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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)

  • Ali says:

    as NYC is one of the worst affected cities with coronavirus worldwide I do hope people arent considering travelling there anytime soon

    • Boon says:

      Two months can change everything.

      Two months ago Wuhan was in a crisis. Now no new daily cases, lockdown lifted, back to normal.

      Don’t forget to keep positive during these dark times!

      • Lady London says:

        Do you think China’s reporting is accurate though.

        I find it curious that they are reporting a high % of recoveries when no other country has got near that yet.

        In future I hope we can work with China to ensure higher food standards there and reduce China as what seems to be a repeating source of animal to human transmission of dangerous diseases. Who’s to know that whatever emanates from there won’t be even worse next time? We have to get worldwide standards in this area up otherwise stop people travelling.

      • will says:

        “lockdown lifted” Ch4 news reported Wuhan’s current level of restrictions exceed that of the UK lockdown at it’s observed peak.

        Make of that what you will.

  • Andrew says:

    £100 + 50,000 for a return to New York. Including luggage.

    You can be a bit smug about it, and criticise the less “sophisticated points” collector, but the estimated value of the points isn’t the only element.

    For the average traveller, there is also:-

    Annual Holiday Allowance
    Cash Budget

    So I look at this and think of myself travelling with another individual each paying £100+Points. A fair price to pay for economy plus luggage is around £400. So we’ve each saved £300 for the booking. That gives us £600 more to spend on hotels for the same cash budget.

    • Andrew says:

      “economy plus luggage” a poor choice of term by me. Economy with hold luggage.

    • Chris Heyes says:

      Rob, Whats the “Maths” Say if it was opened up across all cabins all destinations US
      Using 241 would it then become economical
      Would first or Business become feasible any insight ?

      • Rob says:

        With a 241 you’d be looking at 50k Avios + £200 – that’s still the equivalent of £350 each if you want 1p per Avios. Cash tickets are often less.

    • marcw says:

      Or you buy ticket with “Discount with Avios” instead… which is a “good” option when ticket prices are very low (once I quoted a flight between BCN-(LHR)-NYC for 99 EUR + 17.000 Avios…)

    • Andrew says:

      Although even if you did make a poor judgement and ‘paid’ for the avios with credit card spent etc in the past, you might now want to cash them out and quit this game as it’s going down the pan. You can’t cash them back out again to clubcard etc, and if you find yourself in poorer finances now and still have a stash of Avios and fancy a holiday but want to do it on the cheap then perhaps a £100 return flight incl baggage is appealing. Avios/miles are worth what they are worth to you personally today – I’m sitting on a load of avios, a load of IHG points, so I could take say a 5 night trip to NY for £100 plus spending month which might be appealing especially as I have gold EC and so my ground experience would be the same as First (except CCR) and I can pre-book my exit row seat and take 2 bags etc.

  • Spaghetti Town says:

    Have IAG got too many avios in the inventory and need people to spend them?

    Not good value at all. If you’re flexible on dates you can easily find £300 return fares.

    • Peter K says:

      I imagine it’s also trying to tempt people to book. £100 + a decent avios liability off their books is something BA would welcome currently rather than nothing coming in at all.

      • David says:

        Absolutely – and some may even see it as a way to hedge the imminent devaluation of Avios if they aren’t already converted to Hilton or IAG Miles. While I’m Avios-rich (primarily earned from business travel), I value them at anything from 0 (if no redemption available) to 1.8p using 2-for-1 in C or F.

  • Scandinavian Traveler says:

    I just cancelled an avios RFS booking for my parents and received a refund of the GBP 35 per person I paid. The same flights at a later date is the same amount of Avios (8.000 return per person) but now costs GBP 41 per person. Have they increased the RFS amount to GBP 41 now?

  • kumar says:

    O/T Amex Platinum Insurance.Storm Ciara.

    I was on holiday in Mallorca and couldn’t return to UK as BA flight was cancelled to LGW/LHR.BA promised meals and accommodation on a flight which was after 4-5 days.So next day I did purchase a ticket to Manchester with Ryanair and hired a car for one way to be dropped off in London.Axa (Amex Platinum) insists that they wouln’t be able to pay for car hire, refreshments on the plane ,fuel for the hired car. Axa says once the plane has taken off from Mallorca all the other costs be it food or getting back home(london) from Manchester are not covered under the policy .

    Are they correct ?

    • Charlieface says:

      Firstly you should be able to claim from BA for costs anyway. Secondly without looking at the policy, I don’t know, but normally your trip won’t finish until at least arriving in the country, if not your city our house. It should say somewhere in the policy.

  • Lumma says:

    Surely they’ve just made the AMEX 2 for 1 vouchers easy to understand for regular people? Especially if this was rolled out to all long haul destinations. 50-60k avios plus £200. You’ll also be around a third of the way to the points required. It’s all well and good saying that the 241 is worth £100s using it for long haul business or first class but there’s the small matter of trying to earn the points that you need on top of what you’ve earned from the credit card spend.

    It’s also not a bad use for the avios earned if you’ve had two company trips to the Far East for example which would net you around 40k avios

  • memesweeper says:

    They are not allowing you to apply a ‘companion voucher’ to this long-haul RFS. That’s not how it works short-haul and, assuming that’s not a short term blip while they short out the IT, it looks to me like a violation of the companion voucher T&Cs.

    ‘The Companion Voucher allows the main British Airways American Express Card Account holder, when making a flight booking using Avios, to book another seat on the journey for a Companion without having to pay the Avios flight price for that Companion.’

    Except, with the RFS, you can’t.

    • Rob says:

      Didn’t spot that, thanks.

    • mr_jetlag says:

      Have you tried calling (easier said than done atm)?

      • memesweeper says:

        No — not just because of the queues but mainly because I don’t want to book to JFK right now… I did a dummy booking to see how it handled the companion voucher.

        If long haul RFS is rolled out to a destination and class I want to fly I’ll try and book, and then call and complain, and if necessary raise a complaint. IMO it’s against the T&Cs.

  • RTS says:

    You aren’t even comparing like for like though… cash fares for as low as £250 are generally hand baggage only, non-refundable/changable and during off-peak times etc. Whereas RFS are cancellable/changeable and comes with check in no?

    Why don’t you do a comparison for full flex tickets with baggage and then opinionate whether this is good value or not. The answer may still be no for some.

    A quick look on say virgin cash fares to NYC in the middle of august; economy fares for the 3 options are £498, £586 and £716.

    BA for the same time is £594

    Both O class tickets so no refunds but changeable from memory.

    When you price this against the new RFS it is broadly fair value but you’ll have full flex + £500 CASH to spend in NYC!

    • Rhys says:

      …which is why we wrote “However, you should remember that Avios bookings come with low cancellation fees and 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.”

      • RTS says:

        You may have made that comment but you still concluded it wasn’t a good value. Lol… It is basically not good value based on the specific parameters you chose to compare it against.

        • Callum says:

          What proportion of cash tickets sold are fully flexible?

          The vast majority do NOT buy fully flexible tickets so no, it’s not necessary to only compare it with the fully flexible cash price. The comparison only makes sense if you want to pay for a fully flexible ticket – most people do not.

          • avstar says:

            if you are not pricing in the added flexibility that comes with such redemptions, then you are not playing this game optimally. that option at the very least has 0 value and pure upside

        • Chrisasaurus says:

          How else can you.possibly asses value other than under a specific range of parameters?

          I mean it isnt value at all if you don’t want to go to NYC either, should that have been factored in?

          Find me an example of someone looking to buy full flex Y economy cash tickets for themselves (eg not for employer) to NY? There many of those you think?

    • Baji Nahid says:

      Even with a basic economy ticket, check in agents are very lenient in checking in baggage, I’ve chanced it every time with the basic ticket whilst asking politely and they do it without no issues.