get fortunate and the SYD – DFW – CLT components would be available +/- one week from when I wanted at the end of the trip.

Thus, the draft flights I put together were:

In Raw Form, Without Respect to Carrier or Class

Charlotte – Miami – Lima – Cuzco (Stopover)

Cuzco – Lima (Stopover)

Lima – Easter Island (Stopover)

Easter Island – Santiago (Stopover)

Santiago – Mendoza (Stopover)

Mendoza – Buenos Ares (Stopover)

Buenos Ares – Iguacu Falls (Stopover)

Iguacu Falls – Sao Paulo (Stopover)

Sao Paulo – Istanbul (Stopover)

Istanbul – Athens – Santorini (Stopover)

Santorini – Athens (Stopover)

Athens – Vienna (Stopover)

Vienna – St. Petersburg (Stopover)

St. Petersburg – Istanbul – Saigon (Stopover)

Saigon – Tokyo (Stopover)

Tokyo – Kyoto/Osaka (Stopover; Begin United One-Way F Japan – New Caledonia Award)

Kyoto/Osaka – Hong Kong (23 hour 30 minute layover) – Bangkok (4 hour layover) – Sydney – 2 hour layover) – Auckland (19 hour layover) – Noumea (destination)

Noumea – Sydney – Melbourne (Stopover)

Melbourne – Cairns (Stopover)

Cairns – Sydney (Stopover)

Sydney – Dallas – Charlotte (Return Home)

This makes 52,495 nautical miles in total and 31 stops.

The Draft Itinerary; Made on Strong Assumptions That Availability Would Be There

The Draft Itinerary; Made on Strong Assumptions That Availability Would Be There

So I had a draft routing.  Now I had to work it within the rules of the various tickets.

The All Nippon Airways (ANA) Business Class Ticket

As I will explain in a future post, I know I wanted to start the ANA ticket in Brazil, because ANA charges hefty fuel surcharges to their awards, sometimes to the tune of $1,000+ per ticket.  But Brazil has an obscure law that airlines cannot charge fuel surcharges for tickets that originate in Brazil.  ANA does not allow one-way award tickets, only around the world circumnavigation or open-jaw.  I knew that you could do an open jaw with a huge surface travel portion, and potentially throw-away the last leg.  For example:

if you wanted to go one-way on ANA from Japan to Australia, you could not.  But, instead, if you booked Japan – Australia // Surface Travel (Open Jaw) // Korea – Japan, that would be allowed to be booked.  And then you if you got ill or tired and did not want to take the Korea – Japan leg, then just don’t show up for that flight.

In this spirit, I envisioned the ANA ticket to be:

GRU – IST (23 hour layover)

IST – ATH – JTR (stopover 1; europe stopover 1)

JTR – ATH (23 hour layover)

ATH – VIE (stopover 2; europe stopover 2)

VIE – LED (stopover 3; europe stopover 3)

LED – IST – SGN (stopover 4)

SGN – NRT (stopover 5)

HND – ITM (stopover 6; begin open-jaw surface travel)

PTY – MAO (return from open jaw at some time in the distant future; potential throw-away segment to make this a one-way award.  Since I started in Brazil, the ticket has to end in Brazil.  The shortest distance star alliance flight I could find was from Panama City, Panama to Manaus, Brazil on Copa.)

So 11 flights, over 19,875 total nautical miles.

The ANA portion of the ticket, including potential throw-away PTY-MAO

The ANA portion of the ticket, including potential throw-away PTY-MAO

Based on the ANA distance based award chart, these flights would only be 115,000 ANA points per ticket:

115,000 ANA points in business class for these flights

115,000 ANA points in business class for these flights

The American Airlines (AA) Business Class Ticket

The AA OneWorld Explorer Award allows for a long-one way, a round-trip, or an open-jaw.  You have to use at least two partners of American.  Since I would have to do SYD – DFW on the end as a OneWorld Explorer Award, I would probably have to set this up as an open-jaw with the OneWorld Explorer Award to start on the beginning.  They allow a maximum of 16 segments, so I worked this out:

CLT – MIA – LIM – CUZ (Stopover 1; 3 Segments Total)

CUZ – LIM (Stopover 2; 4 Segments Total)

LIM – IPC (Stopover 3; 5 Segments Total)

IPC – SCL (Stopover 4; 6 Segments Total)

SCL – MDZ (Stopover 5; 7 Segments Total)

MDZ – AEP (Stopover 6; 8 Segments Total)

AEP – IGR (Stopover 7; 9 Segments Total; Begin Open-Jaw)

NOU – SYD – MEL (Stopover 8; 12 Segments Total – Open Jaw counts as a segment)

MEL – CNS (Stopover 9; 13 Segments Total)

CNS – SYD (Stopover 10; 14 Segments Total)

SYD – DFW – CLT (Return Home; 16 Segments Total)

So 16 flights, over 23,881  total nautical miles.

The AA OneWorld Explorer Award Portion, with a massive open-jaw

The AA OneWorld Explorer Award Portion, with a massive open-jaw

Based on the American OneWorld Explorer Award  distance based award chart, these flights would only be 150,000 AA points per ticket:

Based on the distance flown, 150,000 AA points per ticket

Based on the distance flown, 150,000 AA points per ticket

The United Airlines First Class Ticket

Lastly, I needed to link the Kyoto Japan to Noumea Part.  I will explore it deeper in a future post, but I booked a one-way United award ticket from Kyoto to Noumea for 35,000 points per ticket as a First Class award.

Kyoto/Osaka – Hong Kong (23 hour layover; business class)

Hong Kong – Bangkok (4 hour layover to use Thai First Class lounge spa services; first class on a380)

Bangkok – Sydney (2 hour layover; first class on 747)

Sydney – Auckland (19 hour layover; business class on Air New Zealand 777)

Auckland – Noumea (destination; all-economy flight)

These flights are 35,000 per ticket per United’s Award Chart.

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35,000 United Points to go from Kyoto to Noumea with overnight layovers in Hong Kong and Auckland

35,000 United Points to go from Kyoto to Noumea with overnight layovers in Hong Kong and Auckland

Putting it All Together

Once I added the United one-way First ticket from Japan to Oceania, I had nearly completed the ticket.  The only other “gap” was Iguazu Falls, Brazil to Sao Paulo, which never seemed to be available on points.  Fortunately, I was able to book this on TAM Airlines for $59 each non-stop on Orbitz).  Thus my tickets were:

  1. Oneworld Explorer Business Award to start the trip. From Charlotte to Iguazu Falls.
  2. $59 Orbitz TAM airlines paid ticket from Iguazu Falls to Sao Paulo.
  3. ANA Business Award Ticket to get from Sao Paulo to Kyoto/Osaka.
  4. United First one-way Award Ticket to get from Kyoto/Osaka to Noumea.
  5. Oneworld Explorer Business Award to finish the trip.  From Noumea to Charlotte.

150,000 American Airlines, 115,000 All Nippon Airways, and 35,000 United points per ticket.  300,000 points per ticket.  My next couple posts will explore how I quickly accumulated these points, for free.  And my experiences booking these complicated tickets with each of the airlines.

I hope you find this post insightful.  It sure did take a long-time to write!

 

Get $220 Back on Every British Airways New Promotion

British Airways just released a strong promotion, oddly called “The Happiness Fund”.  Basically for every transatlantic round-trip flight you take with British Airways, American Airlines, or Iberia from now until May 31, 2013, you earn 20,000 bonus Avios points.  You must credit the flights to British Airways.  Registration is here: register.

In their words:

Book a qualifying, round-trip, transatlantic flight in any cabin* and fly as an Executive Club member between now and May 31, 2013, for 20,000 bonus Avios on every round-trip. And when you book and fly five round-trips, you can claim an extra 100,000. In other words, there are 200,000 bonus Avios with your name on them!

If you already have the British Airways credit card, this is a great promotion to get more miles.  For example, only 4500 Avios is required for non-stop economy flights on American airlines or other partners.  My in-laws just booked Lima – Cuzco round-trip on LAN using British Airways miles for only 9000 Avios round trip!  This would normally be a $600 flight.

I am surprised they allow this for American or Iberia flights beyond just British Airways flights.

Ben at One Mile at a Time has recently performed an analysis and values Avios at $0.011 (1.1 cents) per Avios.  Thus these bonus miles are “worth” roughly $220.  Not a bad promotion, and may make mileage runs more worth it for Oneworld Alliance folks.