Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Why flying from Inverness can save you £££ in air fare and Air Passenger Duty – and why I went

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Inverness Airport is not much to look at, although I’ve seen far worse.  The entire airport seems about the size of the Business Class Lounge at the Qatar Airways base in Doha.

It has, however, become very popular in recent year with people who are looking for cheap British Airways Club World fares.

Inverness, along with other airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands region, has been exempt from Air Passenger Duty since 1994.  Between 1994 and 2016, this fact fell into the ‘nice to know but not very useful’ category.

In 2016, British Airways launched flights from Inverness to London Heathrow.  Suddenly things got a lot more interesting.

By booking your long haul British Airways business class flight as Inverness – London – XXXXXX, you would save £172 per person in Air Passenger Duty.

To be honest, I never had any interest in trying this out.  It was inconvenient and of course the cost of getting to Inverness takes a chunk out of your £172 saving.  There were also transit passenger taxes to pay at Heathrow which ate into your saving.

Here is an example on an Avios ticket in Club World to Dubai from Heathrow:

…. and from Inverness:

You save £98 per person.

OK, it’s better than nothing.  However, you need to get to Inverness in the first place, which is another 4,500 Avios + £17.50 each way.  Your saving soon disappears and you are putting a low value on your time.

What really kicked off interest in Inverness was a series of cheap British Airways long haul Club World fares.  These were subtantially cheaper than fares from London, even after adjusting for Air Passenger Duty, and more in line with what you would usually see out of Amsterdam.

You would also earn an extra 80 British Airways Executive Club tier points (40 points each way) due to the two additional Club Europe flights on your ticket.

If you lived close to Heathrow, taking advantage of these fares from Inverness was fairly simple.

It is possible to do a back-to-back on British Airways at Inverness as long as you already have your boarding pass and have no luggage.  Fly up, get off the plane quickly, go into the tiny terminal, head back through security and fly back on the same aircraft.

At Heathrow, you head straight to your long-haul aircraft, having checked in your luggage before you took the Inverness flight.

Alternatively, because you can have a sub-24 hour stopover in London without triggering Air Passenger Duty, you could fly from London to Inverness and back the previous day. 

You get to go home at night – as long as your home is near Heathrow – and then head back to Heathrow the next day.  You need to ensure the gap between landing from Inverness and taking off the next day for New York or wherever is under 24 hours.

If you don’t live near Heathrow, however, you have to get to Inverness using another airline or the train.

Other airlines flying to Inverness, according to the airport website, are easyJet (Gatwick, Luton, Bristol) and Loganair (Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast, Dublin, Jersey).

This creates a serious risk of misconnection, and if you miss your British Airways flight from Inverness then your entire long-haul trip will be cancelled.  In order to guarantee you don’t miss your flight from Inverness – which would be the first part of your long-haul ticket – you may need to stay overnight.

The airport lacked a hotel and, with a few exceptions, accommodation in Inverness itself has poor feedback for quality and value, especially during the Summer.

The good news is that a brand new Courtyard by Marriott hotel has opened at Inverness Airport.  Take a look at its website here.  Tomorrow we are reviewing it.  If it’s any good, you may feel happier about trying to find a deal from Inverness for your next long haul British Airways flight.

British Airways BA Amex American Express

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As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

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You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (85)

  • Lyn says:

    O/T Sorry. Could someone who had a return flight back from the US to the UK that was recently cancelled by BA please help me by sharing what options they were given for re-booking or partial refund and how they were communicated? I’ve read through the many comments and couldn’t find any that specifically related to this.

    We have a booking for a BA flight back from a “non-approved-US-gateway” to London on March 30. It is the return half or my ticket, so I fall into the “part flown customer category.”. I’ve read the BA trade link that Rob gave in detail and it confirms the obvious assumption that this flight will be cancelled. So far BA have only cancelled flights on our route as far as March 24, and our booking doesn’t show cancelled yet, although I expect it will in a matter of days.

    The fast-paced closing of borders in addition to the cancellation or flights and uncertainty about how long these will last makes this a lot more complicated than usual. I would be grateful for any information from people who have been in a similar situation in the last few days. Thank you!

    • Anna says:

      So are you in the US at the moment? A few days ago I would have said enjoy the rest of your holiday but now I would be trying to get home asap while there are flights still leaving. Sort out your return flight when you get back.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Fights are continuing but the frequency has massively reduced. As a UK citizen you can still connect in the EU as I know for example Lufthansa are still flying

        BA has a duty of care (completely different to compo for delays) to bring you back via any carrier not just BA

        Some insurances such as Nationwide allow you to cancel your holiday half way through and claim any non-refundable costs back if the FCO has advised you shouldn’t visit the destination for all non-essential travel

      • Mikeact says:

        Exactly, after nearly 4 weeks with another 2 to go, it all started to kick in last week over there. Up to then we were happy to continue over onto Charleston and Savannah. It was pretty obvious that it was only going to get more difficult and there’s no way we could relax on a beach knowing what was looming. So onto the laptops/phone to try and get back home. I was keen on KLM who always look after us, but they were concerned about the hop back to London from AMS. They offered us two Upper Class Reward seats from JFK but it was getting difficult to get up there. Then on to Avios, and managed to eventually get hold of 2 x WBC seats on a BA flight out if Atlanta. I don’t know where we parked at Heathrow, but if sure was a long bus ride to T5 !
        nb All cancellation charges and miles for our cancelled reward tickets etc already back in my acounts, but we’d still rather be on the beach!

        • Lyn says:

          Good to hear you managed to get home, even if you missed out on part of your holiday. This when it is good to have avios (and hotel points) available to cover unforseen circumstances,

    • AJA says:

      Lyn You cannot cancel the return flight in exchange for a voucher as you have already started your journey.

      BA has to take care of you under the EU261 Duty of Care provisions. You would be re-routed via one of the approved gateways.The trouble is that we have no idea what impact this pandemic is having on the US domestic flight schedules.

      I would recommend looking at what flights are running from your destination to the nearest approved gateway and then contacting BA in the USA when your flight is cancelled asking for them to route you home via those flights.

      If you want to return home sooner then do the same but then call BA today to see if they can accomodate your request. You may have to pay for the internal US flight as you would be cancelling rather than BA. Also check your travel insurance if it will pay for this. If so call them rather than BA and let them assist you.

    • Lyn says:

      Thank you very Anna, TGLoyalty and AJA for your replies. I’m grateful for them and the duty-of-care advice.

      Sorry for the long explanation, but our situation is unusual, partly because to get home we need to travel onwards to Schengen and the combination of borders closing / restricted in-country movements and reduced flights could make this really difficult and we don’t really want to get stuck en route. Unfortunately although I’ve lived and worked in England and other countries in Europe for most of my life I don’t actually have UK or European citizenship, and although we have Schengen residence permits I’m not sure we can rely on them to get us back in at the moment. Fortunately we are retired now so don’t have to worry about getting back to work, nor do we have to worry about getting back to family, so we are in a lot better situation than most people.

      This makes guessing the best flights and dates to change difficult, which is why I was asking about people’s experience with the logistics once our flight is cancelled. Fortunately we are lucky enough to have somewhere to stay here and my husband is American so we don’t have to worry about overstaying visas. We could also get to a gateway airport with a one-way car rental if domestic US connecting flights were cancelled, but as long as they are not cancelled I think they would be included anyway. Thanks again for all your suggestions,

      • Shoestring says:

        @Lyn – residence status is enough to get you in, for many or most European countries in the current ‘citizens only’ rules

        interestingly, I could go out to our place in the sun with our kids (all of us only have UK passports, though the kids have dual nationality), provided my wife was with us for airport Security as she is a citizen of that country

        maybe summer hols not lost, then! 🙂 – she would have to change her dates but that could arranged

        obvs I’m hoping that by July the rules will have relaxed

        • Lyn says:

          Thank you Shoestring. You are of course right, but I do wonder if this could change. We’d have to convince the airline to let us on board as well, assuming flights are operating, and this is hard enough at the best of times. Once years ago BA even made us pay for one-way tickets from London to Schengen because we were on the return half of our tickets from there (as we always are) and the BA check-in person convinced themselves that we wouldn’t be allowed in! Refundable of course, so just a nuisance but I must admit it was a bit of a scare.

          We’d be happy to self-isolate in our house and garden of course, but the other problem could be actually getting to our small country village, since a lot of public transport has been cut and movements curtailed. I don’t even know if we could rely on being able to pick up a rental car just to get home under the current circumstances. I’m sorry you are going to missing seeing all the spring bulbs that you planted by the way, and sympathise, since ours is a spring/very early summer garden, as many Mediterranean gardens are. At least gardeners tend to be optimistic!

          • Shoestring says:

            thanks re garden! my wife took photos at the weekend but still too early for much to be showing – good crocuses though!

            I got her to plant some dahlia tubers I was overwintering (first time I’ve done dahlias) and she said they were all firm and good to plant, plus she took a photo *after* the event (didn’t ask me!) but luckily got them the right way up, i said just dig a hole, any hole, and stick ’em in – and I guess you can’t go very wrong

            I’m going to get my bro in law to do a photoshoot in about 3 weeks’ time, I have 4 types of wild orchid growing in my garden and he is a mad keen botanist, so I know he’ll be very happy to trek over there 🙂

            now I just have the small matter of potting up the cannas I have bought and was going to plant over there at Easter, a year in pots here in UK won’t kill them

    • Alex Sm says:

      If people started offtopics, let me ask too. What we have: a Polish colleague stuck in Chile, Air France flight back home on 27 March cancelled, no alternative flight offered. What to do in this situation? Who carries the duty of care obligation and how to get back home, if she doesn’t have tousands of $$$ on credit card etc.? Any options? Polish government does not send planes to retrieve their citizens from lands that remote…

      • Anuj says:

        As Air France is a eu airline no they would have a EU261 duty to re route the person via any airline, even if that means getting them to somewhere else from where they can travel onwards and pick up a flight back home. Correct me if I’m wrong anyone !

      • Lyn says:

        Other people would know more about this than I do. But if your colleague is part of the way through her booking, and it was booked through Air France, it sounds as if Air France would have a duty of care obligation to provide an alternative flight even if it was on another airline.

        They must have other passengers in this same situation. With all the travel restrictions it might be difficult to find alternatives. However, if she could find an alternative flight, perhaps with help from you or other colleagues, she could ask Air France to rebook it for her.

        • Alex Sm says:

          Thanks both for your replies, but I don’t trust the French to be honest… They might just wash their hands off. I will relay the advice to my colleague in the morning and will report back on any progress. Might be useful for others too!

  • Robert Provan says:

    Very London centric for obvious reasons. However for those of us who already live in the Highlands then it is a very pleasant benefit when flying long haul. Quicker for me to get to Inverness from Fort William than many of Head for Pointers who live in the London area to get to Heathrow……….and a lot more pleasant.
    During the summer as you allude to, basically at times every hotel, B&B etc will be full……or at least they used to be!!!

    • Concerto says:

      Although the A82 can be a deadly road. I don’t think it’s changed much since my student days of the late 80s.

  • Rob says:

    To do this and to save £170 is ridiculous – the effect in the environment alone should be enough to prevent anyone from doing this. Jolly’s such as this should be banned.

    • Sarah says:

      Exactly. Perhaps the virus pandemic will force this lot to think about the damage they’ve caused to the environment by doing these trips as well as ex-EU and tier point trips

      • Ian M says:

        Greta must be an extremely happy girl right now

        • Spursdebs says:

          Don’t think Greta is allowed to be happy it wouldn’t help the “ cause” who do we reckon is bankrolling her parents, wonder how much they got for selling out their own daughter 🤔.

        • Andrew says:

          This is great, it’s helping to show young people exactly how life will be if Greta and the creepy women who paint their faces white to highlight their “caucasian purity” in Extinction Rebellion get their way.

          Greta is really useful anyway for fat shaming:-

          “If you were a true Green, you’d be as slim as Greta”.

      • William Avery says:

        Or maybe she has a point 🤔. Being bankrolled by some sort of super cult is a new one. Keep the conspiracies flowing

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Have to be honest and ask why are the two related?

    • Doug M says:

      Until the airlines or governments act people will carry on doing what benefits them personally. I’ve undertook ex-EU flights many times, but had in the last year been given the whole issue considerable thought. The savings can be a lot more than the APD, Rob explained that.
      Your posts on a forum about travel and points won’t change anyone’s mind. Aviation is an easy target.

    • ChrisC says:

      In the example Rob gave – using avios – the saving was less than £100 so not really worth doing unless you live close to INV.

      Where it is worth doing is for cash flights where the savings – even if you need positioning flights – are in the several hundreds – if not more – of pounds.

      No diferent from starting a trip in Dublin or Amsterdam etc etc etc

      • AJA says:

        Unless you are Avios rich in which case a redemption or using Avios to reduce the price to get you up to INV becomes attractive.The thing that works against it for me is you’re adding on an extra 4 flights and the additonal time and complexity for not a huge saving. It’s not that different to an ex-EU start
        which I’ve also never done. I’d rather do the Finnair via Helsinki option flying flatbed on their A350 between LHR and HEL.(Obviously now assuming that Finnair returns to long haul following this epidemic)

  • Andy says:

    I assume this will be possible out of Newquay when BA start flights to LHR. You mentioned in your article when the route was announced that it was good for long weekends in the SW but my thoughts, living in Devon, were the possibilities of cheaper long haul.

    • Chris says:

      No, as the APD exemption applies to the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Newquay is a little further south.

      • Charlieface says:

        If BA takes over the PSO route it will be exempt from APD

        • Shoestring says:

          the Newquay-LHR (or Gatwick) subsidised route is APD-exempt both directions but does not give you any advantages flying long haul, that’s what I worked out LY and ISTR Raffles did an ITA check on fares and agreed (I think)

          so I think it works differently to Inverness

  • Spursdebs says:

    I had a right result on my new will, for all the referral work and new clients I’ve sent her way she did mine for free. Told my Son don’t pay for a wake get cheapest funeral possible and with money saved go on holiday or treat himself. Have left instructions how to access stash of points and reclaim them if I don’t make it through. No need to waste them.

    • Brighton Belle says:

      How many Avios does it take to reach the afterlife and are there any returns or is strictly one way only? I probably have a choice of BA or Virgin and several upgrade voucher options to get their in comfort and style.

      Happy to start in Inverness if it reduces my taxes in probate.


      • Spursdebs says:

        With death taxes at 40% wise move or you could do estate planning now and reduce your liability. And yes I paid for mine on Amex card got loads of points lol

  • Secret Squirrel says:

    BA First produces some great deals starting in INV (for the future)..

    • Harry T says:

      Any tips for finding them in the future? It’s not too far from Newcastle…

      • Secret Squirrel says:

        Google Flights UK

      • ChrisC says:

        They are variable. Some weeks they are there and others not YOu might get lucky you might not. Same really as sometimes there are good deals from DUB but not AMS and other times the reverse.

        There appears to be no corelation with CW prices either. When I did an ex INV the F price was cheaper than CW.

  • Sarah says:

    I stay in central Scotland and have booked INV-LHR-NYC at start of summer holidays (one way CW) For a family of 3, I saved £800 so will be worth the few hours drive. I will check out the new Marriott.

    • Atif Ali says:

      How many points did you have to use?

    • Genghis says:

      Is this the same Sarah posting above? If so, why not fly from Glasgow or Edinburgh and save on the fuel emissions?

    • Mikeact says:

      I assume you are the same Sarah that posted a little earlier.
      If so, I suggest you make your mind up……you’re happy to drive up, but not happy for me to fly up.

      • Sarah says:

        Please don’t make assumptions, Sarah is a relatively common name and so it is 2 different Sarah’s that made different points.

  • Polly says:

    Brighton Belle,
    Why not ask for the credits to be transferred back to your bank account. Then keep on earning, also benefitting for the Morrisons 10% back offer till early April. I did that the other day instead of using my credit up. Seemed a pity to waste the decent M offer.

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