British Airways expands long-haul Reward Flight Saver trial, but don’t expect to get good value

Sep 8, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

British Airways has expanded its long-haul Reward Flight Saver redemption options. In April, the carrier announced that it was trialling the famed Reward Flight Savers on its route between London and New York, however, that trial has now expanded to include additional destinations. As reported by Head for Points and confirmed to TPG by BA, the trial has been expanded to around 30 long-haul destinations.

The move gives Executive Club members the option of paying more Avios in exchange for reducing the total amount of fees, charges and taxes required, as with the popular short-haul Reward Flight Saver redemptions, available to European destinations. While it may seem like a good option on the service to pay less cash in taxes and fees, ultimately, you won’t be getting great value for your Avios.

As an example, on a return London to New York World Traveller off-peak redemption you would usually be offered the following payment options:

  • 26,000 Avios + £ 200.66
  • 20,800 Avios + £ 250.66
  • 16,900 Avios + £ 280.66
  • 13,000 Avios + £ 300.66
  • 10,400 Avios + £ 320.66
  • 9,100 Avios + £ 330.66

Whereas if you now search for a Heathrow to New York JFK return off-peak redemption, as a Reward Flight Saver long-haul destination, you will be presented with the following payment options:

  • 50,000 Avios + £ 100
  • 38,000 Avios + £ 170
  • 26,000 Avios + £ 230
  • 19,500 Avios + £ 280
  • 13,000 Avios + £ 330
  • 9,100 Avios + £ 360

As you can see, the new payment options are marginally more expensive in fees and taxes for the same number of Avios amounts, but you can reduce the cash amount of fees and taxes by paying more Avios, up to 50,000 Avios with fees and taxes of only £100.

It’s worth noting that TPG U.K. values Avios at 1.1p each, so 50,000 Avios + £100 in fees and taxes is worth £650. Historically, London to New York is one of the busiest and most competitive international routes in the world, with six different airlines offering dozens of total flights on a normal day. This means in economy, cash fares are usually very good value — it’s normal to see off-peak sale fares for less than £300 return with British Airways and other full-service carriers.

Image from Google Flights

Related: Watch as TPG U.K. reviews 5 different airlines on day flights from New York to London

Note that these sale fares may be hand luggage only and have restrictive change fees, whereas Avios redemptions come with one checked bag and can be changed or cancelled until 24 hours before departure.

Similarly, we’re seeing the Reward Flight Saver option, which is identifiable by its blue ticket icon, on several other long-haul routes. For example, BA.com is showing RFS availability on the popular route between London (LHR) and Sydney (SYD) via a stop in Singapore (SIN).

Historically, a return journey from LHR to SYD costs 65,000 Avios return in economy. Now, however, on flights with RFS availability, you have more options. You can select from the “More pricing options” tab, which displays fares for as much as £973.79 in taxes or as little as £523.79 in taxes for a varying amount of Avios.

In the same way as the New York example, you generally won’t get the best value for your Avios. Based on TPG U.K.’s valuation of Avios, the best-value RFS option is the highest fee option — 25,000 Avios + £973.79 — where the total cost of the trip is worth £1,248.79. But you can get flights on the same dates in BA’s basic economy for £562.17 return.

We are big fans of Reward Flight Savers here at TPG U.K., however, for long-haul destinations, you’re unlikely to obtain the sort of amazing value you would with a short-haul Reward Flight Savers to Europe. It’s always great to give travellers more choice, and if you are looking at last-minute, expensive cash fares especially one-way over the summer to popular destinations, this could make sense. Unfortunately, for most travellers, using more Avios to pay less in fees and taxes is a bad idea — check cash fares instead.

Featured photo by @robertmello2au via Twenty20.

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