British Airways Avios has revamped the way you can redeem points for British Airways flights. The UK-based airline has unveiled details about the extension of “Reward Flight Saver” award bookings to include long-haul British Airways flights booked with Avios.
As a result, we’re seeing a mix of good and bad news when it comes to the default way to redeem Avios: the cost in Avios is going up, but the carrier-imposed surcharges are going down.
There’s definitely some value to be found here, though, and if you don’t want to redeem points this way, you’ll still be able to make redemptions under the previous schema.
Lower Fuel Surcharges on British Airways Flights
As a quick refresher, British Airways has always charged exorbitant fuel surcharges on their own flights when redeeming any frequent flyer miles, including Avios. It would sometimes be cheaper to purchase a ticket with cash instead of redeeming Avios and paying the surcharges.
As of today, British Airways is offering “Reward Flight Saver” flights as an alternative redemption option on long-haul flights with British Airways.
The biggest advantage of redeeming Avios via Reward Flight Saver is that the carrier-imposed surcharges will be greatly reduced. In fact, you’ll have the option to pay a flat fee which will include all taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges, including the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD).
To be clear, the Reward Flight Saver concept isn’t new. Reward Flight Saver redemptions have been available for European short-haul flights for a while now, but this is the first time Reward Flight Saver flights are being rolled out to the North American public on British Airways long-haul flights.
Canadian- and US-based Avios accounts can already see Reward Flight Saver options during check-out, which shows up as the default choice once you select a flight.
The above example is a non-peak date and shows the price for a one-way flight in British Airways business class from Toronto to London. The default cost is the new Reward Flight Saver price, which comes out to 80,000 Avios and $350 (CAD).
If you click “More pricing options”, you’ll see that all of the previously available redemption levels are still accessible, and you can still choose to pay whichever combination of Avios and cash you wish.
The best option previously was to pay the full fare in Avios and all taxes and fees in cash. On this same route, this was the 50,000 Avios + $865 (CAD) combination that’s still visible under “More pricing options”.
With the new pricing of 80,000 Avios + $350 (CAD), we can see that the Avios cost has increased by 60%, while the cash cost has decreased by very similar 59.5%.
Looking at the cent per point (cpp) value, you’re essentially spending 30,000 Avios to save $515 (CAD), which comes out to 1.72 cents per Avios. This comes extremely close to our target redemption value of 1.9 cents per Avios, and could even exceed it in some circumstances.
Keep in mind that whenever there is a transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards, HSBC Rewards, or RBC Avion to Avios, that same difference of 30,000 Avios reduces to just 23,100 MR or Avion points assuming a 30% bonus.
During these events, you’d effectively wind up with a redemption value of 2.44 cents per MR or Avion point, far surpassing our target valuation for each of 2.2 cents per MR or 2 cents per Avion.
For travellers based on the West Coast, let’s take a look at the new Reward Flight Saver option for a flight between London and Vancouver. On an off-peak date, the Avios cost for a one-way Reward Flight Saver booking in business class has increased by 27,500 Avios to 90,000 points (up from 62,500).
At the same time, the cash cost has decreased by $400 (CAD), bringing the taxes and fees down from $850 (CAD) to $450 (CAD).
You’re essentially paying 1.63 cents per Avios, which may not seem great at first, but if you’re able to leverage a transfer bonus of 30%, that number goes up to 2.12 cents per Avios.
British Airways has also provided the a chart with a sample of Reward Flight Saver prices for various destinations. Note that the chart represents round-trip pricing, and one-way flights will cost exactly half in both Avios and cash required.
Is This a Good Way to Redeem Avios?
The ability to redeem Avios for Reward Flight Saver bookings is largely a positive move, because it puts long-haul premium cabin British Airways flights within reach for most at a reasonable redemption value.
Sure, it technically costs less in points to redeem at the old rate. But given how easy it is to earn Avios these days, redeeming them for just under our target valuation in order to save on otherwise exorbitant cash surcharges isn’t a bad proposition at all.
British Airways Avios can be earned through a number of different programs, including:
At the rate of 50,000 Avios + $865 (CAD) for a one-way flight in business class from Toronto to London, it’s difficult to argue that you’re getting great value out of your Avios. Such a proposition likely means that most of us wouldn’t endeavour to experience British Airways business class.
On the other hand, 80,000 Avios + $350 (CAD) is much more in the realm of possibility, especially if you value direct flights and the costs with Aeroplan are skewed in the wrong direction of dynamic pricing.
Even if British Airways business class is not an aspirational redemption for you, keep in mind that British Airways guarantees at least eight economy class seats, two premium economy seats, and four business class seats on every single flight for Avios redemptions.
In some cases, British Airways may be the only option available to you at a reasonable price, especially for travel during peak periods such as summer and winter holidays.
Lastly, it’s important to note that while Reward Flight Saver pricing has been enabled for long-haul economy class, premium economy, and business class, it unfortunately doesn’t apply to British Airways First Class.
British Airways has added the option of Reward Flight Saver redemptions when using Avios for long-haul premium cabin travel on British Airways flights. In some cases, it can represent a great deal, especially if you value direct flights to or from London.
The outlay for a one-way transatlantic flight to London will be $350–400 (CAD) and 80,000–90,000 Avios, depending on your origin or destination.
This is about a 60% increase in Avios from the standard redemption rate, with a commensurate decrease in taxes and fees, representing decent value in that the out-of-pocket cash cost is now a more reasonable amount.
This new pricing structure puts British Airways premium cabins within reach for most points enthusiasts, and can be a downright excellent redemption if you accrue Avios primarily through credit card transfer partners during transfer bonus promotions.