Should a BA Gold book ‘Gold Priority Rewards’ for double Avios to avoid new fees?

The decision by British Airways to increase its change and cancellation fees by 40% last week (up from £25 to £35 per person) did not go down well.

(It would have gone down worse, except that BA has not bothered to tell people about it.  The email you received last week promoting the latest issue of ‘The Club’ magazine somehow failed to mention this.)

More importantly, if you are BA Gold, is that the fees now apply to you for the first time.  One of the bigger benefits of being Gold has just been pulled away.

British Airways has left open an odd little loophole, though.  These fees do NOT apply to Gold ‘Priority Rewards’.

British Airways BA

What is a ‘Gold Priority Reward’?

Very simply, a British Airways Gold member can book a seat on ANY flight using Avios.  The catch is that you have to use DOUBLE the normal amount.

You cannot use an American Express 2-4-1 voucher.

Your flight must be booked more than 30 days before departure.

There is some further information on the BA Gold benefits page here.

Normally, these rewards are poor value.  Let’s take one of our family runs to Dubai.  4 Club World tickets, including one on an Amex 2-4-1, cost 240,000 Avios.  Using a Priority Reward, it would cost a crazy 640,000 Avios – plus the standard taxes.  You won’t catch me doing that in a hurry.

Are they now a good deal for short haul though?

For short-haul European bookings, I am starting to think that these rewards might actually have some use.  Let’s take our standard run to Hamburg to visit the parents in law.

A standard Avios reward ticket is 9,000 Avios + £35 taxes.  As a BA Gold, I now have to pay £35 for any change to that booking, or to cancel it.

A ‘Priority Reward’ would cost me 18,000 Avios + £35 taxes.  However, all of the changes (up to 30 days before travel) would be free.  I could also cancel for free at any time.

Importantly, I can cancel the BA ‘Gold Priority Reward’ and switch to a normal reward at any point, as long as the seats are still there.

If I wanted to book a specific trip 3 months in advance, but was not totally sure if we would travel, I could do this:

Book a ‘Priority Reward’ for 18,000 Avios

Change it as necessary, subject to availability, up to 30 days before travel – for free

As soon as I am 100% certain I will travel, I start looking for standard reward availability.  (As a Gold, I get better economy availability than other members on short-haul.)

If / when seats open up, even if it is the day before travel, I cancel my ‘Priority Reward’ and rebook at the standard reward level.

Does this make sense?  It depends on how likely it is that I will be able to switch to a standard reward later on.  If I was able to switch at short notice to a standard price Avios ticket 50% – 75% of the time, then it would work well.

It also depends on how likely I would have been to cancel the original ticket in the first place.  We did cancel a Hamburg trip because of potty training earlier in the year (!) which would have cost me £140 under the new regime.  In general, though, I would say that we fly the majority of the short-haul tickets that we book.

Fundamentally, you are looking at the following calculation, which you would need to average out over a number of flights:

Value in £ of change and cancellation fees saved vs Value of additional Avios spent when you cannot change a Priority Reward back to a standard one before departure

I’m not yet sure if it works for me or not.

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Comments

  1. Doesn’t the booking need to be made more than 30 days in advance, not within 30 days?

  2. Richie says:

    Sorry I don’t agree with this raffles, I’m sure one of the reasons ba have got rid of free changes is because too many people were making bookings knowing full well they would probably not travel, or buying it as a reward then holding it until a cheap cash fare came out. I don’t agree with this as it’s reducing availability for the rest of us. Change fees are a good thing as far as I can see. .

    • Is it reducing availability? Not really, not if Raffles (or whoever) is booking a Priority Reward flight which wouldn’t be available to mere (non-Gold) mortals. And he would only switch to a normal reward flight if there were still availability when he was absolutely sure of taking the flight, so again, that’s not unfairly taking somebody else’s opportunity.

    • These are revenue tickets so it has no impact. You will probably even get miles for them if you credit to AA, Qantas etc.

  3. Dannyrado says:

    I’d be more interested (not being gold) in your thoughts on Hamburg. I note you cancelled it but we are considering a trip in July, possibly in the hyatt, but maybe the kempinski. As you will remember we also have a two year old, so thoughts from that perspective welcome.

    • Park Hyatt is an outstanding hotel, one of the 10 best city hotels in Europe. Not flash but very efficient, directly on a big shopping street and 60 seconds from the railway station where the airport train comes in. Nice pool. My wife is there tomorrow as it happens.

      Book via a Virtuoso travel agent (search for my recent article on Virtuoso) and get you free breakfast and an upgrade. I think it is also on Amex Plats Fine Hotels and Resorts programme which would get you free breakfast, 4pm checkout and a $100 food or spa credit.

      If luxury is not your focus, you may want to be overlooking the lake albeit the Hyatt is near anyway.

      And remember, EVERYTHING pretty much is shut on Sundays except restaurants and the tour boats!

    • Stewie says:

      I like hamburg a lot, but never been with the kids (and think that raffles visits family there). The Hyatt is a great hotel – iirc you are a diamond so you get one of the few PH lounges, plus breakfast in the restaurant which is outstanding

      • Yes, to clarify, I have never stayed there with the kids, only alone or with my wife. Forgot about the breakfast which is, as you say, very impressive. And sparkling wine included on Sunday!

        • Dannyrado says:

          Yup, I am diamond. May still go through virtuoso though, I couldn’t decide whether to get a second room at half rate, or suite upgrade at 6k points. I’ll give the virtuoso thing a little think, presumably if I book the room underneath a suite, that should work??? Thanks stewie and raffles.
          The mrs has actually just said Germany, July, my thirtieth, do the rest… Any suggestions welcome, as to whether hamburg is best or not.

          • Not sure how well you know Germany, but I guess it depends what you are looking for. I find that there are so many great places in Germany, all slightly different. Munich is lovely, Berlin is lively, Dresden is like an outdoor museum. All of them great for a weekend.

          • If you’re in Hamburg, especially with kids, you can reach the beaches at Travemuende easily by train, via Luebeck (which is itself well worth a wander). Only if its sunny though! German beaches are more like US beach resorts, ie the rich go there, they are not dumping grounds for the old and poor, and so are a million miles from anything in the UK.

          • squills says:

            I’d go with Munich – most like a bit of Italy in Germany in some ways 😉

            Very friendly place.

          • Hamburg is the most ‘pleasant’ German city I know, mainly because of the water. Berlin is fascinating but very spread out and trickier with a kid. Frankfurt is tedious, Dusseldorf is tedious. Munich isn’t bad but is of most interest if you want to visit the museums!

            Berchtesgaden has a great InterContinental hotel which is literally up a mountain (nearest airport is Salzburg, then Munich) – good walking (and ski resort trips in Winter) and Berchtesgaden has an amazing abandoned salt mine you can visit. No shopping or culture of any sort although a day trip to Salzburg is easily doable on public transport.

          • Fountain of knowledge!

  4. But in the end, this is what any right minded Gold would have done anyway before the Gold fees were brought in and what any Gold should do since then. That hasn’t changed.

    • If you mean ‘do this instead of buying revenue tickets in the hope of award tickets opening later’ then I agree. Now you might do it even if award seats are showing!

  5. Just be aware about one thing though (from bitter experience)

    The Double Avios is not debited or refunded instantly. Normal Avios is credited instantly and then it gets sent to the back office for the 2nd tranche of Avios to be refunded. Sometimes they don’t do this and you have no means of checking if it is refunded or not as redeposits to your account have no reference. So you will need to call back 2-3 weeks later to check that the second lot of Avios have been refunded (I tracked one booking where they failed to refund the 2nd tranche of Avios)

    I always cancel on the phone to ensure it gets sent to the back office for the 2nd refund

    Its a nuisance in practice

    Also getting through to the phone line can be difficult at times of disruption