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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)

  • mr_jetlag says:

    They are clearly expecting a plunge in leisure travel but not in high margin business seats. They should have launched the trial concurrently to MIA and LAX to get a better sense of leisure demand.

  • Claire says:

    OT: Can you still refer yourself for amex cards?

    • Mikeact says:

      Should be posted in Bits…not here.

    • JImbob says:

      You can, but generally the advice is don’t. I understand customers in USA have had their accounts blocked and bonuses reclaimed for abusing the system

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      If you have a deathwish yes

      If you want to still have an Amex account this time next year I’d say not.

  • JImbob says:

    Good confirmation of Betteridge’s law

  • Marcw says:

    It’s a nice option to have. Doesn’t mean it’s a great way to use Avios…

  • luckyjim says:

    ‘Plebs’ is an outdated pejorative term for the lower social classes. The correct term for these people is ‘key workers’.

  • Tom says:

    NYC may do regular cheap cash fares, but eg Washington can be around £700 cash for a direct return in economy. The maths may work in your favour on some cases.

    • Rhys says:

      Not yet, given it’s only available on NYC so far!

      • Rob says:

        And it wouldn’t make any difference! Well, it would make £11 difference as the numbers here show.

        The actual cash ticket alternative isn’t the point really. The point is that this is NOT an improvement – well, OK, it’s an £11 improvement – over what went before.

    • Lady London says:

      Someone told me always check Baltimore as well as IAD if you’re finding IAD expensive.

      • Rhys says:

        Having lived in Baltimore for a year, BWI is typically more expensive than IAD given that BA is the only airline flying between the airport and Europe!

  • Charlieface says:

    But again you haven’t taken into account people wanting a one way ticket, or last minute, or not including a Sat night, or flying out of Newcastle, Leeds or Scotland. All of whom it will very likely work out cheaper to book this than a cash ticket.

    • Rob says:

      Correct. But this doesn’t change the fact that RFS is not a ‘deal’ compared to what was there before.

      And I REALLY wouldn’t try flying into the US on a one-way ticket unless you want a 10 hour immigration interrogation 🙂

      • Andrew says:

        I’ve done it several times without any issue or even any question. No questions at check-in and no questions at immigration. I’ve often mix and matched different airlines, I did it last year flying into NY on Virgin to use up miles with them and then back out on BA using Avios. I’ve always seen this as a benefit of booking with miles/Avios. I’ve done it with QR too, using Avios to book, and they do ask at check-in to see your return ticket and need a check-in supervisor to override the visa check in the system, and then at immigration at Doha the officer is as usual on his headphones, talking to his mate, doesn’t look up at you, doesn’t ask any questions and you enter without issue.

        • Rob says:

          If you’ve got a return flight then immigration see it, even on a different airline. It is all linked to your passport data. I’m talking about a one-way with no return booked …

          • marcw says:

            last year I flew into the USA with a one-way ticket. Was asked to see an exit option during check-in (was leaving the USA with AMTRAK Seattle – Vancouver). No issues at all with immigration.

          • Michael Wagner says:

            Would they see it even if you have not checked in for your way back? and therefore there is no passport info other than your name?

          • Rob says:

            Clearly not unless there is a frequent flyer number, which will have automatically added in your data.

        • Anna says:

          We have flown into the US and home from the Caribbean a few times, on separate bookings. It’s never been brought up at immigration. I assume though, that they would known that we’ve got some sort of onward flights, even though it’s not back to the UK?

  • Peter K says:

    I have friends who are cash poor but wanted to visit New York (state not city). They saved avios (ignored my advice to gain more) but could not afford the fees so gave up. This would have been a game changer for them.