British Airways makes a lot of business class award space available, but they’re expensive. Departures from the U.K. incur significant ‘air passenger duty’ sometimes called the premium cabin departure tax. And awards also incur fuel surcharges. A roundtrip business class award between the U.S. and U.K. might run $1300 in taxes and fees.
That’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re trying to redeem your miles for a ‘free’ ticket. On the other hand, you might think of it as a non-mileage earning coach ticket and spending miles for an upgrade.
British Airways Airbus A350 Business Class, Credit: British Airways
British Airways surcharges are a huge problem for American Airlines AAdvantage. British Airways is their primary transatlantic partner. If you’re looking to go to Europe on miles and in a premium cabin, saver awards have traditionally meant traveling on BA.
Right now though there seems to be a quirk booking awards on British Airways that you can exploit to reduce fuel surcharges (or ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’) by about two-thirds.
If you look to spend Alaska Airlines miles between the U.S. and London you’ll see the normal one-way cost of an award. Taxes and fees are $737, of which $700 are surcharges, as I’d expect.
However American AAdvantage has been adding lower surcharges on BA redemptions lately. Flying U.S. to London will run about $289, with just $250 in surcharges. The surcharges are 64% lower.
Clearly you’d want to book a British Airways business class U.S. to London award using American miles, not Alaska miles.
But wait. It gets stranger. Let’s look at the return, London back to the U.S., and we’ll the opposite is happening. This time Alaska wants just a $79 surcharge, for the trip Westbound:
And now American Airlines wants bigger surcharges – $262. Booking in this direction using Alaska miles gets you surcharges that are 70% less.
Whether you book with American or Alaska miles for a roundtrip, total surcharges are lower than they’ve been. However it’s much more advantageous to book Alaska miles one way and American miles the other.
Right now you’re going to want to check BA award costs across different programs, because priced out separately there’s significant savings available.
It’s unclear how long this situation will last so if you’re considering award redemption on British Airways now might be a good time to pull the trigger.
(HT: Scott G.)