Thessaloniki (SKG) – British Airways redemption

(Photo courtesy of

Anyone reviewing my ‘Top Ten Airports’ list on Flight Memory would notice that along three London airports and a few continental European hubs, Thessaloniki makes an appearance near the top. The city has a lot to offer as a tourist destination on its own but also as get way to the beautiful Halkidiki peninsula and even though it is the second-largest city in Greece it can be surprisingly expensive to reach from London. “Low Cost” carriers EasyJet and Ryanair fly direct year round, while BA offer only a seasonal service. Aegean Airlines does not offer any direct flights and a connection is Athens is required.

As a big fan of BMI’s Diamond Club frequent flyer programme before the airline was taken over by BA, I had redeemed my miles on flights to SKG with Star Alliance member airlines Austrian, Lufthansa, and Swiss on a regular basis, however since the takeover of BMI my Diamond Club miles could only be transferred to Avios and no longer used for Star Alliance redemptions.

Unfortunately availability of BA reward seats can be pretty bad on this route, being only seasonal. At the time of writing, there were only 3 seats outbound for the whole of August 2015 and no return seats. I did find a possible redemption for a couple of weeks in early September:

2015-04-28 - SKG - Redemption schedule

Mondays seem to be pretty good in terms of availability of single reward tickets, plus in this particular instance it qualified for BA’s “off-peak” redemption, reducing the total Avios required to 18500 instead of the usual 20000:

2015-04-28 - SKG - Redemption cost

Looking up the cash price for the same flights brought up the following Euro Traveller fare, which also includes baggage:

BA flights to Thessaloniki - Economy with luggage

The cash difference is £319, which is over £0.017 (1.7p) per Avios point. This is not the 3.3p for the Business Class redemptions to Asia I have booked in the past but I think that it is not bad value for money. However there is room for improvement by taking advantage of the option to pay more in cash and use fewer Avios:

2015-04-28 - SKG Avios + Cash

Based on the above, here are my calculations for the value that can be obtained by using Avios:

2015-04-29 - SKG Excel calculation

What if you don’t have enough Avios to book this airfare would it make sense to purchase additional Avios? The answer appears to be ‘Yes’! The cost of 8000 Avios is £143, which would allow you to take advantage of the last Cash + Avios option above, paying a total of £143 + £129.26 = £272.26, i.e. a saving of £81, plus you end up with 600 Avios for future use.

The full breakdown:

2015-04-29 - SKG Full redemption table

Verdict: It pays to be a member of a frequent flyer programme, even if you haven’t yet had the chance to collect any miles/points as it allows you to take advantage of opportunities like the above.