‘CombiFare’ (one-way cash, one-way Avios) may be coming to British Airways, copying Virgin

British Airways appears to be gearing up to launch its own version of ‘CombiFare’, the innovative Virgin Flying Club feature which I have praised in various articles.

This is based on a new customer survey which went out to various British Airways Executive Club members this week.

CombiFare is a very simple idea which makes perfect sense – which may be why Virgin Atlantic is the only airline so far to do it!

It is hugely frustrating to find that you can book half of a reward ticket but cannot find seats for other leg.  On short haul flights it isn’t so bad, because British Airways sells one-way fares on its short-haul routes which you can match with a redemption seat in the other direction.

On long-haul it is usually a different matter.  In general, the only one-way tickets you can buy on long-haul routes are hugely expensive flexible tickets which cost substantially more than a refundable return ticket.  This is no help at all with your award planning.

CombiFare changes all this.

Virgin Atlantic 350

As you can read here, the Virgin Atlantic version of CombiFare allows you to book a flight with one leg booked using Flying Club miles and the other leg booked for cash.  The key  is that the cash element will be 50% of the equivalent return ticket for the same flight, not the extortionate cost of a one-way ticket.

Virgin only allows CombiFare based on Economy and Premium Economy, not Upper Class, although you can mix them with an Upper Class redemption leg.

Here is an example of how it may work with British Airways:

a return World Traveller Plus flight to New York for your dates is £1,000 cash

an Avios redemption is available for the return but the outbound flight is not available.  A one-way World Traveller Plus ticket would cost £1,750 as BA only sells flexible tickets as one-ways.  This makes the whole trip impossible.

with CombiFare, you could call BA and they would allow you to book the return flight using Avios and the outbound flight for £500, ie half the cost of an equivalent cash return ticket

There are various tweaks to this formula.  Which classes are included?  Can you mix and match classes (you can with Virgin) flying Club World on Avios outbound and back for cash in World Traveller?  What are the cancellation policies, given that the cash element is based on a non-refundable ticket?  Can you book the cash flight in a refundable ticket class for more money (you can with Virgin)?  Could it be combined with a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher?

It isn’t clear when British Airways is looking to roll this out, if indeed it does, but it will be a valuable addition to your arsenal for those people ‘in the know’.  Virgin Atlantic has always struggled to sell the CombiFare concept to a wider audience, however.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

My review of the Virgin Trains First Class lounge at Liverpool Lime Street
My review of Starwood's Aloft Liverpool hotel - Part 1
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  1. OT. Tesco vouchers. I used a £50 Clubcard voucher to buy £15 virgin miles and therefore due 3,500 points back. Normally how long does the refund take?

  2. You seem optimistic Rob so I hope you will not be disappointed. Being BA I think we should expect a catch someplace, e.g. part pay with avios has never lived up to expectations and currently 35k avios for £200 will be a con in many people’s eyes, and avios and money has its problems too.

  3. Katy storie says:

    Hi, can I ask if the BA Amex 241 voucher is for a one way or return redemption? I’m thinking of getting the BA card and the combifares have flagged up the 241 offer again which has finally pushed me to find out more!

  4. I think this is great news ….. because I can look forward to paying cash for my fun size mars bar. The saying give with one hand take with the other seems to be BA philosophy these days……one day they might realise.

  5. The combifare is a good idea in principle but it needs to be bookable online.

    WIth the example of £1000 in WT+ LHR-JFK return, the cash element is not going to be half because of the taxes and fees, which are about £300 LHR-JFK and £100 JFK-LHR, so you’d actually pay £700 + 26K avios (offpeak) rather than £500.

    Also BA had better award miles and TPs on the cash portion.

    I booked a combifare with VS HKG-SYD (when they still flew it) as I wanted to empty my Virgin account. It was massively annoying and required phone calls and emails to the Hong Kong office, followed by faxes of my credit card and then visiting the office in person as soon as I arrived in HK before they could issue the ticket. I’m not sure what the procedure is ex-UK.

    • As VFC Lifetime Gold I’ve used VS Combi fares on LHR-JFK-LHR and LHR-IAD-LHR (westbound in PE, eastbound in UC) even where redemption seats were available – to maximise Miles earned.

      It’s never taken the superb FCG team more than 5 minutes to price and book my Combi fares; less tnme than it usually takes BA Gold Line and its options to put me through to a human being.; .

  6. Jordan D says:

    I know these things leak, but am surprised seeing as the terms of the survey were meant to be confidential ….

    • You cannot realistically impose a confidentiality agreement when one party had no benefit from it – and I assume the survey was not paid.

    • otoh if people who did the survey signed a confidentiality agreement when they did the survey, they are pretty mean pieces of poop to ignore the ‘contract’

      the surveys ARE paid

      interesting info, though & no reflection on hfp as hfp did not sign a ‘contract’

  7. You can make your own combi-fares to NYC/LAX/MIA/LAS if you don’t mind flying Norwegian one way – I’ve just booked BA CW using Avios LHR – JFK, Norwegian JFK – LGW return flights for ~£150 each with a checked bag. Used my Lloyds Avios Upgrade Voucher on the CW flights so the whole thing comes in about £390 and 26,000 Avios per person.

  8. O/T applied for the Amex platinum upgrade for the 20k points on £1k spend. It didn’t appear in my account but I messaged Amex stating that I was waiting for confirmation of the points bonus before I activated my card and I have been assured I will get the 20k points. Will spend the £1k fast as I’ve just bought a new bike so will see soon if its honored……

    • Others have reported same thing and have experienced no problems getting their bonus. Expect thev £450 fee to hit your account on gold anniversary though, I made a huge mistake upgrading just before mine and was hit with the platinum fee on my second statement.

  9. I hope this comes to fruition – just priced up a J flight to Caribbean. Return flight via avios is available but no outbound – priced it up and it was costing £10,000 one way for 2

    • I had a similar problem recently. Before the BA “Sale” I had trouble with availability going out with avios. We have very specific date requirements with a timeshare villa. So in the end pd cash for 2 x PE and UUA for the return to J. Approx £2500 + 50,000 avios for 2ppl. Daytime flt out so PE not too bad; o/night coming back in J. One thing I noticed post “Sale” – reward flights seem to have vanished!

  10. Way OT sorry: If I refer a friend from my BA amex can she only use the link to apply for a BA amex too or can she apply for any card, and would I still get my bonus avios if she did apply for a different card? Thanks.

  11. Peter Taysum says:

    OT I’ve just booked LIN to BOM (obviously exEU in the sale) in Bus – and upgraded the outbound LHR to BOM to First for 22 500 Avios :-) I *thought* I didn’t get increased Tier Points but on Manage my Booking – it’s upgraded the additional 70 Tier Points. Is this correct?


    and Thanks Rob/Annika :-)

    • Peter Taysum says:

      Even more OT – I managed to book LIN to BOM as a holiday – deferring payment and getting discount – is it possible to book a “holiday” over the phone for a complex DUB to HNL itinerary – adding a hotel – thereby just paying a deposit?


  12. vs travel bear says:

    OT- has anyone had their virgin bonus miles credited from the virgin trains promotion?

    • Not yet. I believe it’s due by 31 Aug and have diarised to review next week. My son really enjoyed his one way trip across Edinburgh…

  13. Lewis Watson says:

    Anyone got experience of the BA android app. I can’t change the starting point on the cheap fare finder. It’s stuck on London. I used to be able to change to Dublin and Edinburgh to compare prices but now I can’t find the option

    • Peter Taysum says:

      It defaults to London. I don’t *think* you can change it. I’m based in NCL so tend to use finder on the App for there, then book adding NCL which it does fine. If booking Bus, it puts me into I think selling class I which gives 29 TP for NCL to LHR.

      Even on the website, not sure you can change from London, but I may be wrong

  14. Virtually every post I read on here nowadays is “off topic”… While I generally don’t care what people do, would your needs not be better served by one of the numerous travel forums out there?

    • I have a found a potential way of running a Q&A forum on the site without a full forum. I just need a bit of free time to implement it. Anika is taking on more HFP-related stuff from next month which will free up my time for things like this, as well as sorting out a proper mobile site and various other initiatives on the ‘to do’ list.

      • In fairness I sometimes find the OT stuff as interesting and useful as the headline article so never really bothers me. At some point the level of OT may become such that the original articles are superfluous.. Be interesting to see the Q&A forum as a potential solution..

        • I also find the OT questions mostly useful. If they aren’t, I just skip them.

          • +1 I also find the O/T stuff really useful

          • As I said, what people do generally doesn’t bother me so I just ignore them too. Merely pointing out that using an inferior site (for this specific purpose, not in general) in a way it’s not meant to be used seems a bit silly.

      • Why don’t you want a full forum? Not wanting to duplicate Flyertalk, too much work moderating or something else?

        • I accept that I am probably the only person who could create a thriving UK-based forum (even Business Traveller struggles). However, the issues are:

          1. Large amounts of moderating (and my preferred amount of time spent moderating is nil, given that the site takes about 50 hours a week at present to run)
          2. Legal issues with the strict UK libel laws
          3. Any use of the most popular forum software would mean that it would have to be a separate website (I don’t like any of the WordPress forum integrations) which brings its own problems
          4. Hard to monetise because people won’t pay for ads in forums (and at the same time, it would reduce page views for the articles which reduces the ad revenue from those)
          5. Flyertalk does a good job covering the UK market anyway

          Most forums actually used Indian-based companies to moderate their forums, believe it or not, but that isn’t a route I am keen to go down.

          • Agree with all those points and think it would really detract from the site to go down a full forum route.

          • I think things are okay as they are so long as there is a marked “Bits” article, which there usually is – and people try and stick putting the OT stuff there.

            • Agreed, in general that system had been working pretty well.

              I guess what some folk might value in any new system would be a way to follow comments with email alerts – at present I think just folk like myself that signed up years ago to all comments on HfP receive notifications.

      • Yes would be good as its hard to continue conversations past the current day’s articles, I don’t see flyertalk good at covering the UK topics.

      • with respect I think Anika needs to learn the trade a bit longer, though I suppose there is nothing better than learning on the job

        so you need to carefully curate the site whilst she is learning

        [goes back to garden to ignore flames lol]

        • I didn’t say she’d be writing it, although she will pick up more than she does now. 2/3rd of the hours I do are non-article writing. I have 4 meetings (and a networking trip to WWE Wrestling!) in my first full week back I could have offloaded for a start.

          You would be surprised what others outsource. One of the US bloggers has an Indian company who resize and write captions (visible and invisible for Google) to his photos overnight. Saves max 3 mins per photo but he told me it adds up.

          • No!

          • ankomonkey says:

            WWE? Advising them on how to collect and use airmiles/hotel points? Those guys travel a lot. I once flew BA MAN-JFK with them filling out the entire cabin (surprisingly I think it was W, not J). They’d pretty much trashed it. Bizarre moment to disembark the plane with The Undertaker sat there looking stoic. I think it was too much booze rather than him keeping in character…

  15. This could be quite handy.

    So in the very near future, once the Scottish Government completely abolishes APD, I should be able to fly one way from Edinburgh with an APD free cash fare, then use Avios to fly back from the USA to London – also APD free…

  16. Toby Warren says:

    Sigh reminds me of cash and miles with BMI – sigh.

  17. Slightly off topic here but I just cancelled by BA Premier and the email I received from AMEX said “any earned companion voucher will become void” I don’t think this is true and the voucher is still confirmed in my BA account. Any thoughts?


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    British Airways to launch 'CombiFare'?