Can you book Avios flights without paying huge fees for taxes and charges? It isn’t easy, but there are some options open to you which I want to discuss in this article.
You can’t defend the level of charges on Avios tickets booked on British Airways. A Club World business class ticket on Avios to the United States now comes with taxes of around £650 return. Even worse, as this HfP article shows, taxes on long haul Economy tickets can now be as high as a cash ticket!
This is how to avoid high taxes and charges on Avios flight booking redemptions:
(Click on the links to be taken to longer articles which explain the topic in far more detail than I can give in this summary)
Option 1: stick to short-haul redemptions
British Airways caps the taxes on short-haul flights at £35 return in Economy and £50 return in Club Europe / Business. This makes short haul redemptions one of the best ways to use your Avios points. Learn more about Reward Flight Saver here.
Option 2: start your long-haul flight in Jersey or Inverness
OK, this isn’t convenient for most people. However, there is no UK Government Air Passenger Duty from Jersey or Inverness which means a taxes and charges saving of up to £165 on a long-haul business class flight, connecting in London.
Option 3: book your long-haul redemption on Iberia and not British Airways
BA’s sister airline Iberia offers very low taxes and charges. A business class flight to New York from Madrid will have taxes of around £170 compared to £650 on British Airways from London. You need to book this via Iberia Plus – don’t try to book Iberia via ba.com or you will pay more. This article explains how to redeem Avios on Iberia flights.
Option 4: book your US / Canada flights on Aer Lingus and not BA
Taxes and charges on Aer Lingus Avios redemptions are also very low. Annoyingly you cannot book these online via ba.com which means calling the BA Executive Club call centre to check availability. This article explains how to redeem Avios on Aer Lingus.
Option 5: redeem on a BA partner and start your flight outside the UK
You don’t just have to redeem your Avios on British Airways. You can use any of the partner Avios airlines. Take Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific for example. Fly from Heathrow to Hong Kong on Cathay and taxes are high. Fly from Amsterdam or another European airport served by Cathay and you will save.
The British Airways partner which serves the most European city is Qatar Airways, and you can connect via Doha to pretty much anywhere. This article explains some tricks for reducing the cost of Avios redemption on Qatar Airways.
Finnair has also substantially reduced taxes on redemptions, and the airline is a good choice for Asia due to its strong route network. Taxes can be as low as £30.
Option 6: redeem Avios for domestic flights in the USA
American Airlines is a British Airways partner. You will pay virtually no tax on Avios redemptions on American as long as the flights are domestic.
Option 7: redeem Avios for domestic flights in Japan
The same point applies to JAL (Japan Airlines) and its domestic services in Japan as this article explains. You should also find other Avios partners with low taxes on domestic or regional flights in their home regions. This article shows how to redeem Avios on Alaska Airlines in the US with very low taxes.
I hope this article has given you a few ideas, and convinced you that you don’t need to pay heavy taxes and charges to get good value from your Avios.
(This article is part of our ‘BA Q&A’ series which explains how British Airways Executive Club works. You can see all of our ‘BA Q&A’ articles here. )
(Head for Points is the UK’s biggest frequent flyer website with 2.3 million monthly page views. Want to learn more about earning and spending Avios? Click here to read our latest news stories, click here to join our email list and click here to read our ‘Avios Redemption University’ series.)
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)
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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
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.
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.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
There are also good bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These are available to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.