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If you’re a British Airways flyer based in the United States, the airline showed its disdain for your loyalty a little while ago when it increased the surcharges for award travel originating on this side of the pond without any notice. Now, in what appears to be BA’s version of ‘leveling up’, the surcharges for Business Class award travel originating in the UK have also been increased without warning.
In this post, I’m only going to highlight what British Airways has just done as Turning Left for Less and Head for Points have already written posts illustrating this stealth devaluation in detail – there’s not much point in me repeating what they’ve written – but the crux of the matter is this: In the past few days, the surcharges charged By British Airways for Avios bookings on most long-haul have increased significantly. On some routes, the increase is in excess of £100 (~$135).
From personal experience, I know that the surcharges added to a roundtrip Business Class award between London and Miami were approximately £690 per person as recently as last month. That same booking, today, will see a traveler paying almost £100 more.
Interestingly, you’ll find that a Business Class award booking for roundtrip travel between London and Los Angeles incurs the same surcharges…
…so it looks like British Airways has standardized the surcharges across all of its US routes (surcharges for flights to the East Coast have, historically, been lower than the surcharges for flights to the West Coast).
Here’s what the changes look like on some other British Airways long-haul routes (courtesy of Head for Points):
- Bangkok – surcharges have increased by approximately £59
- Cape Town – surcharges have increased by approximately £62
- Dubai – surcharges have increased by approximately £63
- Hong Kong – surcharges have increased by approximately £62
- Los Angeles – surcharges have increased by approximately £104*
- Maldives – surcharges have increased by approximately £112
- New York – surcharges have increased by approximately £113
- Rio de Janeiro – surcharges have increased by approximately £75
- San Francisco – surcharges have increased by approximately £112
- Singapore – surcharges have increased by approximately £64
*I paid approximately £685 in taxes for a roundtrip Business Class award booking to LA last year while the same booking would attract approximately £789 in surcharges today.
Note: Not all routes have seen an increase in surcharges. In what appears to be a rare outlier, the surcharges for travel to Johannesburg don’t appear to have changed from 2021.
If British Airways ever comments on this stealth devaluation, it will almost certainly use the recently announced increases in Heathrow Airport charges and UK APD as excuses for the increases in its surcharges, but as neither of these would explain a surcharge increase of over £100, it’s safe to say that this is little more than a cash grab by the airline.
From a practical point of view, what we’re seeing here is a significant devaluation in the value of Avios for a lot of people based in the UK.
I value Avios at around 0.75p each so with the new surcharges taken into account, an off-peak Business Class fare between London and New York, for example, now effectively costs £1,539 roundtrip (100,000 Avios + £789 surcharges). That’s more than you’ll pay when buying a non-stop cash fare in a lot of British Airways sales, and it’s a lot more than you’ll pay for a one-stop cash fare originating outside of the UK.
Yes, an Avios booking is considerably more flexible than a discounted cash fare and that’s something that needs to be factored in, but a cash fare also earns Tier Points and Avios (both of which have value) so you would have to really value flexibility if you’re to say that the Avios booking is the better option.
If you have a 2-4-1 voucher issued by Amex in the UK, the numbers for an off-peak trip to New York look a little healthier (2 people will fly for an effective cost of ~£1,164 per person), but this is still far from a great deal.
Some people will say that if you’re prepared to start your journey outside of the UK and don’t mind spending more Avios, things look a lot better…but that’s not always going to be the case.
Where an off-peak Business Class booking between London and Los Angeles effectively costs ~£1,727 (125,000 Avios + £789), a booking for the same dates that originates in Dublin effectively costs ~£1,524 (155,000 Avios + £361)…
…and that’s not much of a saving when you consider that you still have to factor in the cost of flying between London and Dublin and the inconvenience of that added journey.
Sure, if you depart from Dublin and happen to be using a 2-4-1 voucher, the effective cost per person (for a couple) drops to ~£942 (which is very good for Business Class to LA), but that’s not going to be much comfort to the tens of thousands of Avios collectors who don’t want to have to travel to Dublin to start their journey and who may not have a 2-4-1 voucher to use.
For non-stop long-haul travel on British Airways, Avios are now, more often than not, an uneconomical currency to use.
Personally, I will continue to use Avios for short-haul flights with Europe and on the shorter routes within various world regions where Avios can be used on partner airlines, but I think this may be the last year in which I use Avios for long-haul premium cabin bookings as I think I’ll find better value elsewhere (although some Iberia and Aer Lingus redemptions may tempt me).
The way I see it is this: If I have to take a positioning flight to use my Avios economically, why don’t I simply eliminate Avios from the equation entirely and book a great cash fare departing from somewhere like Madrid, Oslo, Stockholm, or Paris instead? It’s not like these cash fares are hard to find.
I’ll have more flexibility with dates (because I won’t be relying on finding reward flight availability), I’ll earn Tier Points and Avios, and I’ll be leaving myself with more Avios to use on routes where value is easy to find (short-haul routes during peak travel times). Happy days!
British Airways has pushed through another stealthy Avios devaluation by quietly increasing the surcharges that it charges on Business Class award bookings on most of its long-haul routes. Some routes have seen surcharges increase by over £100 and that has now made it even harder than ever to find good value when redeeming Avios for long-haul travel.