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.
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.