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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 ba.com 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.

Conclusion

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

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2024)

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

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

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) and free for a year 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.

Comments (65)

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

  • Paul says:

    I was less shocked by the “bait and switch” than I was with £676 of fees for business class! That’s the real scandal!

    And it’s not Tax. Been saying it for years. Well under £200 of that £676 goes to the exchequer. The bulk goes into BA’s pocket!

    • JDB says:

      Out of say £676 for an Avios Club return to USA, £400 is the BA element. £276 represents the taxes and fees paid to third parties in the including the APD which is £180 on its own. The £676 taxes/fees/charges is identical if you buy a cash ticket.

  • Ron says:

    Those avios costs have rocketed!!! In July 2017 I went 1st class to SFO for 85000 plus the lowest addtl costs. Now it looks like it will cost me 50% more airmiles for a lower class….or am I reading it wrong?

    • Rob says:

      There is no change to Avios base pricing, but BA has introduced more options so you can use more Avios and less cash.

  • TimM says:

    Once there was a time when there were no taxes or fees paid on BA Airmiles redemptions. Far simpler and fairer times.

    • JDB says:

      In principle you are right, but extra charges/service fees/admin charges etc. have crept in all over the place, so are hardly exclusive to BA. I had a £35 PPE charge added on to my dentist’s bill last month. I would prefer not to pay the BA fees, but actually I don’t think the £200 each way charge for a long haul club redemption, flexible ticket is entirely unreasonable.

  • AJA says:

    Judging by this article HfP published in Jan 2019 the standard fare in WT should be 41,250 Avios and in CW it should be 137,500 (using a combination of peak and off-peak pricing).

    https://www.headforpoints.com/2019/01/09/british-airways-avios-redemption-pricing-by-route-2/

    What seems odd is the fees as they should be the same for 41,250 Avios in both scenarios but if you have earned Avios you are charged £350 instead of £248.22. Seems BA is scamming you / us Rob.

  • Iain says:

    Inactive Steve sounds like a bit of a character

    • ankomonkey says:

      Sat on his sofa all day in his egg yolk-stained vest and his undies…

  • Lev441 says:

    Can’t you get around this by transferring to Iberia plus or aer club/Avios?

    • Rob says:

      You can’t transfer into an inactive Iberia account. You can transfer into inactive AerClub accounts – wonder if that works?

  • Simon Cross says:

    What if my account ia “active” but another member of my household account is “inactive” . Would they get the better price offer but still be able to book “my ticket” as we are both members of the same “household account”?

    • The real John says:

      Yes I expect so, but the only way a member of your household can be inactive is if the household has not made any redemptions since that member joined the household.

  • Joe says:

    I think it’s poor rfs implementation! Last year I had a couple of cases where avios.com was cheaper than ba.com for ow UK to US flights. I thought it was something to do with child apd but I might have been wrong. Wasn’t this much tho!

    • kitten says:

      BA and avios.com agents have always denied this but IME it’s been true over years now.

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

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