ACT NOW: US Airways Award Tickets On British Airways Without Fuel Surcharges

Debating Whether or Not to Share This

I struggled with whether to post this or not. Since US Airways joined oneworld a month ago there’s been a big opportunity. But I also suspected that once I posted it, the opportunity would disappear quickly.

There’s always a balance. I want as many people as possible to benefit from a deal, but I also don’t want to overexpose something either. If I think something is sustainable I will post it. If I think that an opportunity will end from my shedding a light on it I won’t. I don’t always get the balance right, but I do my best.

This deal was posted on a handful of minor blog sites, and I didn’t take the bait. But this morning I saw The Points Guy cover it. And I know that American’s PR shop, at least, has in the past monitored what’s posted there. So this now falls into the bucket, for me, of very short-term opportunities that folks should know about before it’s gone.

Fuel Surcharges Really Kill the Value of British Airways Awards

Fuel surcharges are more or less bogus fees in the context of award tickets, and can really add up fast.

United (and Avianca’s LifeMiles) does not add them to any award tickets. Delta adds them only to a few partners like China Southern and Air Tahiti Nui (they also add an international origin surcharge to European-originating award itineraries). American adds them to British Airways award tickets and in a very modest way to Iberia tickets.

In fact every British Airways partner adds them to award tickets for travel on British Airways. At least.. they’re supposed to.

(Update: A reader reminds by email that LAN doesn’t add fuel surcharges to BA awards, but their long haul charts are expensive in their own way.)

In some sense it can be very well ‘worth it’ for premium cabin awards to pay a fuel surhcarge. You get a first class ticket for less than the price of coach, it can be akin to buying deep discounted coach that doesn’t earn miles and getting a triple upgrade for your points.

Just How Much Money Are We Talking About?

Fuel surcharges on British Airways can be astronomical. San Francisco – London roundtrip in first class costs $904 in fuel surcharges alone.

New York – London roundtrip is only just slightly lower.

New York – London – Johannesburg and return on British Airways in first class runs $1430. That’s fuel surcharges, plus airport and immigration taxes, and is in addition to the miles you’re spending for a so-called ‘free’ ticket.

A Short Window to Save

Here’s the opportunity: US Airways is supposed to be adding fuel surcharges to British Airways awards. But they haven’t been since they joined oneworld a month ago.

Using British Airways to Maximize US Airways Award Tickets

British Airways isn’t the best first class product in the world, or in oneworld, but it’s the best option for first class using US Airways miles to get across the Atlantic. And it’s an option for getting to Africa.

What’s more, now that US Airways has raised the roundtrip price of business class from North America to North Asia (e.g. Hong Kong) from 90,000 to 110,000… that just means a first class award is a relatively better value at just 5000 extra points each way.

Unlike American which does not permit travel from the US to Asia via Europe, US Airways has no such routing restrictions. You can fly from the US to Hong Kong via London for 120,000 miles roundtrip in first class.

You can have a stopover in London (which would trigger the UK’s premium cabin departure taxes) or elsewhere in Europe. Continue on in Cathay Pacific’s first class to Hong Kong.

You could even return in Japan Airlines first class.

Normally an Atlantic crossing in first class through oneworld is very expensive — you can’t find American award space often, and British Airways space is so costly (Delta members can’t redeem for first class awards via program rules, and United members are mostly limited to flying first class on United across the Pond, so it’s hardly a relative disadvantage).

Finding Availability

British Airways awards aren’t nearly as easy to get as they used to be, especially from the West Coast, but BA flies to more US cities than any other European airline. East Coast gateways are easier to find space — especially Philadelphia and New York JFK but also occasionally Atlanta and even Chicago. And US Airways and American first class domestic award space is reasonably good for reaching your international gateway.

Making Changes to an Award

Book your award, lock it in, but do not assume you will be able to change it later (even for a change fee) while retaining current pricing.

If US Airways re-issues the ticket they should recalculate the taxes owed. And if they’ve changed their pricing to add fuel surcharges at that point, you can expect to have those collected at the time your ticket is changed.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Pingbacks

  1. […] All that being said, if you’re short miles for an upcoming redemption OR want to add a trip this year, buying these miles for premium travel overseas is surely the cheapest way to go, especially considering that you can now book oneworld awards with US Airways miles.  And, as View From the Wing was nice enough to point out, you can book British Airways flights with no fuel surcharges right now. […]

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this at FTU, I thought it would have been around longer, but I doubt this glitch will be around much longer. Book now before it is fixed.

  2. Yes I have had several conversations with Lucky about this over the past month, and my stance was I wasn’t going to blog it until The Points Guy or someone with similar readership did. Now that it’s out on more than just minor blogs or buried in threads somewhere I think it’s worth making sure people know and are in a position to use the opportunity before it’s too late.

  3. Yeah, I kept seeing 20,000 avios +20 bucks for a nonstop PHL to EDI in economy. Wish I had time to take advantage of this.

  4. My problem is that there are too many Pre-Devaluation opportunities. In the next 12 months:

    1) JFK-LAX-FCO//VCE-CDG-LAX on AZ and AF using Delta predevalution
    2) 7 nights in Moorea pre HHonors devaluation
    3) RT on OZ LAX-SGN on United Pre-devalution

    I won’t be able to book this until late June for next May, and I bet it won’t still be there

  5. You’re implying that your gut tells you USdbaAA won’t do something nasty with the tix already issued under this mistake. You sure?

  6. I learned about this at the FTU last weekend but it looks like it will be killed before I get the chance to take advantage of it. I appreciate you not blogging about it sooner, but withholding it now would be pointless now that it is in other major blogs. I think the f$#@ing Points Guy and the circles and arrows guy and the pickle enjoy killing deals as long as it doesn’t hurt their bottom line.

  7. Thanks for sharing. I am novice here. I am only getting British Airways from PHX to Paris. I am planning October travel.How do you get to book US airways for International travel with Avios? Do we need to call ? Thanks.

  8. @Joseph @Chris#2 – I specifically chose not to post this for a month, until I saw it posted on a major blog and determined that its demise was inevitable. I believe under that circumstance the best thing possible is to let folks know to take advantage of it before it’s pulled.

  9. @CW that’s my strong belief, even though DOT doesn’t regulate frequent flyer programs it would seem problematic to raise price on an award after booking the same as on a revenue ticket.

  10. @mark you can’t cut me some slack on length when it’s useful? 🙂 I have to assume some subset of readers aren’t familiar with fuel surcharges or why this is a good/unique opportunity. And that takes (me, at least) time…

  11. Is US losing money, having to pay a YQ? Seems like otherwise they might like this. They were always offering bottom dollar prices for Star awards, and they’re certainly picking up buyers for their miles through these shenanigans. If they’re given a good rate from BA as a member, they might cash in on it until BA starts blocking them, or forces their hand via the AA/BA reciprocal agreement. But US isn’t AA yet.

  12. @Mohan – avios are not at play here at all. You have to call US Airways to book British Airways award seats. The easiest place to find those award seats is the American Airlines website under award search (but you can also find the award space at the ba.com and qantas frequent flyer sites).

  13. @ed – the official position is that US Airways is supposed to be adding YQ so this is definitely inadvertent.

  14. I understand why you waited to post this, but as a long time reader of your blog, I feel less inclined to continue reading after this post. What is the point of following your blog if the “good” deals aren’t even being posted? I might as well stick only to Flyertalk and other sites.

  15. Gary, Do you think this is going to last a few more hours, days, or weeks?

    I was really hoping this would stay under the radar until late May when I could book a trip for mid-late April. March isn’t ideal, but if it means saving the massive YQ, it might be what I have to do. The later I can book, the better.

  16. @Autolycus – I don’t have any insight into how long before the attention leads to change, but I wouldn’t expect it to be too long. I can hope 🙂

  17. @Tim – I’ve explained my philosophy on posting deals. I want the most people to benefit them. I post things that are going to last or that are going to die. I post things where I don’t think many people know about them.

    I don’t post things that I think will disappear simply by virtue of my posting them. And I don’t post things that have been shared with me in confidence.

    In this case every US Airways member booking a British Airways award ticket every single day was benefiting whether they knew it or not. So there was a real public benefit I thought in not mentioning. It wasn’t something even being kept for just a few, but for everyone who happened to call (and BA is the primary transatlantic carrier in the alliance so this is a big deal).

    I think this is unique because it seemed like the way to benefit the most people was to not post, and folks were benefiting every day.

    But once it was blogged about on a major site then the additional exposure from my blog wasn’t likely to trigger its demise. I figured that I wanted readers to be able to take advantage of the opportunity before it was inevitably shut down.

  18. Is this a legal routing using US Air north Asia First class award for 120K miles:
    Outbound: DFW-IAD-LHR-DEL stopover DEL-NRT(Destination)
    Return NRT-ORD-DFW
    or something similar in the reverse direction and maybe a diff connecting point in USA.

  19. If I have any issue with the way you handled this situation, it’s that you only implied TPG was a colossally selfish jerk, instead of explicitly saying it

  20. I’m ashamed with both of you for posting this. I guess if TPG jumped off a cliff you’d do it too.

  21. @Gary

    Avios actually are in play here. In addition to US not applying YQ to BA, BA isn’t applying YQ to US (even though they do on AA)

  22. @PW They aren’t in play in terms of taking advantage of what I was discussing in the post, and that’s what the took the comment above to be talking about. No YQ on US Airways isn’t at all surprising. It’s a brand new phenomenon that US has been adding YQ to their fares. There was no YQ on US flights when they were in Star Alliance, so you could use miles from Aeroplan or ANA for instance and fly US and not pay the YQ (ANA would sometimes try to charge it but you could push back).

  23. @Rob – I considered not naming the blog that prompted me to write about this, it was not my intention to be normative when mentioning it, but it seemed appropriate to acknowledge the public source rather than leave readers speculating and in any case when another blog prompts a post I always mention it, it’s been a policy of mine for many many years. Readers can always draw their own conclusions, but I have no knowledge of the thinking process that went into the decision on the site. I don’t know who wrote and/or edited the post, who approved it going live, let alone why. So I’m not going to get into motives.

  24. @Nun – i think there’s a clear reason, again I don’t always get it right, but my estimation was that once this was posted on a blog with that kind of exposure that this was going to die so it’s worth making sure people are aware of it in the interim.

  25. @unclesam – US Airways will likely let you ticket that (if they don’t, hang up/call back) but odds on it will price as an India award so more expensive. Getting that for North Asia pricing may not be impossible, I just wouldn’t count on it.

  26. Perhaps the US IT system is somehow “unable” to price YQ surcharges, and that they won’t bother to fix it since they know they will be merging their systems with AA soon.

    We can hope!

  27. I understand your point of view, but, respectfully, disagree. You’re not embarrassed to put links for commission earning credit cards into numerous posts. I’d rather reward bloggers who don’t hold back on information which might benefit me.

  28. @Heather @ pass the dressing – unlikely since you cannot book partner awards online at all, you’d have to call to take advantage of this

  29. @Ron totally your perogative, of course, I just want to offer up my perspective which is how I’ve long approached such things for many years (and for what it’s worth long before credit card links etc). My goal is to help readers get the most of their travels. Most of the time sharing things will do that, occasionally there are things epople are already benefiting from broadly but additional exposure might stifle. Again, I may get the balance wrong in any given instance, but that’s what I’m aiming for. Best, Gary

  30. @Mike – we can hope indeed but I’m guessing since they’re mostly manually pricing taxes now via the rate desk rather than autopricing oneworld awards that this is a training and compliance thing rather than a technology thing.

  31. I applaud your restraint in not posting this previously and judiciousness in general. I believe you have indeed struck an appropriate balance and are generally the most adult (in a good way) and principled of the more popular obsessive traveler bloggers. Greater short-term web traffic is not worth compromising one’s integrity and alienating habitual readers.

  32. Ahh, now it makes sense why BAEC availability to/from the USA has gone off a cliff edge recently! Gold cardholders were being blamed for holding inventory and free changes were removed for them, yet it was probably US Airways bookings. Remember the ability to earn miles is much less over here so until that changes the high YQ that we’re stuck paying at least helps to preserve a bit of inventory for UK BAEC members!

  33. Was at FTU at all but one session with you and/or Lucky (great meeting you guys!) but somehow missed this. Next time need to buy you some drinks 🙂

    Thinking of some way to take advantage of this but checked all J/F awards from IAH/DFW/AUS-LHR and not really anything that would work for my dates (FYI, good availability IAHLHR around Christmas/New Year in F). If this does last awhile, will try to book something for early May 2015.

  34. It’s not now a fuel surcharge and hasn’t been for several years. It’s just a plain surcharge. Surprised you didn’t know that.

  35. @Chris
    I knew about this since the beginning of the year, but held back on publishing it so don’t blame me for leaking this information. I don’t kill deals….bloggers do. Anyone will tell you that I am not a blogger.

    And I don’t find enjoyment from deal killing.

    And I have no bottom line to worry about…I don’t accept any revenue from the ads on my website. I write purely for enjoyment.

  36. @ Alan – remember than BA can be booked using Avios long before US can book them (355 v 330 days AFAIK) so many award flights will have been booked by BAEC members long before US people get a look in.

  37. Thank you, Gary! Just booked a RT TATL BA F award for 125K US + approx $160. This almost makes up for not being able to use my US for LH F.

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