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 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 in taxes and charges, or £50 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 British Airways 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.

With Reward Flight Saver, the dynamic changed completely. 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 at least £125 these days for prime weekend break timings, 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.

Here are the key things you should know about Reward Flight Saver:

Reward Flight Saver is available on redemptions under 2,000 miles

The Avios points required for one-way RFS redemptions are:

  • 4000 / 4500 Avios off-peak / peak each-way up to 650 miles
  • 6500 / 7500 Avios off-peak / peak up to 1150 miles
  • 8500 / 10000 Avios off-peak / peak up to 2000 miles

You must double this for return flights.

Club Europe costs exactly double on peak dates and slightly less than double on off-peak dates.

The calendar of peak and off-peak dates can be found here.

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.

Remember – you MUST have earned 1 Avios point during the last 12 months to see Reward Flight Saver pricing.

It is now often cheaper to book RFS redemptions as two one-way flights

Few people realise that taxes are now lower, on many routes, if you book European redemptions as two one-way flights.  You can save up to £15 per person.

This is because, now that British Airways has dropped fuel surcharges on European flights, the £17.50 one-way RFS fee is actually higher than the actual taxes and charges cost on an inbound flight.

I explain more about this odd feature in this article.  A one way from Dublin in Club Europe, for example, has tax of only £8 – booking a trip to Ireland as 2 x one-ways will cost (£25 + £8) £33 in tax compared to £50 in tax if booking a return from London.

Warning – if you try to do this at avios.com, it will incorrectly show the full £17.50 price all the way through to the final page.  Only on the page where you are asked for your credit number will it show any reduced price.

Reward Flight Saver redemptions are only available on British Airways flights

Reward Flight Saver is not available on Flybe redemptions or any other BA or avios.com partner unless the partner is a BA franchise (eg Sun-Air, Comair).  You cannot, for example, get RFS pricing on Finnair‘s Manchester to Helsinki route.

Iberia scrapped Reward Flight Saver in 2013. You will therefore pay full taxes and charges, approximately £57 for London to Madrid in Economy, if you book via ba.com or avios.com.

Domestic UK connections are NOT free following the April 2015 changes

This was the biggest hit from the April 2015 changes to anyone who lives outside the South East.

It used to cost the same 9,000 Avios + £35 to fly Manchester – London – Berlin as it cost to fly London – Berlin. That is no longer the case.

The domestic leg is now charged at 9,000 Avios + £35 return.  The Manchester to Berlin example would now cost 18,000 Avios + £70 in economy.  When you factor in the hassle required to change planes at Heathrow, it is very unlikely that you would want to do this.

You can no longer get RFS pricing on Iberia subsidiary Vueling

Vueling is a Barcelona-based low-cost airline owned by IAG, the parent of British Airways.  UK routes (some are Summer only) include:

  • Belfast to Barcelona
  • Birmingham to Barcelona
  • Cardiff to Alicante, Barcelona, Majorca, Malaga, Barcelona
  • Edinburgh to Barcelona
  • Manchester to Barcelona

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 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 Reward Flight Saver 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 – although not on all flights, and it appears that this is being phased out in 2016. 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 Reward Flight Saver 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)

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.

Antigua BA

You can get Reward Flight Saver 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 are five routes from the UK into Scandinavia:

  • From Manchester, it flies to Billund in Denmark. 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.
  • From Cambridge, it flies to Gothenburg
  • From London City, it flies to Billund and Hamburg

All routes are available as Reward Flight Saver for 9,000 Avios plus £35 in Economy. You can also use Reward Flight Saver on non-UK Sun-Air routes, such as Munich to Billund.

The official Reward Flight Saver page on ba.com is here if you want to find out more.

Which BA Club Europe routes earn 160 tier points return?
BA clamping down on ex-EU tickets - our first example?
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  1. Every mention of “taxes” can be done as “charges”. The lion share is so-called YQ – fuel surcharge that is arbitrarily set by an airline.

    Lufthansa can’t push down “taxes” artificially, only the charges that were artificially high in the first place!

  2. RFS used to be the way we redeemed the majority of our Avios – however, since BA (soon to change their name to London Airways?) discontinued the free domestic leg as an add-on to European flights, it is no longer the bargain it was.

    Effectively, RFS is now exclusive to those living within easy reach of LHR/LGW/LCY: 36,000 Avios + £140 for two people flying from, for example, Glasgow – Milan for the weekend, when compared to the previous 18,000 Avios + £70, is no longer a good deal.

    I, for one, have to say that all of the other redemption changes aside, this was doubtless the biggest blow for us ….

    • Same here, but we do have to travel to Abz or edi for a BA flight. Close to home I can redeem emirates skywards on easyjet to Gatwick .
      At least the domestic leg is still included for long haul.

    • cheekychappie says:

      You were just lucky before, to be near a convenient connecting airport. Stop whining & fly budget instead or just get in the car? :)

      We have to drive 4 hours to get to Heathrow plus always factor in EXTRA time because of possible delays en route – yet still consider RFS extremely good value.

      It does help that there are (generally) no cheaper, closer budget alternatives to our usual destination.

    • Totally agree, this aspect of the devaluation definitely hit me hardest.

    • I think pre-change free connections was a bit too good to be true, so understand why change happened. Although we have gone from one extreme to another where 9000+£35 for a one hour flight is hugely overpriced, especially when there are reports that a lot of domestics are operating under-capacity.

      • I don’t think it was too good to be true, I think BA just hit domestic RFS with a sledgehammer. Instead of stopping any kind of stopover they just priced it like any other flight. The obvious thing would have been to prevent stopovers which meant BA incurred extra APD and stopped pax nesting domestic tickets for future use. I know pax who were doing say GLA-LHR (stop) LHR-PRG, then PRG-LHR (stop) LHR-EDI. That has 3x APD vs 1. This was a very easy way to stop all of that and change the terms.

        Instead they took free domestic away all together. Its very amusing considering the ghost ships some domestic flights are. LBA of course, even some EDI/GLA are very quiet. I have been on many GLA 321s that had 1-9 blocked for trim at T-48/24.

  3. You say RFS is only avalable if you get at least one avoid point in a year. Does this point have to be got by flying, or does it count on points from credit card, shell points, etc

    • cheekychappie says:

      Any point earned will do. Remarkably clumsy for anybody to miss out this way as there are countless ways to pick up small quantitypoints, often ‘for free’.

      • Thanks! I have been known to be clumsy but doubt I’d ever fail to get 1 avios in a year! 😉

        • cheekychappie says:

          Well I guess I admit to sometimes forgetting to having to keep my Virgins going 😉

          Always forget for a few months then just buy something through them or etc.

          Got about 100K I can’t use right now :)

  4. William W says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Stu R. Surely internal flights are now incredibly bad value? If connecting to Europe, one would have thought that BA/Avios would have done something to retain customers rather than alienate them. We would never think of spending Avios on UK internal flights, nor of paying a BA fare for the internal leg..
    Does Avios know that there is an Easyjet out there whose fares internally and to Europe- provided you can plan ahead- are so competitive that one would be tempted not to bother with BA/Avios at all?

    • Thank you, indeed they are bad value. We have booked returns from London to Naples for next spring with Alitalia for £244, 2 persons, including luggage (which we don’t need) and a pre-selected seat – the cheapest convenient BA flight we can get to connect into this from GLA is £383 return with no bags, no selected seat. Compare with EasyJet who (if their current prices are anything to go by, as next spring’s flights aren’t out until early September) sell similar flights (albeit not into Heathrow) for £134 return for 2 people, including bags. Even with transfers between airports, we’ll be nowhere near £383!

    • When looking at travel to Europe I no longer consider BA redemptions or cash tickets for flights out of GLA/EDI to LHR and then onwards, it’s just not worth the hassle or the longer journey time. Instead its easyjet/ryanair/germanwings etc. etc. to get to the nearest airport on the continent combined with using the excellent and cheap train network that Europe has.

  5. And of course, not forgetting the AA US network.

  6. Short haul RFS from non London airports are very poor value. I fly MAN-DUB on EI regularly and the fare is around half the price of the charges with a RFS on BA and of coourse no 9k Avios on top.

    • cheekychappie says:

      General inference taken from specific route example, I wouldn’t do that.

      • Fair comment but it can certainly be said that the value of short haul RFS from UK regional airports requiring a connection through London (which are the vast majority) has been very significantly reduced since the inclusive connecting flight was abolished. Much better value with others now. No inference there – plain fact.

  7. Jeremy i says:

    Excellent guide, many thanks Rob.

    I think BA has dropped the add on to Colombo? Or was it just the direct Colombo flight?

  8. You mention the Moscow flights – the return from Moscow is very much a shorthaul service albeit on a long-haul aircraft. The ‘meal’ in economy last night (flight departed 18:30) was a tiny cheese & tomato roll. That was it! You get more flying to Milan in economy (roll and cake!)…

    Also, it took us longer to get from plane door to hotel door arriving on Friday than the actual flying time! 1 1/2 hour passport queue and 2 hour drive into town. So yes, Moscow is a great place to visit (visa hassle aside) but there are probably better places for a few extra tier points (trip wasn’t for points at all!).

  9. We are lucky in that we live just 15 mins drive from LCY and tube is also a viable option. For us RFS redemptions are great value from LCY. Am trying to go to all destinations from LCY. So far done about 6.

  10. Sandgrounder says:

    Three things to say.

    Don’t try to book a family trip to Legoland. You only ever see 2 seats per flight on Sun-Air.

    Thanks everyone who booked extra domestic legs they didnt really need, just because they could. You killed it for those of use who do actually live in the frozen wastelands.

    Getting a visa for Russia is not cheap, but it is easy. Just use an agency like realrussia and it’s a simple form, no proof of accomodation or anything else silly like that is required. I am surprised you missed the chance for a revenue earning link there Rob!

    • You’re targeting the wrong audience…..not HFP subscribers surely ?

      • sandgrounder says:

        I’m not targeting anyone Mike! I just made three comments about the article. That’s all!

    • Mrtibbs1999 says:

      Getting a visa for Moscow involves a trip to the embassy and having your fingerprints taken. Pre December 2014 this wasn’t needed and it’s made it a total ball-ache.

      I just used an F redemption tomloscow with my family and I spent more on the visas and travel to London to get them than I did on the rest of the trip ( 5* Starwood BRG)

      • sandgrounder says:

        Apologies for my earlier comment in that case, having not entered Putin’s lair since last summer I was not aware this was now the situation. I notice that this only applies for people applying in the UK, Denmark, Myanmar and Namibia. What a club to be a member of! Despite the fact my in-laws live 300m from the border, I think Russia had their last Rouble off me for the time being!

        • Mrtibbs1999 says:

          With the double at 103 to the pound it’s actually quite cheap once you get there. I’d simply leave a big enough gap between booking and going to fit a long weekend in London – using the Accor Happy Monday scheme – to have a trip to London whilst getting the visas. We ate at good restaurants and had drinks on red square for the same price it’d have cost in Manchester. Last time I went at 48 roubles to the pound it was punishingly expensive.

  11. pointsarb says:

    sorry slightly o/t. Have just booked a bunch of internal flights in USA using avios and flying on aa metal. All flights have been ticketed as hand baggage only fares! Does anyone know if this is normal when using avios for internal aa flights in USA or better still of any work arounds?

    We will have at least 4 cases flying around with us from our F flights from lhr to yyz and don’t fancy all the aa baggage charges on the aa internals if we can help it!

    Thanks in advance for any responses.

    • Yes, the enormous baggage allowance in CW and F does not fit well with internal flight allowances and even trains in Canada.

    • If you have One World status I would expect that to apply to AA flights in accordance with the level. Otherwise, I think you’ll be paying to check your bags.

    • Standard policy now for the US airlines. They make all their money on baggage fees these days.

      Whatever you are doing, though, you don’t need 4 suitcases. I can do a week on hand-baggage – admittedly I took a case to Canada last week but only because I was at a wedding. Hotel laundry costs are a lot lower than airline excess baggage fees!

  12. pointsarb says:

    thanks for the responses guys. unfortunately i don’t have o/w status anymore since my cx gold expired :-(

    raffles, i could do hand luggage no problem but i will have the mrs + two kids under 4 in tow with a buggy – so we’re going to need those cases i think!!

    does anyone know if i match my etihad gold or gulf air gold to air berlin (o/w) could i then use my new air berlin o/w status to help with the aa baggage fees on the internal flights with aa?


  13. pointsarb says:

    thanks rob, off to do a status match with air berlin then!

  14. Just priced up MAN-AAR on the Sun Air flight. On ba.com it’s charging separate RFS fares (4000+£17.50) for each leg of the flight, MAN-GOT then GOT-AAR. A return from MAN-AAR is 16000 avios + £70.

    That seems a bit naughty considering it runs through on the same flight number and you are only on the ground in GOT for 25 minutes.

  15. What’s my best bet of paying least taxes going to NYC in Economy Class from Europe?

    • Airberlin from Berlin or Dusseldorf – from New York tax will be £3. Going out it will be a little higher.

      Aer Lingus from Dublin will be under £75 return and perhaps more convenient – you would also clear US immigration in Dublin which saves time.

  16. cheekychappie says:

    Did you get the latest Avios mailing (arrived today for me)?

    They say that Tuesdays & Wednesdays are always off peak for Avios redemption. I checked it out, & sure enough even at peak times this is true.

    6500 vs 7500 Avios on my European route.

    Maybe I was just thick & didn’t see it before – but it is good to know.