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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)

  • William says:

    I travel between London and Belfast at least once a month. By using this trick, I nest a free flight to a mainland Europe destination within my domestics, all booked as a Reward Flight Saver. This gives me two (>£120) return flights for only 9,000 Avios & £35.

  • sandgrounder says:

    I will be travelling down south on the train for my Easter trip to the US as there were no connections left when I booked, and I refuse to pay £130-odd extra to add one on for two people, one way. Only book these if you really will use them please. Some of us need them.

  • avidsaver says:

    Rob, is there a maximum length of time allowed for the stopover?

  • JQ says:

    I thought that with long-haul no extra Avios are required, but you still have to pay the LHR and regional airport charges, which may be substantial (relatively) unless the regional airport is JER

    Sometimes you will get availability to a regional airport but not to LHR so then the choice is between booking and paying slightly more (if youhave no domestic trip planned) or waiting to see if anything else becomes avaialble.

    • Lady London says:

      Conversely regional avios is often better than just to London, I think BA really is trying to help the regions.

  • Tim_T says:

    “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.”

    Yes you can as I have this for summer 2015, out from LHR return to MAN via LHR with 241. I did have to pay a few pounds extra in APD for the domestic leg.

  • gate4loungek says:

    Re booking London-New York-London-Edinburgh using Amex 241, I can confirm that this is possible. I’m currently sitting on LGW-TPA-LGW-EDI in C booked using a 241. I can’t get the EDI-LGW connection at the start as its unavailable (last week of English school hols next year). Strangely EDI-LHR and EDI-LCY are both available but I don’t want to schlep luggage across London.

  • Duncan Stevenson says:

    Interestingly there’s a strange loophole that allows us (living in Central Scotland) to get a return flight for the price of a single.

    If I’m travelling to London to visit family and am getting a lift to the airport, I can book a 1-way Avios redemption from Edinburgh to Glasgow with a 1 week layover in London. I conveniently live half way between the two airports so this is a very niche case.

    I guess it can be used by such a tiny proportion of people that they haven’t bothered to close the loophole. Note I haven’t actually used this, but I have priced it: £17.50 & 4,500 Avios.

    • Tim says:

      It isnt a loop hole. It is just how the free domestic connection works. You book at london-heathrow trip and get the glasgow-london connection thrown in.

      • Richard says:

        It’s a loophole because flying from Edinburgh to Glasgow is a ridiculous proposition in the first place. It makes as much sense as flying from Heathrow to London City – which BA won’t let you book, because it “knows” that both airports are in London.
        BA once offered me a route from LCY to EDI (presumably on a day when direct flights were all full) connecting at Glasgow, and then again at Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands. I had a giggle at the thought of a naive tourist shrugging and clicking OK.

    • David Jackson says:

      Same could apply for those living between Newcastle and Leeds!

    • Volker says:

      Never thought of that, Duncan. Sounds like a great idea to me!

    • John M says:

      I’ve done it few times flying Single from Belfast to Dublin with a stop over in LHR. Great value!

    • Colin MacKinnon says:

      You don’t need family to drop you off.

      First flight, 1st ticket, is EDI-LON on an EDI-LHR-GLA
      Second flight is Little RED back to EDI

      First flight, is on 2nd ticket, GLA-LHR-EDI
      Second flight is other half of 1st ticket: LHR-GLA

      Next flight is 1st half of new EDI-LHR-GLA
      Return on other part of second ticket LHR-EDI

      Next flight is out on new GLA-LHR-EDI and back on
      return part of previous ticket.

      And repeat!

      That’s how it works from Strathaven!

    • Erico1875 says:

      Priceless. Thanks

    • ECR says:

      It will probably be closed now that this item will have brought it to BA’s attention. They will probably restrict stopovers to 24 hours like Avios.com.

      • Duncan S says:

        I can understand them stopping people booking a one way flight from EDI – GLA (because it’s ridiculous for anyone to want to do) but why restrict the length of stopovers.

        I like the idea of being able to spend a few days with family in London en-route to a desiination further afield.

      • Raffles says:

        Unlikely. The use of them was reduced when the Gold change fee came in. Until then you could change the date or even destination of the domestic leg, for free, as many times as you wanted.

  • Mark2 says:

    While we are talking about 2-4-1, am I correct in thinking that this is booked through BAEC rather than Avios? Does the voucher show up there and get used at my choice or do I have to ring someone?
    More importantly, can I only use 2-4-1 when booking to and from the same destination or could we go to Vancouver and come back from Toronto?

    • Tim says:

      Yes, its only BAEC.

      Your choice, you can select it online to use, or tell them over the phone.

      Yes you can. As long as the “over ground” leg is shorter than either of the “in the air legs”. For example, London to LA then Japan to London is valid as the LA to Japan is shorter than either of the other legs. It does need to be done over the phone however.

    • jason says:

      I didnt get charged for booking the last one on the phone either!