How to Redeem British Airways Awards Without Paying Big Fuel Surcharges (Trick That May Not Last)

British Airways offers reasonably good award availability, and it’s no secret why. You don’t just pay miles for awards on their flights, you pay a huge cash co-pay.

These used to be called fuel surcharges, a practice of add-on charges to award tickets that a former American Airlines pricing executive called unethical,

“We made a firm decision not to go there,” he says. “It is a mechanism that the European carriers devised to charge cash on ‘free tickets,’ ”

British Airways settled a class action (you may be entitled to compensation!) over claiming that these charges had something to do with the price of fuel, when they didn’t. Now BA just calls them ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’ which just means ‘a fee they charge’ rather than claiming that fee has anything to do with anything other than that they can.

BA has recently raised their surcharges, and now also charges more for first class than for business class. Roundtrip transatlantic first class fuel surcharges can run $1506. And that’s on top of draconian taxes imposed by the UK government.

There are several ways to reduce those surcharges, For instance you pay more on a roundtrip originating in the U.S. than on one originating in Europe. In fact, you pay lower surcharges just by booking two one way tickets instead of a roundtrip because fuel surcharges from Europe to the U.S. on a one way are lower than from the US to Europe.

However there’s another trick or glitch that allows you to reduce fuel surcharges on premium cabin tickets. German language blog You Have Been Upgraded and One Mile at a Time wrote about this trick.

  • You can book British Airways awards on the Iberia website (using Iberia Avios) and pay just the economy fuel surcharges as long as there is an economy segment on your itinerary.

  • You can transfer British Airways points to Iberia and vice versa, you just need both accounts open 90 days and to have had activity in each.

  • American Express and Chase points transfer to both British Airways and Iberia. Many people have 90,000 Iberia Avios from the ‘deal of the year’ over the summer.

So if you are connecting through London instead of terminating there, book your intra-European segment in coach and you’re going to save big, as much as $500 in each direction.

And as long as you’re not checking bags this even makes a throwaway ticket make sense from the U.S. to Europe, for instance booking British Airways to London and then adding a segment you do not intend to fly. That’s against ticketing rules though the New York Times ethicist endorses it. Here’s what you need to know before trying it.

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. Cant blame you for sharing Gary, the cat’s already out of the bag. Had to scramble, but was able to take advantage of this soon to die glitch one last time. Ive used it multiple times over the last 3 years to fly my family of 5 to Europe in First Class. Was fun while it lasted.

  2. Though Iberia Plus imposes lower surcharges, their website is pathetic. It really drives people crazy and I am not alone. Is there any way to utilize their lower fees while having an easier award booking mechanism to keep my sanity? Thanks.

  3. I have written to your email address but did not get an answer
    Is your charge for booking redeemed miles round trip
    I am planning a trip Oct 19. I will need to book outgoing soon but return later when flights open. How do you handle this

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