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How ‘taxes and charges’ on Avios flight redemptions from the US got out of control

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The level of ‘taxes and charges’ added to long-haul Avios redemptions on British Airways is always a sore point.

In general, following recent rises, I use a ‘finger in the air’ sum of £700 for the taxes and charges on a Club World return redemption from London (£850 for North America) whenever anyone asks what they will be.

That obviously isn’t small change, but given current cash prices it still gives acceptable value for your points most of the time as long as you are redeeming for Club World or First Class.  The biggest threat to Avios – given BA’s dominant UK position – is not from other frequent flyer schemes but from aggressive sale fares from other airlines.

Avios taxes and charges from the United States

Avios is, of course, under threat from other angles.  You can switch from a British Airways credit card to a different rewards credit card.  You can convert Nectar points, Heathrow Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards into a different treat. 

You can only squeeze things so far, and £1 earned by Avios from Sainsburys when you convert Nectar points is worth a lot more – because it is ‘real’ money – than £1 transferred across intra-group from British Airways.  If people stop seeing value in the scheme, IAG Loyalty will stop seeing the money coming in.

But be grateful you don’t live in the US ….

What you might not realise, if you live in the UK, is how reasonable BA’s ‘taxes and charges’ are compared to what a US resident must pay.

The ‘charges’ element of ‘taxes and charges’ is just a made up number, which BA pockets.  It doesn’t reflect anything in particular and the airline has no qualms about changing it on a market by market basis.

Here’s a little Wednesday quiz

The ‘taxes and charges’ on a Club World return ticket from London Heathrow to New York JFK are £850.

What do you reckon the ‘taxes and charges’ are on a Club World return ticket from New York JFK to London Heathrow and back?  Here’s a clue – it isn’t the £850 you would pay flying UK – US – UK. If you go US – UK – US, would you pay ….




No, sorry, you’re still wrong.

The actual figure is an astonishing £1,801 return for a Club World Avios ticket from New York JFK to London Heathrow. 

You can prove this yourself by doing a dummy booking on  You need to click through to the payment page for it to recalculate to the exact number.

You should see this:

Avios taxes and charges from United States

Why is this?

It isn’t entirely clear why BA treats North America like this.

You don’t see it with other markets.  A return Club World redemption to Dubai is £716.  Book the trip in reverse and you pay £813.  That’s near enough the same, given currency fluctuations.

One view is that, because Avios are so easy to earn in the US (BA has, in the past, given out 100,000 Avios as a credit card sign-up bonus) it tries to create a level playing field with the UK by adding extra charges.

This ‘protects’ UK Avios collectors because it reduces the willingness of US members to redeem on transatlantic flights, with many choosing to use them on domestic American Airlines and Alaska Airways flights instead.  This is only a theory though.

Even if you live in the UK, there is a lesson here

If you are booking Avios tickets to North America, do NOT book them as 2 x one-way tickets.  This is because the ticket from London will attract the lower UK level of ‘taxes and charges’ whilst your flight home, when booked on a separate ticket, will attract the higher US level of ‘taxes and charges’.

For example, as we noted above, a return ticket from the UK to New York has Club World taxes of £850.

Booked as a one-way in each direction, the total taxes are £555 outbound and £774 inbound, for a total of £1,329.

You should bear this in mind if, for example, you see a special one-way cash offer on a low cost airline from the UK.  Don’t think that booking the outbound flight to the US for cash and then using Avios for the return is a good deal, because you will be paying an inflated level of ‘taxes and charges’ for the flight back.

PS.  Remember that using your Avios to fly on Iberia saves hugely on taxes and, for the US East Coast, Avios.

An off-peak Business Class return from Madrid to New York, booked via the Iberia Plus website to avoid British Airways surcharges, costs just 68,000 Avios + £220, a huge saving even after factoring in the cost of getting to Spain:

Redeem Avios from United States to Europe with low taxes

You can learn more about redeeming Avios on Iberia here.


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:

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.

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

30,000 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.

EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.

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

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus 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 (96)

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

  • JimBH says:

    We have family in San Diego, the norm for us now is to simply go ex AMS or DUB to avoid the vast “carrier imposed charge”. Our last three trips (BA Club World) have never cost more than €1400 per person, against £3000+ if not originating in Europe. Full avios / tier point earning too!

    • dougzz99 says:

      But that’s changing too. Finding fares that low out of AMS or DUB has got a lot harder.

    • HBommie says:

      Are these fares pre or post pandemic?

      • BJ says:

        OT @HBommie, have you flew your AY sectors yet?

      • JimBH says:

        Yes, in June this year we paid €1320 pp AMS-LHR-SAN return on BA. The identical flight ex LHR would have been £3,800 at the time we booked the ex EU.

  • Vamps says:

    Dear HfP readers, I understand, but am not experienced enough to know the intricacies of “do not buy two one-way flights to and back from the US” in the article. If I want to fly into (say) Washington DC and out of Nashville, if I book these together are these counted as a return flight or just two singles? (and if the latter, is there any way round that?)

    Thanks, oh wise ones!

    • dougzz99 says:

      That depends on how you book it. Perfectly OK to book an ‘Open Jaw’ return, into one city and out another, there are some rules about distances of the two main legs versus the distance between the two cities you’re not flying between. Equally you could book two one way flights, which would have separate PNR and ticket numbers. People often book Avios flights as two one ways as seats are harder to find, so they book at midnight 355 days in advance to grab the seats before anyone else does, at this point the returns are not available.

    • NorthernLass says:

      The article is referring to avios bookings, one way cash bookings have always been very disproportionately expensive. If you want to make an open jaw avios booking and not pay extra charges you’ll need to call get them to book it for you. If you book the inbound separately, online, BA won’t refund any extra cash you’ve paid.

    • Rob says:

      Counted as a return BUT you need to book by phone because cannot handle Avios redemptions of this sort.

      • Vamps says:

        Cheers Rob. 2024 will be the first time we are taking an open-jaw return with Avios, so your article bought up the exact topic I needed answering before the flights become available in April.

  • dougzz99 says:

    Well how did they get out of control? It’s a clickbait headline if you don’t answer the question.

    • HBommie says:

      Fair point.

    • Rob says:

      By going up!

      • BJ says:


      • Doug M says:

        That would be they are out of control, how they got out of control suggests an explanation will follow.

        • Lady London says:

          I’ve been wondering the same. Still no answer.

          Surely no one thinks it’s the BA “value extraction fee” that will keep sucking value out of booking tickets with avios right up to the point in each market when there’s no value left in booking avios tickets and people stop booking? It’s a march to that equilibrium ?

    • Colin MacKinnon says:

      Have you ever seen a Victorian newspaper and compared the style and language to one today.

      Things change!

  • SP says:

    I would assume that it’s to make collecting Avios unattractive in the US in order to protect American Airlines

  • Andrew. says:

    So an Avios rich US citizen with family over here, who visits at fixed times of year, would be better off buying a one way cash ticket, then plan-ahead Avios returns from the UK?

    Eg, initial cash ticket on Norse NYC-LGW 22nd December.
    Then 28th December LHR-NYC, 1st April NYC-LHR
    Then 4th April LHR-NYC, 22nd December NYC-LHR

    And so forth?

    • NorthernLass says:

      If you’re an avios-rich American (especially with status), your best bet is to book an RFS flight from a qualifying US city, for 25/30/35k avios plus £50/75. This is especially good value if you can select good seats by being Silver or Gold, and choosing a short, day flight from NYC or BOS.

    • John says:

      Well their citizenship and where their family lives is completely irrelevant, but generally yes.

    • NorthernLass says:

      But one-way cash tickets are inordinately expensive, so that option wouldn’t be cost-effective.

      • Thegasman says:

        Not really on Norse, it’s their main advantage. If you can fix your dates for a few trips then nesting tickets can give big savings. US airlines get quite stroppy with nesting but BA don’t care.

        • NorthernLass says:

          How would a US airline know you had booked with Norse (or anyone else) though?

        • Andrew. says:

          BA have got very stroppy with me nesting UK Domestic tickets in the past.

          It was when I had three Domestic outbounds in January, February & March, with the returns in September, October, & November, I had a work booked return in the middle of July, and also an LHR-EDI Avios return in the last fortnight in August, but with an EDI-SEA via LHR on the Weds-Weds in the middle of the EDI fortnight.

          • BJ says:

            With their IT I’m surprised they noticed.

          • Bagoly says:

            If Jan-Sep, Feb-Oct, Mar-Nov, rather than Jan-Dec, Feb-Oct, Mar-Sep, that’s tangled rather than nested 🙂
            Which might be more apparent as odd, and so prompt questions.

          • Lady London says:

            How did they notice and in what way did you notice their displeasure?

  • NorthernLass says:

    If you’re avios-rich, the most cost effective option for getting US-UK is via the RFS system as per my post above. If you book this as a separate return after booking a one-way outbound with a 241, BA will refund half those avios, making it even better value (I’m not sure if it yet appears as an option on return bookings).

  • Ben says:

    Surely the answer is to buy prem econ and then upgrade to business – what would the additional charges / taxes be?
    Also highlights the relative fantastic value that can be achieved using avios on qatar. Just redemeed DXB – MEL / MEL – MXP in business and the total taxes and fees were £420.

    • Thegasman says:

      If you upgrade using Avios from PE to Club World then you still have to pay the difference in carrier charges between the two classes. Only way to reduce them is to suck it up & fly PE on the westbound (day) leg.

  • TimM says:

    I think after a couple of miserable pandemic years, the airlines are doing everything they can to recoup their losses. Now is probably not the best time to redeem Avios. When the airlines are at full-strength and normal competition has returned, then should be a better time to strike.

    • Harry says:

      This. Next year we will use our 241’s in Europe. The fees on Long haul Avios bookings, the weak pound and ridiculous hotel costs makes travel more expensive. We will wait a year or two for the impending recession forcing BA and hotels to beg us back.

      • Erico1875 says:

        Me too.
        Ryanairs prices for Edi flights during the Scottish school hols are mad. Other airlines are off the scale.
        £400 + pp to the Med.
        RFS have become really great value again

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

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