Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Forums Frequent flyer programs British Airways Executive Club One Companion Voucher for family of 5

  • aab203 7 posts

    Hello,

    I am brand new to the world of companion vouchers but thought I would give it a go this year. I’ve just hit my CV threshold with Amex Premium Plus (it hasn’t officially come through yet and I’ve already realised I should probably have waited until later in the year to trigger it due to when I want to fly!).

    I have been reading around (mainly here – https://www.headforpoints.com/2024/01/03/how-do-british-airways-american-express-2-4-1-vouchers-work-2/) and think I have a decent understanding of how the practicalities of redemption work.

    What I am looking for is some advice / strategies for how I can book a trip in practice with a family of five (2 adults, 3 kids)

    For a bit of background, last year we travelled to Orlando for the first time. To save some money I booked the flights (business class) from Dublin to Orlando (via Gatwick). We live in London so I had to book a separate one-way flight from Gatwick to Dublin the night before. On the return leg I chose flights such that the London->Dublin part was from Heathrow… meaning I knew I would be able to get our bags in Gatwick and then head straight home.

    I am wondering whether I would still need to replicate this journey or now, with the use of a companion voucher, I should look to book from London->Orlando in summer 2025 (possible summer 2026 could be an alternative option, but now that I’ve triggered the CV I think that will fall out of my 2-yr window!). Or maybe from another UK city instead (like Manchester?).

    I have assumed it would make most sense for me to try and book myself and my wife on the reward flight and as soon as this is done make a separate booking for the three kids? Do you agree? If I were to call BA directly, could they do all of this for me in one go instead? Though I assume for the kids it might make sense to wait until the inbound flight is available so that I book a return rather than two singles, which could work out much more expensive (and perhaps ruin any benefit of using the CV)?

    I assume the London->Orlando route is a popular one for redemption, but given the spread over the summer holidays, I’m hoping it might be ‘easier’ to find availability over a two/three week period?

    If I wasn’t going to use the CV for the Orlando trip, another destination would be Abu Dhabi (or Dubai if that has more reward flight availability?). I assume the strategy would still be the same?

    Any thoughts/comments of how best to use the CV for a family of five is greatly appreciated! 🙂

    PS – One question I had which I couldn’t immediately find the answer to – when trying to sort out the return flight, is there a risk that there is no reward availability and we wouldn’t be able to fly back on that date? Or does the inbound flight process not work that way?

    NorthernLass 7,932 posts

    Which cabin are you looking to fly in?
    It will be a challenge finding 5 seats to a popular holiday destination, especially in a premium cabin.
    How old are kids? I wouldn’t fancy the Middle East in summer with small children (especially if the security situation deteriorates further).
    You should be able to get 5 of you on a booking IF the seats are standard reward ones. There’s a HFP article about this complication. You won’t be able to make a separate booking for children, though you could have 1 adult and 1 child on the 241.
    Yes you will have the same issue with the inbound flight.
    Your best option might be to get flights to somewhere with plenty of availability, like NYC, then get a connecting flight to MCO separately. Or consider travelling in different cabins.
    There is no MAN-LGW service so that routing would cause you a lot of aggravation with kids!
    Lastly, I think you need to read all the articles on here about maximising avios/241, and the relevant threads before you book.

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer 2,169 posts

    The kids ages are important.

    Not because of the destination but because that affects how the booking needs to be made.

    NigelHamilton 218 posts

    So lots of questions which others are better placed to answer but let me help with some of them. If you’ve triggered the voucher now you have to fly the outbound within 2 years.

    If you use you and your wife for the companion voucher that might be a practical issue depending on the ages of the kids – if none are over 16 then you would have 2 separate bookings which at least in theory could leave you in a pickle if they some how get separated(BA IT). I would ring BA to link them but we still had an issue at MRU airport which nearly led to three being allowed to fly and two not (sorted in the nick of time!)

    Also assuming your are paying in cash for 3 flights that will leave your kids with the tier points (so for this reason my daughter is BA bronze and my wife and I have no status!) All in all I would suggest you fly with one of the kids and your wife and the other two take the cash flights. This all assumes that you are paying cash for business fares – else you could start a debate about leaving the kids in economy while being in business yourself (I’m on the side of no, for the avoidance of doubt!) I say that because under 16s don’t pay APD, but only if they fly economy.

    I believe you can fly from Dublin on a companion voucher now but RFS means less likely to be worth the hassle. Finally if you are hiring a car consider trying BA holidays for the three people paying cash – then you’ll get double tier points for them all and maybe a cheaper flight too (often it’s not much more than flight only).

    Someone with better knowledge than me on redemptions can handle the other questions but hope helpful.

    NorthernLass 7,932 posts

    You can use the 241 on Aer Lingus but they don’t release many business class seats.

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer 2,169 posts

    If you use you and your wife for the companion voucher that might be a practical issue depending on the ages of the kids – if none are over 16 then you would have 2 separate bookings which at least in theory could leave you in a pickle if they some how get separated(BA IT). I would ring BA to link them but we still had an issue at MRU airport which nearly led to three being allowed to fly and two not (sorted in the nick of time!)

    Linking bookings is meaningless. It has zero practical effect. Any such ‘link’ is a manual note in the PNR only seen if someone goes into the booking.

    If something wee to happen BA systems would still see them as two separate bookgings and deal with them accordingly and that can mean one booking being rebooked onto one flight and the other onto a totally different one.

    NorthernLass 7,932 posts

    This happened to us one year, fortunately we were pretty much at the airport when we got the notification and the MAN ground staff worked some magic and got us all back on our original flight. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if my teenager and I had travelled separately from my OH, but I wouldn’t risk it with multiple younger kids!

    The Savage Squirrel 576 posts

    You have a very understanding family!! As a general strategy comment I would say: if you’re so committed to Business Class that you’re prepared to mess round flying Lndon->Dublin->sleep over->London->Orlando (which is far more sitting round in airports/hotels than I’d do with 3 kids in tow to save money on a 8-9 hr East Coast flight rather than just book in a lesser cabin and go!) then it would be far cleaner/simpler to not get fixated on Orlando as the end destination.

    London -> basically anywhere in Eastern USA (most obviously Tampa, Miami and Atlanta, or New York for oodles of availability) will mean reward availability for multiple Avios seats will be available somewhere and keen cash fares are more likely to be findable too.

    aab203 7 posts

    Thanks for all the replies – all super helpful!

    Which cabin are you looking to fly in?
    It will be a challenge finding 5 seats to a popular holiday destination, especially in a premium cabin.
    How old are kids? I wouldn’t fancy the Middle East in summer with small children (especially if the security situation deteriorates further).
    You should be able to get 5 of you on a booking IF the seats are standard reward ones. There’s a HFP article about this complication. You won’t be able to make a separate booking for children, though you could have 1 adult and 1 child on the 241.
    Yes you will have the same issue with the inbound flight.
    Your best option might be to get flights to somewhere with plenty of availability, like NYC, then get a connecting flight to MCO separately. Or consider travelling in different cabins.
    There is no MAN-LGW service so that routing would cause you a lot of aggravation with kids!
    Lastly, I think you need to read all the articles on here about maximising avios/241, and the relevant threads before you book.

    I was thinking business class for Orlando. Two would be reward and the rest cash purchases.

    For Dubai / Abu Dhabi I would be looking to go in Easter time rather than summer (I wasn’t clear apologies). This could be all economy.

    Would you be able to link to the HfP article regarding the complication around booking for 5 (or I can search for it if you recall the title)?

    Which cabin are you looking to fly in?
    How old are kids?

    The kids ages are important.
    Not because of the destination but because that affects how the booking needs to be made.

    Kids are currently 5, 8 and just-turned 11.

    Also assuming your are paying in cash for 3 flights that will leave your kids with the tier points (so for this reason my daughter is BA bronze and my wife and I have no status!) All in all I would suggest you fly with one of the kids and your wife and the other two take the cash flights. This all assumes that you are paying cash for business fares – else you could start a debate about leaving the kids in economy while being in business yourself (I’m on the side of no, for the avoidance of doubt!) I say that because under 16s don’t pay APD, but only if they fly economy.

    That’s a good point about the tier statuses, it hadn’t occurred to me!

    My parents used to fly in business whilst my brother and I were in economy. I wouldn’t do the same with my family 🙂

    You have a very understanding family!! As a general strategy comment I would say: if you’re so committed to Business Class that you’re prepared to mess round flying Lndon->Dublin->sleep over->London->Orlando (which is far more sitting round in airports/hotels than I’d do with 3 kids in tow to save money on a 8-9 hr East Coast flight rather than just book in a lesser cabin and go!) then it would be far cleaner/simpler to not get fixated on Orlando as the end destination.

    London -> basically anywhere in Eastern USA (most obviously Tampa, Miami and Atlanta, or New York for oodles of availability) will mean reward availability for multiple Avios seats will be available somewhere and keen cash fares are more likely to be findable too.

    I think the excitement of going to Disney World and doing business outweighed the initial faff of the flights! If I wasn’t able to make the return flight straightforward then I probably would have flown out differently. Now that Aer Lingus don’t serve Gatwick anymore, it does make the already-faff journey even more of a faff with needed to transfer from Heathrow to Gatwick

    I’m not that fixated on Orlando specifically – its just I was planning to go there Summer 2025. But I could look at doing that as a cash flight (probably not business this time around) and then just make another holiday based on going somewhere that’s much simpler to book as a reward destination.

    annabh 45 posts

    I managed to get three club world returns from Orlando for this summer, depends when you are looking at as mid to end August is usually less popular than right at start of summer holiday. Also with Orlando there are generally two flights a day (so 8 seats per day), you also have the option of Tampa or even Miami if that doesn’t work. So think is a good plan.

    I would wait though to buy the cash fares as straight after reward seats is ridiculous expensive.

    Another option could consider is flying into one US city first like DC or NYC? And then fly down to Orlando? Or vice versa . . that’s what we’re doing this year.

    aab203 7 posts

    I managed to get three club world returns from Orlando for this summer, depends when you are looking at as mid to end August is usually less popular than right at start of summer holiday. Also with Orlando there are generally two flights a day (so 8 seats per day),

    Thanks. Yep I agree waiting for the cash fares would make sense.

    With our trip last summer I think it was a little over £7k for the five of us. Even with the awkward route planning I thought it was a decent price. If I can’t get the trip for less than this with the companion voucher then I won’t feel I’ve achieved much (considering I’ve already spent £250 for the Amex card) and so looking for a totally different trip with easier/simpler booking would make more sense.

    What are the cancellation rules with reward bookings? Do I lose the taxes/charges paid, but get the voucher returned?

    NorthernLass 7,932 posts

    https://www.headforpoints.com/2023/08/16/family-of-three-british-airways-american-express-voucher/

    Cancellation is covered in articles and threads but basically you get everything back minus £35 pp.

    MajaS 18 posts

    Ok so I have to admit I have no experience of booking for a family of 5, business class, nor from Dublin. But I have lots of experience of booking using companion vouchers for a family of 4 from London.

    First of all, Orlando / Disneyworld is super hot in August. I would recommend considering Easter. We have just returned from Orlando / Tampa. The latter is a nice alternative for flights, if can’t get Orlando – and you can spend a few days by the beach before coming back to the Uk.

    For availability, if you book 355 days in advance at midnight (strictly speaking it’s 354 days at midnight), you should be able to book all the seats you want. Of course the complication is that there are only 4 business class seats available on avios. If you were willing to fly economy, or book 4 on avios and rest cash, you can do those at midnight. You can see now which days are available, and set yourself a reminder to book!

    You can book all 4 business or 5 economy in one booking using the companion voucher, it will apply the “avios discount” on one of those seats.

    To book an inbound flight, wait the appropriate number of days and follow the same process at midnight: but here you can’t apply the companion voucher discount automatically. You can either call the US line at midnight and they will do it for you, or book the avios flights without the companion voucher, and then call the exec club during working hours, ask them to link the inbound to outbound and refund the avios for the companion voucher equivalent. Slight complication here is that for companion voucher, it makes sense to go high on avios and low on cash, vecause you are only paying half of those avios effectively, but that would mean you have to have a high number of avios overall to facilitate that in one booking.

    You could also try to book you and wife in business using companion voucher and the kids in economy – lol! But that would require separate bookings.

    I try to always time it so I have two companion vouchers in one name to use at once: my membership year resets in June, so I make sure I get one voucher in, say, January, and another in September / October. Then I use both for Xmas / NY bookings that December, for the following year. Both are then in my name and I can use them in one booking, which is what you could do with an economy class booking, or 4 in business.

    I always book South Africa for this period but there is almost zero chance to fly to CPT as the whole world is booking them at that time; so normally I book JNB and then pay for a connecting flight. However, you still have to click very fast – or manage to get through to the US call centre in time – too book them for any „in demand” destination during peak periods.

    You have to do a fair bit of work to get value out of the companion vouchers; the other perk of the premium plus card is the 50% avios bonus compared to a standard one.

    MajaS 18 posts

    One more thing – I also looked at Dubai / Abu Dhabi for avios flights but the fees were really high even when using avios – barely worth using avios, as could get Emirates flights for not much more (obvs depends on time of year). I looked at Morocco and the Canaries though and they were much better value…

    NorthernLass 7,932 posts

    @MajaS, as mentioned in this thread already, several of your suggestions aren’t possible, such as putting children on a separate booking. (Flights are also released at 1 am during BST).

    Every avios seat to MCO from April 1st to 5th seems to have gone so Easter 25 looks to be a real bun fight!

    DXB/AUH have the same surcharges as all other RFS routes, i.e., from £175 pp in J?

    aab203 7 posts

    I think this has re-affirmed why I never previously thought trying to get companion vouchers would work for our family. Now that I’ve taken the punt and got one companion voucher (officially added to my account today) I will see what I can do with it, but probably won’t renew the Amex when it comes to renewal in Jan ’25, given then increase cost and spending threshold.

    I guess the real problem for us is that I can only really book two outbound tickets now and would have to wait until the return flights are available before booking the remaining 3 cash fares… however I would then be stuck without any flexibility if it turned out that our specific dates had expensive tickets vs say a flight a couple of days later which might be going for be much less.


    @NorthernLass
    – silly question – why is it not possible to book children separately? Not that I’m planning to do this, but what if we wanted to, say, send the kids off on their own to visit relatives in another country – would this not be possible?

    I’ll have a look later on at 1am and see how quickly the seats go for MCO and Dubai/Abu Dhabi

    aab203 7 posts

    Sorry, one more thing – I was having a play around earlier today and saw that a single flight to JFK in Easter 25 would be 90K Avios + charges for me and my companion. I assume I still need to ensure I have another 90k Avios to secure the return flight when it becomes available?

    NorthernLass 7,932 posts

    If you call, you would be charged that, if you book online you’d need to pay the full avios then claim half back (but this is detailed literally over and over on this site, perhaps you need to do a bit more research here!).

    BA won’t let you book make a stand-alone booking for children under 15/16 (can’t remember exactly) because they don’t offer an unaccompanied minors service any more.

    aab203 7 posts

    Thanks @NorthernLass! (and for your patience with me 🙂 )

    What I might also do now is cancel the Amex now that I have received my companion voucher and doubt I’ll use it again next year. I’ll get most of my fee back too which is good.

    For our situation I think I will switch over to the Amex Reward cards and earn points which I can then have more flexibility with. I’m guessing it would be much easier for me to earn and spend hotel points rather than faffing around with companion vouchers and booking for an odd number of people!

    Thanks again for the help and advice

    NorthernLass 7,932 posts

    You can still get very good value for a family of 5 using avios, you just have to be flexible on destination or look at travelling in different cabins, or do a mix of award and cash bookings. But quite a lot of people also value hotel points over avios and concentrate on that so it depends what suits you best. Certainly accommodation will be one of your major outlays so hotel points make a lot of sense!

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