Plans for our trip to Spain began shortly after the British Airways Avios devaluation was announced in Spring. My wife and I each had a Travel Together Ticket from spending $30,000 on our British Airways Visa cards. We wanted to take advantage of at least one of them. The devaluation would affect first class awards the most, so even though some other bloggers rag on it and say it’s “the best business class,” I figured this would be our last opportunity.
TL;DR — I liked British Airways first class a lot and don’t regret the redemption. But it is not something I would book again, even if they didn’t gut the award chart.
Restrictions for Using the Travel Together Ticket
The Travel Together Ticket seems like a good value on its surface but has a variety of important limitations:
You must fly on British Airways. If you live on the West Coast, your options for award space will be limited. We ended up flying out of JFK as I had plans to be in DC, and then we returned to Denver.
You must depart the United States. Again, this creates some limitations. Vancouver isn’t far from Seattle, but it’s in Canada …for now. 😉
You must travel round-trip. I would have been happy to just redeem points for a one-way ticket to try it out, maybe on the return journey, and find another way to get there using another program.
You must pay the taxes and fuel surcharges for both passengers. I don’t mind the taxes so much, but the fuel surcharges along with everything else start to become expensive.
There is one good thing: The voucher is valid for two years, giving you some time to use it.
The Travel Together Ticket Is Expensive!
We redeemed 165,000 Avios and spent $2,095.70 for two people for travel from JFK to Barcelona via London, and then back from Madrid to Denver via London. Those 165,000 points are less than what most carriers charge for two first class tickets but much more than what they usually charge for just one — which ought to be your metric if you’re redeeming a Travel Together Ticket.
And although $1,000 per person isn’t bad, remember that we also needed to buy positioning flights. We nearly missed our outbound flight because American Airlines had a delay at Washington Reagan (and handled it poorly). The return from Denver was on Southwest and much smoother. But I was ready to be home after getting off a long-haul. Positioning flights are never fun.
So I wouldn’t say we got a great deal. Given some of the other sales this summer on business class tickets to Europe in general and Spain in particular, we could probably pay about $1,500 or a little more and earn miles instead of redeem them.
Better Options for Your Avios
Buyer’s remorse becomes more apparent when you consider just how many other good uses there are for Avios, especially when you live in Alaska’s hub city. Just last weekend I booked round-trip tickets to visit family for Christmas, and the cost was just 9,000 Avios and $11.20 per person (vs. ~$400 round-trip). I was thinking about Cancun or Hawaii for New Year’s Eve and found award flights for just 12,500 Avios each way (vs. ~$300 one-way).
I’ve also used them for short flights on American, but I usually have to fly somewhere else first before I can find a short flight on American — e.g., pay to get to Dallas on a cheap fare, then book an award to Amarillo. If you already live in an American or US Airways hub, more power to you.
You’ll never find Alaska’s flights on the BA website — I think because they’re not a oneworld carrier — but you can still book them easily enough by calling in. I’ve always been able to get the phone reservation fee waived.
Do I Regret It?
No, I wouldn’t go back and make a different decision. I think using this Travel Together Ticket for a first class flight — and for a long vacation with my wife — was a particularly good choice. We had a great time on the trip, which is really the most important thing. I still have lots of miles. Some of them are hidden away in places I keep forgetting about.
But I don’t need to do it again. First class on British Airways wasn’t that awesome, and these days it’s definitely too expensive. I wouldn’t even bother using this voucher for a business class award depending on the hassle. From the West Coast, just wait for a good fare sale when business class can be purchased at a discount. It offers much more control over the dates and times of travel, avoids the additional expense of positioning flights, and lets you continue earning miles and status. If you’re on the East Coast, maybe you can find availability more easily, but I still wonder if business class is necessary. First class is certainly not necessary on a 7.5 hour flight.
There are other reasons to get the BA Visa. For the last couple years they’ve provided a 10% discount on flights purchased with the card, and the sign up bonus at one time was a hefty 50,000 points with another 50,000 if you spent $20,000 in a year. But the Travel Together Ticket is not a reason I’d use to promote the card today.