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Booking a flight with British Airways Avios

To avoid drowning in additional taxes and fees, do some research before you book a reward flight

Summary

Booking a flight with British Airways Avios can be complicated and fees can be high, but Executive Club members who don’t mind doing some digging can find a great deal.

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Though certainly not the most valuable frequent flyer currency, British Airways Avios can be stretched pretty far if you are willing to do some hunting for a good deal. If you search during off-peak times of year and take advantage of a distance-based value, you can get some bang for your buck.

Unfortunately, British Airways reward seat availability can be limited, and many flights impose steep fees. The booking platform is also difficult to navigate and not the most user-friendly option. However, by knowing just how to search for a reward flight and compare prices, you can ensure you get more out of your Avios.

British Airways Executive Club fees and restrictions

Inflated taxes and fees – British Airways taxes and fees can add up quickly. In fact, overseas economy flights add a surcharge up to $910.35, depending on your destination.

Booking fees – Executive Club members who book a reward flight online won’t be charged a booking fee, but British Airways does charge a fee of $25 for booking over the phone.

Change and cancelation charges – If you need to change or cancel your flight, you’ll be charged up to $55.

No blackout dates – There are no blackout dates on reward flights, but seat availability is pretty limited – especially during peak times of year.

British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card

British Airways Visa Signature Card

Why should you get this card?

For frequent flyers of British Airways, the British Airways Visa Signature offers generous rewards, including 4X miles on the first $30,000 in purchases for the first year and Travel Together Ticket each year you spend $30,000.

Read full review

Other things to know:

  • Earn 4 Avios per dollar on all purchases in your first year (up to $30,000) for up to 120,000 Avios
  • After the first year, earn 3 Avios per dollar on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar on other purchases
  • Earn the Travel Together Ticket every year you spend $30,000. This allows you to bring a companion on a reward flight for just the taxes and fees.
  • No foreign transaction fee

Searching for reward flights

British Airways offers a few different ways for Executive Club members to find reward flights, each with their own unique pros and cons.

Reward flight finder

The reward flight finder is probably the easiest way to ensure your trip has reward seat availability, as it only searches for those seats. One of the biggest benefits of choosing this option is that you can search your trip across multiple dates, even comparing a whole month at a time. You can also add several different departure or destination cities to compare availability.

When you search, you can quickly see which dates are peak or off-peak.

There are a few pitfalls to this tool, however. The flight finder can only search for direct flights, so if you will need a connection to complete your trip you will have to search for each leg individually.

Book flights with Avios

Though it looks very similar to the reward flight finder, the book flights with Avios tool works a bit differently. Unlike the flight finder, this booking platform allows you to view connecting flight options, including those with partner airlines.

On the downside, you can’t compare a whole month or year to find the best availability for reward seats. As you search each individual date, you might also be shown flights with no reward seat availability if one leg of a trip with multiple flights doesn’t have any. This makes it difficult to ensure that you can cover your whole flight with your Avios.

No matter which search option you choose, you can book your reward flight directly from your search results. You’ll also be presented with alternative pricing options combining Avios and money. If you don’t have enough Avios to qualify for any of the reward pricing options, you’ll have to restart your search on the regular British Airways booking platform.

How British Airways reward flights are priced

Determining the amount of Avios it will take to get you on your next flight is very complicated, as reward flight prices are determined by several factors. British Airways does offer a flight calculator – which determines how much a particular trip will cost in Avios – but the tool is not available to everyone.

While it is nearly impossible to work out the Avios price of a flight yourself (without doing a test search with your date and destination information), it is important to note the factors that go into determining these prices. British Airways reward flights are priced by distance, with date (peak vsersus off-peak) and fare class also playing a role. This means that a flight that is typically more expensive but has a shorter distance is probably a better deal.

Use Avios & Money to stretch your rewards

If you don’t have enough Avios to cover a reward flight, British Airways offers several flexible pricing options that combine Avios and money. When you search for your reward flight, you’ll be presented with all qualifying combinations.

Though it varies by flight, these pricing options might actually stretch your Avios a bit further than paying for the ticket entirely in rewards, according to our calculations (link to point value article).

Average Avios value

Booking optionAverage Avios value (cents)
Reward flight1.4
Avios & Money2.1

Even if you are not searching for a reward flight, the British Airways booking platform might give you a few options to use a small Avios balance to take even just a few dollars off the cost of your ticket.

Restrictions and fees

British Airways reward flights are some of the most difficult to redeem and can incur pretty hefty taxes and fees. Here is a quick look at restrictions to look out for:

  • Blackout dates – Technically, British Airways does not impose any blackout dates on rewards flights. However, certain dates are considered “peak” time and will cost you a lot more in Avios.
  • Limited seat availability – In addition, reward flight seats tend to be very limited. In fact, 2 out of 3 flights we searched had no availability at all. This not only makes it difficult to use your rewards, but it makes it harder to take advantage of great deals.
  • High taxes and fees, especially on overseas flights – British Airways charges some of the highest additional taxes and fees of any airline. Overseas flights cost the most, with taxes often equaling a third of the ticket price.
  • Booking, cancellation and change fees – If you prefer booking over the phone to booking online, you’ll be stuck paying a booking fee for your reward flight. In addition, any changes to your flight or cancellation incurs a fee.

These restrictions seem discouraging, but by knowing to keep an eye on additional charges and search thoughtfully for reward seats, you can ensure you get a better deal.

Tips for getting the best deal

To make sure you Avios don’t go to waste, follow a few simple tips.

  • Search for flights during off-peak times for a better rate.
  • Use your miles for shorter flights that are typically more expensive to take advantage of distance-based pricing.
  • Book online to avoid a phone booking fee.
  • Use the Avios & Money option to stretch your rewards balance.
  • Save Avios for a business or first-class ticket, as these are typically a better value.
  • Use the reward flight finder to compare several cities and dates at once if you have the flexibility.

Bottom line

Though the British Airways reward flight redemption system is certainly cumbersome, finding a good deal is not impossible. If you are willing to spend some time searching through possible routes and flexible dates, you can find some relatively good deals that stretch your points a long way.

When booking a British Airways reward flight, the most important thing to keep in mind is to do your research. In order to avoid stiff taxes or change fees, you’ll want to know exactly what you want and how good of a deal you are getting before you book.

See related: What are British Airways Avios worth?, Best ways to earn British Airways Avios, Best ways to redeem British Airways Avios, British Airways elite status, British Airways shopping portal guide

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Published: April 29, 2019

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: August 21st, 2019
Business
15.55%
Airline
17.49%
Cash Back
17.63%
Reward
17.49%
Student
17.69%

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