EDIT: This article has NOT been updated to reflect the Avios changes which took place on 28th April 2015. A revised version of the article will be published on Head for Points in late May.
The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them. Click here to see the other articles.
When British Airways created Avios in November 2011, the one change that came totally out of the blue – and in a very positive way – was the introduction of Reward Flight Saver. This allows anyone who has earned 1 Avios in the last year to book a short-haul Economy reward flight for £35 (€42) in taxes and charges, or £50 (€60) for Club Europe.
Historically, short haul redemptions were a waste of time unless you needed the flexibility or were travelling at short notice. Lufthansa‘s Miles & More scheme is the perfect example of this – it is very easy to find M&M European awards where the taxes actually come to MORE than the price of buying a cash ticket! This is because Lufthansa artificially pushes down the taxes on cash tickets if a competitor on a route is charging less.
Whilst BA never got this bad, you were still looking at c £100 of taxes for a short-haul flight to Europe which, when added to the 9,000+ miles required, made the redemption very, very bad value.
Now everything has changed. At 9,000 miles plus £35, a Reward Flight Saver redemption is probably the most valuable redemption you can get! A flight to Germany in economy will be around £125 these days, so you would be getting 1p per Avios of value. If I can get 0.75p on a long-haul J or F redemption then I consider it OK.
Club Europe can also be good value, especially if you have no status – upgrading just the outbound of a trip to Germany would be an extra 4,500 miles (one way) and £7.50. That’s a bargain for access to the Heathrow lounges and the Club Europe service, such as it is.
RFS is available on redemptions under 2,000 miles
You need the same mileage as per a standard redemptions – 4500 Avios each-way up to 650 miles, 7500 Avios up to 1150 miles, 10000 Avios up to 2000 miles. You must double this for return flights, and double it again for business class.
You will see RFS pricing automatically when you book your redemption
As long as you have earned 1 Avios during the last 12 months, you will see RFS pricing automatically when you search for Avios seats on ba.com or avios.com.
RFS redemptions are only available on British Airways
You cannot, for example, get RFS pricing on Finnair‘s Manchester to Helsinki route. This will require full taxes to be paid. However, flying on BA from Manchester-London-Helsinki does qualify for RFS.
Iberia scrapped Reward Flight Saver in June 2013. You will therefore pay full taxes and charges, approximately £96 for London to Madrid in Economy, if you book via ba.com or avios.com. (Note, however, that if you book Iberia flights on iberia.com using Iberia Plus Avios, the taxes are substantially lower.)
Domestic UK connections are available for free
You will still pay 9,000 Avios plus £35 to fly Manchester – London – Berlin, so regional flyers are not penalised.
You can also use method to build in a free domestic flight on EVERY European redemption you take! If you are going to Berlin, for example, a London resident could book the outbound (as a one-way) Heathrow to Berlin. The inbound could be booked Berlin – Heathrow – (four month stopover) – Edinburgh. This sets you up for a free one-way flight to Edinburgh in the future.
You can also do this in reverse, ie a London resident can book Edinburgh – (one month stopover) – London – Berlin and use the first leg to come back from a long weekend. However, there is a risk here, because you MUST take the first flight or your entire itinerary is cancelled. A change of plans about going to Edinburgh would also cancel your London to Berlin flight.
You can no longer get RFS pricing on Iberia subsidiary Vueling
Vueling currently operates the following routes, some only in Summer, from the UK:
- Edinburgh to Barcelona
- Cardiff to Barcelona, Majorca, Alicante, Malaga
- London Gatwick to Barcelona
- London Heathrow to Florence, A Coruna, Bilbao, Galicia, Majorca
Reward seats on these routes can only be booked via Iberia Plus. You will need to transfer BAEC or avios.com Avios into Iberia Plus to book these seats, and you need to be an Iberia Plus member for 90 days before you can transfer into Iberia Plus. When Iberia scrapped Reward Flight Saver in June 2013, it also scrapped Reward Flight Saver on Vueling.
You can get RFS redemptions from South Africa on BA franchise Comair
Comair has a decent network, flying in BA-branded aircraft, around Africa. This may come in handy if, for example, you need to get to Cape Town but can only get a redemption seat from London to Johannesburg. Comair also flies from Johannesburg to Mauritius. Comair has different charges for RFS redemptions which are slightly higher than BA’s at £56 for Economy and £64 for Business.
You can get RFS redemptions on BA’s Moscow flights, which use long-haul aircraft
The London to Moscow route is the only sub-2000 mile route from London which uses long-haul aircraft. This means that you can use RFS to experience the Club World flat bed seat or even BA’s First Class service. However, remember that you need a visa to visit Moscow which can be expensive and time consuming to obtain.
You can get RFS redemptions on BA’s ‘Fifth Freedom’ routes
A ‘Fifth Freedom’ flight is one where the plane stops en-route to its final destination to drop off passengers, and also takes on new passengers at the intermediate stop. BA uses these so called ‘Fifth Freedom’ rights to sell tickets on flights which neither begin nor end in the UK.
Here are a few British Airways ‘Fifth Freedom’ short routes:
- ANU (Antigua, see photo below) – GND (Grenada) (70 minutes)
- ANU (Antigua) – SKB (St Kitts) (30 minutes)
- ANU (Antigua) – TAB (Trinidad & Tobago) (85 minutes)
- AUH (Abu Dhabi) – MCT (Muscat) (65 minutes)
- BAH (Bahrain) – DOH (Doha) (55 minutes)
- GCM (Grand Cayman) – NAS (Nassau) (90 minutes)
- NAS (Nassau) – PLS (Turks & Caicos) (85 minutes)
- POS (Port of Spain) – UVF (St Lucia) (60 minutes)
- MLE (Male) – CMB (Colombo) (85 minutes)
All of these routes are available as Reward Flight Saver. Club World is 18,000 Avios + £50 return, First Class (where available) is 27,000 Avios + £55. If you have never tried BA’s Club World or First Class service, then this is a cheap way to do so if you are in the region – and possible turn your holiday into a ‘two centre’ one at the same time.
You can get RFS redemptions on BA franchisee Sun-Air of Scandinavia
Sun-Air runs a small network of flights from Scandinavia, flying BA-branded aircraft under a franchise agreement.
There two routes from the UK regions into Scandinavia. From Manchester, it flies to Billund in Denmark up to three time per day. Billund is the home of Legoland! It also flies from Manchester to Aarhus and Gothenburg. This is one flight with a stop in Gothenburg on the way.
All 3 routes are available as RFS for 9,000 Avios plus £35 in Economy. You can also fly from London, with a plane change in Manchester, for the same amount (although BA has its own Gothenburg service anyway).