Avoid Increased Fuel Surcharges: How to Redeem British Airways Avios Points Without Paying Exorbitant Fees!
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British Airways is a favorite award program of many miles and points enthusiasts, in part because British Airways Avios points are incredibly easy to earn from the best travel credit cards. But they’re also well known for imposing large fuel surcharges on many of their own and partner award flights.
With these large fees, an award flight that should have been almost free can end up costing several hundreds of dollars! And recently, British Airways increased the fuel surcharges on award flights between the US and the UK even more.
But it’s not all bad. There’s still compelling value to be had when you strategically redeem British Airways Avios points. And plenty of award options with minimal or NO fuel surcharges.
I’ll show you best uses of British Airways Avios points without getting slammed with huge fees. And remind you of how easy it is to earn these valuable points!
Awesome Value British Airways Award Flights With No or Low Fuel Surcharges
British Airways Avios points are still be incredibly useful if you know how and when to use them, and for which award flights. Despite increasing fuel surcharges on some routes, there are still a number of great award options for using your Avios points.
1. Short Domestic Award Flights
Luckily, the new increase in fuel surcharges has NOT affected perhaps the best use of your British Airways Avios points – short-haul flights within North America. You’ll pay just 7,500 British Airways Avios points each way for flights 1,151 miles or less in distance.
These flights have very low taxes and fees, and you can fly on British Airways’ partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
The British Airways award search engine does a good job of displaying award seats on these flights, so the booking process is fairly simple. For flights within the US, you’ll only pay ~$6 each way in taxes and fees.
2. British Airways Flights Within Europe NOT Originating in London
Although a bit counterintuitive, you’ll want to avoid flying out of London (British Airways’ hub airport) when using Avios points. That’s because the surcharges are incredibly high, so you’ll almost always do better paying cash.
But for short flights within Europe, British Airways’ distance-based award chart means that award flight prices can be very reasonable. For example, you can book a one-way flight from Oslo TO London (arriving in London is fine – just avoid departing from there!) for only 7,500 British Airways Avios points and ~$24, which is a great value!
3. Award Flights on Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines has a large route network departing from their hub in Kuala Lumpur. Even better, you’ll pay minimal taxes and fees on award flights booked with British Airways Avios points.
For example, this ~5 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Delhi costs only 12,500 Avios points and ~$20. This is another terrific value, so keep Malaysia Airlines in mind when booking award travel in Asia!
4. Award Flights to Sydney on Qantas or American Airlines
If you want to travel Down Under with your British Airways Avios points, you won’t pay hefty fuel surcharges or too much in taxes. But the long distance of these flights mean that you’ll always pay at least 50,000 Avios points (plus ~$28 in this example), so you’ll likely save points with other airline programs.
5. Award Flights to South America on LATAM or American Airlines
Whether you find award seats on LATAM or on American Airlines, using your British Airways Avios points for award flights to South America is one of my favorite booking strategies. Many flights to and within South America are reasonable distances, meaning you can get great value out of British Airways’ distance-based award chart.
For example, these award flight examples would both cost less than ~$50 in taxes and fees and you can earn huge savings!
6. Siberian Flights on oneworld Partner S7 Airlines
While this is probably the least likely booking on this list, you can use your British Airways Avios points to book award flights on partner S7 airlines. And the best part is, the taxes and fees are very low, and the airline has lots of open award seats.
British Airways Partners With Moderate (Tolerable!) Fuel Surcharges
Although booking options with low fees still exist, many award flights booked using British Airways Avios points will be subject to moderate taxes and fees. Although it’s never fun to pay cash on top of miles, you can still get good value and save a ton of money when booking one of these options.
Keep in mind that any flight departing from London or the United Kingdom will be subject to high airport fees, regardless of the additional fuel surcharges required by British Airways. For this reason, almost any flight departing from London will be a mediocre deal at best. So try to depart from elsewhere if at all possible!
1. Continental US to London in Coach on British Airways
Although the surcharges and fees for premium award travel to London from the US went WAY up, coach award flight prices can make sense if you’d otherwise pay hundreds of dollars for a pricey paid flight. For example, this one-way award flight in coach from Los Angeles to London would cost 25,000 Avios points plus ~$200 to book.
That’s not a great value, but it could be a good option for folks with a lot of points or if paid flights are incredibly expensive.
2. Award Flights on Japan Airlines From the US to Tokyo
Similarly, award flights on Japan Airlines from the US to Tokyo have acceptable award costs and fees, all things considered. You’ll still want to look around at paid flight prices, but if you have Avios points to spare and you’re looking to travel to Japan, flying with Japan Airlines is a decent option.
For example, a non-stop award flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo in coach on Japan Airlines would cost 25,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$160. I would obviously prefer to only pay a few dollars in fees, but $160 won’t break the bank compared to the cost of a paid ticket. Plus, you’ll get to look forward to Japan Airlines’ incredible onboard service!
3. Award flights Between Asia and the Continental US on Cathay Pacific
Award flights from the US to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific are slightly cheaper than when flying with Japan Airlines, but not by much. On the other hand, Cathay Pacific offers a similarly enjoyable onboard experience and has a vast route network with destinations all over the globe.
In the example above, you would pay 35,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$112 for the one-way flight in coach from New York to Hong Kong.
4. Transatlantic Award Flights on Finnair, Iberia, and Aer Lingus
Most transatlantic award flights won’t be a great deal when using British Airways Avios points, but Finnair award flights are sometimes an exception. For the below award flight from Helsinki to Chicago on Finnair in coach, you’ll pay just 25,000 Avios points and ~$200.
Additionally, transatlantic award flights on Iberia can provide reasonable value depending on your travel needs. The below example from Madrid to Miami would be a decent redemption for a non-stop flight, but remember you’ll pay additional taxes and fees for each added flight segment!
Additionally, award flights on partner Aer Lingus have reasonable taxes and fees. And if you depart from the East Coast, there’s a terrific sweet spot! You’ll pay fewer British Airways Avios points because the flight distances are shorter.
Team member Jasmin recently spent 26,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$100 per person on round-trip award flights from Toronto to Dublin with her daughter.
5. Award Flights to the Middle East on Qatar Airways or Royal Jordanian
Qatar Airways boasts a diverse route network and great onboard service, but their long flight distances make redeeming British Airways Avios points only a decent value. For example, a coach award flight from Doha to Philadelphia costs 35,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$150. That’s not a terrible deal, but you might be able to find more value elsewhere.
Similarly, award flights on oneworld partner Royal Jordanian can be reasonably priced in Avios points, with ~$200 in taxes and fees to go along with them. I would typically avoid these flights but they might be a good fit for you!
6. Award Flights on SriLankan Airlines
Although you might not find yourself needing to book award flights to or from Sri Lanka, using British Airways Avios points can be a decent value on oneworld partner airline SriLankan Airlines. In addition to the distance-based number of British Airways Avios points you’ll need, award flights typically require $100 to $200 in taxes and fees.
British Airways Award Flights to Avoid Due to Outrageous Fuel Surcharges!
As previously mentioned, you’ll likely want to avoid any flights that depart from London, regardless of which airline operates the flight. That’s because London charges specifically high departure taxes, and British Airways’ fees just increase your cost even more!
The recent increased surcharges and fees was primarily for award flights to and from London from the continental US. This means that (already very expensive!) transatlantic award flights in Business Class or First Class on British Airways have gone up even more in price!
For example, the below award flight on British Airways from New York City to London costs not only 60,000 British Airways Avios points (that’s a lot of points for such a short flight!) but also over $440 in taxes and fees.
And with the increased fuel surcharges, a round-trip award flight from US destinations to London can cost almost $1,500 in taxes and fees on top of the British Airways Avios points you’ll be redeeming. For this reason, award flights to and from London in premium cabins (Business Class or First Class) should be avoided in most circumstances.
How to Earn British Airways Avios Points
You can earn British Airways Avios points directly from the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. It comes with up to 100,000 British Airways Avios points (the highest bonus ever!) after meeting tiered spending requirements. Here’s our review of the Chase British Airways card.
But an even easier way to boost your point balance is by transferring flexible points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, or Marriott to British Airways. So you could convert the big welcome bonuses from cards like the Chase Ink Business Preferred, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, or The Platinum Card® from American Express to British Airways Avios points.
The information for the British Airways Visa card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
British Airways has continued to increase the fuel surcharges they collect on certain award tickets. These changes applied primarily to Business and First Class award flights between the continental US and London.
But the good news is there are still lots of ways to redeem British Airways Avios points for award flights without paying exorbitant taxes and fees. For example, you can still get terrific deals on domestic award flights, flights to or within South America, intra-Europe award flights, and more!
There are lots of ways British Airways Avios points from some of the best travel credit cards. They’re a Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Marriott transfer partner, so you can easily move points from cards like the Chase Ink Business Preferred or The Platinum Card® from American Express if you need to top-off your balance!
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)