British Airways Introduces Award Redemption With Dramatically Lower Surcharges

British Airways offers good award availability, for instance a minimum of 4 business class award seats per flight, but the knock on them has long been the surcharges. BA has charged up to $1600 roundtrip just for U.S. – London.

Surcharges originating in the U.K. are lower, which also mean you save money booking two one way tickets. Roughly speaking a U.K. roundtrip incurred $800, while a U.S.-originating one-way and a U.K.-originating return meant as much as $1200 instead of the full $1600. That’s still choke-worthy.

However British Airways has introduced a ‘Reward Flight Saver’ option for long haul premium cabin travel that – as long as you’ve earned at least 1 Avios in the last 12 months – lets you pay more miles for substantially reduced surcharges. God Save The Points was first to report on this change.

Compare off-peak award pricing, roundtrip from New York to London:

  • Original: 100,000 Avios, $1400 surcharge
  • Reward saver: 160,000 Avios, $700 surcharge

60,000 additional miles roundtrip saves $700 or 1.17 cents per mile buys down the surcharge.

A few points,

  • I’d consider booking the outbound at 80,000 miles and $350, and the return at 50,000 miles and $400 for the best deal arbitraging the difference between what BA charges for U.S.-originating itineraries versus the lower surcharges on U.K. ones.

  • This makes the ‘travel together’ ticket offered with qualifying spend on a British Airways credit card more valuable.

  • Points with British Airways transfer partners Chase, Amex, Capital One, and Bilt become somewhat more useful.

  • Since this is done as ‘Reward Flight Saver’, older ‘fewer points, more cash’ is still available. And that’s actually a bad thing. Basic BA redemption prices still have high fuel surcharges, so it’s still extortionate to book British Airways flights using partner miles like American AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. (For premium cabin BA awards using partner miles you’ll want to stick with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, a transfer partner of Amex, Citi, Capital One, and Bilt.)

The gold standard for eliminating fuel surcharges and only increasing redemption prices modestly is Aeroplan – for instance, East Coast – Europe went up ~ 10% in points in exchange for dropping fuel surcharges… not 60%. Still, this option may be worthwhile.

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, 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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  1. It’s a small bit of relief but the surcharges are still eye-popping. I try to book AA on my ex USA leg and BA on my ex-UK/ EU leg to keep the pricing down. On so many occasions, it’s flat out better to just buy the ticket, earn the avios and use for other things like hotels or car rentals. What’s really crazy making is to be told over and over there are no premium seats available for Avios upgrades, then you arrive at the airport where the ground staff cheerily offers you the opportunity to pay for an on the spot cash upgrade. I understand what they are doing, wanting to get extra cash on the spot vs allowing you to use some of your “stored” value in the form of avios to ‘pay’ for the upgrade.

  2. Thanks for the info!

    How do they define “earning” one Avios in the last 12 months? Does a transfer from a credit card partner count?

  3. Round trip business class airfare between the East Coast and London can typically be had for around $2000 or less.
    Paying 80,000 + 50,000 Avios plus $350 + $400 (130,000 Avios plus $750) is still a bad deal with Avios valued at less than 1 cent each in this case.
    Conclusion: typical Orwellian Doublespeak from BA.

  4. @gary:
    1)Based on reasonable mile v aluations this is not a price decrease, just a change in the form the price is paid;

    2) The better Avios deal before the change is still out there, and the better deal after the change: Convert BA miles to Iberia miles (they are both Avios currency) and fly Iberia to Madrid. Spend the $70 r/t for a MAD-LON ticket.


  5. I agree with the above comments that this is no great bargain as it’s just changing the payment currency from cash to Avios. Another thing that strikes me is that the examples don’t mention first class, which might actually provide more value.

  6. Still gonna just say no.

    BA recently sent a “survey” and actually filled it out excoriating them for their horrible website and grotesque fuel surcharges.

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