AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. Terms Apply to the offers listed on this page. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.
One of the worst feelings when booking award travel is finding out that you'll need to pay thousands in “carrier-imposed surcharges” (also known as fuel surcharges) to book that award you've been dreaming of. Earning miles through flying, it can take years to earn the miles required for a premium cabin award redemption. To then discover that you'll also need to shell out hundreds in cash is a punch to the gut.
Ask any frequent flyer and they'll tell you that there are few worse offenders when it comes to outrageous fuel surcharges than British Airways. When redeeming Avios through the British Airways Executive Club frequent flyer program, it is quite common to come across fuel surcharges of up to $1,000 each way.
Luckily, there are some ways to avoid these costly carrier-imposed fees and surcharges. Let's take a look at some of the best ways to avoid carrier-imposed surcharges when redeeming Avios.
- Just How Bad Are British Airways Fuel Surcharges?
- How to Avoid British Airways Fuel Surcharges When Redeeming Avios
- Use the Statement Credits on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- Redeem Avios for Transatlantic Flights
- Redeeming Avios for Transatlantic Awards on Aer Lingus
- Redeeming Avios for Transatlantic Awards on Iberia
- Redeeming Avios for Transatlantic Awards on American
- Redeem Avios on BA Flights Within Europe for a Flat Fee
- Redeem Avios Within the Americas (Including Hawaii)
- Book Qantas Awards with Avios in Australia with No Surcharge
- Book Domestic Awards Within Japan on JAL
- Depart from a Fuel-Surcharge-Free Destination
- Getting to London Without Paying British Airways Surcharges
- Don't Have Enough Avios to Redeem Your Award?
- Final Thoughts
Just How Bad Are British Airways Fuel Surcharges?
The flag carrier of the United Kingdom, British Airways has become notorious for the airline's outrageous carrier-imposed surcharges for award travel on transatlantic routes. While British Airways reduced fuel surcharges on some partners, it increased fuel surcharges on its own routes. Now, you may have to pay almost $2,000 out-of-pocket on a round-trip business class award:
There are a few solutions. As a founding partner of Oneworld Alliance, British Airways partners with a number of airlines that don't add these atrocious charges. When redeeming with these partner airlines, award tickets come with significantly lower surcharges. Or, in some cases, British Airways partners charge no surcharges whatsoever.
How to Avoid British Airways Fuel Surcharges When Redeeming Avios
Here are some of the top ways to avoid paying British Airways fuel surcharges out-of-pocket:
Use the Statement Credits on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card
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 flights operated by British Airways. This is one of the card's best benefits with this statement credit significantly reducing the out-of-pocket expenses that come with the card year-on-year.
In addition to offering cardholders up to $600 in statement credits each year, the British Airways Visa Card also comes with a solid welcome bonus and additional benefits.
New cardholders can Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Redeem Avios for Transatlantic Flights
Transatlantic award travel booked through British Airways comes with the highest fuel surcharges. Flying in business class on flights operated by British Airways will typically set you back $900+ each way in carrier-imposed fees and surcharges.
While less expensive than paying for a business or first class ticket with cash, these surcharges put a dent in the value of your Avios. Luckily, members can redeem their Avios for award travel on flights operated by Iberia and Aer Lingus.
Redeeming Avios for Transatlantic Awards on Aer Lingus
Avios awards booked on flights operated by Aer Lingus incur significantly less in carrier-imposed surcharges compared to flights operated by British Airways.
Booking Avios awards through Aer Lingus is a simple way to cut back on carrier-imposed fees. Keep in mind that you won't be using the British Airways Executive Club booking portal when redeeming Avios for flights operated by Aer Lingus.
For more information on how to book Aer Lingus flights with Avios, check out AwardWallet's detailed overview of this route in our post on how to search and book Avios awards.
Redeeming Avios for Transatlantic Awards on Iberia
Booking Avios award travel on Iberia requires a bit more forethought and planning. Iberia is one of five airlines that operates its own frequent flyer program while still utilizing Avios. You can transfer Avios between each program at a 1:1 ratio — but with a couple of small caveats.
The first caveat is that your Iberia Plus frequent flyer account must have been open for at least three months to transfer Avios between accounts. Also, you need to have some form of activity in your Iberia account. One easy way to get past this restriction is by transferring some American Express Membership Rewards points to your Iberia Plus account.
Iberia operates nonstop flights between Madrid (MAD) and a number of major U.S. cities including New York, Miami, and Chicago, among others. Surcharges for business class on Iberia are typically less than a third of what you’ll need to cough up to fly business on British Airways metal.
Here are some sample Avios awards from the United States to Europe operated by Iberia:
|Departure City||Arrival City (w/ connecting city)||Class of Service||Avios Needed||Carrier-Imposed Fees and Surcharges|
|New York City (JFK)||Madrid (MAD) (via Barcelona)||Leg 1: Economy|
Leg 2: Business
|New York City (JFK)||Madrid (MAD)||Leg 1: Business||34,000||$108.70|
|Miami (MIA)||Madrid (MAD)||Leg 1: Economy||27,750||$89.00|
|New York City (JFK)||Rome (FCO) (via Madrid)||Leg 1: Business|
Leg 2: Business
|Chicago (ORD)||Frankfurt (FRA) (via Madrid)||Leg 1: Economy|
Leg 2: Economy
Redeeming Avios for Transatlantic Awards on American
Flying American Airlines is also an option here. However, British Airways impose additional charges on American flights to Europe that are not found when flying AA to other parts of the world.
Finding transatlantic awards operated by American Airlines through the British Airways Executive Club booking portal can also be somewhat of a challenge. This means that to book American Airlines Avios awards for flights to Europe, you will likely need to call British Airways at some point in the booking process.
Alternatively, you can book American Airlines awards via the Iberia Plus booking tool. However, many flights to Europe, especially those to the UK will still incur high surcharges and fees.
The key to avoid high carrier-imposed fees and fuel surcharges when booking American Airlines flights with Avios is the connecting airport in your itinerary. Nonstop flights and flights connecting in the United Kingdom have high surcharges. However, connecting in Spain (either in Madrid or Barcelona) will significantly reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Redeem Avios on BA Flights Within Europe for a Flat Fee
Instead of incurring variable carrier-imposed fees and surcharges like on transatlantic Avios redemptions, intra-European Avios award flights incur a flat fee. This is quite similar to what you'll find on domestic award redemptions in the United States (see the $5.60 September 11 Security Fee). Intra-European Avios award travel will incur a flat £25.07 fee. This is roughly $28.50 USD.
On flights operated by British Airways, you also have the ability to choose just how much you want to pay in cash and Avios. For example, an economy award from London (LHR) to Paris (CDG) is available for 9,250 Avios and $1 USD. However, that same flight is also available at the following rates:
- 8,500 Avios + $11 USD
- 7,250 Avios + $16 USD
- 4,750 Avios + $31 USD — generally the best balance of Avios and cash
- 3,700 Avios + $51 USD
- 2,950 Avios + $71 USD
Utilizing your Avios for flights throughout Europe operated by British Airways can be a great way to reposition for another flight or to explore the continent. Additionally, intra-European Avios awards are quite cheap with plenty of availability.
Redeem Avios Within the Americas (Including Hawaii)
Flights within the Americas (including Hawaii) can also offer great value for very little out-of-pocket cost.
This includes flying to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Plus one of our favorite redemptions: 13,000 Avios one way to Hawaii from the West Coast. Surcharge-free flights in the Americas include travel on British Airways partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
You’ll pay just 13,000 Avios + $5.60 to fly on American Airlines from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) — an absolute steal. You can also redeem Avios on this route for flights operated by Alaska Airlines.
Another example is flying from Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW) to Santiago, Chile (SCL) on American Airlines for 25,750 Avios and just $5.60 in fees and charges.
You can search and book awards for flights operated by American Airlines and Alaska Airlines through the British Airways Executive Club website. If you can't find a flight but see award availability via one an Avios partner's websites, you can still call British Airways to check to see if that flight can be booked with Avios.
Book Qantas Awards with Avios in Australia with No Surcharge
Australia is one of the more expensive destinations to reach. Even domestic travel within Australia can be quite costly. However, domestic travel on Qantas when booked using Avios is a cheap and effective method of getting around the country.
Qantas is the largest domestic carrier in Australia. Using Avios can open up fantastic domestic award rates, much better than the rates you’ll get redeeming Qantas points for the same flights. All you’ll pay is government taxes and fees.
Redeeming Avios for an economy award from Sydney (SYD) to Melbourne (MEL) will set you back just 6,000 miles and just over $26 in taxes and fees. There is also plenty of Avios award availability in both economy and business at the moment.
Book Domestic Awards Within Japan on JAL
Similar to domestic travel within Australia, booking domestic awards within Japan on JAL delivers solid value at just 7,500 Avios required for flights between Tokyo (HND) and Osaka (ITM). Award travel within Japan comes with fees and taxes of less than $5 one-way.
Domestic flights in Japan are typically not cheap. However, since Japan is such a small country, Avios’ distance-based award chart makes traveling throughout the country quite affordable.
You can travel in all classes of service offered by JAL on its robust domestic network. This includes J-Class (business class) and First Class. As of writing, there is plenty of Avios award availability in both economy and business class.
Depart from a Fuel-Surcharge-Free Destination
A few countries have prohibited or significantly limited an airline's ability to impose fuel surcharges. These limitations on fuel surcharges also apply to award travel. However, these limitations only apply to flights departing these destinations. Flights to these destinations will still incur any applicable carrier-imposed fees and surcharges.
As of writing, the following countries have restrictions or bans on carrier-imposed surcharges:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
If you redeem Avios for a flight departing from one of the countries listed above, you'll be able to avoid costly fees and fuel surcharges. Here are a few examples of award flights you can book with Avios from these destinations:
Qantas Business Class from Sydney (SYD) to Los Angeles (LAX) for 154,500 Avios and $108.48:
Cathay Pacific Business Class from Hong Kong (HKG) to San Francisco (SFO) for 108,250 Avios and $252.88:
Getting to London Without Paying British Airways Surcharges
You might have noticed that none of these alternatives will provide a clear solution to redeeming Avios for flights between the United States and the United Kingdom. So, what if you want to redeem Avios for a flight from New York City to London but also don't want to pay ridiculous carrier-imposed fees and surcharges?
There isn't a super straightforward way to do this. However, here's an example of one way to book flights between the U.S. and the U.K. using Avios without incurring pricey carrier-imposed surcharges.
Step 1: Redeem Avios for a flight from the United States to a Non-UK Destination
To book a flight from the United States to Europe without incurring high carrier-imposed fees and surcharges, first find an award flight to any destination outside of the United Kingdom to which British Airways operates flights.
This can be an Iberia flight to Spain, a Finnair flight to Helsinki, or an American Airlines flight to anywhere on the continent. The key is that this flight cannot be operated by British Airways or fly through London.
- Chicago (ORD) to Madrid (MAD) in Business Class operated by Iberia
- Total Avios required: 34,000, Fees & Surcharges: $124.60
Once you've found a flight from the U.S. to a gateway in Europe, you can move on to step two.
Step 2: Redeem Avios for a flight from Europe to the United Kingdom
Next, find a flight from your arrival city in step one to your desired destination in the United Kingdom.
- Madrid (MAD) to London (LHR) in business class booked through Iberia
- Total Avios required: 12,750, Fees & Surcharges: $18.38
Once you've found availability for both flights, book both award flights. Keep in mind that this workaround results in you having two separate itineraries. If something goes wrong on the first itinerary (from the US to Europe), you may incur change fees or end up forfeiting your second itinerary. So, we recommend visiting your first destination for a couple of days before continuing to London.
Calculating Your Savings
All said and done, the cash total of these two itineraries combined is just $142.98 one-way. The total number of Avios required is just 46,750. And that's for business class the entire length of the journey. You can save by booking the intra-Europe flight in economy.
To compare, let's see what this itinerary would cost if we redeemed Avios for a flight operated by British Airways around the same dates:
- Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR) in Business Class operated by British Airways
- Total Avios required: 50,000, Fees & Surcharges: $879.80
There are a few other ways to avoid fuel surcharges when redeeming Avios for flights between the U.S. and the U.K. Each workaround involves following the same formula: First, book a flight to Europe on one of British Airways' partner airlines via their respective booking portals. Then, book a flight from your point of entry to the United Kingdom.
Here is a breakdown of the Avios partners through which you can book flights between the U.S. and Europe and avoid British Airways-level fuel surcharges:
- Iberia – Iberia Plus
- Aer Lingus – AerClub
And here are the programs that allow you to book intra-European Avios award travel:
- British Airways – British Airways Executive Club
- Iberia – Iberia Plus
- Aer Lingus – AerClub
- Vueling – Vueling Club
- Qatar Airways – Privilege Club
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 75,000 bonus Avios!
- Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and LEVEL.
- Earn 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. 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!
- Member FDIC
- 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.
While not always the best way to get the most from your Avios, you can always purchase additional Avios. Be sure to keep an eye out for offers that allow you to buy Avios with a bonus. During promotional periods, purchasing Avios can become a feasible and lucrative way of topping off your account.
Thanks to BA's distance-based award chart, Avios offer fantastic value for short hops in the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Australia, or when flying on British Airways between European countries.
If you take the time to learn which airlines don’t add outrageous 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 related to avoid fuel surcharges or if we’ve missed any airlines or regions, please respond in the comments below.
What's your go-to Avios award redemption to avoid carrier-imposed fees and fuel surcharges?
The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.