TPG reader question: Can I still use my British Airways Companion Voucher to book first-class seats?

May 1, 2022

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Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly column to answer your credit card, points and miles and general travel questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguyuk, message us on Facebook or email us at ben.smithson@thepointsguy.co.uk.


Earlier this week, I wrote about how, right now, I am less interested in earning and redeeming a British Airways companion voucher. I received plenty of emails from readers about this controversial topic.

Related: Why I’m now less interested in earning and redeeming a British Airways Companion Voucher

While it is usually the most important points and miles decision I make each year, and I have had great success saving hundreds of thousands of Avios redeeming it in the past. However, the combination of the recently twice-increased fuel surcharges, new Qatar and Barclays Avios partnerships and the difficulty in changing Companion Voucher bookings right now has me unlikely to redeem a companion voucher anytime soon.

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Another reason is the current lack of first-class award availability flying British Airways and that brings us to this week’s TPG reader question of the week.

From my understanding the new Companion Vouchers issued are only for economy seats? I think your article missed this unless I am mistaken? That’s why I no longer will use the British Airways Amex card.

Simon, TPG reader

American Express announced huge changes to the two British Airways American Express credit cards last year, particularly around the companion vouchers earned from these cards. Any vouchers earned after 1 September 2021 would have slightly different rules than vouchers earned before this date.

To summarise the changes:

  • British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card: The annual fee on the card is increasing from £195 to £250 as of 1 September 2021, however, the companion voucher is getting more valuable. More specifically, you can now use it on flights that don’t begin in the U.K., and British Airways is opening up more award availability.
  • British Airways American Express Card: Also known as “the basic card,” the amount of spend needed to earn the companion voucher is decreasing from £20,000 to £12,000 in a 12-month period and you can use it on flights that don’t begin in the U.K. However, as of 1 September 2021, you can only use the voucher on economy redemptions.

Simon is correct in saying that companion vouchers earned after 1 September 2021 can only be redeemed for economy flights on British Airways however this only applies to the basic card, not the premium card.

Given the significant fees, taxes and surcharges on economy redemptions, it is unlikely you will get great value from a redemption like this and even though the card has no annual fee, it is a poor value product offering.

Note that if Simon had earned his voucher on this card before 1 September 2021, it would still keep the original redemption rules, and could be redeemed for any class of service BA operates (including first) where two Avios seats are available.

If Simon was to earn a companion voucher on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card, before or after 1 September 2021, he could redeem this for first-class, making a new voucher on this card significantly more valuable than new vouchers earned on the British Airways American Express Card.

The problem with first-class redemptions right now is there’s virtually no availability on British Airways, especially for two seats even on high-frequency routes like New York (JFK) where it has traditionally been very easy to redeem a companion voucher for first class.

There is, however, much better availability in business class with BA opening up additional seats for new companion voucher redemptions earned from the Premium Plus card so I would recommend focusing on a business class redemption if you wish to use a companion voucher for a premium cabin.

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