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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 from UK credit cards

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

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

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You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (65)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Phillip says:

    Or if they transferred/purchased Avios to make the booking the pricing would technically disappear too…

    • Erico1875 says:

      That was what I was thinking.
      Bait and switch

      • kitten says:

        sufficient points might have had to reach the account before it went inactive.

        I can’t believe the amounts BA takes in cash alongside avios tickets to the US have snuck up so much.

        And lying BA, who got done in court for this by calling money they take ‘fuel surcharges’ when it had nothing to do with fuel, is still calling those amounts ‘taxes’.

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    It’s not tax!

    • Barry cutters says:

      People have made this argument for as long as I can remember . Who cares what it’s called – it’s generally referred to as taxes and charges – we then group these together and call them taxes ..

      Using the same logic – When you go to the bar and come and say ‘ bloody hell- it’s £8 a pint ‘ your mate doesn’t reply and go ‘well actually it’s not – it’s £x a pint and £x import tax £x vat , £x duty .

      Same applies to your £1000iPad or your £1 can of coke . You don’t care that it’s 20% vat .

      Taxes and fees need paid on redemption flights – get over it .

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Don’t be obtuse. My point is precisely that taxes are part of the price.

        What isn’t part of the price is arbitrary additional parts of the price that get tacked on. If your £8 pint was free because you have collected 10 stamps on a card and yet cost you £6.50 in ‘bar imposed charges’ then letting the bar get away with renaming that ‘tax’ as a conscious effort to make it seem as though it’s not their revenue would be equally daft

        • John says:

          Good analogy.

          Rob manages to get his terminology right on his recent eurostar article by calling it a redemption fee there

        • ChrisC says:

          The point is that simply calling them “taxes” gives the impression that all of that money is going to the Government when it clearly isn’t.

          I’m taking the worst example from above but of that £1956 on the SFO flight less than 10% is UX Tax (APD) and a roughly similar total covers US taxes and airport fees in the UK and US.

          So the bulk of that is BAa surcharges etc which definitely isn’t a tax.

          Does it affect the price? No it does not but it creates the wrong impression over who gets that £ 1956

          Rob isn’t the only travel writer who does this but it perpetuates a misconception and professional writers need to stop aiding the airlines in propagating this myth.

          Look at the new “COVID fee” at LHR that’s not a tax but many writers called it a “COVID tax” when it’s clearly not a tax. It blames the wrong people for imposing it.

          • Chris Heyes says:

            ChrisC An easy way would be for HMRC to claim that all tax’s must be paid to itself
            As collector of tax’s
            BA would then have to inform the purchaser how much was tax and how much is bull****

          • Lady London says:

            Very well said @ChrisC

        • Mike says:

          Chrisasaurussays – Love the “£6.50 in ‘bar imposed charges’ way of explaining it – I see it much clearer now

      • John says:

        That’s the point – they are taxes (charged by the government) AND FEES (charged by the airports and BA)

        • Barry cutters says:

          Yes I fully understand the argument about what is technically a fee , or what is technically a tax .

          My point is simply Its been called that for decades . Do you really care enough to continue making the argument.

          The flight is that price whatever way you look at it . – and you as a customer have full rights to not bother with the loyalty option and pay retail price for your flight .

          Just get over it, enjoy the fact you are flying business class for only £800 in fees, taxes , postage stamps whatever you want to call them

          • Louie says:

            I’d agree with you IF all airlines imposed the same surcharges – they would be inescapable. But they don’t. You can use miles in various different airlines schemes to fly on exactly the same airplane, in exactly the same seat, yet pay hugely different cash amounts in addition to your miles. BA are of course the worst for this. If people don’t keep distinguishing between taxes and surcharges, newcomers to this game would not realise that generally, BA redemptions are worse value than their competitors. And yes I appreciate that is not the whole story as Avios may be easier to acquire than their competitors miles are.

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            Turn around then if it’s so unimportant why do they do it, choose to call it taxes as opposed to postage stamps?

            The reason, as you know perfectly well is that it gives a misleading impression that the fees are inescapable statutory contributions to the treasury when in fact they’re nothing of the sort.

            It’s *intentionally* misleading and quite frankly if the best defence for it is that they’ve been doing for ages…

          • cinereus says:

            Yes they clearly do care enough and fair play to them. Precision does no harm and, as can be shown in this case, is actually quite important.

          • ChrisC says:

            Twice you said people should ‘get over it’ .

            That’s not the way to win friends and influence people. It’s also a sign you have no arguments against our points.

            Same with ” …been called that for decades”.

            Does not make it right.

          • JAXBA says:

            Well, BA refers to ‘taxes, fees and airline charges’ – it’s the layman (and HfP) that keeps using ‘taxes’ as a lazy shorthand for TFCs. Then other people keep misunderstanding what BA is collecting and get upset.

            Airlines no longer refer to all the TFCs as just ‘taxes’. We shouldn’t either. Especially HfP, which ignites this debate in the comments every time they use the term incorrectly. ‘TFCs’ doesn’t make for a punchy headline though…

          • Barry cutters says:

            I’m not trying to make friends abs influence people . I’m simply saying that it doesn’t matter what the article calls them – if you want to use the proper terms then look at the specific t&c .

            My point was simple
            I’ve been just been to Costa and bought an American and a granola slice – it cost £5.90 .
            I just don’t need someone to pipe up and say – ‘actually it cost £5.60 and 5% vat .

            If the coffee was 1p and the service fee was £5.89 I couldn’t care less . If the total price wasn’t acceptable – I wouldn’t buy it .

            Ba don’t call the charges taxes – they are doing nothing wrong . And neither is HFP by simplifying things and using that term .

            At the end of the day – why do you achieve by arguing it time after time – the price is what it is – either use your points for a flight at the well publicised (good value) rates , or don’t .

          • Nick says:

            It does kind of matter what they’re called. BA had to stop calling YQ/YR a ‘fuel surcharge’ few years ago after coming into trouble with US authorities… seemed it never went down if oil prices fell… so it’s now a ‘carrier imposed charge’ instead. I personally wouldn’t want to give BA any ammunition to claim that ‘everyone just calls it tax, even though it’s not’.

    • Andrew says:

      “tax” is a TLA

      Taxes And eXtras

  • Wolfgang says:

    I have 5 avios in my account and 60,000 in the family account, here’s what i see:


  • Wolfgang says:

    And this for biz:

    125000 Avios + £ 624.22
    112500 Avios + £ 914.22
    93800 Avios + £ 1,244.22
    75000 Avios + £ 1,564.22
    70000 Avios + £ 1,694.22
    62500 Avios + £ 1,794.22

  • Wolfgang says:

    I am based in Germany, so maybe some VAT issue

    • ChrisC says:

      If this was for Germany-LHR-SFO then UK APD wouldn’t be charged so an immediate saving of approx £180.

  • Polly says:

    Yep, that’s handy one. Can let my SIL do the booking to Bali from his non active/non earning baec ac in Y on QR for the 3 of them maybe? Must have a look. Or does it apply to BA flights only?

    • Sam G says:

      I imagine BA flying only, looks like something to do with the “RFS” for long haul implementation perhaps

    • Paul says:

      Polly, if considering Bali, BA ex many EU cities is current circa £1600 in business. Route is xxx lhr hkg dps.
      Of course you can’t get into Indonesia and Bali doesn’t look likely to open any time soon but it’s a good price and straight to silver BAEC.
      QR ex ARN has also been lower than usual of late

      • Sam G says:

        If you’re going Y I very much doubt Avios are a good idea anyway, plenty of options for 500 odd quid. Personally I’d avoid anyone running 787s or 3-4-3 777s on long flights which is a lot of people into Bali (Emirates, Turkish, Qatar etc) – Singapore Airlines usually have some good deals on and are very pleasant in Y

        Of course this depends when you are looking, there is some discussion about getting a “Green zone” open in parts of Bali and allowing tourists in perhaps in Q4 but realistically I’d be only thinking of Bali in summer 2022

  • S says:


  • marcw says:

    It’s the long haul RFS.

    • Polly says:

      Ah yes, missed the rfs part.. but could go BA via hkg or sin then from lhr. Must look into this…

      • Lady London says:

        Especially if you somehow ticket so the return starts from Hong Kong as they don’t allow the same level of additional charges for tickets starting from there ?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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