Do you know short-haul Avios redemptions are often cheaper as 2 x one-ways?

As it’s January, and the site has a lot of new readers looking to get more value from their travel this year, I wanted to take another quick look today at something which even old hands can forget.

Before booking a RETURN European redemption with Avios, check out the taxes if you book the trip as two separate one-way trips.  You may save money.

The reason for this is that British Airways removed fuel surcharges from short-haul flights back in January 2015.  This had an impact on redemptions.

Without any fuel surcharge to contend with, almost all of the ‘taxes’ you still incur on a short haul redemption are incurred on the London leg of your journey.  This is primarily Air Passenger Duty and Heathrow’s excessive Passenger Service Charge.

Coming home, some overseas airports do not levy any airport charges and there is no APD to pay.

As the Reward Flight Saver fee of £35 in Eurotraveller and £50 in Club Europe is halved on one-way flights, you may be overpaying if you book a return flight from London instead of two one-way tickets.  This is because BA reduces the RFS fee if the actual taxes and charges are less than £17.50 / £25.


Here is an example.

An economy return to Luxembourg incurs Reward Flight Saver fees of £35.  If you book it as two one-ways, the fee is only £17.50 outbound plus £3.30 inbound, for a total of £20.80.  You save £14.20 per person.

Dublin, a more common destination, also generates a small saving.  The inbound charge is £11.90.  This means you save £5.60 per person.

This does not always work.  However, it is always worth checking it out.  Even if it doesn’t work for economy trips, it may save you money when booking Club Europe.  One way flights from Hamburg to London cost £17.50 in taxes in economy so you don’t save anything.  In business, however, you pay £19.90 which saves you £5.10 per person.

Even if you thought that you may end up cancelling your trip, in Euro Traveller it is still cheaper to book such a trip as 2 x one-way flights.  The £35 cancellation fee is actually capped at the lower of £35 or the tax paid.  As the tax is capped at £17.50 each way, you cannot be worse off when cancelling.  (This doesn’t necessarily work for Club Europe as your maximum exposure is £25 x 2 = £50 fee.)

If you remember the points above, you may save a few pounds on your next short-haul redemption.

Don’t try booking long-haul flights as 2 x one-ways as the fuel surcharges are markedly higher in the majority of cases.  There are only a couple of exceptions in cities where fuel surcharges outbound are illegal, namely Hong Kong and Sao Paulo.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. One I’ve been using a few times recently:

    LHR-MAD CE off-peak return 25,000 Avios + £50.
    LHR-MAD CE off-peak one way 12,750 Avios + £25.
    MAD-LHR CE off-peak one way 12,750 Avios + £17.22, saving £7.78.

  2. Just tried a one-way booking for São Paulo to London and it’s quoting 90,000 avios + £239.60. Doesn’t sound right if there aren’t supposed to be any fuel surcharges?

    • Forgot to add that’s for club….

      • avidsaver says:

        This article refers to charges for short haul not long haul flight redemptions.

        • Jamie P says:

          Read the last 2 words of the article

        • Think I found the answer – BA add fuel surcharges to flights ex-Brazil unless you have a Brazilian address on your account.

          The same flight on is 90,000 avios + £28.20!

        • Ah nice work – yet another benefit we’ll probably lose if/when they merge all the Avios systems onto one platform!

        • the real harry1 says:

          Maybe Brazil = Ukraine, ie meaningless except to get charges reduced/ everything else stays the same in terms of payments, e-tickets etc

  3. Harebell says:

    Hmm the long hall one is problematic – Just got charged over £600 for a one way LHR-Chile for 2 pax . And that was leaving from MAD. The Iberia site was charging 45,00 miles more but only £167 for two. I do struggle to understand these fees. Anyone got an idea?

    • You should ALWAYS book Iberia redemptions on – better availability and far lower taxes, Cancel and rebook if seats are still showing, assuming you have an ACTIVE Iberia Plus account which is 90 days old and has some activity on it, allowing you to use Combine My Avios.

  4. the real harry1 says:

    The other trick to remember is that European return + hotel or car hire (which you can dodge actually using) can often be cheaper than the return flight on its own.

    • Eli Gold says:

      How Is that?

      • the real harry1 says:

        Presumably because they use different profitability metrics/ KPIs in the different BA depts – or need to fill the rooms & get the rental cars hired out to keep low negotiated rates for the future. They (Holidays) could easily have been given a very low internal charge for the flights themselves. Ask a bean counter here on hfp & I’m sure they’d give a more rational explanation 🙂

    • Roger I says:

      The article is talking about redemptions. Are you?

      • For the longer short-haul flights, BA holiday bookings may be cheaper than redemptions, even if you value avios at 0.5p

        • the real harry1 says:

          Indeed. Always worth remembering that Avios points can be given a cash value and are never ‘free’ currency.

  5. re “Don’t try booking long-haul flights as 2 x one-ways as the fuel surcharges are markedly higher” – does this impact using a BA Amex 241? I just booked the outward leg LON to JFK in Business on a 241 and am waiting to find suitable return leg dates, for which I need to ring up BA from what I’ve picked up here on HFP but haven’t seen mention of losing out on surcharges, just phone contact fees.

    • When you add your other leg it’ll turn it into a return and you’ll pay the correct taxes + fees for that. I think most of the cost increase relative to a return is for the US to UK flight.

  6. I always book 2 one way redemptions where possible, mainly because if you miss one leg of the flight, they will not cancel the return leg….been stung by that before!

    • Exactly my thoughts!

      • Agree, also useful to hedge your bets if you are returning from a city with multiple airports (Paris, Milan etc) as availability can change and maybe seats in different classes / times will open up

  7. Mikeact says:

    Us too Justin, in fact another good reason is while away you need to come back earlier/later. My wife wanted to come back earlier as she didn’t feel too good. Cancelled the return home…received Avios back, and rebooked on Avios and the taxes were minimal .

  8. I knew about this life hack for some time. Booked a redemption flight to Moscow in February (on a B787 Dreamliner!) a while ago – saved 5.30 on the return leg (12.20 instead of 17.50).

    Also, two one-way tickets are much more flexible in case if you can’t make or need to change the outward leg – you return will still be valid!

    • Rob did say that this article is targeted at new readers.

      People who have been reading for a while probably know most tricks, whether or not they actually learned them from HFP. I generally don’t get any useful info from HFP articles except for (advance) notice about sales and the lounge and airline reviews, but what Rob has done is to put a lot of useful information in one place, so if you are trying to explain something, you can now just direct them here 🙂

  9. Kiev (KBP) – LHR shows as only £1.62 on the flight selection page, but once you go through to payment it reverts to £17.50.

    Initially I thought this was a bug, so called BA in the hope of getting several segments that I’ve flown on this route reimbursed. Initially the agent agreed, until they explored the tax breakdown on a normal cash ticket, and discovered (what I presume to be a fairly newly introduced) security fee of around £15, which was tipping the charges over the £17.50.

    Did strike me as quite a high levy per passenger for security, but no reason to doubt the agent.

  10. Kinkell says:

    Apologies for OT post, not sure where to put this as no’bits’ today.
    Set up Payqwiq yesterday, all going smoothly . Checked Amex statement and found a £2 Digital wallet pre authorisation. Pending. Phoned Amex who were able to tell me it was related to Tesco. Anyone else found this? Checked all the Tesco/payqwiq t&c with no mention of this.

    • Yes, they do this. It’s a standard thing.

    • Tesco will probably put a dummy transaction through to check your card, but it will never go through to being a real charge. Don’t worry about it for a few days – it should just disappear.

    • Totally standard to preauth a card when added to this sort of wallet – just give it time and it’ll fall away. I love how Amex (and Creation) are totally transparent re preauths but it can cause some concern if you’re not expecting/used to it 😀

  11. For the lowest possible Avios cost on a BA flight from Luxembourg to London:

    2200+£28.30 booked through BA
    1000+£23.30 booked through Iberia Plus

    Iberia wins!

  12. Some information to add to the pool. Just got off the phone to Avios (yes, I am still planning to use Avios and not cash for my LHR-SYD and AKL-HKG, HKG-LHR flights).

    LHR-SYD and HKG-LHR will have to be a return on the one ticket, as I’ll be using a Lloyds upgrade voucher and you can’t use the voucher for 2 one-way flights for 1 person. (Though I don’t know why! Did Lloyds-Avios decide that would make life too easy for people, or what?!)

    Booked as one-way flights the taxes are £445 LHR-SYD and £31 HKG-LHR.
    Booked as a return the taxes come to £640.47.