British Airways offers reasonably good award availability, and it’s no secret why. You don’t just pay miles for awards on their flights, you pay a huge cash co-pay.
These used to be called fuel surcharges, a practice of add-on charges to award tickets that a former American Airlines pricing executive called unethical,
“We made a firm decision not to go there,” he says. “It is a mechanism that the European carriers devised to charge cash on ‘free tickets,’ ”
British Airways settled a class action (you may be entitled to compensation!) over claiming that these charges had something to do with the price of fuel, when they didn’t. Now BA just calls them ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’ which just means ‘a fee they charge’ rather than claiming that fee has anything to do with anything other than that they can.
BA has recently raised their surcharges, and now also charges more for first class than for business class. Roundtrip transatlantic first class fuel surcharges can run $1506. And that’s on top of draconian taxes imposed by the UK government.
There are several ways to reduce those surcharges, For instance you pay more on a roundtrip originating in the U.S. than on one originating in Europe. In fact, you pay lower surcharges just by booking two one way tickets instead of a roundtrip because fuel surcharges from Europe to the U.S. on a one way are lower than from the US to Europe.
- You can book British Airways awards on the Iberia website (using Iberia Avios) and pay just the economy fuel surcharges as long as there is an economy segment on your itinerary.
- You can transfer British Airways points to Iberia and vice versa, you just need both accounts open 90 days and to have had activity in each.
- American Express and Chase points transfer to both British Airways and Iberia. Many people have 90,000 Iberia Avios from the ‘deal of the year’ over the summer.
So if you are connecting through London instead of terminating there, book your intra-European segment in coach and you’re going to save big, as much as $500 in each direction.
And as long as you’re not checking bags this even makes a throwaway ticket make sense from the U.S. to Europe, for instance booking British Airways to London and then adding a segment you do not intend to fly. That’s against ticketing rules though the New York Times ethicist endorses it. Here’s what you need to know before trying it.