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Why is British Airways charging lower taxes to inactive Avios members?

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A few readers have been in touch in recent weeks to highlight weird pricing behaviour by British Airways. What was confusing is that I assumed there would be a common theme, but there isn’t. This article covers the oddest one.

British Airways is charging lower taxes on long-haul economy Avios redemptions if you are an inactive member of the Executive Club.

An ‘inactive’ member is someone who has not earned or spent 1 Avios in the previous 12 months. You will know if you are ‘inactive’ if you try to make a short-haul redemption and don’t see the usual Reward Flight Saver pricing options of £35 and £50 of taxes and charges.

How does British Airways change long-haul Avios pricing?

Rather than explain what I mean, it is easier to show you.

Here is the Avios pricing I see for an Economy redemption to San Francisco:

As you can see, the options run from 65,000 Avios + £150 through to 14,450 Avios + £555.

Let’s ignore whether this is good value or not for a flight in August – because it probably isn’t – and move on.

My imaginary friend Steve is going to come with me. He has an inactive Avios account – totally inactive, actually, as it has a zero balance because I only opened it 5 minutes ago.

Let’s assume that Steve does really have a lot of Avios but this account has simply become inactive due to no activity over the last year, which is far from impossible at the moment. Here is what he sees:

Apologies for the light grey text above. This is due to changing the screen colour if you can’t afford the booking you are searching.

As you can just about see, the pricing ranges from 41,250 Avios + £248 to 14,450 Avios + £453.

Steve, as an inactive member, is getting a FAR better deal than me (or you).

I could pay 52,500 Avios + £250, whilst inactive Steve pays 41,250 Avios + £248.

I could pay 14,450 Avios + £555, whilst inactive Steve pays 14,450 + £453.

I am either 10,000 Avios or £100 worse off, depending on which pricing option I choose.

This doesn’t apply to Business Class

Here is my pricing in Club World:

Here is what an inactive member gets (apologies again for the grey text due to the zero Avios balance):

The numbers are identical for both active and inactive members.


I have no idea what is causing this difference in Economy Avios flight pricing. It is also not clear who is ‘right’ – is the inactive member being undercharged, or are active members (the majority of us) being overcharged?

Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it, unless you know someone with an inactive Avios account with enough points to book the flight you want.

Once they have booked it, of course, their account will stop being inactive and they won’t be able to get the same deal on their next booking ….

You just need to cough up the extra £100 or 10,000 Avios.

How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

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

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 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 – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

Run your own business?

We 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

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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 (65)

  • Marek says:

    It’s the way BA has implemented the “avios for RFS” feature. Great idea, but a very poor implementation. Instead of implementing it correctly, BA opted to adjust avios + cash prices, so for RFS eligible pax “statandard” avios price is 15500 + £0.50 for LHR-EDI in Club, while for RFS non eligible pax “standard” avios price is 9000 + £25. It can be seen clearly on the second step of selecting RFS ticket – price is quoted as “Avios per person” plus “Price per person” while “taxes” are zero.
    This has a far reaching consequences:
    1) looking at any destination within Europe which had taxes lower than RFS – RFS eligible pax are charged full RFS fee, while RFS-non-eligible pax are charged lower taxes.
    2) Gold Priority Reward – agents now try to charge double avios+RFS value, so e.g. instead of expected 30000 + £25 for a one way LHR-WAW, pax are qoted 43000 + £0.50 – a really poor value asking for 13k avios for £25. Some agents will be happy to price it at standard avios pricing, while others will bluntly refuse.
    3) connecting flights where long haul is connected to shorthaul – on such trip taxes are calculated based on departure and destination, BA now charges RFS-eligible pax avios+RFS avios for the shorthaul leg, incorrectly.
    4) I bet 2-for-1s are affected too when it involves any RFS priced segment.

    • tony says:

      I can confirm the 2-4-1 RFS is in some instances a problem.

      Booked 5 seats to Greece this summer using 1 2-4-1 voucher. So instead of saving 37k Avios, I’ve only saved about half of that. The higher price was applied across all 5 tickets.

      I raised it with ticketing but they palmed me off to BAEC. Need to raise it with them, as the promotion of the 2-4-1 voucher is again misleading.

  • High Grade says:

    I’ve recently had an issue with the BA 241 voucher not discounting the Avios needed at the right rate. I recently booked flights to IST in business. Normal price 35,200 Avios + £50. When I used the 241 voucher the price only adjusted to 40,000 + £100. Called BA and they manually adjusted the fare. Refund of 4,800 Avios, I guess some people might not bother calling and BA take the benefit.

    • C says:

      Hmmm…I think I may have had the same issue.

    • tony says:

      Can I ask who did you call at BA? I went through customer services who said they would mark it for internal review but said I needed to take it up with the exec club team.

    • Ben says:

      The point about non-RFS fares sometimes being cheaper is well made.

      With a companion voucher, the price is meant to revert to the ‘base rate’ (ie the old rate before BA implemented the additional options) and the old rate of ‘tax, fees and carrier charges’. Without a voucher, the only options an active account holder sees are RFS (with £0 ‘taxes’ but an applicable ‘price per person’). The airline is either charging ‘tax, fees and carrier charges’ or it is not. One way or the other something is not being stated correctly. It’s just all a bit complex running two pricing structures at the same time – particularly when both can apply to the same passenger depending on whether they are using a companion voucher or not.

  • Chris says:

    Hi all can someone tell me what a 241 ticket is ?

  • Ronald says:

    Surely it’s fair enough for HfP to abbreviate to ‘taxes’ – HfP readers who don’t know what the ‘taxes’ really are must be nearly as rare as hens’ teeth. As to why BA are varying the ‘price’, I’d assume it’s just to tempt ‘inactive’ Avios users to fly with BA again.

    • Rob says:

      We HAVE been using ‘taxes and charges’ more, but you will NEVER see it written like this in a headline.

      Sticking ‘taxes and charges’ into our internal search system shows that 40% of the uses of the phrase have been in the last 2 years, with 60% in the previous 7 years.

      • Aeronaut says:

        I would genuinely use ‘fees’ in the headline rather than ‘taxes’, but of course HfP is not my website!

  • Clare says:

    I had an interesting one the other day. I and my parents were due to be flying out to Delhi yesterday and I had to rebook obvs. On the original booking, I was using a Lloyds voucher and my parents were using a 241. I rebooked us on to exactly the same flights in September. I received a tax refund of £31.50 and my parents were charged an addition £8 each in tax. Go figure.

    • ChrisC says:

      The £8 likely to be the LHR COVID FEE charged on all new and changed bookings.

      The rest possible currency changes between the pound and the rupee for any Rupee charged elements.

      You’d need to compare the fare breakdowns to get into the details of which elements changed.

  • r* says:

    Didnt realise you couldnt move avios to an inactive iberia acct, whats the easiest/cheapest way to keep it active? Its just over 12 months since my IB acct had any activity.

    • xcalx says:

      IB account expires after 3 years of no activity, saying that I like to have at least one activity register per year. Erewards transfer to IB in about 5 days. Amex is a transfer partner, these are probably the quickest and cheapest ways to update activity.

    • John says:

      You can move them but they will disappear immediately and won’t be reinstated.

  • TripRep says:

    “British Airways is charging lower taxes”

    Do HMRC know?

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