Over the next few weeks, I am running updated versions of our 17-part ‘Avios Redemption University’ series. These article now reflect the recent Avios devaluation as well as other changes over the 18 months since the pieces were originally published.
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 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.
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.
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.