Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Is the new British Airways ‘use more Avios points but just pay £1 of taxes’ policy a big mistake?

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During 2019, British Airways announced a shake-up of Avios pricing on short-haul flights.

Since Avios was introduced, short-haul flights have come with a flat £17.50 one-way / £35 return added on.  This was termed ‘Reward Flight Saver’ and is a contribution towards the taxes and charges due on the flight.

Our full Avios pricing chart shows these numbers.  A return flight to Amsterdam on a peak day was 9,000 Avios + £35 return.  Budapest would be 15,000 Avios + £35.

Under the new pricing system, British Airways cut the headline charges to £1 return.  In return, it increased the headline number of Avios needed.

You now see a headline price on ba.com for Amsterdam of 18,000 Avios + £1:

Amsterdam Avios pricing

and for Budapest:

Budapest Avios cost

Here is the important bit.  The old pricing hasn’t gone away.  When you click to the final payment screen, you see a range of options.  One of them will be very close to, if not the same, as the original option.

See Amsterdam here:

Amsterdam Avios pricing

…. where the 9,000 Avios + £35 option is still there, half way down.

Importantly, you will usually find that the best value deal is the one nearest to the old pricingThe £1 deal is usually a bad deal.

For Amsterdam, for example, British Airways is asking for 9,000 extra Avios (from 9,000 to 18,000) – which I’d value at £90 if used properly – in return for cutting £34 off the taxes and charges (from £35 to £1).

Avios wing 14

Has this wrecked the value perception of Avios?

When BA started offering this, I thought it could backfire.  I was sure that pushing up the ‘headline’ price would make Avios look less attractive.

And yet …. people kept telling me that the new pricing was very popular.   Perhaps this is true.  If it IS true, it simply proves that the average (generally well educated) Avios collector has the maths ability of a gnat, because the £1 deal is a bad deal.

This is why I think there is a problem.

If you are thinking about collecting Avios, the obvious thing to do is to look at some typical redemptions and see what they cost, and whether that is realistic for you or not.

So …. off you go to ba.com and you look up the price of a return Economy flight to Budapest.  The headline price you see is the one in the picture above ….. 24,000 Avios + £1.

Your brain then goes …… whoa ……:

“I need to spend £24,000 on the free BA Amex credit card to get one Economy flight to Budapest?”

“I need to spend £10,000 at Tesco to earn 10,000 Clubcard points to get 24,000 Avios for an Economy flight to Budapest?”

“I need to take 192 one-way Economy flights to/from Amsterdam, earning 125 Avios each way, to get 24,000 Avios for a return Economy flight to Budapest?”

You wouldn’t blame someone for thinking like this.  British Airways thinks that 24,000 Avios + £1 looks more attractive than 15,000 Avios + £35.  I disagree.

To me, 15,000 Avios + £35 appears a lot more achievable than 24,000 Avios + £1.

Avios wing 15

And it’s not just me.

The reason I wrote this article, and the reason I use Budapest in this example, is because of an email I received last week.  This person is perhaps not the typical HFP reader in terms of her background, but I think her thoughts are closer to the way that the average person looks at Avios than many of us.

I’m not going to comment on the email, but I’d like you to read it and then decide for yourself if British Airways is making a mistake by focusing on ‘£1 taxes’.

“I hope you are well.  I have read a lot of your advice on Head for Points, and I find it really useful.  I have now a problem though with BA and their redemption tickets.

I am a single mother on low wages with 2 kids, working hard, converting my Tesco shopping to Avios, using cashback programs to earn Avios, spending on Amex, etc.  I even bought some when they offered a 50% bonus.

My family lives in Hungary and we visit them 3 times a year. Unfortunately I am not a businesswoman with Gold status and upgrade vouchers, etc.

Until recently it cost 15,000 miles peak for a business class one way per person. So I collected and collected and now have 40,000 miles, just 5,000 short.

I logged into my account to see availability and other pricing options, and I was shocked to see that it now cost 21,500 per person for a one-way in business class? For 3 people that is a HUGE difference.

I would understand a raise from 15,000 to 17,500 miles, but to over 21,000??? I am now years away from that little treat which was within reach. I am heartbroken, I am devastated.

Is this a computer error, or the result of Covid19 or everybody is after reward tickets to Budapest?  I am sure you are busy, but it would mean a lot, if you could look into it. Can you imagine your dreams being shattered in front of your eyes? I know this is a short route, business class is not as fancy as on a long haul flight, but we don’t go anywhere else. A little treat, some excitement to collect for and look forward to. But for 21,500 per person it us no longer worth it. Unachievable.”


how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2021)

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:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

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

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

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 (137)

  • Callum says:

    I don’t quite understand the logic behind your simultaneous belief that Avios collectors are generally “smart and well educated” so would mentally calculate the number of Avios earnt per economy flight and translate that into a flights needed per reward flight ratio, yet are generally incapable of reading a list of price options and working out which one is best.

    Surely it’s one or the other?

    • Rob says:

      We’re not discussing how BA prices scale, we’re discussing whether highlighting the priciest one is a good idea.

  • jason says:

    Isn’t the advantage that you have virtually free cancellations

    • Paul says:

      Hardly free at £35 a pop

      • Mike P says:

        One advantage that we GGL members have, cancellations are still entirely free. I think that used to be the case for vanilla Golds at one point in history too.

        • Michael says:

          It was free for Golds but that was stopped, allegedly on the basis of mass spoilage of Miles inventory by Golds booking multiple flights / dates and cancelling at the last minute at no cost to themselves.

      • Doug M says:

        £35 is nothing for that sort of flexibility.

        • Fenny says:

          Pretty sure that the lady who wrote to Rob doesn’t care about flexibility, as her leave dates will have to be booked in advance and won’t be that flexible. And £35 per seat cancellation fee for 3 is a big deal.

    • Mikeact says:

      Plus a 23kg suitcase.

  • Sunguy says:

    Rob,

    I was hoping you might update this to include the £35 canx charge – even if you use the £1 option ?

    • Rob says:

      The last few reports say that the £1 cancellation fee is back.

      • memesweeper says:

        oooh, by policy or an IT error? if the former that’s huge news…

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          It would also be stupid and bad for BA as speculative multiple bookings until dates firm up would hoover up all redemption availability – certainly on short haul – but then be cancelled last minute. End result would be zero reward seat availability yet flying with empty seats. Annoyed Avios collectors AND lost revenue opportunity is basically 100% opposite to what a frequent flyer scheme should be trying to achieve…

          • memesweeper says:

            … makes sense, which implies it’s an IT misimplementation, again.

      • Rui N. says:

        Rob, please do tell… I have 2 flights I wish to cancel, and I’m waiting until the £1 cancellation fee (hopefully) becomes available again.

      • Sunguy says:

        Thats cool; are you able to confirm this in any way ?

        …and Im guessing here – but unless its an “IT Feature” and not actually policy, then if/when it gets fixed – Im back to the £35 per person “avios re-deposit” fee ?

  • BS says:

    I had been winding down my avios balance – they are becoming increasingly irrelevant with high fees, reduced availability etc. I was finding they were never saving me any money as I couldn’t use them when I needed to go, and when I could there were cheaper tickets available. The ability to convert avios to cash, even at a poor rate, like the above is useful.

    I have temporarily halted this because I have managed to get gold status. The gold reward allowing me to get any flight I want for double avios is genuinely useful and saves me significant cash, albeit at burning through avios quickly.

    • Doug M says:

      Earn and burn is a reasonable strategy, Avios are anything but irrelevant.

  • Charlieface says:

    What makes me laugh even more is that there is some weird IT bug that shows the taxes on most LH flights as very high on the selection page, it only goes down once you click through. A lot of people will not click through.

  • the_real_a says:

    You can almost hear the conversation in the waterside marketing department. Ryanair/Wizz headline pricing is £9.99 for a flight. We are advertising 9000 Avios and £35. Why would anyone want to start collecting?

    The “inequality” of Avios collectors means that you have increasing difficulty keeping both the poor and rich motivated and enjoying value.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      However (though not taking away from that crux of your point that you cannot delight anyone if you wish to attract everyone) it does remain the case that like almost all airline loyalty schemes Avios makes a truckload of cash…

  • ChrisC says:

    Not everyone has a spreadsheet that they use to calculate the value they get from using their avios to several decimal places.

    But this does show the perils of not reading the screen properly. If all the options were on the same screen people would complain about how congested it is especially on the app version on a small phone screen.

    I’m not going to criticise Robs correspondent like some have done. Yes she could have made a mistake but haven’t we all at sometime? But from my reading of her email it looks like she has not booked yet so will soon be able to take advantages of Robs sage advice and select the best options for her whether that be a £1 or £35 avios flight for varying miles or use them to upgrade a cash booking.

    I admit to using the avios plus a quid option when I wanted to return quickly back from to the U.K From BRU in March. I certainly didn’t have a calculator out working all the options I just wanted an option that cost me the minimum of actual cash.

  • Stian says:

    I think Rob is right and BA is making a mistake by highlighting the most expensive option.

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