How does Reward Flight Saver work? (Avios Redemption University, Lesson 2)

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This article explains everything you need to know about booking short-haul Reward Flight Saver redemptions on British Airways with Avios.

The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from it.  Click here to see the other “Avios Redemption University” articles although articles 3 to 15 have not yet been updated.

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.  Reward Flight Saver allows anyone who has earned one Avios in the last year to book a short-haul Economy reward flight with a subsidised level of taxes and charges.

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 easy to find 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 £100 of taxes for a short-haul flight to Europe before 2011.  Added to the 9,000+ miles required, it made the redemption very, very bad value.

With Reward Flight Saver, the dynamic changed completely.  A Reward Flight Saver redemption is one of the most valuable Avios redemptions you can get and you can easily reach my target of 1p per Avios.

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

Reward Flight Saver short haul Avios flights are one of the best ways to use your points.  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.

Given how cash fares are falling, frequent flyer mile redemptions should be dropping in miles cost – not going up.  I recently reviewed a £5 all-in Ryanair flight to Porto and it was perfectly acceptable.

How does Reward Flight Saver with Avios work?

What changed with Reward Flight Saver in 2019?

British Airways made a fundamental change to Reward Flight Saver in 2019.

In theory these changes are still being called a ‘trial’ but there is no sign of them reversing.

Historically, the taxes and charges element of Reward Flight Saver was fixed.  You paid £35 for a return Euro Traveller economy flight and £50 for a return Club Europe flight.

Things changed last year when British Airways introduced even lower taxes and fees on shorthaul in return for more Avios.  You can read this in-depth HFP article about the launch of £1 taxes and charges on Avios Reward Flight Saver.

The ‘trial’ gives you the option to reduce the taxes and fees portion of the fare to £1 (50p one-way).  Here is an example in Economy to Nice:

How does Reward Flight Saver with Avios work?

As you can see, the ‘old’ Reward Flight Saver option is still there – 8000 Avios (the off-peak price) + £31.  In fact, it has got cheaper by £4.

You need to do the maths to see which option is best.  On the whole, you will find the traditional Reward Flight Saver option is the best value if you consider your Avios worth 1p or more each.

Taking the example above, the ‘15,000 Avios + £1’ option requires you to pay 7,000 additional Avios to save £30 if you compare it to the ‘8,000 Avios + £31’ option.  This means you are getting under 0.5p per Avios!  It is a bad deal.

If you earn your Avios from work at no cost, you may appreciate the option to spend a few more Avios in order to save a few quid.  If you earn your Avios mainly from credit card spend, Tesco Clubcard conversions etc then you do NOT want to be accepting 0.5p per point.

The new £1 deal offers additional flexibility that you did not have before and that, in our view, is a good thing.  It doesn’t mean you should book it though!

Using a British Airways Amex 2-4-1 voucher with Reward Flight Saver

Here’s an extra quirk.  If you are using a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion voucher, you will NOT see the new £1 taxes pricing.

You will only be offered the standard £35 per person taxes option in Economy and £50 per person in Business.

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 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 does not have Reward Flight Saver so you need to pay standard taxes and charges on their flights from the UK to Spain, or elsewhere on the Iberia short haul network.  You also cannot get Reward Flight Saver on BA’s sister airlines Aer Lingus, Vueling, LEVEL, Iberia Express or Air Nostrum.

Reward Flight Saver makes Club Europe good value, at least from London

Whilst a lot of people don’t believe that Club Europe offers great value for cash, unless you are chasing British Airways Executive Club tier points, I believe that Club Europe redemptions using Reward Flight Saver can be good value, especially if you have no status.

This is especially true if you just upgrade the outbound leg, due to the decent British Airways lounges in Heathrow and Gatwick.  The modest additional Avios needed gets you access to the lounges, fast track security, priority boarding, an empty middle seat, a full bar including champagne and a meal.

Think twice about booking Club Europe from London City Airport.  City Airport does not have a lounge and the Embraer aircraft used are 2 x 2 seating in both classes so there is no empty middle seat.  Priority Boarding isn’t worth much either due to the high percentage of passengers at City who have British Airways status and can also board in the first group.  Economy passengers from London City still get free snacks and drinks too.

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

The ‘base level’ of Avios points required for one-way RFS redemptions is:

    • 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.

If you choose to pay just £1 in taxes, the number of Avios required will jump by roughly 7,000 return in Economy / Euro Traveller and 10,000 return in Business / Club Europe.

The 2020 calendar of peak and off-peak Avios dates for British Airways can be found hereThe 2021 calendar of peak and off-peak Avios dates for British Airways flights is here.

British Airways Reward Flight Saver

You will see Reward Flight Saver pricing automatically when you search

As long as you have earned one Avios during the previous 12 months, you will see Reward Flight Saver pricing automatically when you search for Avios seats on British Airways on ba.com or avios.com.

Remember – you MUST have earned one 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.

Domestic UK connections are not 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.

Comair Reward Flight Saver

You can get RFS redemptions from South Africa on BA franchise Comair but at a high price

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 substantially higher than BA’s at £80 return for Economy and £140 return for Business.  Add in the number of Avios required and a cash ticket is likely to be better value.

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 Reward Flight Saver to experience the Club World flat bed seat or, depending on aircraft, even BA’s First Class service.  Remember that you need a visa to visit Moscow which can be expensive and time consuming to obtain.

British Airways also runs a long-haul aircraft on one daily flight from Heathrow to Madrid for cargo reasons.  This is a great way to try a Club World flat bed for a couple of hours.

How does Reward Flight Saver with Avios work?

You can get Reward Flight Saver redemptions on BA’s ‘Fifth Freedom’ Caribbean 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.  British Airways uses these so called ‘Fifth Freedom’ rights to sell tickets on flights which neither begin nor end in the UK.

When we last wrote about British Airways ‘Fifth Freedom’ routes in September 2019, this was the list:

    • UVF (St Lucia) – GND (Grenada) (50 minutes, Wed)
    • UVF (St Lucia) – POS (Port of Spain) (65 minutes, Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun)
    • ANU (Antigua) – SKB (St Kitts) (45 minutes, Wed and Sat)
    • ANU (Antigua) – PLS (Turks & Caicos) (2hr 5 min, Thu and Sun)
    • ANU (Antigua) – TOB (Tobago) (85 minutes, Tue, Fri)
    • GCM (Grand Cayman) – NAS (Nassau) (95 minutes, Mon, Thu, Fri, Sat)

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.  You can reduce the taxes to £1 by spending additional Avios.

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 British Airways ‘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 Dusseldorf to Billund. You can see the full SUN-AIR route map here.

I hope this article clarifies some of the questions you may have had about British Airways Reward Flight Saver redemptions using Avios.  The official Reward Flight Saver page on ba.com is here if you want to find out more.

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Comments

  1. Mikeact says:

    I personally, would emphasise to always consider booking two one ways as opposed to a return ticket…far more flexibility, particularly the return home..”let’s stay longer”, or “we need to get back home”. Both of which we have done easily…assuming availability. With a return ticket, you are scuppered to try and do this.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      ‘Always’ depends on the situation.

      There’s protection your get from a return ticket you don’t for 2 individual bookings.

    • Lady London says:

      It’s what I do but if you change or cancel you’re charged £70 that way instead of just £35 if it was all one ticket

  2. Wally1976 says:

    Which destinations are considered the sweet spots of the short haul RFS network?

    • Date of travel is more important IMO. In the school summer holiday period, for example, you can easily pay £300-400 pp for a cash seat to continental Europe, so RFS can be an incredible bargain.

      • Wally1976 says:

        Indeed, we got very good value using Avios for PFO right at the end of August for 3 years running. (Actually not that good on the outbound but fantastic on the return). Going for DLM at the same time this year and still (fairly) hopeful this trip will go ahead – we’ll be very disappointed if not as we didn’t travel abroad last year at all.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      The ones that you wish to travel to.

      • Peter K says:

        +1
        What’s the purpose in flying somewhere you don’t want to go to get more value per point.

    • Lady London says:

      Everyone’s comments below are the best answer but some people found Moscow particular value. Possibly some routes nicer planes?

      And just ended due to route change and TAM switched out if OneWorld of particular value was Frankfurt to Madrid in Club for cash or avios as it was a very nice long haul plane as it had come from South America on the route first.

      If you look at any short haul routes BA still has in the Middle East probably do called 5th freedom routes these can be a reasonable way if sampling a better level of Club service at a low cost if you use avios.

      In general Club on RFS in Europe s completely not worth it as no real change in the seat or service

      Shorter hops within South America or Oz and sometimes in USA (low “taxes” for domestic)can save you from potentially very high cash fares. Not so much in Asia as often good cash fares are available from Asia based airlines same routes.

  3. In terms of exploiting distance in the various bands, this article may be of use. It is a little dated now and does not cover all possibilities but serves as an excellent introduction:

    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1527161-selecting-redemption-destinations-edges-pricing-bands.html

    • Wally1976 says:

      Thanks Tim, that’s exactly what I was looking for 😀. Appreciate the other replies and opinions too; all valid points.

  4. >> ChrisBCN says: The ones that you wish to travel to.

    >> Peter K says: +1 What’s the purpose in flying somewhere you don’t want to go to get more value per point.

    The purpose of travel will increasingly be to experience new things, not to get to somewhere you needed to go to. Whatever these crazy points schemes, in the shifting sands, throw up as best value, and it has not been done before, should be done.

    And of course, it is not just the flights that should be factored in – all other costs too – but cheap flights are one source of inspiration.

    • Peter K says:

      But the RFS flight, in the same band, is the same cost. Yes, you might want to try new things and go new places, but choosing your destination based upon how much you “save” per avios is surely a bad starting point.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Of course, experience new things by travelling to the place you want to go, rather than where you get the most miles per point!

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