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Since BA has a distance-based award chart, it gives you lots of options, especially for short-haul flights, even in the USA (since they are part of the oneworld airline alliance and partner with American Airlines and US Airways). When I went to the Family Travel for Real Life conference a few weeks ago, I flew from CVG-DCA on US Airways using Avios. That roundtrip flight cost me 9,000 Avios, but if I had booked the flight using US Airways Dividend Miles, it would have cost me 25,000 miles!!!!
One thing that I learned a long time ago, starting from my extreme couponing days back ~10 years or so ago (200 bottles of ketchup anyone?!!? :-D), it’s that the more complicated a promotion is, and the more different options that there are, the higher the odds that a savvy user will be able to exploit it in ways that the company probably didn’t intend.
Example – IHG Into the Nights promotion
We are starting to see that with the recent IHG Into the Nights promotion.
This is my wife’s offer (my offer still is not working). There are several individual promotions that add up. I don’t know what their intention is with this promotion as far as how many stays IHG is trying to get, but I’m fairly certain that they aren’t in business to give out 2 free nights at any IHG hotel plus 35,000 points for us staying 3 nights at a Holiday Inn :-). It would be even more awesome if we could get 50,000 AIRLINE MILES for completing this offer, but tragically it looks like that is not going to happen.
British Airways to Europe
So, for as good as BA is on short-haul flights, it’s almost useless flying to Europe. The reason is that if you use Avios or even if you use AAdvantage miles, there are huge fuel surcharges.
That was one of the first tricks I used when booking award tickets with American – you pretty much have to just uncheck the “British Airways” checkbox since it’s just about worthless.
Recently though as I was doing some speculative planning of a trip to Europe, I came across a trick that I had not seen blogged about very much. Googling around does show a few articles so it’s out there but I haven’t seen it very popularized.
Reward Flight Saver
British Airways Reward Flight Saver is an option that British Airways has where you can fly anywhere in Zones 1-3 (up to 2000 miles) for a fixed amount of taxes, fees and carrier charges.
I know that the official website says that it’s within Europe, but it does actually work on any flight in Zones 1-3. The Avios needed are the same as regular redemptions – 4500 Avios each-way up to 650 miles, 7500 Avios up to 1150 miles, 10000 Avios up to 2000 miles.
EDIT: As Jerry pointed out in the comments, the rules also say that you “need to have collected at least 1 Avios in the preceding 12 months”. This appears to be another one of those “rules” that isn’t really a rule. For example, I have earned no Avios other than transferring them over into my account from Chase, and I had no problem seeing the Reward Flight Saver pricing. Though to be precise, I did not actually take my booking all the way to pay for it, though I would be surprised if that made a difference.
The fees are $27.50 USD one-way, no matter where you are going (as long as it’s under 2000 miles one-way). Some of the suggestions from the official RFS page on avios.com
Fifth Freedom flights
The fifth freedom of the air is the idea that an airline (e.g. British Airways) has the freedom to carry passengers from one’s own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country. So one example is British Airways’ flight from Doha, Qatar to Bahrain, as part of the flight that then continues from Bahrain to London. As you can see, that 90 mile flight also prices out at just 4500 Avios and $27.50
You can also see the icon for Reward Flight Saver (I pointed to it in the green arrow). That’s another indication that the flight is eligible for RFS. A few other fifth freedom flights that British Airways runs are:
- MCT (Muscat) – AUH (Abu Dhabi)
- GCM (Grand Cayman) – NAS (Nassau)
- PLS (Providenciales) – NAS (Nassau)
- ANU (Antigua) – PUJ (Punta Cana), SKB (St. Kitts) or TOB (Tobago)
- UVF (Hewanorra) – GND (Grenada) or POS (Port of Spain)
Other interesting destinations
Even though the official page says that it’s for intra-Europe, as we can see, it actually is for all flights of less than 2000 miles. We already talked about some of the interesting fifth freedom flights that are outside of Europe.
London to Tenerife in the Canary Islands clocks in at 1811 miles and is eligible for the Reward Flight Saver. You can also get to several locations in Northern Africa that are under 2000 miles (Tripoli, Marrakesh, Algiers). On the other hand, London to Cairo is in Zone 4 at 2198 miles and thus prices at 12,500 Avios and $220 in taxes (one-way)
Getting to Europe
While this is very helpful to travelers that live in Europe, how can this help those of us who live in North America? London is a very popular destination for people vacationing in Europe, and sometimes the fees can be outrageous. JFK-LHR one-way has ~$250 in fees. With a family of 8 like I have, I certainly don’t want to pay $4,000 in fees for my “free” tickets!!!
Where this can come into play is that you can fly from the US to any other European destination on an airline that doesn’t charge fees (such as American itself or airberlin or FinnAir using American miles), stay a day or so there, and then use a Reward Saver Flight to transit London. You could even then take a 2nd Reward Saver flight back out of London to any other European city before you fly back to the US (to avoid the high London departure taxes)
An example itinerary from Boston (to take advantage of the BOS-DUB trick that lets you do that for only 12,500 Avios
- BOS-MAD – 20,000 American AAdvantage miles (we’re currently in off-peak season with American) + $5.60
- MAD-LHR-DUB – 9,000 Avios + $55. This actually prices out as 2 Reward Flight Saver flights and you are allowed a stopover in London as long as you want
- DUB-BOS – 12,500 Avios + $73 – flying on British Airways partner Aer Lingus
Total for a roundtrip from North America to Europe is 21,500 Avios, 20,000 American AAdvantage miles. It’s also only $133.60 out of pocket, or about HALF of the price of the ONE-WAY fees for a simple roundtrip to London. And plus this way you get as much time as you want in THREE different European cities!
What about you? Have you ever taken a British Airways Reward Flight Saver flight? Do you have any trips planned where this might come in handy?