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For Rip Off Britain viewers …. an introduction to Head for Points

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I am appearing on Rip Off Britain on BBC1 this morning, doing an (unpaid and unofficial!) PR job on behalf of Avios.  If you’ve visited Head for Points after seeing me on the programme, I’d like to say Hi and point you towards a few good starting points.

Head for Points is the UK’s largest frequent flyer website with 1.2 million monthly page views.  Our daily articles are a must-read if you collect Avios points or other frequent flyer or hotel loyalty points.

If you sign up for our emails or visit the site daily, you will be surprised by how much you can learn and how quickly the quality of your travelling improves.  Your miles and points have real value and you owe it to yourself and your family to get the best possible value from them.

For Avios beginners:

There is a lot of information on Head for Points, which reflects the complexity of most airline and hotel loyalty schemes.  We try to break through the noise by serving up the most important travel loyalty news of the day in our three daily articles, all of which are published by 6am.

If you want to learn more about spending Avios points, a good place to start is a series of articles we call ‘Avios Redemption University’.  These articles are being updated during January 2018 but note that some still date back to 2015 – please check the information in those before relying on it.

The beginners guide to redeeming Avios (updated 2018)

The secrets of Reward Flight Saver (updated 2018)

How to upgrade with Avios (updated 2018)

How and when to use ‘Avios and Money’ (updated 2018)

Understanding BA and avios.com household accounts (updated 2018)

How to earn and use your BA Amex 2-4-1 companion voucher (updated 2018)

Is it worth using Avios for hotel redemptions? (old)

What is the cheapest way to buy Avios points? (updated)

Using Avios for non-stop flights from UK regional airports (old)

Low tax long-haul Avios redemptions on Iberia (old)

Saving tax on US and Canada redemptions with Aer Lingus (old)

Redeeming Avios for low tax US domestic flights (old)

Using Avios for tax-free flights on Alaska Airlines (old)

Saving tax on Asian redemptions with Cathay Pacific (old)

How to earn and redeem Avios points with Flybe (old)

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For ‘advanced’ Avios collectors:

If you already have a decent understanding of the Avios scheme, there is still a lot for you on Head for Points.  Take a look at these eight Avios collecting and spending tips.  I am 99% certain that you won’t be familiar with all of these, however experienced you are.

Click through the links in the headlines if you want to know more about any particular statement.

So …. did you know …..?

… that you can get 20,000 Avios points quickly, and for free, by signing up for the FREE American Express Gold charge card?

Most people know that American Express issues an ‘official’ British Airways card.  Few people know that points from its Gold card can also be transferred to Avios at 1:1 – and that the Amex Gold card has a ludicrously generous sign-up bonus.  Find out more here.

… that the tax on Iberia redemptions is 60% lower if you transfer your Avios to Iberia Plus and book via their website?

Iberia Plus does not charge the full range of airport taxes and fuel surcharges imposed by ba.com.

Let’s look at Madrid to New York in Business Class, return. Iberia, when you book on iberia.com, will charge £159.

A BA redemption from London to New York (via ba.com on a BA plane) on the same route in Club World costs £502 in taxes and charges! That is, by any stretch, a big difference. It makes it well worth heading to Madrid to start your trip if you are price conscious.

More interestingly, if you try to book the Iberia Madrid to New York flight on ba.com using BA Avios, it will charge you £361 of taxes! This is for the SAME Iberia flight which costs only £159 of tax on iberia.com using Iberia Avios.

that the Iberia Plus redemption chart has certain quirks which make some redemptions exceptionally cheap?

The Iberia Plus chart is in this article.  It is ALMOST the same as the BA chart, but not quite.

The difference is most pronounced in Band 5.  Business Class flights on Iberia to Band 5 (which includes New York) are 68,000 Avios return off-peak and 100,000 Avios peak.  British Airways redemptions in Band 5 are 100,000 Avios return off-peak and 120,000 Avios peak.

Would you buy a separate ticket to Madrid if you could use 68,000 Avios and £159 of tax to fly to New York on Iberia compared with 100,000 Avios and £502 on tax with BA from London?

… that British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia have different off-peak dates which leads to arbitrage opportunities? 

British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus do NOT share the same table of peak and off-peak dates, especially around half-term school holidays in the UK.

You can see the 2018 peak and off-peak dates for BA and Iberia in this articleAer Lingus is in this article.

This means that New York in Business Class can be as low as 68,000 Avios return from Madrid (on an off-peak date) on the same day that BA wants 120,000 Avios return from London (because BA treats it as a peak day).

… that you can earn Avios when you fly on Emirates as long as you book a Qantas codeshare service?

I got my wife to test this out and it works fine as this article shows.

… that you can earn Avios when you fly United Airlines – even though it is a Star Alliance member – by crediting your flights to Aer Lingus AerClub?

I genuinely expected this feature to go away when Aer Lingus AerClub was launched but, for now, it is still there.

… that there is more Avios availability on Iberia flights if you move your points to Iberia Plus and book from there?

It isn’t clear why this is the case, but it is.  Don’t rely on what ba.com shows you if you want seats on Iberia.

… that Aer Lingus redemptions have lower taxes if booked via BA on the phone than via the avios.com site?

You can finally now book Aer Lingus redemptions online via avios.com.  There is some jiggery pokery going on with the taxes, however.  If you keep your Avios in British Airways Executive Club and ring them to book – it can’t be done online – you will pay a lot less.

Make sure you read Head for Points regularly if you want to keep up to speed with tips like these!

Thank you for taking the time to visit the site today.

(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.)

Bits: improved BA economy food is here, Stobart Jet Centre @ Southend opens, Doncaster lounge closure
Bits: more on the BA Amex London events, £199 SWISS business to Zurich, Qatar sale extended
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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.

Comments

  1. I totally agree about the improved quality of travel, if you can get into the mindset of earning avios (which takes a fair bit of organisation and discipline). Being able to fly to our holiday destination in CW means that the journey is an enjoyable part of the holiday experience instead of an exhausting ordeal!

  2. Dang there goes the redemption availability! 😉

    Welcome to anyone new, we’re a friendly bunch.

    Here’s a link to today’s episode, presumably an iPlayer link will be available within 24hours for anyone viewing from out with the UK via VPN..

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09p1z9v

    • To be honest I think a lot of people whose interest is initially piqued will decide that this hobby isn’t for them. Those of us who’ve tried to sell the idea to friends and family with zero take up can attest to this!

      • Agreed Anna! My sibling who travels far more than me (and regular TATL on the company dime) “can’t see the point”. I do find using “airmiles” rather than the deeply pointless “avios” helps a little when explaining this hobby but I still haven’t cracked sororial inertia.

        • LOL! So true Susan, until you surprise them, as I did recently on my **th birthday celebration. I used my IHG Spire membership and 150,000 Reward Club points to get all three of them hotel rooms in a great London hotel, all of which were upgraded to club rooms with my Spire membership benefit. They soon learn! 🙂

        • Lady London says:

          @Susan have you at least got her a membership, and put her into a family account? Corporate travel agent systems normally add a frequent flyer number to every ticket automatically after they are advised of it once for the employee.

      • Radiata says:

        Given the looks I have received I no longer try to encourage any unless approached directly..

        • laineyling says:

          haha this is the same with me, my husband always complains when I start talking about my hobby, until I point out he is definitely the beneficiary of my research. I told him that if he doesn’t want to do his share (churning, and changing cards on Amazon/Uber/Paypal apps etc) then I will take my mum or sister instead.

  3. I hardly think the target audience for “Rip off Britain” will be flocking here in their droves and signing up to AMEX Plats and golds.

  4. Why would Brian buy Avios to fly to Iceland, he lives in Glasgow?

    Its only a 2:20 flight from there with Iceland Air.

    Why on earth would he want to go with BA via London???

    • Correction, he lives in West Lothian. But my point remains and he could of checked their spend value prior to buying them from BA.

    • And WoW air fly to Iceland from EDI, 2:40hrs..

      Its up to 7+hrs via London and BA, crazy option even in CE and with lounge access.

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        He spent £1600 on air miles to get to Iceland ??? How much was the actual flight ?

  5. Graham Walsh says:

    On TV now.

  6. Carla niland says:

    Pure chance turned on tv n had on bbc , caught what you said n came here right away,
    We go to USA every year n split the flights paying for one leg using points for another …this year did Dallas to Las Vegas return business class for £8 each

  7. Good that Rob got some exposure, however I think the program would of been more interesting had BA downgrade policy and their attempts to avoid EU261/2004 compensation been brought up. I think having 2 people with relatively weak arguments made it disappointing and BA got off very lightly.

    • RussellH says:

      I am not sure that the BA downgrade policy is mass-market viewing!

      I did not not watch the whole programme – having run a travel business I do feel that these shows try very hard to put travel firms in the worst possible light and I find them frustrating to watch.

      I watched to see what Rob had to say – which was pretty basic stuff for any regular reader.

      What really got me was the man from W. Lothian – had he not done any basic research into flights from EDI to Iceland rather than just assuming that he could get there easily and cheaply on BA?

      And he wanted to see the Northern Lights – would he have lodged a complaint with his airline if they failed to materialise?

      (I speak as someone who went to Iceland to see both the Northern Lights and whales – we saw neither, but we saw plenty of other good things, often totally unexpected!

    • Lady London says:

      Pretty sure I saw a precedent reported recently where British Airways downgraded someone on an award ticket and the judge said the correct value of compensation was the difference in cost of cash fares between the two classes ON THE DAY…

      Hopefully that precedent will stick, then BA might think again before picking on passengers travelling on award tickets to be the ones to get downgraded…

      • Catalan says:

        So if you had a passenger who’d paid say £2000 for his seat and another had paid with points, which would you select for downgrade from a commercial point of view?

        • To step back from that argument they should not be trying to avoid downgrading anyone. They should start by looking for volunteers to be offloaded to a later flight (with compensation) or rebook them on another airline. If still no takers then downgrading should be an option. Overselling of seats is the airlines problem, passengers shouldn’t be the ones to suffer, there should be no differentiation between passengers.

        • Lady London says:

          Exactly 3V3V. Automatically picking on people who may have saved years for their award seats is just not fair. There’s a list of things they can try before that.

      • Wow, that is serious news, be tempted to go for that if ever downgraded again. Any sources/references, where’s the Real Harry, he’d be on this…

        • He made some homophonic comments a few weeks ago; then disappeared but no doubt will come back in a different disguise….

  8. roberto says:

    It was the usual program how people did stupid things and are surprised with the outcome.
    Most got what they entitled to after filming and IMHO the BBC are scraping the barrel with this kind of “woe is me” rubbish.

    • My wife, who is in bed with flu and so could watch it, told me she felt sorry for them. I haven’t seen it.

      • roberto says:

        Rob, your wife is obviously a far nicer person than me. Whilst I can sympathise with some of what happened to some its hardly news worthy material…a

        MAN BUYS AVIOS AND CANT SPEND THEM

        FAMILY CAUGHT OUT IN MONARCH COLLAPSE

        BA SELL AVIOS SEATS OUT ON POPULAR ROUTE

        HOTEL CHANGES NAME

        I could go on..

        Ps You where the best bit….

        • Genghis says:

          I look forward to watching – prob when on the Eurostar at the weekend.

        • It’s the same all the time that programme. Very dramatic when quite often it is the person on it that is at fault.

          I did hace sympathy for the man who wanted the business class tickets to Japan though. He’s exactly who the BA premium card is aimed at and the average man in the street would have no idea why it would be much harder to get a redemption on a flight to Tokyo over a flight to New York for example.

      • RussellH says:

        I hope your wife gets better soon!

        I can sympathise with people in these situations, but so often their problems arise from not understanding what they are getting into. It would have been interesting if the programme had done some research into people’s understanding of the scheme – I would not be at all surprised if many people just assume that they can buy any economy ticket at any time for the avios price BA state on their avios pages. They will have no understanding of price buckets (stupid name), fare classes, allocations and so on. They assume that it works a bit like SPG redemptions, even though most of them will have never heard of SPG).

        • I agree. What I find bizarre is that people must clearly imagine that there is nothing odd in the fact that BA will sell you £1600-worth of Avios which you instantly redeem for a £4000 business class flight to somewhere on any date you want.

          (But then …. to criticise myself …. Hyatt has ‘last room availability’ and you can load up on Hyatt points to redeem for, say, Park Hyatt Mallorca during August which will save you 50%+ on the rack rate, with guaranteed availability unless the hotel has sold all its base rooms …..)

    • But there were differences. The hotel name switch was miss-selling, they sold one hotel and then put the people in a different one having changed the name of it to the one they booked. The second hotel example again was miss-selling, put photos on a website, and then subsequent to the booking change the pictures, person not getting what they bought based on the selling company’s own website.
      The two Avios cases were classic examples of assumption. Why would you buy £1600 worth of an airlines made-up currency without understanding what you were getting? He was switching something completely flexible for something with endless restrictions, and doing so at a really poor rate. It was essentially stupid, I feel sorry for him, but he’s at fault. The guy with the Amex 2-4-1 clearly never bothered to do a bit of research before he made effort to start saving Avios. It’s really not hard to find out certain LH routes are near impossible to book without a lot of research and calling wherever is open at 00:00:01 GMT.
      Personally I like to get at least 1p per Avios, I value the ones I’ve not yet used at nothing, because that’s the sensible approach as I see it.
      The only time to buy loyalty (yeah right) points is if you need a few for a particular redemption, or if you find a deal where the cost of the points needed for the booking is less than the cash cost. Broadly speaking why someone would ever buy point speculatively is one I don’t understand.

      • They should put “subject to availability” in large letters all over anything to do with avios. I have a long mental list of redemptions I’d be happy with, but people who are determined they only want to go to (e.g.) Sydney or LA need things to be made much clearer. Unfortunately the system does make it look on first glance as though you will be able to use you avios to go exactly where and when you want whereas it’s more like a corner shop experience, you have to pop inside and see what they’ve actually got!

      • I do buy Avios but that’s because I travel a lot in Asia and for business class with JAL and Cathay pacific Avios are really great and have a lot of availability so it’s pretty much guaranteed that I can use them.

  9. Flew United last year to New York, and credited the flights to Aer Lingus as suggested. Still haven’t received any Avios for them. I am a bit sceptical that they’ll ever turn up, considering how many problems there were getting 250 avios out of them!

    • +1

      Me and my wife went on a return trip to Chicago in May 2017. I tweet Aer Lingus every few months to see if there is any progress on actually getting them credited, but they claim their systems cannot do it yet. If/when the system finally allows it, they will have a backlog of 12+ months, so I still wouldn’t expect them anytime soon (If at all).

      I would argue that they should a) stop advertising the fact that this can be done, and b) should stop people from putting their Aer Lingus number in to a United booking until it is sorted.

      …I wish I’d just credited them somewhere else now

  10. HappyHarry says:

    Rob,

    You “pointed [us] towards a few good starting points” on Head For Points did you ?

    You are summoned for tea and biscuits with the Editor (biscuits will not be served) ! 🙂

  11. I think the people on here and the people who get caught out by things on such programmes live in worlds which never intersect.

    Some folk shouldn’t be given sharp objects.

    • Look at the ‘buy Avios’ page on Avios.com. You can argue that the way it is written is aimed at the ‘non professional’.

  12. HI Rob, curious to know if your TV fame gained you a decent spike in page views?

  13. Steve R says:

    Just watched it .

    What i couldn’t quite work why would you spend £1600 on Avios. Surely it would have been cheaper just to buy an ordinary ticket.

    As you said Rob you have to be flexible. Man is our nearest Airport, but to use RFS for summer hols in Europe we have to fly fm LGW.

    Good excuse to return south & see family

    • I also caught up with it this morning. He bought the avios because he thought he would get a good deal using them to reduce the price of his flights. He clearly hadn’t done any research or dummy bookings as this is never a great use of avios. As Rob pointed out, he would have been better using them for a redemption flight.

      I don’t think the programme is going to convert many people to the hobby – it made it look absolutely not worth it!

  14. Graham Walsh says:

    What also doesn’t help is Avios advertising on the radio now too, get as many people with a credit card and then create disappointment.

    • I really think you have to enjoy the hobby itself to be in it in the long term. It’s fascinating how people who clearly have shed loads of disposable income still delight in getting F or CW seats with avios and 2 4 1 vouchers as much as I do who wouldn’t be able to afford the cash prices!

  15. Does anyone have a link to the show? iPlayer is country restricted so wondering if anyone has a link before I go getting a VPN.

  16. Just watched the show. I have some magic beans if anyone wants to buy them?

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