Avios Redemption University – Lesson 2 – How to benefit from Reward Flight Saver

The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from themClick 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.

Here are the key points you need to know about Reward Flight Saver (‘RFS’). The official ba.com description of RFS can be found by scrolling down this ba.com page.

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.

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.

BA at Antigua

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).

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    Can purchasing Avios count as earning in the last 12 months or need to earn through flying or partners?

    Dale.

  2. 72-hour visa free visits to Moscow may be on the way: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/21464899-post50.html

  3. You forgot to mention that the free domestic legs can be separated in time from the other leg with a “stopover” in London of up to nearly a year(?). If you link a domestic to a Europe trip then there are no additional taxes. This also works with long-haul tickets, but you have to pay the additional airport fees. In fact, I’ve been able to find availability in Club World Asia-London-Leeds, but searching the same flight just Asia-London shows none.

    If you live in London this gets you a trip to the north plus your Europe trip for the same price, as long as you can make the dates work. The problem is if you no-show for your domestic trip then your Europe trip will get cancelled. Also, you need to remember to take your passport if a domestic leg is before an international leg, even if your London stopver is several months.

    • Good point John. I am guilty of London-centric thinking!

    • (another) John says:

      Great info. Do you know, is it possible to amend the dates of the second leg having flown the first? i.e. if I’ve done Leeds to London, are the London-Asia dates flexible?

  4. Is there any RFS equivalent for intra-US flights? Looking to visit relatives in RDU, but since BA doesn’t go there I was planning to do an open-jaw to JFK, get a separate flight to RDU and an another back to BOS to return from there. I have Amex MRs, Tesco points & avios, if that helps.

  5. Can someone confirm the avios required as well as average taxes payable on the JHB-CPT route (return flights)

  6. Felixstowe Flyer says:

    Hi Raffles.
    Thanks for running this post again. I have a household account with my wife and son. As I am the main earner, my wife and 6 year old son do not earn many miles. Can they still get an RFS if I have credited avios in the previous 12 months but they haven’t? Always assuming enough availability of course!

  7. If I don’t earn 1 Avios in a year via BAEC I can always move to Avios.com (given I did so there) to book RFS from there right. Or are there also different availabilities to book under RFS? Thanks.

  8. I recently booked a flight using avios for Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong return, with Cathay it cost 40,000 avios and £58 taxes. Four hour flight in lie flat business class seat (and not the older regional business class – you can check the flight on CX website). Means i will get the choice of all the CX lounges in Hong Kong which will be rather nice.

    If I had booked it with MAS it would have been the same number of avios but about £122 in taxes! I’d never have double checked the taxes had it not been for reading this blog, and wouldnt have occurred to check what plane it was to be on to make sure of the newer business class seat.