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British Airways launches ‘Avios-only’ flights – where EVERY seat is available for redemption

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Here’s an interesting story I didn’t expect to see in my inbox this morning: British Airways is launching ‘Avios only’ flights where every seat is made available for redemption.

This is different to how Avios reward seats are usually released.

British Airways guarantees four x Club, two x World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and eight x Traveller (economy) seats for Avios redemption on every flight. On popular routes, this means seats are quickly snapped up and you are reliant on BA’s goodwill to release further seats.

In this case, however, British Airways is opening up all seats on the flight for redemption, including business class.

British Airways launches 'Avios-only' flights

British Airways follows in Qantas’ footsteps

This isn’t a new idea. Since 2019, Qantas has been running what it calls ‘Points Planes’ to celebrate historic events such as the retirement of the Boeing 747 fleet.

On 10th May, for example, Qantas will operate two ‘Points Planes’ between Sydney and Tokyo.

Qantas’ ‘Points Planes’ have been extremely successful, so it makes sense for British Airways to try and replicate this success in its own way.

One thing I think it needs to do is find its own unique term for the program, just as Qantas uses ‘Points Planes’. Avios-only flights just don’t quite run off the tongue in the same way. The current route offering is also a bit odd as you will see.

Where are BA’s first Avios only flights?

The first routes to launch under BA’s Avios-only initiative are short and mid haul flights.

The first Avios-only flight will be to Sharm El Sheikh on the inaugural service from London Gatwick on 3rd November.

This is operated by an A320 with 30 Club Europe (business class seats) and 132 Euro Traveller (economy) seats. All 162 seats are available for Avios redemption.

Whilst there is no dedicated Avios-only flight on the return, British Airways told us that they are increasing the number of reward seats on return flights on 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th and 18th November so you should have additional flexibility and choice when coming home.

(Do note that Sharm is a long flight and the A320 is not exactly spacious, especially once you get beyond Row 12 and the legroom shrinks.)

These flights will be followed by no less than four dedicated Avios-only flights from Heathrow to Geneva in February and March to coincide with the ski season.

The Geneva dates outbound are:

  • 10 February 2024
  • 17 February 2024
  • 24 February 2024
  • 2 March 2024

Whilst British Airways operates multiple daily flights to Geneva, this will be on BA728. Return flights (BA729) on 17th February, 24th February, 2nd March and 9th March will also be Avios-only flights.

How to book BA’s Avios-only flights

Booking these Avios-only flights is the same as booking any other Avios redemption with British Airways.

Unfortunately, there is no dedicated Avios-only page instructing you when and where Avios-flights are going so for now you have to manually input the dates above into the Avios booking engine. I was able to find them within a few seconds:

British Airways launches 'Avios-only' flights

Normally British Airways tells you how many seats are left for Avios redemption. Because it is not doing so here, it means there are more than nine seats available in both business class and economy. In this case, substantially more than nine!

British Airways launches 'Avios-only' flights

How much do BA’s Avios-only flights cost?

The cost is the same as any other Avios redemption on British Airways.

In this case, the Sharm El Sheikh flight coincides with BA’s off-peak calendar for 2023. You will have a choice from the following prices.

To help you decide which option is best, I have added a NOTIONAL cost based on valuing 1 Avios at 1p.

As you can see, the best value option is the ‘most cash, least Avios’ one, but of course you have the choice.

Euro Traveller (economy) return:

  • £1 + 27,500 Avios (£276)
  • £9 + 26,000 Avios (£269)
  • £25 + 23,500 Avios (£260)
  • £35 + 18,500 Avios (£220)
  • £91 + 12,500 Avios (£216)
  • £121 + 8,500 Avios (£206)

Club Europe (business class) return:

  • £1 + 48,500 Avios (£486)
  • £9 + 47,000 Avios (£479)
  • £35 + 38,500 Avios (£420)
  • £50 + 35,500 Avios (£405)
  • £95 + 26,500 Avios (£360)
  • £141 + 19,500 Avios (£336)

These notional values are competitive with cash fares, which bottom out at £221 in basic economy return in November.

Don’t forget that you Avios redemptions come with additional flexibility over basic economy (including the option to cancel for a full refund, minus £35 per person, up to 24 hours before departure) as well as one checked bag. Overall, these Avios redemptions are better value than booking a cash ticket.

Here is the pricing to Geneva:

Euro Traveller (economy) return:

  • £1 + 18,500 Avios
  • £9 + 17,000 Avios
  • £18 + 14,500 Avios
  • £35 + 9,500 Avios
  • £65 + 7,400 Avios
  • £85 + 5,900 Avios

Club Europe (business class) return:

  • £1 + 30,000 Avios
  • £9 + 28,500 Avios
  • £25 + 23,500 Avios
  • £50 + 17,000 Avios
  • £85 + 13,000 Avios
  • £125 + 10,500 Avios

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It has clearly been very successful for Qantas – successful enough that BA has decided to copy its oneworld sibling.

I do think that British Airways needs to give these flights better branding, and potentially a dedicated portal on ba.com, as Qantas does. Without a clear and concise name I’m worried that these flights will simply get lost amongst ‘normal’ redemptions.

To be frank, I would also have started with a bigger splash. Why not make one Sydney, Cape Town or Maldives flight available? These are the routes that people struggle to book.

We will keep you up to date with further Avios-only flights as and when they are announced. According to BA, this is just the start.

The flights are now bookable on the British Airways website here. Note that, after the email blast went out to Executive Club members, some of the ski flights are sold out.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 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 £15,000 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 – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

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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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 sign-up 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 (85)

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

  • tiriavpo says:

    Not sure when you took your screenshot but when I looked yesterday (out of interest only) there were no business seats left.

    I wonder how many of these bookings are ‘speculative’ and will get cancelled prior to the flight?

    • James says:

      Yeah I think a lot are probably speculative and. Then checking with work later to get time off.

  • Rebecca Jay says:

    I can think of a great name for this new service, which would make it absolutely clear and be well branded and in keeping with the British Airways branding.

    As a long in the tooth branding expert, I’m not sure I’m going to give my idea away here! But I might just contact British Airways…

    Anyway good to know there will be more availability to use Avios.

    Thanks for the heads up

  • Andrew says:

    This feels like a soft launch.

    I can imagine the anticipation on here if BA were to drop a monthly email with 2-4 Avios exclusive flights at 11am.

    Whether or not BA’s IT would be up to the sudden number of hits as people scramble for seats is a different matter.

    (And yes, it would be good if Avios were to throw some destinations from regional airports into the mix. An autumn departure to Florida from GLA/EDI would be eye-catching to many grandparents)

    • Mikeact says:

      Like the first of the Month, I get an email from AF/KL, …discounted mileage offers for the next three months….at present 25/50% off many routes, Europe and Long Haul…albeit Economy at present….used to include Business.

  • john M says:

    That LHR – GVA return for one person, for half term in feb24, is £1,215 for all of the 11 flights they run these days…. this is nuts !!

  • fuggi says:

    Someone tell the Miles&More people to get with the programme, availability with them is complete boll*cks versus Avios (albeit only now that Avios has added Qatar)

    • Rob says:

      Agreed, M&M availability has gone totally downhill – even though Lufty is selling business class seats for exceptionally low prices in its semi-permanent sales.

  • Jeff says:

    I have just received upgrade voucher as I hit £10k on Plus Card; I also hold the premium account and apparently in 6 months I will be hitting my yearly anniversary. Will I get a 2nd cabin upgrade voucher or due to “1 voucher per 12 months” restriction I will not?

    • Gordon says:

      Both.

      • Jeff says:

        Thanks. And can you use/choose both at the same time when making online booking (so that 4 people can be booked in upgraded one-way class at the same time)?

        • Gordon says:

          If they are in the bank yes.

          • Stephen says:

            I have tried to do this but it only let’s me “tick” one voucher. I then click through and it says “you have not selected enough vouchers for the number of passengers”. Wondering if anyone else has had that issue?

          • Spike Spiegel says:

            I have had the same issue. In the end we booked two bookings with two in each booking to upgrade. Frustrating.

  • Fraser says:

    Does anyone else not find the idea of flying alongside a plane full of fellow Avios hackers a bit weird? Perhaps it’s just me but I enjoy the fact I know I haven’t paid the same as everyone else to fly first/ business and find the thought of the whole flight talking about how many points they have accumulated, and how, a little queasy. Sorry if that’s just me. I was just keen to know if I wasn’t the only person to think that!

  • Chris says:

    Does an avios only flight not give BA the opportunity to not deliver their true ‘first or business service’, or even economy. Passengers on these flights are all known to staff to have ‘paid using Avios’. Rather than usual flights, where it may be unknown whether one paid using cash or Avios, these ‘Avios flights’ have the potential for staff to believe that one got on the flight for cheap etc.

    I don’t think these flights should continue and wouldn’t book one myself, but then again, how would we know whether it is an ‘Avios only flights on booking?

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

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