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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.

British-Airways-A380

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.

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.

BA-Avios-JFK-DUS-Business-Class

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.

Aer-Lingus-Avios-BOS-DUB-13000

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.

BA-Avios-LHR-DUS-Economy-Class

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.

LAX-HNL-12500-Avios

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.

BA-Avios-YVR-SCL-Economy-Class

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.

Qantas-Avios-BNE-SYD-Economy-Class

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.

JAL-Avios-HND-CTS-Economy-Class

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 up to 120,000 bonus Avios!

With 100K+ Avios at your disposal, you could go almost anywhere in the world (hopefully without paying ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’).

Final Thoughts

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.

Avoid Paying High Fuel Surcharges When Booking Flights with Avios
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Comments

  • jason picker says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I thought I scored an awesome BA awards trip, only to get deflated when seeing the fees. This is an awesome alternative.
    Thanks!

  • Bertrand Say says:

    Good to know that there are ways to avoid paying high fuel surcharges.

  • so long as you can keep the charges down it’s worth using your AVIOS

  • When redeeming Avios, the only tine it’s even close to being worth paying BA’s fuel surcharges is when flying a Premium cabin & using the Travel Together Ticket.

  • angelo fonseca says:

    Fantastic. It is certainly a very large economy. Charging the fuel rate is a device to hurt consumers. Thanks for the tip.

  • For Avios transfers between BA and IB accounts, don’t you also need to have at least one qualifying activity in your IB account before you can start transferring miles?
    Maybe I’m wrong, but just wanted to check as I think I heard about this requirement somewhere before.

  • This is a fantastic article! I typically avoid Avios as I’m not interested in paying their ridiculous fuel surcharges. I’ll definitely have to bookmark this!

  • Great information!! I didn’t realize there was a way around this. Thanks so much!

  • Fuel costs go down. Fuel surcharges go up. Fuel costs go up. Fuel surcharges go up. Fuel costs do nothing. Fuel surcharges go up. Pretty standard pattern in my view.

  • There was something about flying to europe from to south america as well to avoid the surchages

  • I just flew from LHR to JFK last week, award flight with AA miles, still over $500 in taxes and fees with BA. I find going out of Dublin is much cheaper than England, and I love Irelands airport with USA customs right at the gate, Best way to go! Love Dublin Airport.

    • There are some very good avios redemptions mentioned in the article that show real value. They make a lot more sense than British Airways flights between US and UK.

  • Thanks. This chart is helpful and I’ll use this to figure out when to use avios vs aadvantage

  • It would be nice if the BA certificate from Chase was good on other airlines. Unfortunately it is only good on BA with their high fuel charges.

  • flying with avios out of london was expensive!

  • Some great tips to have as knowledge when trying to pay minimal taxes onbredemptiin flights. BA are one of the worse for charging out there.

  • miskocina says:

    Great article. I know that many flights departing from Hong Kong are with minimal charges. Other departure cities with very low charges are Kuwait, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. Definitely worth using Avios on those routes!

  • Yeah I was very shocked when I looked on their website and saw the amount I would have to pay to use miles with BA! Good to know that maybe I should really just use them intra Europe, GB, etc. I see the benefit to using their partners but I’m very wary about using one airline to book another. If there is a problem, often you run into issues to be able to rebook.

    How often has anyone had issues booking from one freq flier account with an airline’s partner?

  • This is useful guide for maximizing Avios. Taxes are annoying.

  • Great article….if you can save on the charges then AVIOS becomes pretty valuable points to have

  • Almost doesn’t ever make sense to use Avios on BA. So many partners that you could absolutely avoid high fees. Intra-Europe is one logical use since they have so many destinations. How available are the flights to Hawaii I wonder?

  • Another great use of Avios is short LAM flights in South America at 4500 miles.
    I’ve done 3 or 4 domestic flights with LAM Peru for 4500 miles and 4£ of taxes.

  • Great post, thanks for the breakdown! Avios can be frustrating to use.

  • Basically: avoid using on BA

  • “This region also includes a bunch of BA fifth-freedom flights within the Caribbean which island hop between the likes of Antigua, Tobago, St Kitts, Grenada, and St Lucia.”

    Interested in this option, but don’t understand what you are referencing (?). Which airline, and whre do I search?

  • How ironic and shameful that flights on BA metal represent one of the worst uses of Avios

  • I am surprised you didn’t mention the option of transferring Avios to Iberia’s program, who also has considerably lower surcharges for flights to and ex-MAD.

  • miskocina says:

    Now that (UK) Avios Travel Rewards is being wound down it will be interesting to see if these little workarounds to save taxes and fees will still be possible.

  • William Blankenship says:

    I like using Avios to the Caribe on AA metal, low fees and redemptions from Florida

  • Good insight – never realised the lower QF charges intra-Oz using Avios.
    Top QF redemption SYD-LDH (Lord Howe Island). Often $1500+ because tourist visitors per day coming in are capped. Paradise and all for a handful of Avios!

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