Now, everyone knows using British Airways (BA) Avios to redeem premium cabin award space on actual BA flights is a terrible idea and should be avoided at all costs. Flying BA metal in/out of London Heathrow will rack up huge taxes, fees and fuel surcharges. There are many posts out there on how to avoid these ridiculous fees such as using BA Avios to redeem domestic American Airlines award flights or awards flights on Aer Lingus and Iberia to get across the Atlantic. It’s rather ironic that BA Avios are better used on their partner airlines than redemption on their own airline. But if the glamour and allure of flying a British Airways flight is just too much to handle and you really insist on flying BA metal, here are some least painful ways to do it.
I’m not gonna lie. There is something grand about British Airways that I have always wanted to experience. From the top notch lounges including the Concorde and Arrivals lounges to the elegant BA pajamas, British Airways exudes an English charm that somehow justifies their exorbitant fees. And that’ pretty much how this post started. I did all this research on it and I might as well share it with you guys. In this post, I will look at some of the least expensive ways to fly BA’s First Class Cabin (even if it’s not the most rational decision).
Before I begin, I wanted to address one issue. There was a rumor out there in the interweb that you could fly to/from Brazil on British Airways without being charged the ridiculous fuel surcharges. Now, that’s partly true because Brazilian law does forbid sneaky additional fees when purchasing flight tickets but this law only applies if you have a Brazilian address. So if you have a residence or family down there, then go for it. Otherwise, it’s a no go. Sorry.
Okay, let’s look at what we’re dealing with. A simple search on BA’s website for a random travel date of May 5, 2014 to May 17, 2014 in First Class from Los Angeles to London Heathrow shows the cheapest revenue flight as $16,549. Clearly, we would never pay that much for a flight.
British Airways award redemption is distance based, so it’s pretty simple. The further you fly, the more Avios you will need. Business Class awards require twice as many Avios as Economy and First Class requires three times as many Avios as Economy. That’s horrible considering the award redemption on other airlines is only a little more than double the miles from Economy to First Class.
Let’s look at how many Avios that same flight will cost us. For that same roundtrip flight:
- 150,000 Avios plus $1,241.03 in taxes, fees and surcharges.
- 135,000 Avios plus $1,531.03 in taxes, fees and surcharges.
- 112,500 Avios plus $1,961.03 in taxes, fees and surcharges.
- 90,000 Avios plus $2,401.03 in taxes, fees and surcharges.
- 75,000 Avios plus $2,681.03 in taxes, fees and surcharges.
Now those are terrible redemption rates. The only difference between those price points is that you’re basically buying Avios miles to help supplement the cost difference. Don’t do that.
Another option for BA metal is to purchase the Economy Class ticket and then upgrade to First Class. On those same travel dates, I used the “Pay with cash and upgrade with Avios” search box on their website. The price turned out to be $1902.03 plus 25,000 Avios. That’s looking a little bit better. The price is T fare class (Premium Economy) so you’ll still accrue miles and tier points for this trip and using 25,000 to upgrade is not that bad.
Let’s compare the cost difference if we used their oneworld partner, American Airlines. For the same travel dates, you would need 125,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles plus $1,241.00 in taxes, fees and surcharges. That’s the same taxes, fees and surcharges as using the British Airways Avios but 25,000 less miles. That’s looking much better.
But what if you’re only looking to experience the BA difference once? You know, just so you can say you did it. For that same outbound travel date, a one way award ticket using American Airlines AAdvantage miles would cost you 62,500 miles plus $476.20 in taxes, fees and surcharges. Taking that search one step further, you can even add a connecting flight to Istanbul (just a random destination in Europe) for the same amount of miles (62,500) plus $505.90 in taxes, fees and surcharges. When you look at it that way, it’s not so bad. You pay $29 more and get to experience another BA metal flight, albeit only for a few hours.
Another option for you to experience BA metal without spending too much money might be flying intra-Europe flights. Those flights require less Avios and incur less fees but you can’t book award First Class seats. I didn’t focus on those flights because I wanted this post to focus on the whole BA experience in First Class. And you really can’t experience that on a 2 hour intra-Europe flight.
So as you can see, it’s never great to redeem miles to use on BA flights but if you really want to fly them, it looks like booking with “Pay with cash and upgrade with Avios” is your best option if using BA Avios. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s not too expensive, requires less Avios miles and you still accrue miles for your trip. However, the best option is to use American Airlines AAdvantage miles. That one way award flight is not looking that bad huh?
Let me know your thoughts on this post. If you guys have flown BA and think it’s worth it (or not worth it) or have found any other ideas on how to redeem those valuable Avios miles.