Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Avios Redemption University – Lesson 11 – Low tax redemptions with US Airways

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(EDIT:  British Airways started adding fuel surcharges to US Airways flights in July 2014.  The information in this article is now out of date unfortunately.)

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.

This series of articles covers the best ways to get maximum use for your Avios points.  Other articles look at, for example, airberlin, TAM and Iberia amongst others.  All of these airlines charge a fraction of the taxes and surcharges asked by British Airways for redemptions on their planes.

Save money by redeeming on US Airways

US Airways joined the oneworld alliance on 31 March 2014.  If you are keen to minimise the amount you pay in tax and fuel surcharges, they offer an interesting option.

US Airways

These are the routes currently flown by US Airways from the UK and Ireland.  All require 80,000 Avios in Business Class.

Take a look at the taxes number (these figures all relate to Business Class return flights – remember that BA would want roughly £550 for a BA or AA flight):

Dublin to Philadelphia – £28 (says £49 then reprices, see screenshot)

London to Charlotte – £194 (say £215 then reprices)

London to Philadelphia – struggled to find but imagine as above

Manchester to Charlotte – £165 (says £186 then reprices)

Manchester to Philadelphia – £165 (says £186 then reprices)

Edinburgh to Philadelphia – £162 (says £185 then reprices)

Glasgow to Philadelphia – £161 (says £170 then reprices)

US also flies Dublin to Charlotte and Shannon to Philadelphia over the Summer.

US screenshot

Now, you may never have wanted to go to these places.  However, US Airways has major hubs in Philadelphia and Charlotte, and can connect you from there to pretty much anywhere else you want to go.

Philadelphia, in particular, is close to New York and the East Coast and it is an easy connection by air or rail.

It is worth noting that the taxes are especially low if you are just flying TO the UK from the USA.  Charlotte to Heathrow has tax of just £1!  Compare that to £260 for a one-way British Airways redemption from the US in Club World.  This is the same £1 price that airberlin charges for one-way business class redemptions from the US to Germany.

The easiest way to search for US Airways availability is to use the usairways.com website.  You don’t even need to log-in to search for miles seats.  Make sure you tick the ‘US flights only’ box and the ‘use miles’ and ‘direct flights’ boxes. 

If the US website shows availability at the 50,000 mile level then ba.com should be able to pull up the same seat.

Ignore any days where US wants a higher figure – these are premium awards which you cannot book with Avios.  Make sure you click through from the calendar to the summary page on usairways.com to double-check that business class seats are there – sometimes it shows availability at the 50k level when it actually involves a connection.

Comments (58)

  • Brian says:

    Just been looking at Philadelphia-Heathrow redemptions. Business class flights on US seem to be non-existent, but if you look at Economy redemptions, you’re paying £11 tax one-way, compared to £150 on British Airways. And the US flights leave 10 minutes before the BA ones! This means of course that economy redemptions have become worthwhile, at least if you can’t get Business – though as Raffles points out, no doubt BA will look to change the tax difference.

    • Matthew says:

      Found the same thing with Business class. Did you check more than 6 months in advance or less?

      • Brian says:

        No, I was checking for May and June, which is when I’m flying. I guess it’s no wonder that you have to look far in advance – it’s obviously a bargain!

    • Mikeact says:

      I don’t understand, how can BA change US charges to suit themselves ?

      • Rob says:

        They already do with AA. American Airlines does not charge fuel surcharges. Do a dummy booking for London to New York on an AA plane on the AA website to prove it. Book the same AA flight using Avios on ba.com and BA adds on £350 of fuel surcharges. Which it then keeps and does not pass to AA.

        • Ed says:

          On this taxes point, read on another site, that the reason BA apply surchages to AA redemptions via BA is because AA apply surcharges on revenue tickets (although not on miles redemption tickets.) US apparently doesn’t apply surcharges to either revenue or points tickets, so BA doesn’t on the redemptions. This would suggest no surcharge until US do on revenue tickets.

  • dewsburyborn says:

    Rob

    Living near Leeds I’ve long been a fan of the US MAN-PHL service, and now that US have joined the club I’m wondering what your take is on the current 100% bonus on Buy Dividend Miles.

    It seems that once the Dividend Miles get shaken through the system, there’s now a lot more possibilities.

    Regards

    • Rob says:

      Since BA and US share the same ‘saver’ availability, and since BA is not charging any additional taxes to what US would charge, the ONLY reason to use Dividend Miles for this would be if MAN-PHL availability was poor at the 50k (ie BA can book it) level but excellent at the 100k level.

      (Or, of course, if you didn’t have enough Avios!)

      Assuming you found the price of 100k acceptable ($1,880) you would be paying around £1,300 all-in for MAN-PHL in J if you had to use the 100k level and about £700 for a 50k saver return.

      • dewsburyborn says:

        Sorry if my posting was badly worded – I hadn’t meant to imply redeeming on the MAN-PHL US route – but meant to say that was the 50% bonus mileage purchase a good way in to buying OW miles to redeem on other OW routes – I’m particularly looking at APD-avoiding ex-EU to Central America and northern South America – through AA – and US miles are cheaper than AA miles.

  • Adam says:

    Is they any way of booking an Economy ticket, then using Avios to upgrade to Envoy (business) on US? – doesnt seem possible on ba.com

    • Matthew says:

      I believe BA revenue tickets are the only ones you can use Avios to upgrade.

      • Rob says:

        Technically no – also Iberia and AA. Only J, C, Y, D, B on IB and AA though, ie fully flex.

  • mrtibbs1999 says:

    Thanks Rob. Just booked 2 Y singles from Philly to LHR for 40k avios plus £3!!!!

    Awesome 🙂

  • Steve says:

    It would appear that the flights from Manchester to Charlotte are seasonal (summer) . If there is availability on these then it would certainly be handy for getting to Florida

  • pazza2000 says:

    I agree, these fuel charge free prices can’t last for long.

    • Rob says:

      US Airways will cease to exist in Spring 2015 when it is merged into AA. It may survive until then.

  • Stripy says:

    Just an FYI, it is being reported elsewhere (US blogs) that, although US’s IT hasn’t yet been coded to charge BA’s obnoxious YQ, a memo has gone out to US agents telling them to collect it. As you have to call US to book these awards there’s a good chance you’ll get hit for the charge. Having said that, you may still get away with not paying…..try hanging up and ringing back if your agent tries to charge YQ…..not everyone reads the memos they’re sent 🙂

    • mrtibbs1999 says:

      You can book these online. No need to call anyone. I have already booked online. Also you would call BA not US as you cannot buy flights from US direct with Avios………….

      • Alan says:

        I think Stripy is referring to making bookings using US Dividend Miles 😉 The big anomaly with them is the lack of YQ being charged on BA redemptions.

        • mrtibbs1999 says:

          Gotta say if staff have been issued a memo they didn’t read and they end up losing their jobs over it, due to losing revenue I’d feel pretty bad for them. I like a deal more than most, but hoping to find the unlucky agent in an at will employment country, is probably a bit far for me.

        • Stripy says:

          I was, thanks. Thought I was replying under Raffles’ comment about US not charging YQ but for some reason the comment appeared at the bottom of the list. Sorry for any confusion.

  • Eshaq Choudhury says:

    Which award on the US airways website corresponds to an avios economy redemption?