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British Airways trials Reward Flight Saver Avios tickets on long haul flights to New York

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British Airways has just added a new Avios option on flights between Heathrow and New York JFK.  It is reducing the minimum cash component of an economy (and only economy) redemption to £100.

The option is being marketed as ‘Reward Flight Saver’, which is a term British Airways already uses for short haul redemptions.

As a refresher, Reward Flight Saver (or RFS) allows anyone who has earned one Avios in the last year to book a short-haul reward flight with a subsidised level of taxes and charges.  These were fixed at £35 and £50 return for economy and Club Europe, respectively.

Reward Flight Saver is only available on flights operated by British Airways or its franchisees. Codeshares or joint venture flights are not included.

Although in recent years BA has been adding additional balance options for redemptions, the traditional RFS amounts of £35 / £50 have typically offered the most value on a ‘pence per Avios’ basis.

You can read how British Airways Reward Flight Saver works in this article here.

BA A350

How do you book Reward Flight Saver to the USA?

British Airways is trialling a similar concept under the same name on its long haul network. Currently, the Reward Flight Saver offer is only available in economy on British Airways-operated flights between London and New York JFK.

(So, for clarity, you cannot book this on American Airlines services, or in World Traveller Plus, Club World or First, or to any other US destination apart from New York JFK, including Newark.)

You will recognise the option when selecting flights by the RFS icon:

Reward flight saver icon

This is not an accident or technical glitch.  As you will see on this page of the BA website, the Reward Flight Savers information has been updated to include destinations in North America:

“Reward Flight Savers are our best value reward flights. You pay the Avios and a flat fee in cash while we pay the taxes, fees and carrier charges for you. It’s available on selected return flights in Europe, North America* and on southern Africa wherever you see this symbol.”

I asked the British Airways press office if they could give a little more detail on the offer and this is what they had to say:

“Last year we launched an option where British Airways Executive Club Members could book a reward flight to Europe using Avios and as little as £1 return.  Following its success, we are launching a trial on long-haul flights in World Traveller (economy) for as little as £100 return”

This suggests that Reward Flight Saver options will roll out to all US destinations British Airways flies to.  New York is simply the first to have it.

Long Haul Reward Flight Saver Avios redemptions New York

Is Reward Flight Saver with Avios to New York good value?

Let me spoil the surprise to save you scrolling down – no.

Whilst taxes have gone down, the Avios required have gone up.

Are economy long-haul Avios redemptions ever good value?  No, as this article shows.  Cutting £130 off the cheapest taxes option should make a difference, but it is accompanied by a higher Avios requirement.  In any event, New York economy flights are usually so cheap that Avios redemptions are rarely great value.

Let’s take a look at the new Reward Flight Saver option to New York.

Here is the legacy off-peak pricing you would see to New York Newark, which doesn’t yet have RFS (click to enlarge):

Long Haul Reward Flight Saver Avios redemptions New York

…. and here is the new off-peak Reward Flight Saver pricing to New York JFK.

Long Haul Reward Flight Saver Avios redemptions New York

As you can see, the big change is the reduction of the taxes and fees portion of the fare whilst the Avios requirement increases. The ‘headline’ RFS price of a return economy ticket from London to New York is 50,000 Avios and £100. This compares with 26,000 Avios and £241 without RFS, roughly doubling the Avios needed whilst halving the cash component.

If we assume a notional value of 1p per Avios in both valuations, that means that the RFS flight prices in at £600 exactly whilst the legacy flight costs £501.  The cost has gone up!

You still have alternative options under the new RFS scheme, and in some cases the Reward Flight Saver options are cheaper.  Take a look at the option for 9,100 Avios + £360 with Reward Flight Saver whilst you would be paying 9,100 Avios + £371 on the old pricing model.

Under the Reward Flight Saver scheme the value actually increases the fewer Avios you use:

50,000 Avios + £100 = £600 assuming 1p per Avios of value
38,000 + £170 = £550
26,000 + £230 = £490
19,500 + £280 = £475
13,000 + £330 = £460
9,100 + £360 = £451

…… whilst the option closest to the traditional Avios cost of 26,000 Avios and £230 is actually cheaper than it was previously.

On the whole, the new Reward Flight pricing IS marginally cheaper than the previous pricing when calculated as a total fare.

By ‘marginally cheaper’, I mean £11.  Big deal.

New York Newark = 26,000 Avios + £241

New York JFK using RFS = 26,000 Avios + £230

Economy Avios redemptions still aren’t great value

Of course, you will often find cash tickets in economy to New York for less than £450.

Let’s be frank.  You can occasionally find them as low as £250.  Redemptions are a terrible idea.

However, you should remember that Avios bookings come with low cancellation fees and the inclusive of hold luggage, which you would not have on ‘Basic’ economy fares. If neither of these factors are important to you a cash ticket will usually beat an Avios redemption on value on this route.

The ONLY people who benefit substantially from Reward Flight Saver in long-haul economy are those who are Avios rich and/or generate Avios at no cost to themselves (eg. from business travel) and so value them at nothing.  These people will see a starting price of 50,000 Avios + £100 as better than 26,000 Avios + £241.  I hope that most Head for Points readers can clearly understand that the latter is by far the best deal.

(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 (105)

  • The Original David says:

    Clearly a woeful use of Avios, but I like this change. The plebs will flock to get a trip to New York for only £100, soaking up some of the big Avios lake in the sky, thus reducing inflation. The fewer people redeeming Avios in the sweet spots, the better.

    • OneOfTheSoCalledPlebs says:

      ‘The plebs’…what a charmer you are.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        It wasnt meant that way (I’m assuming) – it was referring to the masses who know no better than to redeem omin economy.

        I’m sure (I hope) the number of hfp readers that would do that is vanishingly small

        • The Original David says:

          Indeed, Chris has it. For “plebs”, substitute “non-HfP readers” if you prefer. Although there were no derogatory connotations in the original Latin use of plebs anyway…

          O tempora o mores!

    • Mikeact says:

      This won’t make the slightest difference to lowering the phenomenal amount of Avios floating around.

  • Tariq says:

    Can Amex companion vouchers be applied to these fares? That would change the maths considerably?

    Presumably no further upgrade using Avios can be applied to the fare though?

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      I assume correct on both counts – twice the misery possible for just the one lump of Avios

      /me rushes to fly to NYC

    • Kevin says:

      No

    • Alex W says:

      Twould be a waste of a companion voucher and no, redemptions can’t be upgraded (unlike Virgin).
      50k Avios and £200 for 2 seats is still way worse than £500 for 2 seats.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Not if you have tons of Avios and even more not if you’re travelling in peak dates or dont want a Saturday night to bring youself anywhere remotely near a low cash price

        • Alex W says:

          Fair point. I am suppose I am too biased against economy LH travel. I once used a Lloyds companion voucher (could only be used in economy) for Las Vegas when the cash price was £900 each. We got decent pence per point but I am never doing 10 hours in economy again! Not unless I got really desperate.

      • @mkcol says:

        It would be an excellent use of a 2-4-1 voucher if you had only just got to 50k Avios after many years of collecting, weren’t likely to get many more any time soon and NYC was somewhere you’d like to go.

      • Andrew says:

        Even ignoring the flexibility that £500 for two seats is literally just for the seats. Add on a single checked bag, let alone two, and the dedemption option is already better.

        • Rob says:

          True, but I’d suggest most NYC short break tourists are hand baggage only.

          • Andrew says:

            Given how New York is seen as a shopping destination, even with the current poor £/$ rate, I’d seriously question that.

            BA didn’t introduce hand baggage only fares because they wanted to help people who don’t need a checked bag. They introduced them knowing that enough people need/want to take a checked bag and they’d make even more money in the long run.

          • Rob says:

            Not quite true. They did it because Expedia etc don’t factor in ancilliary pricing so BA was looking less attractive in searches.

          • Anna says:

            NYC is really expensive! I’d only go shopping there if I intended to visit one of the outlet malls which all seem to be well outside Manhattan.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    Flights with domestic connections price up the same as London flights. Including JER and INV, which is not a big deal as its economy only, but if the scheme is expanded to other classes (at a higher rate no doubt) this would eliminate a useful option.

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    “Let me spoil the surprise to save you scrolling down ”

    He says, in the 13th paragraph:)

    Overall, is this a positive move isnt it? Increase the redemption rate means BA sitting on a smaller pile of unredeemed avios and less of a need to devalue them to keep up with fare inflation (current crisis not withstanding)

    It also makes the rather unsavoury aspect of Avios (the lulling of an unsuspecting public into a scheme they are unlikely to extract value from) less glaring now they have a low cash option short and long haul

    • Rhys says:

      We’re always in favour of additional flexibility, but that doesn’t mean we would take the option!

  • Kevin says:

    Where these will offer better value is at peak times when cash prices are more expensive. There are also other options to consider as well as flexibility, but you can avoid rules around Saturday night stays.
    You might also want to consider booking as two separate one way flights.

  • Relaxo says:

    Economy redemptions great for open jaw itineraries as well.

  • Dominic says:

    Halve the price and I still wouldn’t want to go to New York unless on business. Cannot get my head around why anyone from London would choose to fly there annually on holiday.

    • Paul says:

      Or indeed why any one would choose to fly BA economy and then I remember you don’t have a choice!

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      I doubt many are flying there annually, but there are plenty of reasons to visit two three or more times

      • Rob says:

        I do a 3-4 day trip per year. If you’re in a ‘creative’ business then it’s important to get out there and see what’s going on.

        • Lady London says:

          Hi Rob, what sorts of businesses would you consider ‘creative’?

          And what, exactly, does 3-4 days in NYC get for that, that’s unique? Are NYC ahead if other places for these businesses?

          Are there any other cities that you would say the same about?

          • Rob says:

            ‘Creative’ is whatever you want it to be. If you’re an accountant I doubt you’ll get much by eating, drinking and shopping your way around NYC for 3 days. For HFP it is, apart from the obvious travel stuff, about seeing what new hotels are around, what new trends you see in magazine and news publishing, what new websites are springing up, what is being advertised in the free commuter magazines etc. I then also put on my art world hat (which is where I mainly focus outside HFP) and see what is new in that sphere, as well as seeing what I can pick up in the upmarket menswear stores.

    • Jamie says:

      If you live centrally in London and enjoy that lifestyle then it’s very easy to fall in love with NYC too.

      • Dominic says:

        I guess (for me) that’s what makes it such a dull location, Jamie! Essentially just feels like more of the same.

      • Rob says:

        Indeed. It is substantially MORE likely that someone who lives in London and enjoys high-end shopping, museums, galleries, high-end restaurants etc would want to be in NYC for a few days each year. These days I try to set up my diary so I get to spend some time in New York, Paris and Amsterdam each year.

        • Anna says:

          We don’t live in London, but enjoy all those things so a few days in NYC tagged onto a beach holiday is the perfect trip for us. Still holding out hope that BA will start a direct flight from MAN.

        • Lady London says:

          TBH I have found the US excellent for ‘middle’ and ‘upper middle’ in the past. But Americans told me for high-end they buy European.

          Not really been in NY though.

  • Colin Hawker says:

    Good analysis. But if these can be used for one way flights, £50 and a handful of Avios is a bit of a game changer.

    Maybe this is the start of RFS across the board with maybe £200 return in Premium and £300 in J or F?

    I sure hope so as coupled with an Amex 241 it could really bring back value to the companion vouchers that have arguably lost a lot of value over recent years

    • ChrisA says:

      I think that the tax on a rtn redemption is currently acrually lower than a one way e.g. LHR – EWR is 13k avios + £239 fees, whereas adding rtn from EWR adds on another 13k avios but is £234 fees.