Why are some Avios flight redemptions now cheaper on avios.com than ba.com?

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We have written numerous articles in the last few months about the new trial of ‘£1 taxes and charges’ short-haul Avios redemptions.

In theory, this was a simple idea.  As well as offering you (for example) 9,000 Avios + £35 taxes and charges between London and Paris, you would see a number of additional options, dropping down to as low as (for example) 15,500 Avios + £1 of taxes.

These new options are generally a bad deal. In the example above you are saving £34 of taxes and charges in return for spending an additional 6,500 Avios (which I’d usually value at £65).  However, the option is there for anyone who is cash poor and Avios rich.

In practice, this has turned out to be a very complex thing for BA to implement:

Initially – although now fixed – domestic UK connections to a long-haul redemption ceased to be free.

We then found out (good thing) that cancellation charges for short-haul Avios redemptions had been cut from £35 to just £1, due to the difficulty of collecting the extra money if the customer had chosen the ‘£1 taxes’ option originally.  For clarity, you now pay just £1 to cancel a short-haul Avios redemption irrespective of whether you chose the £1 taxes option or not when booking.

There has been major confusion over how to price Gold Priority Rewards.  These are where a Gold member can force open ANY BA seat if they are prepared to use double Avios.  Many agents are still – incorrectly – insisting that the ‘lots of Avios and £1 taxes’ price is used as the base cost, which makes the Avios required stupidly high.

Another interesting quirk has now come to light.

Some Avios redemptions are now cheaper when booked on avios.com

A bit of background here for anyone who thinks that avios.com is closed.  It isn’t.  The Avios Travel Rewards Programme was closed last year, but the avios.com website remains.  It is where members of Vueling Club and Aer Lingus AerClub go to book redemptions.

Because it is part of ‘Combine My Avios’, you can log in using a Vueling Club or Aer Lingus AerClub account and pull in Avios from British Airways Executive Club.

The key thing to note is that the new ‘£1 taxes and charges trial’ for BA redemptions is NOT happening at avios.com.  It only kicks in if you try to book at ba.com.

When is avios.com cheaper?

Avios redemptions are cheaper at avios.com if you are starting in Europe and connecting in London to a long-haul British Airways flight.

Here is an example, from Frankfurt to New York JFK in Club World, return, on off-peak dates.  This is what it cost on avios.com:

Avios pricing chart

You’ll need to click to enlarge, but trust me that the cost is 115,500 Avios plus £516.28 in taxes and charges.

Here are IDENTICAL flights booked on ba.com:

Avios pricing

The cost is now 125,500 Avios plus £516.28 in taxes and charges.  You are asked to pay an extra 10,000 Avios.

Why is this happening?

The ‘logic’ is simple, although not logical.

Let’s forget about the New York flight for a minute.  This is what it costs to book Frankfurt to London on avios.com, Club Europe return on an off-peak date:

Avios pricing 3

It is 15,500 Avios + £50.

Let’s look at exactly the same flight booked at ba.com.  15,000 Avios + £50 is still an option, but the ‘headline’ price which ba.com shows you first is this:

Avios pricing 4

25,500 Avios + £1.

The difference is 10,000 Avios.  Now, obviously – when you book the 2nd example above as a stand-alone flight – you are using 10,000 more Avios on ba.com but saving £49 in taxes and charges.

When the short-haul flight is linked to a long-haul flight, the tax differential is ignored.  ba.com charges you the full 25,500 Avios but makes no tax adjustment.

Conclusion

This, admittedly, is not an issue which will concern most HFP readers who are starting their redemptions in the UK.  It is something to note for our European readers, however, and a reminder that – whilst the £1 trial is ongoing – you need to be on the ball to ensure that you are getting the best deal.

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Comments

  1. Booked MAD-LHR O/W. Didn’t want to spend £1 tax as it’s a bad deal so spent the amount of avios closest to the ‘usual’ rate.

    A few weeks after booking I realised it’s the 777 and wanted to upgrade to try the CW seat but was told unable to as this was a part cash part avios booking.

    Is it just me being naive or is that obvious to anyone else?

    • That does sound like another side-effect problem that would come out of this change.

      But … can’t you just cancel it and rebook yourself in Club? (BA.com should let you know if it’s going to only cost you £1 to do that.)

      • Shoestring says:

        no – it’s a basic rule of BA upgrades https://www.headforpoints.com/2019/03/13/how-to-upgrade-with-avios/

        [‘Upgrade Using Avios’ allows you to upgrade a CASH-bought British Airways ticket to the next class of service. There are a number of rules to get your head around, but in summary: etc]

        Matt was trying to upgrade an Avios + Money ticket – these can’t be upgraded

        • He wasn’t trying to UUA, which yes is a very specific thing. He was trying to upgrade his reward, with a small “u”, and you are allowed to change the class of a reward. You aren’t able to upgrade avios&money, but there’s confusion about which of the £1 or £15.50 RFS option is the avios option and which is av&m.

          • Shoestring says:

            Why is there confusion? (Honest question!) There are 2 different way to navigate at the beginning of your ticket process – 1. buy a ticket with cash (no log in required at the start, you can log in later if you want to part pay with Avios; 2. Buy a ticket with Avios – log in to BAEC required.

            If you log in and start the ‘Buy a ticket with Avios’ process (2), my understanding is: you can never upgrade the ticket after purchase.

          • There’s no confusion that we’re talking about a “Buy a ticket with Avios” booking. But these can be upgraded (in general: an RFS maybe an exception).

            Rule 16.1: https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/executive-club/terms-and-conditions

          • Shoestring says:

            thanks – but did you see?:

            16.3. If more than one Avios and Money price option is available for a British Airways flight, it is not possible to change the price option or class of service chosen by a Member after a booking has been made.

          • There should be (and in practice is) a distintion between whether av&m is a available or is actually taken by the customer. After all if you book a standard 120k CW redemption to JFK you can later move a leg to F: you aren’t barred just because a lower fee 180k avios option was available, but had you taken the 180k option yes it would seem you are barred.

            So the confusion is still: did Matt book an av&m options when he opted your the standard/old avios amount?

            Incidentally, if he has because the £1 / higher avios option is now the “standard” pricing, there seems no question that GPR should now be 2x that max avios amount.

    • Neil Donoghue says:

      Got stung with this over Christmas as well. I wanted to upgrade my parents to Club Europe as availability had opened up and I was told the exact same thing. I see the confusion here from all parties:

      1) You book a return J flight using a 241 – You must pay the highest amount of avios & taxes. This flight can be upgraded to F paying extra avios and more taxes.

      2) I booked two flights using avios but selected the old taxes option. I was then told this booking became an avios and money booking. So it was £70 to cancel the booking and then another £100 in taxes to re-book it. It just seemed completely pointless.

  2. But surely it’s a RFS we’re talking about, not a cash with Avios ?

  3. memesweeper says:

    All this leaves me wondering where BA *want* this to end up? Is the default going to be all Avios and minimal charges? Are we going to see this on long haul? My hunch is ‘yes’ and ‘yes’. Going to make valuing an Avios for the collector really hard.

    • My guess is that long haul they will still give the option of over the top prices and less avios, but also offer over the top avios and less money.

      Why would they say no to lots of money in charges? But if the chart Rob saw of selling way more avios reach year comes about, they’ll need ways for people to burn them as well, at a lot less value than BA sold them for of course.

    • Neil Donoghue says:

      I believe so and whoever thought of it, deserves a pat on the back. It’s definitely a devaluation but to many, paying less cash works for them. Obviously the smart people here understand the value of avios and would never opt for it but sadly it looks like we may not have a choice soon.

      • Here’s the odd thing. For HFP business trips, the WORST option is the best one. I booked a CE return last night for 8600 Avios + £121. This is because the £121 is a business expense so I effectively get a 50% discount, so my personal out of pocket is 8600 + £60ish.

  4. It mystifies me why anyone would keep earning Avios miles once your target BA ExecClub elite tier is achieved for the membership year (and years beyond). The redemption value of Avios is among the worst in the FF world. The surcharges on BA flights is ridiculous outside Europe. Even awards on other OW partners are higher in both Avios miles and fees than using AA or AS miles. I’ve achieved my Gold status through mid-2021 so have my flight credits into my AS account where they earn a substantial bonus over what I’d get in Avios miles. And redemptions on JL and CX, as well as many non-OW airlines, cost fewer miles and fees. My philosophy is “Avios if necessary, but not necessarily Avios”.

  5. Jimmy Mac says:

    These £1 RFS flights hark back to the old days of Airmiles, which then became Avios. Airmiles prices attracted no cash element on full Airmiles prices.

    Looks like weve gone full circle….

  6. “For clarity, you now pay just £1 to cancel a short-haul Avios redemption irrespective of whether you chose the £1 taxes option or not when booking.” – wow, had not realised this was the case! :O

    • Colin JE says:

      Really? I hadn’t picked that up either. I thought you still had to pay the ‘taxes’ you actually paid up to £35 for an RFS ticket. So only if you paid £1 and extra Avios would the cancellation be £1. Rob, can you clarify please?

      • The canx fee is £1 irrespective of whether you book with the £1 or £121 (in the case of the last ticket I booked) option.

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