Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Tokyo has lower taxes when Avios flight tickets are booked as 2 x one-ways

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

Many Head for Points readers will know that not all Governments take the same happy view on airline surcharges that you get in the UK.  Hong Kong and Brazil are two countries which are well known for having restrictions in place on what airlines can add to the base cost of a flight.

What I didn’t realise until this week is that Japan also imposes a cap.

A quick recap on Hong Kong

I’ll quickly recap the Hong Kong situation for anyone not familiar with it.  Airlines are not allowed to levy surcharges on flights FROM Hong Kong when the journey originates there.  This means that if you buy a return flight to Hong Kong starting in the UK, you WILL pay surcharges on both legs.  If book your trip as two one-way flights, the return leg should be free of surcharges.

Here are some example using Avios redemptions booked at or

Return business class flight to Hong Kong on Avios has taxes of £563

One-way business business class flight to Hong Kong on Avios has taxes of £365

One-way business class flight FROM Hong Kong on Avios has taxes of £33

Anyone with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher is getting a raw deal because those tickets must booked out of the UK.  You are being forced to overpay £165 per person in tax compared to booking each leg separately.

Avios taxes on flights to Tokyo

Let’s look at Tokyo

Until a reader pointed it out, I didn’t realise that Tokyo was in a similar position.  Here is the cost of a business class Avios redemption to Tokyo:

Return business class flight to Tokyo on Avios has taxes of £548

One-way business business class flight to Tokyo on Avios has taxes of £365

One-way business class flight FROM Tokyo on Avios has taxes of £114

This means that, if you are not using a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher, you can save £69 per person by booking an Avios redemption on BA to Japan as 2 x one-way tickets.

PS.  As usual, shows the incorrect taxes figure when you initially price up a flight online.  You only see the correct number when you click through to the final payment page.  This applies to many Avios flight quotes, not just Hong Kong and Tokyo.

(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.)

Comments (94)

  • Polly says:

    You are still winning using a 241 voucher as it’s half the avios you don’t need to collect. TBH, l thought the difference would be much greater. Let’s say an F redemption, saving only £69 pp. but really not having to collect that 2nd lot of avios is less stressful. Ba still get you on the way out. We have just no escape there apart from going Iberia to start with! Which helps.

  • Tilly71 says:

    JUST upgraded my Amex Gold charge to Platinum online, I got the usual message cannot give you an immediate answer, is this the same message people have been getting when they log in two days later and the online account has updated to Platinum?
    I ask as I have the annual gold charge fee to be paid in 5 x days.

    • Polly says:

      You probably just made it on time. Mine converted in a couple of days. Just check every day!

      • Tilly71 says:

        Thanks for your reply, did you get you 20k MR bonus after spending 1k?

        • Matt says:

          I upgraded last month. Instant approval and 20k bonus was paid promptly.

        • Polly says:

          20k in immediately l hit the 1k spend. So it is working…good luck

        • Toby says:

          Just done the same but no instant 20k after hitting the 1k spend. Will give a couple of days then chase up with AmEx

    • Davef says:

      Yes I had the same and it upgraded online later without notification.
      But even if you pay the gold fee they refund it when the charge you the platinum fee.

  • GabeS says:

    Hi Genghis
    Can you share some of the tricks to paying the lower taxes when using the 241 return?

  • zark says:

    Sorry for being pedantic, but according to the Oxford Dictionary tax is:

    A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government.

    Clearly this is not tax.

    • Matt says:

      It’s taxes, APD fees and surcharges isn’t it though?

      • John says:

        No, because the actual taxes are the same all the time, except for exemptions like ex-JER and ex-INV, and these are published publicly by the governments of all the countries invovled. Fees paid to airports are not taxes.

        The price differences are all down to the opaque BA random add-ons that are not published anywhere and even if you spent 100 hours searching every possible BA fare (between London and Tokyo – now imagine doing it for 10,000 city pairs) you wouldn’t be able to compile a comprehensive table.

        • Lady London says:

          Most of the BA so-called “taxes and charges” are in fact a “Co-Pay”. Most of the time, except for the heinous cost of APD on ex-UK tickets, most of the “taxes and charges” you must pay to British Airways goes straight into British Airways’s pocket. This in addition to the avios you contribute.

          British Airways was sued in the USA for calling this “greed money” a “fuel charge” recently. IRL fuel surcharges IRL had gone away more than a decade previous. And there was British Airways still saying the money that went straight into their pocket as well as avios or cash for air tickets was a “fuel surcharge”.

          This went to court in the USA. It was finally settled out of court with a ridiculous deal that let BA buy their way out of the suit by issuing avios to passengers who had paid said “fuel surcharge” money, provided those passengers make a claim claim a tiny amount of the avios British Airways printed/made available as the settlement.

          Avios as we are all about to find out quite soon, is a currency that British Airways can reduce the value of any time time simply by changing the terms of how they are earned or spent – they’re in control.

        • Alex Smotrov says:

          I’m not the biggest fan of BA, as it is largely a travesty of an airline, and my 2-4-1 First+PE trip to Singapore is likely to be the last big trip with BA. But, for what it’s worth… These Americans should better sue their own hotels for charging ridiculous and de-facto compulsory “resort fees and charges”…

  • Michael C says:

    Justtt about HKG-related: I’m looking to do Penang-HKG with avios in April ’19. It’s on CathayDragon, but the BA site is not giving me any availability on any day ever: is this something I might be able to do by ringing BA?

    • John says:

      Only if there is actually availability – try AA, Asia Miles and awardnexus etc

    • GB74 says:

      We booked this flight using Avios in May for next Easter – however as of 22nd June CX has pretty much wiped out all partner award availability. For example, 350 days out you’d see pretty much 6 biz reward seats on every HKG- MAN flight – now nothing.

      They still seem to make seats available close in – approx. 3 weeks out. Qantas seems to be the best site to search.

  • Matthew says:

    Semi O/T, I’ve tried about 4 or 5 times to book BA award seats today for next year and despite them being available, it keeps coming back with an error. Has anyone else had the same issue?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Anna says:

      It has been a bit glitchy this weekend, I had to put one booking through twice before it was accepted. Sometimes changing browser or device can make a difference.

  • PhilW says:

    O/T re the BA 241, I know that if I hit the trigger early on the card the voucher issues immediately, but you can’t start collecting for the next voucher until the anniversary of the card. If I cancel the card and am referred after 6 months does the clock start again or will I still need to wait until the anniversary of the original card?

    • Rob says:

      Starts again.

      • PhilW says:

        Does that mean I could actually have 3 or 4 active 241’s in my ba account or can I still only have a max of 2?

        • Genghis says:

          You can have more than two. I’ve seen 3. Also no need to wait 6 months if don’t want sign up bonus so could have many more than four, in theory…

        • rts says:

          I have had 3 active vouchers.

  • John G says:

    I’m very confused. BA say they don’t have a fuel surcharge. They have a carrier imposed surcharge which is not a fuel surcharge. Why then are BA not applying this in territories where fuel surcharges are banned? Is this BA admitting that their surcharge is indeed a fuel surcharge?

    • John says:

      BA can choose to not apply surcharges when they don’t want to, and they aren’t admitting anything by doing so. Perhaps they just don’t want to be challenged on it now that they lost that class action in the US

    • Nick says:

      If you want to get into the detail, HK doesn’t actually restrict ‘fuel surcharges’, this is just what people write about because it’s easier for clumps to understand. HK actually restricts what is called in the industry ‘YQ’ (and related ‘YR’) charges… which is what BA applies as the ‘add-on’ you mention. Therefore it is very much included in the restriction. Whatever you or BA call it (carrier charge, fuel charge, i-love-chimpanzees charge) it’s the process of adding and collecting it that’s the link here.

    • Lady London says:

      Nice one, @John G