BA Avios ‘taxes and charges’ creeping up and miscalculated

Whilst the oil price has been relatively steady since Autumn 2015, oscillating around the $50 mark for Brent Crude, that hasn’t stopped British Airways quietly sneaking up its ‘taxes and charges’.

On Wednesday we ran an article showing you the peak and off-peak Avios redemption dates for 2018.

As part of that article we did an example of a British Airways Club World redemption to New York, with a ‘taxes and charges’ figure of £529.

In April 2017, we ran a very similar article with the peak / off-peak calendar for 2017.  Last April, the taxes for the identical flight were £480.  

This represents an increase of £49, so £98 for a couple using a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.

If we look at Iberia, the taxes and charges for Madrid to JFK went up by just £14, from £145 to £159 return in Business Class.  This means that the difference cannot be down to increased US airport and security fees.  Part of the difference will be increased Heathrow passenger service charges, and £4 is down to increased Air Passenger Duty, but in general it does give the impression of BA arbitrarily increasing its ‘surcharges’ for no good reason.

BOAC poster is still incorrectly showing taxes and charges

To make matters worse, on some routes has trouble accurately calculating the taxes and charges due.  It always corrects itself by the time you get to the payment page but you should never treat the figure shown on the flight selection page as correct.

Here is a Club World redemption from London to Tokyo.  The flight selection page shows taxes of £637:

Tokyo taxes 3

….. but the payment page shows – correctly, if you compare with the charges on a cash ticket – that the total should be £539:

Tokyo taxes 1

If you search for Edinburgh to Tokyo via London the error is even more stark.  The flight selection page shows taxes of £740 per person:

Tokyo taxes 2

…. instead of £539.

No-one is being overcharged here, but British Airways isn’t doing itself any favours by giving the impression that taxes and charges are (even) higher than they actually are.

PS.  Visitors to our office will recognise the image above, because we have it – an original from the 1950’s – on the wall!  Similar are available from Antikbar on Kings Road.

(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.)

Important dates for your diary - offers about to close which you shouldn't miss
Bits: first Cuban five-star opens, 150 free Marriott points, no BA lounge at Stansted
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Jason Hindle says:

    I’ve recently done an off peak redemption, MAN to HKG (CX). 180000 Avios and £250 in charges. Are the charges airline dependent?

    • Julie Kalama says:

      If it’s a return is it not because it’s not legal to charge taxes going out of HKG? BA doing itself few favours at the moment..

      • is this correct as I just just redeemed a flight to Tokyo and then separate back from Hong Kong and been charged the same tax for both, about £280

        • Any separate flights back from HKG shouldn’t be charged YQ AFAIK…

    • TGLoyalty says:

      There’s still charges to pay from Manchester. Just not if starting in HKG on a single segment believe they can charge charges on returns booked on a single ticket

    • Absolutely!! Airport and government taxes are obviously the same, but carrier surcharges totally vary by carrier (as the name implies) – indeed when booking reward flights some airlines don’t charge them at all.

    • AndyR says:

      How did you manage an off peak redemption on CX? Aren’t partners priced at peak?

      • Prince Polo says:

        Yeah, all are peak. However, with CX, you pay significantly less in taxes, so it’s kind of offset – not to mention their amazing new J product on the A350 which is light years ahead of BA, and nicer than QR.

        • Hmmm I thought the CX a350 cabin/seat okay (ropey seat there and back – on a new plane) but I much preferred the QR cabin. CX service better though – less in your face.

  2. Alphaduck99 says:

    I love these posters from the B.O.A.C days.
    I also remember a Private Eye take on it where “Takes Good Care of You” was replaced with “Takes More Fare off You”!

  3. Lev441 says:

    Would tax price increases have something to do with airport taxes abroad and the slide in the value of GBP?

    • Yes, that would also be part of it – but charges out of the US are minimal. Airberlin charges £4 on a one-way Avios ticket from the US to Europe.

    • Today’s slide won’t be reflected in airline prices (when charged in GBP) until Wednesday

  4. cmcbugg says:

    BA do overcharge on LAN Avios fights because they charge local VAT on £0 fare tickets (even though other airline redemptions do not)!

  5. Completely off topic…..I am trying to find availability from any west coast US airport to Hawaii, any island. I can find Mile Saver rewards availability on the AA website but these are not showing on BAEC? I was under impression I could still book these through the call centre but they have told me this is not possible? Is this correct? Any help would be appreciated!

    • You definitely should be able to book if saver rates are available. Have you tried calling back to speak to a different agent?

      • Kipto says:

        +1. I booked flights to Hawaii last year. Some show on ba’s site, others on AA milesaver. Ring ba up again. They can book it for you. You have to pay for baggage with AA and Alaska Airlines.

    • xcalx says:

      I have noticed this lately. Checking MIA-SXM over the last few week AA are showing Mile saver flights available where as BA are not showing the same availability online.

  6. Slightly OT, but charges related: if I book online an avios flight with BA and then with their partner S7 as one ticket i am charged £60 on top of 14500 avios. If I book 2 flights separately then I am charged 10000 + 4500 avios and £17.50+ £5.60, £37 less. I suspect that’s because RFS does not apply to a flight with a partner. But maybe someone knows if there is a way to get one ticket with a lesser charge (I’d prefer it as a one ticket as connection is rather tight…)?
    PS Interestingly, on a way back a single ticket charge is the same as for 2 separate ones.

    • You don’t say where you’re travelling to/from but I think you’re right that when using partner airlines for short-haul redemptions, the charges are so high that it’s often not worth it.

    • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

      As you’re talking about S7 I’d assume London – Moscow – somewhere. Because APD is hight leaving the UK you’ll save some money going from London on RFS, on the way back RFS higher than the taxes so it’s actually cheaper to book two one-ways if you booked just a London – Moscow return. Personally I’d pay the £37 for the protection…

      • Yes, it’s LHR-DME-GOJ. From one hand, 4 of us will be travelling meaning £148 extra charge, from the other hand connection is only 2 hrs and we will need to go through passport control, pick up and drop off bags, and it will be in December (24th most likely), therefore possibly bad weather. All that means that 40 minutes delay in LHR and we probably won’t make a connection.

        • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

          Won’t they interline the bags if it’s on one ticket?

        • The second flight is a domestic Russian flight so no. On the way back yes.

  7. AndyR says:

    The surcharges are even higher to the US when you go further West. For example Dallas and San Francisco are £574!

    I am sure in the past all US destinations were the same??

  8. Tim Millea says:

    On most destinations, a direct flight from Manchester is cheaper than BA’s Avios redemption ‘fees and charges’, short, medium or long-haul.

    Years of accumulating Airmiles then Avios was near-futile.

    Maybe I will take my mother on a direct flight on BA Cityflyer to Mykonos next year business class to use up our points but it is hardly attractive.

    Unless you live within the Gatwick or Heathrow catchment areas, this website appears to be heading towards obsolescence.

    • It depends when you want to travel. For May 26th 2018, Jet2 are charging £290 one way, Manchester to Nice. On BA it’s 7,500 avios plus £17.50 tax, including 23 kg of hold baggage.

  9. You have an office?!

    • I think you underestimate how much work this is. US frequent flyer blog The Points Guy employs 15 people, 12 full time – not freelance – and based in a New York office. Skift, the travel news site which has an identical readership to ours (in page views) employs 35 people. I think Business Traveller employs 8 people and we are more than double their size in terms of UK online traffic. I could easily find enough work for another 2 people full time – we do no PR, we don’t have anyone travelling doing ad sales, we have no tech person (hence our ageing theme) etc. Anika and I have 20 days of travelling between us just in June.

      • Brighton Belle says:

        It’s time you sub contracted sleep 🙂

      • callum says:

        No offence intended (I obviously wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you did a good job!), but this site is not remotely comparable to Business Traveller – UK page views is a completely irrelevant metric.

        Perhaps somewhat arrogant of me, but I’d go as far as to say a single person could easily run the whole thing, given a lot of the work you choose to do (replying to emails etc) isn’t necessary for the operation of the site.

        • Fenny says:

          A smallish but significant reason that I read this site and recommend it to people, whereas I don’t recommend other sites, is the personal touch. Rob and Anika are not “faceless” bloggers and there is definitely a more interactive feel to the place. Changing it would not necessarily be a step in the right direction.

        • +1

        • zsalya says:


        • Lawro says:


          I think you underestimate how much work must go into writing 3 content pieces each day, 7 days a week!

        • By 6 a.m.!

        • Dull content is straightforward. Interesting content – with the mix of competitions, exclusive stories (which don’t come out of nowhere), reviews etc is time consuming. Running it as a profitable business is both very difficult and time consuming.

        • aliks says:

          Actually there are lots and lots of points and travel sites that are run by a single person in exactly the way you suggest.

          Those sites don’t get much traffic . . . . . . .

        • Worzel says:

          Callum 12:09 :

          Whereas i’ve appreciated (and understood) your sometimes alternative viewpoints in the past, you might want to reconsider your comments earlier today.

          Should you wish to set up an operation similar to Rob’s, I’m willing to put in £100 as a start up fund!

        • callum says:

          Not really, no.

          I didn’t say Rob doesn’t work hard – but it seems like a fact to me that writing 3 (usually very simple that are often found elsewhere first) articles a day doesn’t take much time. In response to people whinging in the past (I hoped my clarification that I think he made a good job made it clear I wasn’t whinging about him at all!), he’s pointed out that a large proportion of his time is spent answering emails, reading comments, making connections etc. – something that is great for the people being replied to, but isn’t at all necessary for the running of the site.

          Though the only reason I really objected was the comparison to the likes of Business Traveller! Page views are 100% irrelevant. They show he’s successful (and he fully deserves it), but they do not show the level of work it requires to run.

          Finally, I’m pretty lazy so I doubt I’d start a blog – actually pay me the £100 and I will though! (And like with many reviews of products – I tend to comment when I disagree and not when I agree, which may make me look very combative, so this seems like a good time to say thanks for the great site Rob!)

        • The Points Guy employs 16, remember – plus 5 interns – to do around 10 articles a day in total which are identical to our articles. (Employment figures from this article – Over 7 years they have published 12,500 articles and I have done 5,331 over 5 years ….

          Their staff number is simply reflective of the amount of work required behind the scenes to run businesses like this. We do 5-6 articles a day (26 per week across HFP and SP written over 5 days, plus whatever we stockpile for days when we are away) between two of us, plus many meetings each week and all the other stuff.

        • You’ll love Making Tax Digital then when that comes along 😉 I used to do quarterly VAT in a couple of hours but I’ll admit it was fairly straightforward when only a couple of customers!

        • the_real_a says:

          I once wrote 3 articles for the companies blog… took me the best part of a week! Never underestimate how much effort needs to be put it.

        • The personal touch Rob adds to this site is the value in my opinion . I have sent and received mails back from Rob giving me advice when I requested it on several occasions . Other sites do not have this level of service !
          Keep up the Great work Rob !

        • Mr Dee says:

          Here is the thing, a simple blog with quickly written articles without due care and attention to the readership could be done in an hour a day, but full quality articles that are relevant to the readership and build a following is another story entirely.

          To then plan and keep your readership with information that is relevant whilst at the same time running the thing as a business that isn’t selling out to irrelevant advertisers is the hard part.

      • Just teasing Rob! I know it’s a lot of work and you’re always responsive to mails. I remember you writing of working out of day rooms in London, so good that you’ve upgraded. Congratulations on the blog’s success.

  10. Another great article Rob! I was about to send you an email today in regards to GRU – LHR! I booked a CW redemption yesterday and the taxes were nearly 3 times higher than they were yesterday. I am calling BA today to question it.

  11. James says:

    O/T – I took advantage of the printer cartridge Tesco deal recently and now have a load of points to convert to Avios.
    It seems however I have to wait until the next quarter for them to convert. I was under the assumption I could convert at will (I normally have it set to automatically convert)

    • barey cutters says:

      Points convert to vouchers every 3 months
      Only then can you manually or automatically transfer to avios.

    • callum says:

      You’ve never been able to convert Tesco points to anything at will – even in store. They announced a while ago that they’re working to allow that though.

  12. I really hope that this becomes the next ppi. It’s disgraceful mis pricing. The banks got hammered for their mis selling, I really do think it’s time ba to their comeuppance for the bogus labeling of their taxes and charges. At the very least these fees should be refundable in the event of cancellation.

    • They are refunded in the event of cancellation.

      You are also misguided with the PPI rant. BA tell you exactly what you are being charged for, the choice is yours to either pay for the flights, or not.

      The charges are ridiculously inflated, but that’s a different issue.

      • Roger C says:

        While I can see that it’s not the same as PPI, the last time I booked on the phone the agent was insistent that all the fees for my redemption flight were government taxes. When I pointed out that much of the cost was made up of BA charges over which they had complete control he denied it entirely. So I don’t buy the ‘tell you exactly what you are being charged for’ argument.

        • well that agent was misinformed, the point however is you are being told what the cost is, and there is nothing about it that is “optional” hence the PPI analogy doesn’t hold. I dialled up a dummy booking just now in F to SFO and of £570 in taxes and fees, £240 was govt taxes with the £370 balance being BA ‘fees’. Crazy high but until we all start voting with our feet that isn’t going to change. People like BAEC and continue to be prepared to foot the bill of keeping it going.

        • Genghis says:

          I’d be happy if I was “under charged” because the two numbers didn’t add up correctly

  13. Henry says:

    There’s a lot of complexity to how fuel and currency fluctuations flow through to prices for airlines. I’m struggling to find information on BA’s hedging policy (it may be considered a trade secret), but based on airline industry norms and some of the statements in their annual report, we can assume a rolling hedge policy going out 5 years for both fuel and currency (c. 100% hedged for the next 12 months, 80% at 24 months, 60% at 36 months, etc. – though these percentages could differ wildly and I’m purely speculating).

    With this assumption, we can derive that only around 40% of the savings from halving of the oil price 2 years ago will be felt by BA over the next 12 months (with another assumption built in that jet fuel is directly correlated with oil price – it probably isn’t). From BA’s perspective, their oil costs would only be 20% lower than 2 years ago after accounting for hedge losses.

    Conversely, BA will only be feeling around 20% of the decline in GBP vs. USD (c. 20%) over the next 12 months. As oil (and fuel) is priced in USD, that would make it c. 4% more expensive.

    If BA took their hedges into account when pricing and passed on all of the savings, we should see fuel surcharges around 16% lower than last year.

    Remember though that the US duties are also priced in USD – so BA will see not only an increase in the underlying charge, but will feel the currency impact of these charges, thus the net increase is the incremental increase plus 4% of the whole charge (again assuming that they are hedged to 80%; if not, it’s higher).

    Given that there have been increases in the underlying fees, there is substantial currency weakness, and it’s unlikely that the full benefit of the oil price fall will be felt by BA, I think a 10% increase in the charges is not unreasonable.

  14. travelbear38 says:

    Is Aberdeen and Jersey the only uk airports where the tax is much lower?

  15. Allan says:

    Here is an anomaly – I just searched for F redemption LHR-KUL and shows 1 seat. Then I search same day but EDI-KUL and it shows 2 seats.
    Ever seen that before?

    • sometimes incorrectly shows the number of seats on the connection for both legs. It won’t be bookable.

      Some airlines, inc Iberia but not BA, do show different availability for regional members who connect to a long haul.