One-way tickets are expensive – or so we’ve always been led to believe.
With cash tickets, this is often true, especially in premium cabins. But it isn’t always the case when redeeming airline miles.
Here’s a look at when you’d be better off booking two one-way Avios tickets as opposed to a regular return journey, and when you should avoid doing so.
Save £100’s in taxes on long-haul flights
One of the most contentious topics in the frequent flyer world is the various taxes and charges that airlines choose to/not to impose on reward flights. Unfortunately, British Airways does add a raft of taxes and charges when redeeming your Avios for long-haul flights including a fuel surcharge.
Some destinations such as Hong Kong and Brazil have banned airlines from imposing fuel surcharges on all departing flights. Good news, you’d think. However, this reduction isn’t automatically reflected in the price of return journeys.
Here are return World Traveller flights to Sao Paulo, Brazil as an example:
As you can see ‘taxes, fees and carrier charges’ come in at a substantial £332.
If you want to benefit from the ban on fuel surcharges, you’ll have to force the issue yourself.
Here’s the price of two one-way flights:
(Click to enlarge)
Making use of this method and booking 2x one-way flights would cost £238 – saving £94 per person compared to a regular return ticket.
And it gets even better for premium cabin redemptions
Here’s a redemption in Club World to Hong Kong:
As you can see ‘taxes, fees and carrier charges’ come in at a hefty £563.
Let’s look at booking two one-way flights instead:
(Click to enlarge)
The taxes on the return leg are in fact just £33!
Utilising this method, your flights would cost £398 – a saving of £165 per person compared to booking a regular return ticket.
When Reward Flight Saver can be even cheaper
I’ve written before about the excellent value offered by British Airways’ Reward Flight Saver (RFS) scheme.
Under the system, taxes are capped at £35 return for Euro Traveller flights and £50 return for Club Europe.
However, you may not have realised that those figures are simply the maximum you’ll pay. In reality, some destinations should be even cheaper.
But you won’t see any further savings if you price up a return journey.
Here’s a return in Club Europe to Faro, Algarve:
However, when you run a search for two one-way flights, you get the following:
(Click to enlarge)
As you can see, the return leg would cost £15.70 instead of the usual £25.
Sure, £10 per person might not sound like a lot but if you’re booking for 3/4 people, multiple times a year, that can soon start to add up.
Greater cancellation flexibility
One of the biggest advantages of booking flights using miles is the greater flexibility that it offers over cash tickets, which are generally non-refundable.
BA, for example, allows you to cancel until 24 hours before the flight for a full miles refund plus all of the taxes back – minus a £35 cancellation fee.
This flexibility is especially welcome for people whose travel plans tend to be subject to last-minute changes. The issue is that the 24 hour cancellation period applies to the first flight in the booking. This means that once you’ve flown the outbound leg, you no longer have that flexibility to make changes to the rest of your itinerary.
To get around this issue, you can simply book two one-way flights instead of a return. That way the 24-hour cancellation window will apply to both flights individually.
Watch out for the (even) higher taxes that accompany two one-way Avios bookings to certain destinations (more on this below). Depending on the circumstances, you may still feel it’s worth doing.
I tend to utilise this method when booking travel for one of my colleagues who tends to require frequent last-minute changes. For him, the extra £200 or so is a hit worth taking in return for added flexibility on the return leg too.
Careful – there can be a flipside
It isn’t always worth it though.
Booking two one-ways, especially to the US can be considerably more expensive in terms of taxes. Both BA and Virgin will charge well in excess of £700 if you were to book two one-way business class flights.
This is also frustrating if you can’t find award availability in both directions with a single airline. Flying BA outbound and American Airlines (using Avios) on the way home would mean coughing up an extra premium on top of the already hefty taxes and charges.
This is a good trick to know and particularly useful for shaving some money off Reward Flight Saver bookings. If you’re travelling long-haul to somewhere that has banned fuel surcharges, you should definitely be looking to utilise this technique.