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A few months back British Airways ran a trial in which flyers were given the option to use Avios to reduce the cost of the taxes and fees due on its long-haul award bookings. Now the airline has extended the trial to include its short-haul flights between the UK and Europe as well as its flights within the United Kingdom.
If you head over to BA.com and attempt to make a short-haul reward flight booking you will be offered a pricing option that you probably haven’t seen before…like this one for an off-peak economy class fare between London and Amsterdam:
Up until now, the more usual cost for this reward flight has been 4,000 Avios + approximately £15.50 in taxes and fees but you’ll only see that option if you click on the “more pricing options” link under the headline price.
What BA is doing here is allowing flyers to redeem more Avios than normal in exchange for lower co-pays or, as has been possible before, use fewer Avios and pay a higher co-pay.
Aside: British Airways is promoting the new option as the chance to pay just £1 in taxes and fees for a reward flight so I’m not entirely sure why I’m being offered the chance to pay even less – £0.50.
The value on offer here will depend entirely on the payment option you go for and will also vary (slightly) from route to route and season to season.
Here’s what the numbers look like for an off-peak economy class booking between London Heathrow and Amsterdam:
British Airways now presents the default cost of this reward flight as 7,500 Avios + £0.50 so all the other options on offer are essentially allowing flyers to buy Avios in exchange for a small cash co-pay.
The cost to buy Avios in each scenario (for this route) varies from £0.0043 to £0.0075 ($0.0053 – $0.0093).
As I value Avios at around £0.0075 all of these options are more attractive than the option to pay.
Things aren’t quite so clear cut in peak season.
Here, the two options which cost the fewest Avios will see a flyer effectively paying more for their Avios than I think they’re worth but, once again, all the other options offer better value than the new low co-pay option of 8,000 Avios + £0.50.
If we take a look at one of the longest short-haul routes that British Airways operates (Heathrow – Larnaca in off-peak season) the numbers look a little different…
…but the conclusion is similar – all the options allow flyers to effectively buy Avios at a cheap or very cheap rate and therefore offer better value than the new option where the co-pay is negligible.
Should You Ever Take The Low Co-Pay Option?
Your decision should always be based on the value you place on your Avios so there will be times where some people will see value where others don’t….but there is one niche circumstance in which the low co-pay option may be useful to everyone.
When it comes to canceling a reward flight booking British Airways applies a fee which is the lower of £35 or the taxes and fees paid so, if your plans are fluid and you’re likely to have to cancel a reward flight booking, paying just £0.50 (or £1) in fees and choosing to part with more Avios can make sense.
I like the fact that there are now more options to use when it comes to booking a British Airways short-haul flight but the fact remains that, in most circumstances, the better value is to be had by ignoring the headline low co-pay price and choosing one of the other options.
It’s for this reason that I’m not entirely happy with BA for not presenting all the options on the screen by default and requiring flyers to choose to see all the other options open to them.
The fact that the first price everyone now sees is not the best value option may not catch out most of this blog’s readership, but it will certainly see a lot more less experienced flyers burning their Avios balances when taking a higher co-pay option would offer a better deal.
I don’t like that.