How and why to do a back-to-back BA connection in Amsterdam!

There are a number of good reasons NOT to start your long-haul premium cabin British Airways flight in the UK!

The first is Air Passenger Duty, levied by the UK Government.  This is now getting pretty steep – a business class flight to Thailand would cost £166 for example.

You can avoid this by flying outside the UK, flying back and then leaving the UK on your longhaul flight within 24 hours.  (The longhaul flight must be on the same ticket as your Europe to UK flight.)

If you live in the South East it is pretty easy – the day before your holiday, you quickly fly to somewhere in Europe or the Channel Islands, fly back, go home and then next day head off to Heathrow as normal.

For cash flights, the savings are even higher than for redemption flights.  On an Avios ticket, all you save is the Air Passenger Duty – and that is offset by the cost of the Europe flight.

Cash flights come with a double benefit, though.  British Airways prices flights which start in Europe far lower than those which start in the UK, because it needs to win over passengers from local carriers.

As an example:

Amsterdam – London – New York JFK (Club World, out 1 March, back 8 March) – €2,806 = £2,332

London – New York JFK (same long-haul flights) – £4,472

Whilst this is obviously an extreme example, it works on more mundane routings too.  It is especially interesting when BA has an ex-Europe sale.

Doing a back-to-back connection is not always straightforward, though.

You want to come back on the same plane you arrived on, to ensure you get back OK.  (The next flight could be cancelled, delayed etc.)

You need to use an airport where you are not forced into a lengthy customs and passport control check in order to get back to the plane.  If you arrive late, you could fail to get back to the boarding gate in time, especially if the airport stops you going through security if the plane is near its departure time.

You want to use an airport where you will NOT be bussed to and from the plane.  Adding in a bus increases the risk of not getting back on the plane, because the bus boarding area may be closed before you have a chance to get to it.

Amsterdam has a reputation for being a great airport for a back-to-back flight.  However, I had never done this myself at Schiphol.  As Amsterdam was available for £1 in the recent Reward Flight Saver sale, I booked myself a return flight, coming back on the same plane, to test it out.

It was astonishingly easy.  So easy, in fact, that it is almost too boring to write about!

You land at a D gate like this one.  As you can see, you exit directly into the boarding area.  You simply walk off the plane, sit in the boarding area (there is a café whilst you wait) and then reboard.  100% trouble free.

The only thing to remember is to have your return boarding pass with you, as there are no boarding pass machines at the gate.  Even if they were, they would probably refuse to issue your boarding pass so close to departure.

Amsterdam gate

The security gates, as you can see below, are behind you.  There is therefore no reason to clear security again.

Amsterdam security

The only downside is that you cannot access the British Airways lounge.  It is quite a walk from the gate and would require you to reclear security.  That defeats the object of doing a risk-free turnaround.

Over at Flyertalk, they have put together a great list of major European airports and how easy it is to do a back-to-back flight through them.  Key factors include whether or not you need to clear passport control (‘No’ at Schiphol), whether you need to reclear security (‘No’ at Schiphol), whether you may be bussed to the plane (‘No’ at Schiphol) and whether you can easily access a lounge whilst you wait (‘No’ at Schiphol).

It is worth noting from the Flyertalk thread how good Amsterdam is.  At Brussels, for instance, it recommends you give yourself 30 minutes from leaving the plane to getting back to the boarding gate, which may be too tight.

If you do book a flight Amsterdam – London – XXXXXX – London – Amsterdam, here is one vital tip.  Book the last leg of your flight (London to Amsterdam) from Gatwick.

I am assuming that you will not want to take that last flight.  If you book it to depart from Gatwick, it is impossible for your luggage to be checked through and it must be returned to you at Heathrow – which is exactly what you want!

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Comments

  1. While the cash saving is impressive, don’t count on getting Avios/Tier Points on your flights if you don’t fly the last leg LGW – AMS.

    Have heard that BA are monitoring this trick and not rewarding Tier Points or Avios.

    • You should get the points for the flights to the US – they normally post soon after you have flown and so won’t be affected by the return leg.

    • Never seen that. In any event, you can book that last leg for up to 11 months after your inbound flight.

      The smart thing would be to book the last leg for a few months later and have a proper weekend in Amsterdam.

      • Most ex-EU sales fares have a maximum stopover time of 10 days, so you can’t have the final leg a long way in advance. Also the cost of a London stopover is usually €200, depending on the fare rules.

        There is a risk if you intend to drop the last connection, and do so often, that BA will remove all avios/TP’s from that ticket.

        • Indeed – AA are much stricter than BA in this regard (if that last leg isn’t flown they’ll commonly cancel all points), but personally I wouldn’t risk it – after all you’re gaining another 40TPs for that extra EU leg!! For those of us from the regions (who don’t have the luxury of the night at home before the long-haul LHR leg!) I tend to turn it into a mini-weekend break and enjoy the city beforehand – I then tend to fly direct from there home (eg AMS-EDI with KLM)

        • Agreed, if you do this once a month BA will come after you. There are cases where this has happened that I know of. Once a year, not a problem.

        • I did some test bookings from AMS for a trip to SFO I’ve got on the cards for June. Altering the last leg to LGW – AMS 3 months later added over €400 to the fare, which rather eats into the savings! It seems to me that you might as well add a few hours to your overall journey and do the final LHR – AMS – LHR legs. It’s a faff, but it’ll only cost 9,000 Avios + £35, and that way there’s definitely no quibble about not receiving Avios and TPs because you didn’t complete your journey.

          Interestingly, some of my test bookings (all requested in CW) were coming back with some o/w upgrades to First, and the option to go via LAX on the A380…. marvellous!

  2. I presume it’s not a problem to have no check in baggage for Ams > london and then check in baggage for london > ny?

  3. AMS is my favoured positioning flight and transit airport. I will look into the cash options there too following your post. In the past I had explored similar from Dublin but no joy there; probably because there is no serious competition and BA expects to pick up the traffic anyway. For a reward flight I am not sure back2back works so well for people heaing east or south, it could tip you into a higher band requiring more avios so careful research is needed. For example, contrast MH AMS-KUL versus LHR-KUL although on the latter you would get a380 as opposed to a horrible 777 from AMS so it might be worth the extra. Heading east it is also worth exploring RFS to Helsinki for a sh overnight otr a short break before starting redemption on AY, Following some initial reservations, I have become rather fond of AY. I like the layout and seats in their latest J products, and despite many poor reviews I actually enjoy the lighter meals they serve which I personally think are more suited to flying. With respect to AMS, I would like to add that for those who are disabled or are accompanying a dissabled passenger IME Schipol is second to none. The passenger assistance seems to have been contracted out to a private company and I have found them to be brilliant. You get the buggy treatment, jumpt to front of immigration and security lines, assisted to your car, taxi, train, bus or whatever, and they even call ahead to your hotel, meeting place etc and request somebody is outside awaiting your arrival. They have similar reverse arrangments in place for getting to your flight at Schipol. And to cap it all, if you have connecting flight they go to the trouble of contacting that airline too to remind them that you are coming and what assistance you need.

  4. But how do you know rhe plane you land on is going to be the one taking you back? I tried this trick doing a TP run from LAS/LAX. Booked the next return flight from LAX but the plane that we lamed on was then being used to go to Denver or somewhere. My flight back to to LAS was from a different gate and had a 2 hour delay on it. If I had been trying to get back to LAS to travel on I might have missed my connection.
    I prefer to get the last flight of the day, spend the night in a hotel and get the first flight the next day. You can check your luggage in at LHR for your connecting flight as long as it is not later than 24 hours away, saving you the trouble of taking it with you on your possessioning flight.

    • Because that was the US, the land of 80% domestic flights and multiple hubs

      In Europe, especially for BA which basically only has flights from London, where is your plane going to go when it lands in AMS? And if the plane is late out from London, where are they going to get a plane to fly the return flight – i.e. the return flight will be delayed too.

      • Thanks…….. Ohhh, the blog thought I might be a spambot, possibly because of the short reply, but it wouldn’t let me put in more than 2 of the required numbers to post.

    • BA does not rotate planes between hubs. Whilst theoretically a Gatwick plane could do the return leg to Heathrow, in reality they don’t. And the City Airport planes to Amsterdam are jets so they won’t go back to Heathrow.

      In the 90% of destinations that BA only serves from Heathrow, it is certain you will come back on the same plane.

      • Didn’t the GIB run used to rotate between LHR and LGW? Back in 2006/7, admittedly…!

        • Possibly, but the fleet is more demarcated now.

        • That was during GB airways days, and they did do W patterns and cross overs as part of planned ops. They only had a couple of LHR slots, so would time them for maximum impact in both directions.

          Additionally, their maintenance ops (provided by Virgin) was predominantly LGW based so they had to rotate the aircraft.

    • You can see what plane has operated flights from LHR for many months:
      http://ftdashboard.net/overview/baflights.htm

      You can then ensure that the outbound and inbound flight are both operated by the same aircraft, thereby (virtually) eliminating the issue you raise.

  5. Landed, not lamed, but then again.

  6. Just wondering how you build in an overnight (<24 h) stop in London on the way back from AMS (and onward to your desitination)? – the BA website only shows options where there is a same-day departure to your long haul destination

  7. What happens if the first London to Eu flight is cancelled? It might prove hard to coordinate new flights at short notice?

    • If that was cancelled, then your AMS-LHR-XXX would be cancelled too, so BA would be fully liable to you. However, this is why I would do this the day before to give some flexibility.

  8. Londonbus says:

    Can I check re luggage?

    Say I book AMS-LHR-BKK. On my LHR-AMS leg can I check a bag in for BKK at Heathrow – then fly out and back to AMS?

    • No, this could be difficult – not sure how easy it is to check in a bag for the 2nd leg of a flight when you haven’t flown the first one yet. It could lead to reconciliation problems at Amsterdam, for example, if they treated you as having a bag even though it isn’t on the plane.

      • Could you explain why you’ve said it’s not a problem to check-in baggage for LHR->BKK before flying out for AMS but have said it is not for Jonny’s question of not having check-in baggage for AMS->LHR? Is it just that you must have baggage checked in prior to arriving at LHR (from AMS)?

        • Sorry James. I have edited my reply above. This is probably tricky and not to be recommended.

          Quick explanation. When I see the comments as admin, I see them in order of posting, combined across all comments on all open posts (42 at any one time) and NOT threaded. I occasionally mess up because I need to guess the earlier comment that the person is replying to.

      • That would be a bit of an odd conversation at check in anyway…. I’m here for my flight to AMS but want to check in a bag for my later flight to BKK first….

        If you’re parking at Heathrow maybe just leave the luggage in the boot of your car for the AMS trip, though that means leaving long enough on the later connection to fetch it and check it in.

  9. Is there any way that you can use your companion ticket to do the long haul flight? Or you can only use this if you book cash +/- avios? I think one of the rules for the use of companion ticket is departure from a UK airport.

    • Correct so, no, it won’t help with that.

      This really works best on revenue and not redemption tickets, since a revenue (cash) ticket throws in AMS to LHR for free, or even a negative amount as the ticket cost for AMS-LHR-XXX is less than LHR-XXX. On an Avios redemption, the extra Avios required to get from AMS to LHR offsets some of the gain.

  10. I’ve done the same routine at AMS and it was not a success experience. BA staff refused to check me in as the “baggage car” had left the building therefore I couldn’t check in unless I gave up my luggage. My onward flight to NRT was cancelled by BA and they refused to refund the tix at all until countless arguing with the customer relation team. I got the travel credit instead of cash refund and it took me endless hours to fight for it.

    This is my own experience and I would not advise the same flight back. If you’re planning to do so – You need to leave at least 3-4 hours prior to your flight out from AMS just in case.

    • Why did you bring luggage to AMS? Did you check-in online for AMS-LON?

      If you leave 3-4 hours in AMS, then there is a risk of the outbound being cancelled but the inbound operating, and you may not be able to get to AMS on the next outbound (which is the same plane as your inbound)

  11. Mr Bridge says:

    We normally stay at a terminal connected hotel in london the night before, in case of bad traffic.

    For a good saving like this, I think we would stay at schipol!

    Luggage def get returned at heathrow, if you book gatwick ???.

    Is it possible to book the gatwick -ams flight 2 days later then cancel this leg for a refund of fuel surcharge?

    • They must return your luggage at Heathrow as BA has no luggage transfer service to Gatwick.

      On a Gatwick to AMS, I doubt you’d get much back after the cancellation fee, unless you are Gold – and even for Gold, I think an admin fee still applies. And, with a 2 day gap, you’d be paying APD on London to Amsterdam as the stopover is greater than 24 hours.

      On a redemption, though, you might as well book the return separately and just stop in London.

  12. Mr Bridge says:

    and the raddison blu at schipol, a good place to get my upgrade with amex plat.

  13. Is there any benefit when using all avios and a companion voucher? We usually do this for our flights to US, which cost around £580 per person in tax.
    If it was booked all as one flight eg Lon – Ams – Lon – NY wouldnt this still count for the same level of tax due to the origination of the flight being London?

    • You can’t do this with a companion voucher.

      a) 241 tickets must start in London
      b) the Amsterdam (or wherever) trick requires London to Amsterdam to be on a total separate ticket

      If you weren’t using the 241, you could do it. On a redemption, you could do it as 3 tickets:

      1. London to Amsterdam
      2. Amsterdam to London (stopover under 24 hours) to XXXXX
      3. XXXXX to London

      If you did it all as a redemption, you’d by spending 9,000 extra Avios plus £35 to do this. The benefit is marginal, to be honest, given that the maximum saving you can make is £160 (ie the APD on an Asian Club World ticket).

      • Er 241 tickets must start in the UK, of which Jersey by some stretch of the political boundaries BA has included

        No problem doing B2b’s in Jersey (except the weather)

      • Can’t you start a 241 booking in JER, avoiding APD?

        Of course BA don’t fly JER-LHR  so most folks would have to transfer from Gatwick to Heathrow on the outbound.

        • Yes, works fine with a 241 and avoids APD. You still need to get to Jersey, though, and for most people the cost and travel to Gatwick would outweigh the APD saving.

          The big savings are on cash tickets in premium cabins.

  14. This is a great trick to do. I recently saved over £4k on a J class routing to north america, which I booked less than 2 weeks before departure.

    I agree that it’s best not to do it too often though. Twice a year maximum is my limit. Sometimes it’s just not worth it either, but in certain cases you can save thousands. I certainly couldn’t bear to finish the journey by returning to Amsterdam and back at the end of a long haul flight back to London, though.

    If you are giving BA a ton of business I wonder if they will let it go if they do find out? It would seem petty to lose a customer over it (say if they removed miles and tier points).

  15. Flying from AMS or BRU is basically what i do when i am flying premium classes. I discovered the huge disparity in cash prices a while back. My prime example is my £1500 club world flight from BRU to LAS, via LHR. The same flight from LHR was somewhere in the 3k range. For me living in the south east, i find it just as convenient driving to the airport via Le Shuttle or a ferry.

    Cheaper flight, more tier points, more avios (albeit only a few hundred).

  16. Hi Guys

    Just a silly question –

    Do you really have to ACTUALLY fly?
    Shouldn’t it be enough to book? I mean, is the UK APD dependent in hat you’re ACTULLY doing?

  17. How does this impact UuA? For instance, if I book a WTP ticket am I able to still UuA from LHR-SIN for example?

    JER-LGW (CE) as part of the WTP booking
    LHR-SIN (WTP)
    SIN-LHR (WTP)
    LGW-SIN (CE)

    • I guess you meant LGW-JER (CE)!

      I would imagine this would work. However, I’d expect the potential savings on a WTP fare to be somewhat lower and substantially offset by the CE fare to Jersey.

  18. Irons1980 says:

    I have done this a fair few times – usually via Milan (LIN) and then the last leg is a next day LGW to somewhere like Tunisia or Algeria… BA have NEVER not awarded the points. If you are worried, then phone them up and cancel the flight – I did this and they just told me not to show up and it won’t be a problem…
    Usually I leave for Milan at 7am (on a separate OW ticket), arrive by 12, sit in the lounge for 3 hours and then fly back to LHR ready for the 8pm JFK flight (or wherever else you are travelling) – that gives enough time for any delays, etc. It might seem like a faff, but it saves me THOUSANDS. This routing to JFK in CW is usually around £2k for a Sunday – Thursday, vs. £5k+ direct. Worth it in my book.

    One tip – I would not recommend doing a turnaround as mentioned above – if you have any delays on your outbound, you will not have time to check-in for the return flight and you will loose your whole journey and BA will not help (why should they?) – I leave one flight to be on the safe side and also I usually have luggage, so you have to clear passport, get your bag and re-check it anyway. LIN is great, because it’s such a tiny airport.

    • Andy Brown says:

      I agree that it is not a good idea to back-to-back the outward flights to/from AMS but it is clearly OK for the final legs but clearly don’t take your luggage with you – as Raffles says book via LGW then you can leave your luggage in the car or (as I do) go home (I’m not too far from LGW), freshen up then go back for a quick out/back to AMS.

      • Or for those from the regions keep the LHR connection (rather than LGW) and then fly direct back from AMS to your regional airport – KLM have pretty good links.

    • Thanks for the tip about phoning up. I called up and cancelled my final flight back to amsterdam and they said thanks and that it was useful (since I was checked in for the final flight and would have been a no-show).

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