Book British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 3 – Taxes and Fees
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Update: Beginning February 2, 2016, British Airways will no longer offer 1-way, short-haul (under 650 miles) coach award tickets on partner airlines in North America for 4,500 British Airways Avios points. Instead these flights will cost 7,500 British Airways Avios points.
I get a lot of questions on British Airways Avios points, and started a series on how to use British Airways Avios points 2 years ago and finally finished writing it.
Some folks dislike British Airways Avios points because of high taxes and fees. That is true for some award tickets, but not all award tickets.
I’ll show you the best ways to avoid taxes and fees for different award tickets using British Airways Avios points.
Book British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro:
- Part 1 – Love it or Hate it: An Introduction to British Airways Avios Points
- Part 2 – What Does a Distance Based Award Chart Mean?
- Part 3 – Taxes and Fees
- Part 4 – What Else Can I do with British Airways Avios Points?
- Part 5 – Using British Airways Avios Points to Upgrade Paid Tickets
- Part 6 – Using Cash and Points
- Part 7 – Household Accounts
- Part 8 – The British Airways Companion Pass
- Part 9 – How to Find Award Availability
- Part 10 – The Best International Awards Using British Airways Avios Points
- Part 11 – The Best Domestic Awards Using British Airways Avios Points
- Part 12 – The Best Short Distance Awards Using British Airways Avios Points
Why Some Avios Award Tickets Have High Taxes and Fees
Although you’ll usually pay high taxes and fees on award tickets using British Airways Avios points, you can avoid them if you:
- Do NOT fly in or out of London
- Do NOT fly from the United Kingdom
- Do NOT fly on British Airways using British Airways Avios points (except within Europe)
- It’s NOT worth using British Airways Avios points for coach award tickets because the fees are about the same as a cash ticket. But it MAY be worth it to fly Business Class or First Class because you’ll pay ~$1,100 in taxes for a $3,500+ flight.
Many folks assume that because they have British Airways Avios points, they should use their points on British Airways flights. However, British Airways charges high fuel surcharges on award tickets.
And British Airways’ main hub at London Heathrow airport (LHR) is notorious for having high passenger taxes!
This combination can lead to some shock when you price an award ticket!
For example, to book a round-trip Business Class award ticket between New York and London, you would pay 80,000 British Airways Avios points and ~$1,172 in taxes! Ouch!
1. Air Passenger Duty Tax
Breaking down the taxes shows the following:
The “Government, authority and airport charges” are taxes charged on any airline for a round-trip ticket between New York and London. These are not unique to British Airways, so you’ll pay them flying on any airline.
The Air Passenger Duty is a tax charged to all passengers departing the United Kingdom. On a Business Class flight to the United States, the tax is ~$221.
The amount of the Air Passenger Duty depends on 2 factors:
- The country you are traveling to from the United Kingdom (the further away the destination country, the higher the tax).
- You pay half the rate for a coach ticket, but the full rate for Premium Coach, Business Class, or First Class.
If you booked the same flight in coach, the Air Passenger Duty would be half the cost.
You can avoid the Air Passenger Duty by departing Europe from another country, even if London is your connecting city.
For example, you would NOT pay the Air Passenger Duty on an award ticket from Amsterdam to New York via London because you aren’t departing the United Kingdom, only connecting through it. You are allowed connections under 24 hours before the duty is charged.
2. Fuel Surcharges
The remaining $828 in taxes and fees are a fuel surcharge from British Airways.
So you’ll pay British Airways a “carrier imposed charge” of $828 to redeem your British Airways Avios points in Business Class between New York and London. This would NOT be charged by many other frequent flyer programs, like United Airlines or Delta Airlines.
Some folks may still think it’s worth it because 80,000 British Airways Avios points + ~$1,172 in taxes gets a $3,500 Business Class award seat. However, British Airways Avios points are NOT worth it for coach award seats on the same flight.
That’s because the same flights between New York and London booked in coach would cost 40,000 British Airways Avios points + ~$688!
But if you bought a ticket, it would cost ~$870!
So your 40,000 British Airways Avios points are worth only ~$182 (~$870 paid ticket – ~$688 surcharges on award ticket), or ~0.46 cents per point ($182 fare difference / 40,000 British Airways Avios points). This isn’t a very good value.
When Are Avios Fees Lower?
1. No Late Booking Fees and Low Cancellation Fees
Unlike some programs, British Airways does NOT have late booking fees and has low cancellation fees.
Some airlines charge an extra fee if you book a ticket close to the date of arrival. For example, if you used American Airlines miles or United Airlines miles within 21 days of departure, you have to pay $75. And on some airlines (like Alaska Airlines) award tickets have to be booked at least 24 hours in advance.
But, British Airways does NOT have any late booking fees!
British Airways charges only $40 to cancel an award ticket (compared to $150 for American Airlines or $200 for United Airlines!).
However, some British Airways Avios award tickets can be cancelled for almost free. For example, a 1-way coach award ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles costs 4,500 British Airways Avios points plus ~$6 in taxes. If you cancel this ticket on the British Airways website, your 4,500 British Airways Avios points will be refunded, but NOT the ~$6 in taxes.
So the cancellation fee is only ~$6 (or the price of your taxes). If you paid less than $40 in taxes and fees and can cancel your award ticket online, your cancellation fee will be less than the usual $40.
2. Infant Fares
If you have a child who is under 2 years of age, you can book an “infant-in-arm” fare for only 10% of the adult British Airways Avios price. Most airlines charge 10% of the paid cash fare, which could be $2,000 for your child on a $20,000 First Class award ticket.
How to Pay Fewer Taxes and Fees With British Airways Avios Points
British Airways is a part of the oneworld alliance, and has many partners that do NOT charge fuel surcharges, or charge a very low amount. You can use British Airways Avios points on these partners and sometimes pay lower taxes and fees.
Some partners have fuel surcharges while others don’t. I’ll explain each airline’s policies, but in general, to avoid high fuel surcharges, use British Airways Avios points on:
- American Airlines to fly within the Western Hemisphere such as US to Canada or the Caribbean
- Alaska Airlines from the west coast of the US to Hawaii or Mexico
- Air Berlin from US to Europe
- Aer Lingus from US to Dublin (you can book cheap tickets on Ryanair or EasyJet to go further into Europe)
- LAN or TAM to fly to or within South America
- Cathay Pacific within Asia
- Japan Airlines within Japan
- Qantas within Australia
How You Can Check Taxes & Fees
When you search for a British Airways Avios ticket on the British Airways website (sign-in required), British Airways shows you the following page with the price.
Under “Taxes, fees and carrier charges per person,” you can click the information box (the “i” icon) to see the taxes and fees being charged.
The British Airways website shows “Government, authority and airport charges,” which are taxes charged by entities other than the airline. British Airways collects the taxes and passes them on to the government or airport.
The British Airways website also shows “British Airways fees and carrier charges,“ which is a nice way of saying “fuel surcharges.” You do NOT pay fuel surcharges if you use American Airlines miles. But you would pay fuel surcharges on award tickets on British Airways or Iberia using American Airlines miles.
1. American Airlines
British Airways Avios points are a great option for most American Airlines award tickets because American Airlines does NOT add fuel surcharges on most of its routes.
No Fuel Surcharges Using British Airways Avios Points on American Airlines Flights in the Western HemisphereDomestic flights (including Hawaii) have NO fuel surcharges. You’ll pay ~$6 in taxes per flight.
Flights to South America and the Caribbean have NO fuel surcharges. But you have to pay international taxes and fees.
However, they are NOT a great option on American Airlines flights between the US and Europe or between the US and Asia because you WILL be charged fuel surcharges on these flights.
Flights to Asia DO have fuel surcharges. For example, a flight from Dallas to Seoul on American Airlines includes ~$174 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.
You would NOT pay this surcharge and only pay ~$6 in taxes if you used American Airlines miles.
But flights to Europe DO have fuel surcharges. For example, a flight from Raleigh to London includes ~$253 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.
You would NOT pay this surcharge if you used American Airlines miles.
2. US AirwaysDomestic flights do NOT have fuel surcharges, so you do NOT pay them when you use British Airways Avios points on US Airways award tickets.
Although, flights to Europe DO have fuel surcharges. For example, a flight from Charlotte to London costs 20,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$255 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.
Of the ~$255 in fees, ~$229 are fuel surcharges!
However, if you booked the same flight using American Airlines miles or US Airways miles during peak season, you would pay 30,000 miles but only ~$6 in taxes. And you could add connecting flights to Charlotte for no additional charge.
Flights to South America have NO fuel surcharges. US Airways flies to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil from Charlotte. You do NOT pay fuel surcharges if you book using British Airways Avios points!
3. Air Berlin
Air Berlin is a great option for flying between the US and Europe because they do NOT charge fuel surcharges.
For example, a 1-way coach award ticket from New York to Dusseldorf costs 20,000 British Airways Avios points and ~$3 in taxes!
For the return flight from Dusseldorf to New York, you would pay 20,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$103 in taxes.
Why are taxes over $100 more leaving Europe than going to Europe? The reason is government and airport fees. The fees are the same for every airline ticket (award or paid ticket). So you do NOT pay extra taxes or fees by booking with British Airways Avios points.
4. British Airways (Reward Flight Savers)
Although British Airways usually adds high fuel surcharges, there are some intra-European routes where British Airways actually charges lower fees than other programs.
You can redeem Reward Flight Saver award tickets IF you have earned at least 1 Avios point in the past 12 months. Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios points counts as activity. So you can access Reward Flight Savers tickets.
But Reward Flight Savers routes are only allowed on British Airways flights within Europe (see map).
You pay the normal amount of British Airways Avios points and ~18 pounds (~$30) for a 1-way coach award ticket, or 25 pounds (~$42) for a 1-way award ticket in Business Class. This covers all taxes and fees.
This can be a good option if you need award seats between European cities. For example, you would pay 7,500 British Airways Avios points and ~$28 for a 1-way ticket from Edinburgh to Rome. On international itineraries, connections within the United Kingdom are included in the British Airways Avios price of a ticket, so Edinburgh to Rome via London is just 1 British Airways Avios price.
Meanwhile, American Airlines would charge 10,000 American Airlines miles and the normal amount of taxes, ~$120.
5. Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific can be useful for:
- Flights between the US and Asia
- Flights within Asia
- Flights from New York (JFK) to Vancouver, Canada
Cathay Pacific updates their current fuel surcharges each month, and splits them into whether a flight is long-haul or short-haul.
You’ll pay ~$120 in extra fuel surcharges for a flight between Hong Kong, China, and:
- North America
- South Pacific
- Middle East
For short flights from Hong Kong to other parts of Asia, you’ll pay ~$30 extra in fuel surcharges. These fuel surcharges are cumulative. So if you book a flight from the US to Bangkok, Thailand with a connection in Hong Kong you’ll pay ~$150 in fuel surcharges (~$120 fuel surcharge fee for flights between the US and Asia + ~$30 fuel surcharge fee for flights from Hong Kong).
Because shorter flights cost fewer British Airways Avios points, a lower mileage price can make up for the extra ~$30 paid on intra-Asia tickets.
For example, a 1-way coach ticket from Tokyo, Japan, to Hong Kong, China, costs 10,000 British Airways Avios points + ~$55 in taxes. Of those taxes, ~$29 are fuel surcharges.
However, the same flight would cost 20,000 American Airlines miles + $25 in taxes. Many folks would pay ~$29 to save 10,000 American Airlines miles which are worth at least $100.
You can NOT search for Finnair flights from the US to Europe on the British Airways’ website, you have to call British Airways at 800-452-1201. After calling, it costs ~$258 in fuel surcharges for a 1-way coach award ticket from New York to Helsinki, Finland and ~$458 in fuel surcharges for a 1-way Business Class award ticket. You would NOT pay fuel surcharges using American Airlines miles which lets you book Finnair award tickets online.
Iberia has lots of coach award seats available, especially from the East Coast to Madrid, Spain. However, British Airways charges full fuel surcharges on Iberia flights.
So a 1-way coach award ticket from New York to Madrid, Spain costs 20,000 British Airways Avios points and ~$272 in taxes, which includes ~$248 of fuel surcharges.
However, Avios is also the points currency for Iberia. If you have an Iberia account that is at least 90 days old, you can transfer Avios points at a 1:1 ratio from your British Airways Avios account to your Iberia Avios account. So it’s a good idea to open an Iberia frequent flyer account to take advantage of this in the future.
That’s because Iberia charges only 40 euros (~$54) in fuel surcharges on their own flights. While British Airways charges ~$248 for the same flight. That’s a difference of ~$200 per 1-way ticket (~$248 in fuel surcharges charged by British Airways – ~$54 in fuel surcharges charged by Iberia)!
8. Japan Airlines (JAL)
You’ll pay higher fuel surcharges on Japan Airlines than Cathay Pacific. For example, you’ll pay ~$262 in fuel surcharges for a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan, and ~$68 from Tokyo, Japan, to Hong Kong (~$38 more than Cathay Pacific’s ~$30 fuel surcharge for the same route).
However, Japan Airlines does NOT charge fuel surcharges on intra-Japan flights. So a domestic Japan flight, like Tokyo to Osaka, costs only 4,500 British Airways Avios points + ~$2 (cheaper taxes than a domestic US flight!).
LAN does NOT charge fuel surcharges on their award tickets, which makes them a great option for flights to and within South America.
LAN is the only airline that flies to Easter Island. They fly to Easter Island a few months of the year from Santiago, Chile, and Tahiti, as well as from Lima, Peru. A 1-way coach ticket from Santiago, Chile, to Easter Island is only 12,500 British Airways Avios points, or 25,000 British Airways Avios points for a Business Class ticket, with minimal taxes!
You would pay 37,500 American Airlines miles to fly 1-way coach to Easter Island because American Airlines considers Peru and Chile in a different region than Easter Island. So having British Airways Avios points really helps!
10. Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines flies to Asia and a few cities in Europe. They do NOT fly to the US.
To book a connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Mumbai, India, or the Maldives, you would pay ~$122 in fuel surcharges for coach or $140 in fuel surcharges for Business Class.
However, shorter routes within Asia have minimal or no fuel surcharges. For example, you would pay NO fuel surcharges for a coach or Business Class award ticket between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Bali, Indonesia!
Qantas flies non-stop from Los Angeles and Dallas to Australia. You can also fly from New York (JFK) via Los Angeles to Australia.
You’ll pay $340 in fuel surcharges for a 1-way coach ticket from the US to Australia using British Airways Avios points.
For example, a 1-way coach award ticket from New York to Sydney, Australia costs 50,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$392, which includes $340 in fuel surcharges.Note: Although the flight from New York to Sydney, Australia stops in Los Angeles, you pay for only 1 flight because the flight number stays the same. This means it costs the same amount of British Airways Avios points to fly from New York to Sydney, Australia, via Los Angeles as it does to fly Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia.
But You do NOT pay the $340 fuel surcharge using American Airlines miles!
And flights within Australia and to nearby destinations, such as New Zealand, also do NOT have fuel surcharges. So you only pay minimal fees using British Airways Avios points or American Airlines miles.Note: The British Airways website does NOT show all Qantas short flights (like Sydney, Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand, flights operated by JetConnect). You have to call British Airways at 800-452-1201 to book these flights.
12. Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is a newer member of the oneworld alliance and is based in the Middle East. They DO add fuel surcharges.
For example, a 1-way coach ticket from New York to Doha, Qatar, costs 35,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$247, which includes $221 in fuel surcharges.
You’ll pay 45,000 American Airline miles and $26 in taxes for the same flight. So you’ll pay 10,000 more miles but save $221 (~$247 in fees using British Airways Avios points – $26 in fees using American Airlines miles).
Qatar also has fuel surcharges on regional flights, such as $88 for a 1-way award ticket between Doha, Qatar, and Mumbai, India.
13. Royal Jordanian
Royal Jordanian adds fuel surcharges on some flights, but they can be different for the same route depending on which direction you fly.
For example, a 1-way flight from New York to Amman, Jordan costs ~$228 in taxes, which includes $199 in fuel surcharges for coach and Business Class.
However, flying from Amman, Jordan, to New York you’ll pay ~$354 in taxes, which includes ~$249 in fuel surcharges in both coach and Business Class.
If you are going to connect elsewhere in the region, certain routes have fuel surcharges as well. For example, Amman, Jordan, to Mumbai, India, includes ~$150 in fuel surcharges.
However, Royal Jordanian fuel surcharges are not necessarily cummulative. For example, if you booked New York to Amman, Jordan, and Amman, Jordan, to Mumbai, India, separately, you would pay $350 in fuel surcharges.
But if you book New York to Mumbai, India, via Amman, Jordan, you pay only ~$220 in fuel surcharges.
You’ll pay fuel surcharges on flights to Mumbai, India. But flights from Mumbai, India (and Delhi, India) do NOT have fuel surcharges.
So you’ll pay 42,500 British Airways Avios points plus $70 in taxes to fly coach from Mumbai or Delhi to New York on Royal Jordanian. And it costs 85,000 British Airways Avios points plus $70 in taxes to fly Business Class, which is the same amount of tax as American Airlines. Flying coach class, you’ll pay fewer British Airways Avios points than American Airlines miles.
This makes British Airways Avios points a decent option if you are returning from India to the US, and Royal Jordanian award seats are available.
14. S7 Airlines
S7 Airlines is based in Moscow, Russia. While their routes are limited, they do NOT add fuel surcharges to British Airways Avios points award tickets. This means you pay the normal amount of taxes for award tickets.
Usually you pay less than $10 in taxes for flights within Russia. For example, a 1-way flight from Moscow, Russia, to Sochi, Russia, costs 7,500 British Airways Avios points + ~$9.
Although, you can also book S7 Airlines with American Airlines miles, American Airlines does not allow award tickets to Siberia/Eastern Russia.
Destinations in Eastern Russia (east of the Ural Mountains) include Barnaul, Bratsk, Chita, Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Kurgan, Nizhnevartovsk, Novokuznetsk, Novy Urengoy, Nadym, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Surgut, Tomsk, Ulan-ude, Blagoveshchensk, Magadan, Khabarovsk, Norilsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Vladivostok, Yakutsk
But you CAN book flights to these destinations with British Airways Avios points for minimal extra cost. Moscow, Russia, to Novosibirsk, Russia, can NOT be booked with American Airlines miles, but you can use 10,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$9.
15. SriLankan Airlines
SriLankan Airlines is a newer member of the oneworld alliance and is based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. One of the best uses of SriLankan Airlines miles is for flights to the Maldives.
If you use British Airways Avios points on SriLankan Airlines, you pay minimal fuel surcharges, usually ~$5 to ~$6 per flight.
For example, you can book a coach award flight from the Maldives to Colombo, for 4,500 British Airways Avios points plus $30.
Of the $30 in taxes, only $5 is fuel surcharges. Wouldn’t it be nice if all fuel surcharges were this low?
TAM, headquartered in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the newest member of the oneworld alliance. They fly to many cities throughout South America, a few destinations in Europe, and fly non-stop between Brazil and New York, Orlando, and Miami.
TAM does NOT add fuel surcharges to British Airways Avios points award bookings. For example, a 1-way coach award ticket between Miami and Sao Paulo, Brazil, costs 25,000 British Airways Avios points plus $5.
17. Aer Lingus
You’ll pay fuel surcharges on Aer Lingus, although they are less than British Airways. Aer Lingus flies from Boston to Dublin, which is under 3,000 miles distance. So you’d pay 25,000 British Airways Avios points to fly round-trip in coach or 50,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip in Business Class, plus ~$125 in taxes and fees total. That’s not bad!
18. Alaska Airlines
You do NOT pay fuel surcharges on Alaska Airlines. Despite its name, Alaska Airlines flies to many cities from the West Coast to Hawaii and Mexico. Their taxes and fees are comparable to American Airlines’ taxes and fees for domestic awards tickets.
You’ll pay high taxes and fuel surcharges on some British Airways Avios points award ticket redemptions, but not all.
Using British Airways Avios points for British Airways flights is usually very expensive, except on some intra-European flights (but you’ll still pay some fees).
The best way to avoid fees using British Airways Avios points is by redeeming them for flights on partner airlines that do NOT charge fuel surcharges. American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines are all good options for US flights. And some international partners have minimal or no fuel surcharges as well.
Next we’ll look at other ways you can redeem British Airways Avios points!
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