How I redeemed my British Airways Companion Vouchers in 2021

Nov 17, 2021

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Planning on how to use my British Airways Companion Voucher that I earn from my British Airways American Express Premium Plus card is often one of the biggest and most important points and miles decisions I make each year.

The reasons for this is two-fold. Firstly, it usually wipes out a huge chunk of my Avios balance when I redeem it, and secondly because it can easily save me thousands of pounds, depending on how I use it.

Using the Companion Vouchers allows me to book two passengers on any return British Airways flight with Avios availability and only be charged the Avios for one person though the fees, taxes and surcharges for both passengers are still payable.

During the pandemic, my strategy for how I use my Companion Voucher changed several times. That’s because ensuring how I can extract the most value from it at a time when restrictions are constantly changing has been hard to do.

This year I have two Companion Vouchers to redeem – a repeatedly extended 2019 Voucher, and a 2021 Voucher earned after the 1 September changes to how the Companion Vouchers work. I didn’t earn a Companion Voucher in 2020 as my travel spending was severely reduced.

Here’s how I recently redeemed both vouchers.

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Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

My 2019 Companion Voucher

I had originally redeemed this Voucher to travel to South East Asia in May 2020 in order to get to Bali for a wedding. BA doesn’t fly to Bali (DPS) so I looked at cities in the region they do fly to and settled on Kuala Lumpur (KUL) both because the route was operated by a newer Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and because of their convenient flight times.

Obviously, the wedding was postponed so I cancelled the booking. I could have accepted a Future Travel Voucher but with a large amount of both Avios and fees and taxes associated with the redemption, I instead chose a full refund. The Voucher expiration date was continually extended to February 2022.

The wedding has been rescheduled to May 2022 so I wanted to again redeem the Voucher for flights to South East Asia. I had a few obstacles to overcome:

  • British Airways no longer flies to Kuala Lumpur (KUL); and
  • My voucher expired before the dates of travel.

You might recall that if your Companion Voucher is held in a Future Travel Voucher, the expiration date of the Companion Voucher is extended to be the same date as the Future Travel Voucher, currently 30 April 2023. This worked perfectly for me so I redeemed the Voucher online, then cancelled it for a Future Travel Voucher, and the date of my Companion Voucher was then extended.

I managed to find two return Club World business class seats to Hong Kong (HKG) for May 2022 when the rescheduled wedding is due to take place at a total cost of 165,000 Avios plus £1,178 in fees, taxes and surcharges.

Related: The whale is back! On board the first post-pandemic British Airways A380 flight

I suspect there will unfortunately still be tough entry restrictions for foreigners to Hong Kong by May so we will look to travel with cabin baggage only and connect onto Bali (DPS) on a separate ticket.

(Photo by Travelstoxphoto/Getty Images)

My 2021 Companion Voucher

I purposely waited until after 1 September 2021 to earn my next Companion Voucher as I wanted it to benefit from the changes to newly-learned Companion Vouchers announced earlier this year. I ran some searches on the increased award availability just after I earned it and was impressed with the amount of Club Word/Club Suite business class availability I could see.

Related: How much better is British Airways business-class availability using a new Companion Voucher?

I had originally considered using the voucher to fly to the Caribbean for my birthday in January but I am still hoping to be able to visit Australia (as an Australian citizen) for Christmas this year so won’t have enough leave accrued by January if I take off several weeks during the holiday period.

Instead, my partner’s sister lives in Canada so he was keen to visit her in early May. She is currently just outside Montreal, and having never been to Quebec I jumped at the chance. British Airways only flies to Montreal (YUL) five times weekly next summer, but I still managed to easily find two business class seats on the direct service with my Companion Voucher.

For the return leg, Montreal to London is one of the shortest transatlantic flights, scheduled for just 6 hours 35 minutes though in my experience most flights from the U.S. East Coast to the U.K. enjoy good tailwinds that make the flights even shorter, often under six hours.

Even in business class, they are too short for a decent nights sleep. The solution to this problem in the past has been to take a day flight to London as you can stay awake for the flight and it tends to make the jetlag much easier. There are no day-time flights on British Airways from Canada to London, so instead, I decided to book an open-jaw redemption flying out of New York (JFK) which does have a morning departure in amongst the numerous evening departures.

I was again able to find two seats in business class easily, though note that New York is one of the easiest routes to find Club World/Club Suite availability on, whether you have a new or old Companion Voucher due to the high frequencies operated on this route. All flights from New York are now operated by Club Suite equipped aircraft so I’m looking forward to a very comfortable albeit quick journey home.

Related: Suite refresh: A review of British Airways’ Club Suite on the refurbished 777, New York to London

To book an open-jaw Companion Voucher redemption I had to call British Airways. I had expected long wait times due to both the United States reopening (with people rushing to redeem all those Future Travel Vouchers) as well as the impending days of the Executive Club being offline for scheduled maintenance. As an Executive Club Silver member, I managed to get through after 50 minutes on hold.

I booked this at a cost of 100,000 Avios plus £1,197 in fees, taxes and surcharges total for two people, return in business class.

Photo by Steven_Kriemadis/Getty Images

Bottom line

My British Airways Executive Club account now has a very small Avios balance after redeeming a whopping 265,000 Avios in a month. I wouldn’t normally have such a large Avios balance if it were not for the pandemic and numerous cancelled redemptions.

Using my Companion Voucher remains the largest points and miles redemption I make each year and this year it was even more important as I had two Companion Vouchers to redeem. It was painful paying almost £2,400 in fees, taxes and surcharges total for two journeys but I’m still saving thousands of pounds compared with the cash cost of these flights and I know my partner and I will both enjoy comfortable journeys to both Hong Kong and Canada.

Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy

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