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Of all the frustrations felt by rewards travelers, few present more of a headache than carrier-imposed surcharges, better known as fuel surcharges. It can take years to amass the required miles for a premium cabin redemption. To then be told it will cost an additional $1,000+ in fees and carrier-imposed surcharges can be a deflating experience, particularly when fuel prices are the lowest they have been in years.
One of the worst offenders for imposing surcharges is British Airways. The national flag carrier of the UK is renown for adding high surcharges on transatlantic routes, with a round-trip to Europe in business often copping a hefty $1,200 or more in fees and charges. In fact, the fuel surcharges often cost as much, or more, than a transatlantic fare would set you back in economy, making rewards travel with Avios feel a lot less, well … rewarding.
There is, however, a solution. As a founding partner of oneworld® alliance, BA has a number of partners that don't add these atrocious charges, providing options when booking with Avios with either no surcharges, or the additional charges are small enough they don't pose an issue. So, settle in, and let us lift the lid on how to avoid fuel surcharges when booking flights with Avios.
How to Avoid Carrier-Imposed Surcharges When Redeeming Avios
Rather than break the list up by carrier, we decided it was more practical to break it up into regions and specific routes, listing the airlines available when booking with Avios and a few details on how to use your Avios on each of these carriers.
Use the Statement Credits on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Before we get into the best way to avoid surcharges, we'll touch on another easy way of dealing with them via the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. Cardholders can take advantage of up to $600 in statement credits each year to help cover taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. This is one of the best benefits of holding the card over the long term, significantly reducing the out-of-pocket expense to hold the card year-on-year.
Redeem Avios for Transatlantic Flights on Aer Lingus and Iberia.
Transatlantic fares on BA are the pits when it comes to surcharges. Flying BA metal can cost you in excess of $500 each way in carrier-imposed charges, and while that is still only a portion of what a Business/First class seat would cost in cash, it puts a serious dent in the cent per mile value of your Avios.
Flying Aer Lingus will only cost minimal surcharges, setting you back under $100 in total fees and charges for a Transatlantic flight. We provide a more detailed overview of this route in our post on how to search and book Avios awards.
The other option requires a bit more forethought and planning. Iberia is one of the airlines under the BA banner and operates it’s own ‘Avios’ rewards program. You can transfer Avios between the programs fluidly at a 1:1 ratio but with a couple of small caveats; your Iberia Avios account must have been open for three months prior to transferring between accounts and you must have some form of activity in your Iberia account (transferring some Membership Rewards is a great way to do this).
Iberia flies non-stop from Madrid to a number of US hubs. Surcharges for business class on Iberia are typically less than a third of what you’ll need to cough up to fly business on BA.
Flying American Airlines is also an option here, but for reasons known only to BA, they impose additional charges on flights to Europe that are not charged when flying AA to other parts of the world, more on this below.
Redeem Avios on BA Flights Within Europe for a Flat Fee
Rather than surcharges on flights within Europe, if you’re flying intra-Europe on BA with Avios, you’ll be charged a flat fee. In the case of DUS—LHR, you’ll need just 4,000 Avios and roughly $30 in fees. Utilizing Avios for short hops like this can be a cheap way of repositioning for a flight or getting to an event.
Redeem Avios Within the Americas and to Hawaii with Low Fees & Charges
If you recently picked up the British Airways Visa Signature® Card and you're on the way to earning its associated bonus, flights within the Americas and out to Hawaii offer great value. This includes flying to Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean, Central and South America, and one of our favorite redemptions, 12,500 Avios one way to Hawaii from the West Coast on AA or Alaska. Surcharge-free flights in the Americas include travel on BA partners AA, Alaska, and LATAM.
You’ll pay just 12,500 Avios + $5 to fly on American LAX—HNL, which is an absolute steal. Another example is flying from Vancouver (YVR) to Santiago (SCL) through Dallas (DFW) on AA which costs 35,000 Avios and a touch over $50 in fees and charges.
You can search and book awards for AA and Latam on the BA website, but for Alaska, you’ll need to search availability at AA.com and then call the British Airways Executive Club reservations line on 1-800-452-1201.
The Caribbean also includes a bunch of BA fifth-freedom flights which island hop between the likes of Antigua, Tobago, St Kitts, Grenada, and St Lucia.
Book Qantas Awards with Avios in Australia with No Surcharge
While Australia is one of the more expensive destinations to travel to, domestic travel on Qantas with Avios is a cheap and effective method of getting around the country. Qantas is the largest domestic carrier in Australia, and using Avios can open up fantastic domestic award rates, much better than the rates you’ll get redeeming Qantas points for the same flights, and you’ll only pay government taxes and fees.
Redeeming Avios flying economy Brisbane (BNE) to Sydney (SYD) will set you back just 4,500 miles and $15, and availability is fantastic in both economy and business.
Book Domestic Awards Within Japan on JAL with No Fees
Similar to Australia, booking JAL domestic awards can deliver solid value at just 4,500 Avios flying Tokyo (HND) to Sapporo (CTS) and less than $5 in fees and taxes. Domestic flights in Japan are typically not cheap, and with Japan being such a small country, Avios’ distance-based award chart really comes into its own here.
Don't Have Enough Avios to Redeem Your Award?
If you don’t have all the Avios you need to redeem an award, it’s worth looking at the latest offer on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card which could land you 50,000 bonus Avios!
- Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
- Plus earn a Travel Together Ticket after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 5 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL within your first 12 months from account opening, thereafter earn 3 Avios.
- Earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel within your first 12 months from account opening, thereafter earn 2 Avios. Plus earn 1 Avios per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- 10% off British Airways flights starting in the US when you book through the website provided in your welcome materials.
- Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
- Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
- Simply tap to pay with your contactless British Airways Visa Signature Card. Just look for the contactless symbol at checkout. It's fast, easy and secure!
- 3X Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL
- 2X Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations
- 1X Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases
The current offer is a great way to jumpstart your points balances for your next big trip (hopefully without paying ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’).
Thanks to BA's distance-based award chart, Avios offer fantastic value for short hops in the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, anywhere within North & South America, or if you’re flying BA metal between countries in Europe.
If you take the time to learn which airlines don’t pass on surcharges when booking with Avios, and which regions those rules apply to, you’ll save yourself hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars over the long run.
As always, if you have any questions or we’ve missed any airlines/regions, please reach out in the comments.
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