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.
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.
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).
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.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.