British Airways Avios has announced a new promotion that certainly looks very lucrative on the surface. The program is offering a 25–50% discount on the number of Avios required for new bookings on British Airways flights made between now and October 13, 2020, for travel until June 30, 2021.
Up to 50% Avios Discount on British Airways
This Avios award sale gives you a 25–50% discount on new Avios bookings on British Airways flights. You’ll get a 25% discount on short-haul flights and a 50% discount on long-haul flights, so clearly the latter will be more interesting for Canadian-based travellers.
The discount is already factored in when you search for flights on the British Airways Avios search engine, and indeed, you should be able to double-check against the Avios reward chart for British Airways flights (displayed below) and make sure that your Avios pricing is reflecting a 50% discount.
Note that only flights operated by British Airways qualify for the promotion. Partner flights are excluded, as are Oneworld multi-carrier awards (which necessarily involve two or more partners).
In the fall of 2019, we saw a similar limited-time promotion in which British Airways was offering a 50% discount on economy class awards and a 10% discount on premium awards, so the 50% discount across all cabins is stronger this time around.
Are Flights from Canada a Good Deal?
A blanket 50% discount on the Avios award cost appears very exciting at first glance – certainly, we can all remember the hype from Aeroplan’s 50% Miles Back promotion, and now Avios is offering a straight-up discount rather than a rebate after the fact.
But there’s one big caveat that puts a dampener on this promotion: it’s 2020, and British Airways Avios still hasn’t moved on from the antiquated and offensive practice of imposing carrier-imposed surcharges on award redemptions. I mean, come on, even Air Canada has realized the error of their ways and moved on from carrier-imposed surcharges on award tickets.
You can expect to pay surcharges of $200+ on most long-haul British Airways flights, and the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) on the return direction hits pretty hard as well. Moreover, the surcharges seem to increase along with the class of service, so you’ll pay more in cash surcharges if you want to fly in business class or First Class.
So while it may appear to be a somewhat attractive deal to book Vancouver–London in economy class for 8,250 Avios + $271…
…the value proposition falls flat when you realize that you can simply go ahead and book a cash fare with Air Canada for $313.
In business class, Vancouver–London would cost 31,250 Avios + $427 with this 50% discount in place:
Now, a major complaint among Aeroplan members with the new program looming is that premium flight redemptions from the West Coast to Europe have gone up in price disproportionately.
Indeed, compared to the new Aeroplan’s pricing of 70,000 Aeroplan points for this flight, Avios requires less than half the number of points – but that $427 cash surcharge surely leaves a sour taste, even if the all-in pricing is still quite attractive compared to the cash fare in business class.
A slightly better deal can be found when travelling back to Canada and departing out of a non-UK country in Europe, thereby side-stepping the UK APD.
For example, Dublin–London–Toronto only costs 35,688 Avios + $266, which is at least a decently competitive, if not outstanding, deal for a one-way transatlantic business class flight.
But ultimately, when a round-trip flight redemption from Canada to Europe would incur a downright insulting $1,000+ in surcharges, I’d say that the Avios 50% discount is much less attractive of a deal in reality than it first appears.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that if you hold the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite and earned a Companion Award eVoucher upon spending $30,000 on the card, then you’d still qualify for this promotion.
You’d effectively pay half of one passenger’s price for two passengers, but you’d still have to pay the full surcharges for both passengers, so the above caveats still apply.
Flights from Countries That Regulate Surcharges
Where the promotion gets more interesting is when you consider that some of the world’s more progressive governments have taken it upon themselves to regulate the practice of carrier-imposed surcharges, and Avios awards therefore do not incur surcharges when departing from these countries.
Japan is a good example, and you can book a Tokyo–London flight in business class for the very attractive price of 37,500 Avios + $37.
The Japan Times recently reported that Japan is considering opening up to tourism in April 2021, so a booking for sometime between April and June of next year could be worth a punt.
Brazil also works: São Paolo–London in business class prices at 37,500 Avios + $14.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong flights seem to display surcharges erratically on the first screen – sometimes you’ll see $35 as the surcharge, sometimes $60, sometimes $350… but if you click through to the next screen, you’ll see that Hong Kong’s fuel surcharge regulations do indeed apply.
I myself went ahead and booked a Hong Kong–London flight on British Airways A380 First Class for next May, at the tail end of a round-the-world First Class adventure that I’ve been planning (on a speculative basis, it must be said).
British Airways First Class doesn’t exactly get the best reviews among its peers, but hey, I figured I needed to try it properly myself to determine if it’s a “true” First Class offering or if its nickname of “the world’s best business class” is more apt – and 51,000 Avios + $60 for a 12-hour First Class flight is a proper good deal.
I do think the best value in this Avios 50% discount promotion is when you book flights departing from countries that have regulations on fuel surcharges. But of course, the reality is that none of us know what international travel will realistically look like by the spring and summer of 2021, so there’s a good chance that bookings like the one I’ve made will have to be cancelled eventually.
Of course, British Airways Avios is one of the more generous programs in terms of reasonable change and cancellation fees: you’ll only pay $58 per ticket if you need to cancel your flight and redeposit your Avios, whereas if there’s a significant schedule change that affects your flights, you can always cancel and redeposit for free.
For one week only, British Airways Avios is offering a promotion that gives you up to a 50% discount on the number of Avios required for an award redemption, although the value is definitely undercut by the program’s outdated practice of imposing carrier-imposed surcharges on award tickets.
From a Canadian perspective, one-way flights from non-UK European countries to Canada are probably the best way to take advantage of this promotion, and you could combine that with a separate Aeroplan ticket or a cash fare on the outbound journey. For those thinking of travelling further afield in 2021, a premium redemption departing from a country with fuel surcharge regulations could also make sense.