Last week I explained why low cash ticket prices mean it’s harder to justify using miles for British Airways/Virgin long-haul economy flights, particularly transatlantic ones.
On the flip side, the opposite is actually true when it comes to redeeming Avios for BA short-haul flights. That’s largely due to BA’s Reward Flight Saver scheme. It’s been over 18 months since I last covered Reward Flight Saver, so it’s high time I took another look. Plus a particular quirk that allows you to fly BA First at minimal cost.
What is British Airways’ Reward Flight Saver?
Prior to the introduction of Reward Flight Saver (RFS) in late 2011, redeeming BA miles on short-haul flights was generally only attractive for last-minute bookings or the added cancellation flexibility. Otherwise, given the choice of paying cash or having to use at least 9,000 miles plus about £100 of taxes, mileage redemptions were not a very attractive proposition.
Reward Flight Saver puts a cap on the taxes that BA charge on short-haul flights. The equation now looks much better:
- Euro Traveller (economy) – Starting at 8,000 Avios return + fixed £35 in taxes.
- Club Europe (business) – Starting at 15,500 Avios return + fixed £50 in taxes.
How many Avios do I need to use Reward Flight Saver?
Reward Flight Saver pricing is available for all British Airways flights under 2000 miles.
|Euro Traveller (economy)||OFF PEAK||PEAK|
|Flights up to 650 miles (distance)||4,000||4,500|
|Up to 1150 miles||6,500||7,500|
|Up to 2,000 miles||8,500||10,000|
|Club Europe (business)||OFF PEAK||PEAK|
|Up to 650 miles||7,750||9,000|
|Up to 1150 miles||12,750||15,000|
|Up to 2,000 miles||17,000||20,000|
Fly BA First Class for £55 return
St Petersburg and Moscow both fall comfortably within Reward Flight Saver’s 2000 miles cutoff, meaning that capped taxes apply, despite not being ‘traditional’ short-haul routes. While St Petersburg flights are operated by genuine short-haul aircraft, the Moscow route features mid-haul A321 planes as well as proper long-haul four-class aircraft including the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner currently.
This allows you to book BA First to Moscow for a fixed £55 + 68,000-80,000 Avios return.
The best times to use Reward Flight Saver
One of the best ways to use Reward Flight Saver is during school holidays or half-term when even Low-Cost Carrier pricing can be obscene. Say you were looking at a skiing holiday for a family of four over Christmas 2019.
Here’s what cash tickets would cost, travelling between 21st-28th December:
And here’s the cost of redeeming Avios via Reward Flight Saver:
Remember that BA releases at least 4 economy and two business class Avios redemption seats on every flight, 355 days before departure.
Other Reward Flight Saver sweet spots?
One way upgrades – You can decide to treat yourself to an upgrade and get Club Europe service and lounge access. You can do this on some routes for as little as 3,750 Avios + £7.50.
Comair (BA franchise) flights in South Africa – Cape Town can be one of the trickiest destinations to find Avios availability on given BA’s monopoly on the route. Instead, you could fly to Johannesburg and use Comair to Cape Town. RFS pricing is also used on these routes. The taxes are higher than normal though, with a business return ticket costing £140 in taxes and £80 for return economy tickets.
Use to Mauritius – Avios availability is often tough to find direct from London to Mauritius, but Comair flies from Johannesburg to Mauritius. Stopping in Johannesburg and using RFS to Mauritius is a good alternative.
Fifth freedom routes – These are flights where the plane makes a stop en-route to its primary destination and drops off/picks up passengers at the stop. I covered some of the best fifth freedom routes to fly, including flights on Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Swiss Airlines, in this article.
Fifth freedom flights are a good way to fly BA Club World at a much more reasonable cost, as all of the following routes use RFS pricing.
The Caribbean is a particular hotspot for these including:
- Antigua – St Kitts
- Port of Spain – St Lucia
- Nassau – Grand Cayman
Club World tickets on these routes cost just 7,750-9,000 Avios + £25 each way.
How to book Reward Flight Saver flights?
As long as you’ve earned at least 1 Avios point in the last 12 months, you’ll be able to see Reward Flight Saver pricing when searching for applicable flights on ba.com. If you haven’t earned any Avios in the last 12 months, you’ll see standard reward pricing.
Every time someone complains to me saying they can never find a decent way to use their Avios, I point them in the direction of Reward Flight Saver. It’s hard to argue with paying £35 for a return journey anywhere within Europe. However, RFS really comes into its own at peak holiday times or when there is an event that is causing cash prices to skyrocket.
Another positive is that the number of Avios required are easily attainable. The sign-up bonus on the American Express Gold Credit card or British Airways Premium Plus card would get you more than enough Avios to book a return journey for two to Paris or Amsterdam for example.