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How to get a ‘free’ domestic Avios redemption with an overseas reward

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One of the interesting quirks of the Avios reward scheme is the way in which you can use it to generate free domestic redemption flights.  When I say free, I mean totally free – no Avios and no taxes required!

This is a side effect of the way the Avios scheme works.  When Avios was launched in November 2011, British Airways moved from a destination-based pricing model to segment-based pricing. This means, simply, that a flight from A to C would now cost more if you flew A to B to C, as each leg would be charged separately.

This was clearly unfair to anyone who lived outside London, as a redemption from Manchester to London to XXXX would cost more Avios than London to XXXX. BA decided that connecting flights within the UK would be free.  (A similar rule was put in place for domestic Spanish flights, due to BA’s ownership of Iberia, but was dropped after a year.)

If you price up Edinburgh to Heathrow to Hamburg, you will see that you pay the same in Avios as you would flying Heathrow to Hamburg.

If you start your trips in Heathrow, you can often use this system to get yourself a totally free one-way domestic flight!

Hamburg to Heathrow in economy is 4,500 Avios one-way plus £17.50.

Hamburg to Heathrow with a one-month stopover before a flight Heathrow to Edinburgh is also 4,500 Avios plus £17.50.

You can build in a one-way domestic flight for a future date which would be totally free.

British Airways BA

If your original journey is to Europe, then you can arrange this very easily.

You book your flight as 2 one-way trips. The outbound is London to, say, Hamburg. Your return is booked Hamburg to Edinburgh, with a month long stopover in London. You can do all this on ba.com with no problems. You pay the exact same in taxes and Avios points as you would if you just booked London-Hamburg return.

The London to Edinburgh flight – which is a totally separate trip at some time in the future – costs you nothing.  No extra Avios, no extra taxes.  You simply need to book yourself a flight to come back.

This also works in the other direction but there is a greater element of risk.

If you fancy going to Manchester for a weekend and also plan to go to Nice, you can book Manchester – London – Nice for the same cost as London – Nice.  This means you only need to pay for a one-way to Manchester.

The risk here is what happens if your Manchester trip is cancelled or changed.  Your London to Nice flight will be cancelled if you fail to turn up for the Manchester to London leg.  You would have to pay the £35 change fee to ring BA and cancel the first leg which means that using this ‘quirk’ has lost you money.

If your original journey is long-haul, it is less likely you can use this ‘quirk’.

You can, of course, book a long-haul trip as 2 one-ways as well.  This wouldn’t allow you to use a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher for the whole flight though.

You may also find that the fuel surcharge for 2 x one-way tickets is higher than the cost of a return trip on the same route. This is because BA sets its fuel surcharges based on local demand. London to New York and New York to London, booked as two one-ways in Club World costs substantially more in taxes and charges (£356 out + £289 back, total £645) than a London to New York return (£531).

(What I don’t know is if its possible to ring BA (as the website can’t handle it) and book London – New York – London – Edinburgh as a standard Avios points reward with a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher.)

In any event, booking via the call centre will incur the offline booking fee which takes away a lot of the value of the free flight.  The whole thing is probably too much trouble attached to a long-haul redemption.

In general, this is a clever way to get yourself free one-way domestic flights.  It works best when you tag them onto a European Reward Flight Saver redemption rather than a long-haul flight.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

Comments (40)

  • Andrew says:

    Its gets very complicated, i have about 10 nested trips over 12 months. Manage my booking only shows the first flight in the booking rather than ALL upcoming the flights, so its very difficult to actually see what flights you have coming up.

    • andy says:

      Have you discovered tripit.com? Potentially a massive itinerary if you have multiple trips but I would have thought you could list all the nested flights chronologically

  • Neil says:

    Could one snag a ‘free’ internal domestic flight in this way from Jo’burg to say another SA airport ? (eg Hoedspruit, near the Kruger)

    • Kyle says:

      Apparently, according to Avios, internal flights are not included, for South Africa, as we’d have like to do: DUR-JNB-MRU and return, but it’s 29,000 avios (2x Reward Flight Savers).

      It seems that ComAir seem to be slightly more clever than British Airways at spotting and blocking any potential loopholes.

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    As I’ve mentioned before, this is not BA giving anything FREE that previously wasn’t before AVIOS. The original system was always you could have 3 Legs per Sector, until the system was downgraded.

    My main starting point is Manchester, and encouraging people to use this to take up valuable redemption seats when I want to genuinely connect onto Long Haul via Heathrow is just annoying to be frank. My whole trip to the states next year was almost scuppered as I couldn’t find redemption for me to connect from Manchester onto my JFK flight. It was only saved when my partners Gold status opened up extra seats.

    So please people, don’t grab our Domestic connections as we need them who actually live in the regions!

  • reds says:

    Flew a one way RFS redemption BHD-LHR-DUB earlier this month with OH.
    Stopped overnight in Lodon to dine at the Ting (thanks, Rob) and took a 2 hr bus back to Belfast from Dublin airport..
    Flew biz class but wasn’t allowed into the lounge at BHD (as lady said my ticket only states euro traveller. Argued but attendent said I had to go all the way back to check in to speak to the supervisor. So didn’t bother)
    Complained to BA by email when got home and got a £200 evoucher as compensation!

    • ComeFlyWithMe123 says:

      Leave the lovely BHD lounge angels alone. On the ticket you had, you shouldnt expect lounge access as your club europe sector does not fall on the same day as your domestic connection. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      Its a pity BA didnt stick to their rules and tell you where to go. We seem to live in a world of compensation these days!!

  • HIDDY says:

    This is only works for RFS flights. Adding a domestic sector to a long haul award just for the sake of it will raise the taxes/charges on your ticket.

  • Peggy says:

    Hi guys,

    Thanks so much for this tip!
    So say for instance I would like to fly to FCO from LHR in Jan and then to BFS at in May, I will book BFS – LHR – BFS correct? As BA does not fly BFS – FCO direct, there will be a stop in LHR correct?
    As I actually live in London, do I still need to take the BFS – LHR flight or can I just skip the BFS-LHR leg and start with LHR-FCO straight away?

    Did I understand this correctly? This also works for reward flights right?

    Thanks!

  • Lady London says:

    Yes that is how you force a stop in LHR. The stop can usually be up to about 11 and a half months. If you change the date later, currently it will cost you £35 per time the ticket is changed. Currently it’s also possible to change the date of LHR-FCO after the Belfast to LHR has been flown.

    You can NEVER skip the first leg of a ticket without automatically having the rest of it cancelled and it will then not be recoverable. This is a general rule about tickets. Also if you do not fly any segment on a multisegment ticket, the rest of the ticket is likely to be cancelled automatically too.

    If there’s a good reason for the latter case then you can try to contact the airline but it will be at their discretion and the rest of your ticket could well still stay cancelled. If the reason is their fault then theoretically the ticket can be reissued but things get complicated and you may be stranded at an airport while trying to sort that out. So overall you need to fly all the segments on a ticket and the iron rule is you always need to fly the first segment.