I saved myself £1,500 this week by using Avios to book an otherwise ridiculously expensive short-haul flight in August.
Except there actually wasn’t any Avios availability on the flight that I booked.
Instead, I utilised an often overlooked perk of the British Airways Executive Club (BAEC) called a Gold Priority Reward.
This allows a BA Gold member to book an Avios ticket on any BA flight – irrespective of whether there are Avios seats available – by paying double the amount of miles.
Don’t be deterred if you don’t have BA Gold status either. Gold members can book Gold Priority Rewards flights for anyone through their account. If you have a family member/colleague/friend who has BA Gold status, you can still make good use of this.
Saving huge amounts
If used cleverly, the savings that can be achieved are excellent. Equally, it pays to know when not to use one.
Before I go any further, there are two key points to note:
- Gold Priority Rewards must be booked a minimum of 30 days before the flight.
- You cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher alongside a Gold Priority Reward.
Here’s when you might choose to book a Gold Priority Reward:
1.) Popular destinations/peak travel periods
Santorini is a very popular destination, especially in the summer months. BA operates seasonal direct flights, but they can get very pricey.
Here’s the price for a long weekend in July:
Alternatively, Santorini is ordinarily priced at 17,000 Avios return. So a Gold Priority Reward booking would cost 34,000 Avios.
That would give you a value of 1.95p per Avios, which is pretty good indeed.
2.) School/bank holidays
Those who haven’t managed to fit in some skiing over Christmas and New Year often choose to get their fix over the February half-term period.
Bear in mind that I am searching 9 months in advance and prices are only likely to rise!
Here is the price for flights from London to Geneva:
And here is Salzburg which is even more expensive:
Alternatively, both Salzburg and Geneva are priced at 9,000 Avios return during peak times. If you were to make a Gold Priority Reward booking it would cost 18,000 Avios per person.
Even factoring in the double Avios cost, you would still be getting between 2.4 and 3p of value per Avios – that’s excellent!
3.) Christmas/New Year
South Africa is typically quite an expensive destination to get to direct from the UK. This is especially true for Cape Town where BA has the liberty to pretty much name their price thanks to their monopoly on that market.
Travel over the Christmas period, for example, is pricey to say the least.
Here are the fares for an Economy return – per person:
Here’s where the value of the Gold Priority Reward can really come through.
Needless to say, these are considered peak dates, which means a return journey in Economy costs 50,000 Avios.
By booking a Gold Priority Reward you would be paying 100,000 Avios instead of £1,929 in Economy, which works out as 1.9p of value per Avios.
As always I should add my usual caveat: an example like this assumes you would have paid the cash price if there was no better alternative. If you would never pay £2,000 for an economy ticket, your ‘savings’ in all honesty aren’t really savings.
How to book a Gold Priority Reward?
Gold Priority Rewards cannot be booked online and must be made on the phone via the service centre.
You can find a list of contact numbers on this page here.
Remember, you must book at least 30 days in advance.
You should also bear in mind:
- To book a Gold Priority Reward, the flight in question must still have seats for sale in the desired cabin of travel.
- Double Avios points may not be used in conjunction with Avios & Money, Gold Upgrade for Two; or Avios for Upgrade or American Express Vouchers.
- You can only book a Gold Priority Reward on BA flights (excluding, in most cases, London CityFlyer services).
- When you book your flight, the standard Avios points price for a reward flight will be debited immediately. The additional Avios points will be debited from your account within 21 days. (There used to be a quirk whereby the second lot of Avios ‘remained’ in your account. This now seems to have been fixed).
There are also no cancellation/change fees with Gold Priority Rewards which is a great benefit. That means you can lock in a double Avios booking, and check whether standard availability opens up. If it does, you can simply cancel your existing booking and rebook at the normal price – at no additional cost.
The Gold Priority Reward is an excellent and underestimated benefit. The best value will be had by utilising it on otherwise expensive, short-haul routes. I have highlighted just a couple of examples, in truth the list is extensive. The ability to redeem Avios, even at a premium, is a definite plus.
Long-haul is a different story. The number of Avios required to use Gold Priority Rewards on longer flights will be a deterrent to most. Nevertheless, depending on the route, how many Avios you have and your method of earning them, this may still be worthwhile.