10 things you should know about the British Airways Companion Voucher
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The British Airways Companion Voucher is widely viewed as the most valuable credit card benefit available in the U.K. It can be used to book two passengers on the same British Airways flight and you will only need the Avios required for one person (though you will have to pay the fees, taxes and surcharges for both passengers).
This is valid for anywhere British Airways flies, in any class of service and on any date where there are two Avios redemption seats available.
There are some important rules, as well as some tips you should know in order to maximise your travel.
1. The validity date depends on the type of credit card you have
The only way to earn a Companion Voucher in the U.K. is to meet the following spending requirements on the following credit cards:
- The British Airways American Express Credit Card: spending £20,000 in a membership year; or
- The British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card: spending £10,000 in a membership year.
As well as different spending requirements depending on the card, the validity of the Companion Voucher also depends on the card. All Companion Vouchers earned from The British Airways American Express Credit Card are valid for 12 months, while those earned from The British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card: are valid for 24 months. Therefore the Voucher via the premium card is both easier to earn and lasts longer.
Once you earn the Voucher, the validity will be displayed in your Executive Club account.
2. You must book and travel before the expiration date
This catches out some travellers. You will be aware of the expiration date of your Voucher(s) as it is clearly listed in your Executive Club account. However, be aware that you must book and travel at least the outbound leg before the expiration date of your Voucher. For example, if you earned a Voucher in January that expired the following January and didn’t get around to making the booking until October, you would need to commence travel before the following January.
This is not ideal if you are looking for premium, long-haul seats for two people.
3. You can book one-ways, mixed cabins and open jaws
While there are a lot of conditions with a Companion Voucher, there’s also a good amount of flexibility. If you don’t have enough Avios for a return redemption, you can choose to just book a one-way itinerary, starting in the U.K. If you either don’t have enough Avios for a return redemption in the same cabin or you want to save some Avios, you can book a mixed cabin, for example, Club World in one direction and World Traveller Plus in the other.
You can also book an open-jaw return redemption, where you fly into one city and out of another. The only rule of this is that the distance between the two destination cities must be shorter than either flight you are booking with the Companion Voucher.
Let me explain how this works in practice. Say you want to use your Companion Voucher to fly to Miami (MIA). Either there’s no availability flying out of Miami back to the U.K., or you would prefer to fly out of Orlando (MCO) because you want to visit the theme parks. You can book a LHR–MIA and then MCO-LGW open jaw because the distance between Miami and Orlando is not longer than either flight to or from Florida.
You won’t be able to book this online using your Voucher like you would for a normal return redemption, but BA can book this for you over the phone.
4. You can only use it for British Airways-operated flights
As much as you might love to use a Voucher for BA’s partner airlines, such as flying Qatar Airways’ amazing Qsuite business class, you can only use it for flights operated by British Airways. Even if you can find a codeshare flight operated by a partner airline with a BA flight number, you can’t use your Companion Voucher unless the flight is operated by British Airways.
5. You can only earn one Voucher per year
Regardless of which American Express card you have, each card can only earn one Companion Voucher per cardholder per cardmembership year. Even if you spend five times the required spend to trigger the Voucher, you’ll only earn one Voucher.
You could, however, have two Vouchers in your Executive Club at once if you earned one towards the end of a credit card membership year and the other at the start of the next membership year. You could use both for the same trip for a family of four provided they were both still valid when you commenced travel.
6. You have to start in the UK, however…
You can use the Voucher to book a return redemption from anywhere in the U.K. to anywhere BA flies, subject to availability. This can be frustrating as redemptions in premium cabins starting in the U.K. will attract the expensive and frustrating U.K. APD tax, which can add hundreds of pounds to the cost of your redemption.
A lesser-known trick is if you start your journey in Jersey (JER) or Inverness (INV), it’s still valid as it’s still in the U.K., but the APD Tax is not applicable.
7. Some routes easier than others
There’s no blanket rule, however, some routes are far easier to find availability for using a Companion Voucher than others, especially in Club World and First. This can be because there are more frequencies on some routes (like New York) so there are plenty of seats each day, or because it’s less popular than nearby cities (for example, Abu Dhabi or Bahrain versus Dubai).
8. You’ll still need to pay the fees, taxes and surcharges for both passengers
A Companion Voucher allows you to book two passengers on the same flight for the Avios needed for only one person. In that sense, it is a 2-4-1 Voucher. However, you will need to pay the full fees, taxes and surcharges for both passengers. On a short-haul return Euro Traveller Reward Flight Saver redemption, that would be as low as £70 for two passengers.
However, if you are looking at a long-haul redemption in a premium cabin you can expect a big cash payment required — for first class to New York, for example — it can be as much as £1,500 for two passengers in fees, taxes and surcharges. Still, it’s way cheaper than paying for a cash ticket, but the second passenger is certainly not free!
9. It rarely makes sense to use it for a long-haul economy redemption
Because of the fees, taxes and surcharges, it won’t usually be a great deal to use a Companion Voucher on a long-haul economy redemption. Using the New York example, on an off-peak date, you could book two people return in World Traveller using a Companion Voucher for 26,000 Avios + £230 + £230 (being the fees, taxes and surcharges for both people).
The problem with this value proposition is that while you’re not paying any Avios for the second traveller, you’re still paying £230 in fees, taxes and surcharges for each person — £460 total. We regularly see economy sale fares to New York for £250 and less, meaning you’re paying almost as much as a cash ticket just in fees, taxes and surcharges for your ‘free’ seat. In this instance, you would be better to both buy a cheap cash fare and save the Avios and the Companion Voucher for a more valuable use.
10. It can be the most valuable travel benefit provided with any U.K. credit card
So, with plenty of rules and warnings, what’s the big deal about this thing? We love it because you can get so much value out of it provided you can use it properly. Yes, you may be shocked at having to pay £700 in fees, taxes and surcharges for second passenger for a first-class, long-haul return flight, but a cash fare on that same flight could easily cost £3,000, saving you over £2,000 by using the Voucher instead.
While there are all sorts of travel benefits offered with different U.K. credit cards, from travel insurance to lounge passes, it’s unlikely you’ll get £2,000 or more in value from any other credit card benefit.
- How to best maximise a British Airways Companion Voucher with 50,000 Avios
- How to best maximise a British Airways Companion Voucher with 100,000 Avios
- How to best maximise a British Airways Companion Voucher with 150,000 Avios
- How to best maximise a British Airways Companion Voucher with 200,000 Avios
We are big fans of the British Airways Companion Voucher because we know just how much value you can obtain from it. Do your homework, remember the rules and the benefits, work out when and how it is most advantageous to use it and maximise your travel.
Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.
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