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Avios Redemption University – Lesson 2 – The Secrets of Reward Flight Saver

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During January and February I am running updated versions of our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.  This series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them. Click here to see the other articles.

This article explains everything you need to know about booking Reward Flight Saver redemptions with Avios.

When British Airways created Avios in November 2011, the one change that came totally out of the blue – and in a very positive way – was the introduction of Reward Flight Saver. This allows anyone who has earned 1 Avios in the last year to book a short-haul Economy reward flight for £35 in taxes and charges, or £50 for Club Europe.

Looking across all frequent flyer schemes EXCEPT Avios, short haul redemptions are a waste of time unless you need flexibility or are travelling at short notice. Lufthansa‘s Miles & More scheme is the perfect example of this – it is very easy to find M&M European awards where the taxes actually come to MORE than the price of buying a cash ticket! This is because Lufthansa artificially pushes down the taxes on cash tickets if a competitor on a route is charging less.

Whilst British Airways had never got this bad, you were still looking at c £100 of taxes for a short-haul flight to Europe before 2011 which, when added to the 9,000+ miles required, made the redemption very, very bad value.

With Reward Flight Saver, the dynamic changed completely. At 9,000 miles plus £35, a Reward Flight Saver redemption is one of the most valuable redemptions you can get!  A flight to Germany in economy will be at least £125 for prime weekend break timings, so you would be getting 1p per Avios.  That is decent value to me.

Club Europe can also be good value, especially if you have no status – upgrading just the outbound of a trip to Germany would be an extra 4,500 miles (one way) and £7.50. That’s a bargain for access to the Heathrow lounges and the Club Europe service, such as it is.

Should we be sceptical about the value of short haul redemptions though?

That said, short haul air fares in Europe are only heading one way – and that is down.  The ‘elephant in the room’, which I never hear discussed by loyalty executives, is that your air miles are being constantly devalued by the fall in the cash alternative.  The industry is always trying to think of ways of devaluing your points from their side, ignoring the fact that value is already being chipped away every time fares are reduced.

I generally argue that, as long-haul business class seats get better and better, it offsets the regular devaluation in frequent flyer schemes.  You certainly can’t say that short-haul seats and service are getting ‘better and better’, however.

Avios Reward Flight Saver how it works

All you need to know about Reward Flight Saver

Here are the key points you need to know about Reward Flight Saver (‘RFS’). The official ba.com description of RFS can be found by scrolling down this ba.com page.

Reward Flight Saver redemptions are only available on British Airways flights

Reward Flight Saver is not available on Flybe redemptions or any other BA or avios.com partner unless the partner is a BA franchise (eg SUN-AIR, Comair). You cannot, for example, get RFS pricing on Finnair‘s Manchester to Helsinki route.

Iberia scrapped Reward Flight Saver in 2013 so you need to pay standard taxes and charges on flights from the UK to Spain, or elsewhere on the Iberia short haul network.  You also cannot get RFS on Vueling.

Reward Flight Saver is available on redemptions under 2,000 miles

The Avios points required for one-way RFS redemptions are:

  • 4000 / 4500 Avios off-peak / peak each-way up to 650 miles
  • 6500 / 7500 Avios off-peak / peak up to 1150 miles
  • 8500 / 10000 Avios off-peak / peak up to 2000 miles

You must double this for return flights.

Club Europe costs exactly double Avios on peak dates and slightly less than double, oddly, on off-peak dates.

The 2018 calendar of peak and off-peak dates for British Airways can be found here.

You will see RFS pricing automatically when you book your redemption

As long as you have earned 1 Avios during the last 12 months, you will see RFS pricing automatically when you search for Avios seats on ba.com or avios.com.

Remember – you MUST have earned 1 Avios point during the last 12 months to see Reward Flight Saver pricing.  I often receive emails from people who think RFS has been scrapped, often when using a family member account, because no activity has gone through it in the previous year.

It is now often cheaper to book RFS redemptions as two one-way flights

Few people realise that taxes are now lower, on many routes, if you book European redemptions as two one-way flights. You can save up to £15 per person.

This is because, as British Airways has dropped fuel surcharges on European flights, the £17.50 one-way RFS fee can be higher than the actual taxes and charges cost on an inbound flight.

I explain more about this odd feature in this article.  A one way from Dublin in Euro Traveller, for example, has tax of only £11.90 – booking a trip to Ireland as 2 x one-ways will cost (£17.50 + £11.90) £29.40 in tax compared to £35 in tax if booking a return starting from London.

Domestic UK connections are no longer free

This was the biggest hit from the April 2015 Avios changes to anyone who lives outside the South East.

It used to cost the same 9,000 Avios + £35 to fly Manchester – London – Berlin as it cost to fly London – Berlin. This is no longer the case.

The domestic leg is now charged at 9,000 Avios + £35 return on a peak day. The Manchester to Berlin example would now cost 18,000 Avios + £70 in economy. When you factor in the hassle required to change planes at Heathrow, it is very unlikely that you would want to do this.

You can get RFS redemptions from South Africa on BA franchise Comair

Comair has a decent network, flying in BA-branded aircraft, around Africa. This may come in handy if, for example, you need to get to Cape Town but can only get a redemption seat from London to Johannesburg. Comair also flies from Johannesburg to Mauritius. Comair has different charges for RFS redemptions which are slightly higher than BA’s at £56 for Economy and £64 for Business.

You can get Reward Flight Saver redemptions on BA’s Moscow flights, which often use long-haul aircraft

The London to Moscow route is the only sub-2000 mile route from London which uses long-haul aircraft – although not on all flights. This means that you can use RFS to experience the Club World flat bed seat or, depending on aircraft, even BA’s First Class service.  However, remember that you need a visa to visit Moscow which can be expensive and time consuming to obtain.

Antigua BA

You can get Reward Flight Saver redemptions on BA’s ‘Fifth Freedom’ routes

A ‘Fifth Freedom’ flight is one where the plane stops en-route to its final destination to drop off passengers, and also takes on new passengers at the intermediate stop. BA uses these so called ‘Fifth Freedom’ rights to sell tickets on flights which neither begin nor end in the UK.

Here are a few British Airways ‘Fifth Freedom’ short routes:

  • UVF (St Lucia) – GND (Grenada) (50 minutes, Wed and Sat)
  • UVF (St Lucia) – POS (Port of Spain) (60 minutes, Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun)
  • ANU (Antigua) – SKB (St Kitts) (45 minutes, Wed and Sat)
  • ANU (Antigua) – PLS (Turks & Caicos) (2hr 10 min, Thu and Sun)
  • ANU (Antigua) – TOB (Tobago) (90 minutes, Mon, Fri)
  • Grand Cayman (GCM) – NAS (Nassau) (90 minutes, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun)

Club World is 15,500 to 18,000 Avios + £50 return. Turks & Caicos is a longer flight and costs 25,500 – 30,000 Avios + £50 in Club World, return, depending on date.

If you have never tried BA’s Club World or First Class service, then this is a cheap way to do so if you are in the region – and possible turn your holiday into a ‘two centre’ one at the same time.  You can learn more about BA’s ‘Fifth Freedom’ routes in this HFP article.

You can get Reward Flight Saver redemptions on BA franchise SUN-AIR of Scandinavia

SUN-AIR runs a small network of flights from Scandinavia, flying BA-branded aircraft under a franchise agreement.

There are two routes from the UK into Scandinavia:

  • From Manchester, it flies to Billund in Denmark. Billund is the home of Legoland!
  • From London City, it flies to Billund

All routes are available as Reward Flight Saver for 9,000 Avios plus £35 in Economy on a peak date. You can also use Reward Flight Saver on non-UK Sun-Air routes, such as Munich to Billund.  You can see the full SUN-AIR route map here.

The official Reward Flight Saver page on ba.com is here if you want to find out more.

(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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Comments

  1. I love the line on Sun-Air’s website :
    As a British Airways franchise partner, we offer the same full in-flight service: Complimentary food, snacks and drinks as well as exceptional sky-high service.

  2. EBungle says:

    Just out of interest, Where is the cheapest place to fly in terms of Taxes, Fees and Charges?

    Are the fees always based on distance? so if you fly the same distance you will always pay the same or are some destinations cheaper than others? I know that some partners charge more or less but thinking just of BA?

    • EBungle says:

      Obviously thinking Long Haul here as I know the point of this article is about RFS and the fees are fixed.

      • Cheapest are HK and Sao Paulo, booked as 2 one ways (so no 241) as fuel surcharge are banned on the return leg if it is not part of a return. Charges elsewhere are heavily driven by airport and passenger charges at the returning airport.

    • the real harry1 says:

      depends on your starting point

    • BA are the worst of both worlds: highest fuel surcharge of all airlines, and operate form a hub airport with highest departure tax & surcharge, which make any long haul redemption a terrible deal.
      Elsewhere in Europe, France and Germany also charge high departure tax (for premium cabins) but still £100+ cheaper all in.

  3. filipino_chino says:

    My Stepfather uses Sun Air to do the MAN-BLL route frequently via the reward saver flights….

    I have to say it’s great value as this route can be over 300pounds return last minute..

    Off topic…
    Booking my first Business class flight to NYC in April for my wifes 40th…. been saving for some time (got a 2-4-1). For people who fly this route frequently, what time is the best to fly to experience business class for the flight?

    • There’s a page on the BA website which tells you which meals you get for the relevant flight times if that’s important for you. Later flights will obviously get you more lounge time and a better chance of a free mini spa treatment (I can recommend the Espa facial while lying in a massage chair!).

      For US flights I would highly recommend using the lounge in Concourse B; when we used it last August it was virtually empty at 9 am and we got spa treatments straight away. If you go for an earlier flight, there’s nothing to beat bacon rolls and Champagne for breakfast IMO!

      You can pre-book your meal via the MMB page (within a certain time frame) if you like.

      Have a fabulous time.

  4. Outbound I guess you want to relax, chat, watch movies and drink wine – so my main consideration is not to be travelling from JFK to Manhattan at rush hour say ~5-7pm.
    Inbound, advantage is to sleep overnight on the flatbed. I normally try and fly as late as possible to make sure I sleep (I’m not a good sleeper so it helps when I’m tired) – but you may miss out on dinner on the plane if its a sleeper service (though there is the lounge).
    Other considerations are: newer planes eg 787, 380 etc. which tend to be better equipped and less tired, and upstairs on a double decker 747/380.
    BTW I dont think BA 380s fly to JFK at the moment, I’ve mostly done west coast, africa and asia with them.

  5. I have to say I find the RFS on both short and long haul not to be the best deal. For example flying to Toronto in economy the price is £332 plus 26,000 miles – but if you pay part with cash the price is £347 plus 17,000 miles. Also on the cash plus ticket I get 3,500 points back plus the tier points. These flights are on dates this September. So bottom line to save an extra £15 would cost me 12,500 extra miles.
    I definitely agree with the comments that 2 single fares can and has worked out for me cheaper than a return flight.

    • the real harry1 says:

      what about the cost of LHR-Toronto using Reward flight Avios + Money option?, hang on…

      • the real harry1 says:

        13000 Avios + £ 221.41
        10400 Avios + £ 246.41
        8450 Avios + £ 261.41
        6500 Avios + £ 271.41
        5200 Avios + £ 281.41
        4550 Avios + £ 286.41

        looks a bit better?

    • There’s no RFS on long haul.

      • If you mean redemption flights, it’s long been accepted that WT is a terrible deal, unless, as Harry says, you can use them as an opportunity to buy avios cheaply.

  6. I’m curious as to why short haul redemptions are such good value on BA using RFS compared to other schemes. Do BA just have far more spare short haul capacity than, say, Lufthansa? Is it because of our competitive LCC market? I find it hard to believe they’re just being overly generous for the sake of it.

    • the real harry1 says:

      these days, Europe prices are so competitive that if you value RFS @ 1p (& don’t forget BA sells them for more than this), then Reward flights don’t necessarily seem so cheap vs cash (on the same flight) if you can book tickets well in advance

      eg my Xmas out Reward flights a couple of days ago were 7500 Avios + £17.50 = c. £92.50

      My wife’s HBO flight was about £85 and I guess the +1 checked luggage Economy fare would have been £100

      I could easily have saved the points and gone for cash only, (say) 3x HBOs + 2x checked luggage Economy for a similar cost

      luckily my acquisition cost per Avios average is about 0.3-0.4p (plus anyway I went for the conserving points Avios + Money option @ 0.8p for 20,000 Avios) so the choice was clearer, ie get all 4 Economy RFS flights + 1x HBO, the checked luggage can be useful @ Xmas

      in short, yes it’s because of our competitive LCC market

      plus I think there is a genuine desire within IAG to keep BA’s loyalty program attractive for all the reasons that you run a loyalty program for in the first place

    • A reward scheme where your only attractive redemptions are long-haul flights costing at least 60,000 points (for World Traveller Plus somewhere) is not a very attractive one at all to most people.

      • That doesn’t stop the majority of schemes from doing exactly that though. In their day to day operations BA don’t seem to have an ambition to be more attractive than the opposition so why would they in their reward scheme?

    • So Amex can say “take out this card, spend £2000 and get free* flights to Amsterdam”

      *plus £17.50

      I guess most people are not going to balk at £17.50 but the real cost is £32.30 out and €22 back

      I think BA is losing money on most of my RFS flights, definitely when I visit the CX lounge, so not giving me a mini gin bottle on board is understandable…

  7. Avios (& virgin) appear to have dumped a load of in store partners (inc Byron) – big fanfare when added but silence when dropped.

    • I get a feeling it is the other way round and the stores dumped them, rather than pay what were quite fat fees at 4 Avios per £1.

      • I’d be interested to see the marketing figures for these deals. When choosing a restaurant to eat at, 4 Avios per £ is just noise and barely worth the time and effort it takes to trawl through the various internet banking sites to save the right offer to the right card.

        • What most places are realising is that you don’t even know that they are part of the scheme when you visit and they are paying out unnecessary Avios!

        • the real harry1 says:

          would you make a special trip to said restaurant if you got (say) 250/ 500 Avios plus the 4 Avios per £1?

  8. the_real_a says:

    Have Sun Air stopped flying from from Humberside to Aalborg / Billund? I haven’t been able to see any availability.

  9. I currently have c.80,000 Avios which I’d like to try and give to a family member. If I join a household account, will I be able to take the points with me and thereby share them with the household?

    • Genghis says:

      A BA household account is not a separate “entity” as such but rather the sum of the parts, so yes, you can take your points with you (they’ll still be your points but can be used by other members of the household account).

  10. Good summary, Rob. I must say the doubling in cost (cash and Avios) of RFS when free domestic connections were removed has drastically impacted my use of these tickets. Perhaps what BA wants on the one hand, but it also means I’m much less likely to bother flying BA enough to retain status.

  11. laura baden-powell says:

    Hi,I haveBA amex 2 companion vouchers now, but only 1 adult travelling, and 2 teenagers..can I use both companion vouchers with my one adult fare?, or do I need to buy the other teen their own tickets. many thanks!

    • Genghis says:

      You only get one companion with the 241 and the 241 holder must be one of the people. So 1 adult and one teen on the 241, then the remaining teen needs their separate ticket. So on BA with a241 this would mean 2 lots of avios and 3 lots of taxes.

      • laura baden-powell says:

        ok, thanks,can I use any other way of “buying” the other ticket other than with the 241 ie any other card gets me points, I have until dec to use the 241.

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