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British Airways Is Testing A New Avios Redemption Option On Its New York Route


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One of the major issues with British Airways long-haul awards is the high surcharges that accompany all such bookings. While the number of Avios needed to book a flight can often be reasonable, the cash co-pay that British Airways charges can make bookings highly uneconomical…especially in Economy Class. Now British Airways is testing out a new redemption option on its New York – London route.

On intra-Europe short-haul flights, British Airways offers what it calls a “Reward Flight Saver” option (RFS) with which it caps the amount of the co-pay associated with award bookings to a reasonable degree, and it offers customers the option to pay more Avios in return for lower co-pay or fewer Avios with a higher co-pay. It’s a pretty good system but, until now, it has never been offered on long-haul routes.

Now British Airways is trialing RFS bookings on its New York – London route…

a screenshot of a flight schedule

…and this is what the off-peak roundtrip payment options look like:

  • 50,000 Avios + £100 (approx. $124)
  • 38,000 Avios + £170 (approx. $211)
  • 26,000 Avios + £230 (approx. $285)
  • 19,500 Avios + £280 (approx. $347)
  • 13,000 Avios + £330 (approx. $409)
  • 9,100 Avios + £360 (approx. $446)

The standard cost that we’re used to seeing for a roundtrip off-peak Economy Class award between NYC and London is 26,000 Avios + surcharges but now there’s a 50,000 Avios option with a noticeably lower co-pay [HT: Head For Points]

On the face of things, this may not appear to be a particularly appealing deal, but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. If you have more Avios than you know what to do with, if you’re Avios rich and cash poor, or if your Avios are essentially free because you earn them from trips paid for by your employer, you may like the idea of paying more Avios and leaving money in your wallet.

The math here can be interesting.

I value Avios at a conservative 1.0 cent each and if you apply that valuation to the pricing structure posted above, this is what it looks like:

a table with numbers and a price
*Based on a valuation of 1 cent/Avios

There are two key things to remember here:

  1. Award bookings include a checked baggage allowance and should, therefore, not be compared with Basic Economy fares.
  2. Prices for trips originating in the US are often considerably higher than prices for flights originating in the UK – where using Avios may be a good deal for a trip originating in NYC, the same may not be true for an award originating in the UK.

On the very first random set of dates that I chose to check, the new RFS award pricing was available to book on the New York – London route and, on the same dates, the best available cash fares were these:

a screenshot of a white card

The fare on the left is a Basic Economy fare while the fare on the right includes a checked baggage allowance.

Base on my valuation of Avios, a traveler would be better off making an Economy Class award booking for these dates (using any of the Avios + co-pay options) rather than handing over cash. Even the “expensive” 50,000 Avios option (which includes a checked bag) works out to be cheaper than the Basic Economy option (which does not offer a checked bag).

Even if you value Avios at 1.25 cents each (a valuation I consider high), the 50,000 Avios option still works out to be over $70 cheaper then the equivalent cash fare…and that is worth bearing in mind.

Bottom Line

This may not be an option that a lot of people end up taking because it’s possible to get a lot more value out of each Avios than this option offers, but that doesn’t make it something that shouldn’t be considered.

If you’re focused on preserving cash (as a lot of people are right now), paying more Avios for a trip and cutting down on the co-pay could be an attractive option. As I’ve said on numerous previous occasions, the miles and points game doesn’t have to be just about getting the most value out of each mile/point that people have, it can be about helping people to take trips which they may otherwise not be able to take. If using more Avios allows people to take trips they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, this new redemption option that BA is trialing is a good one to see.

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