British Airways Secretly Raised Award Prices

If there’s any airline we’ve got a love/hate relationship with around here, it’s British Airways. They release the most award seats in premium cabins between the US and Europe of any carrier, but the fees are outrageous.

Want to fly first class from the US to Europe? BA’s your airline. Of course you’ll have to pay $850 in taxes, fees, and surcharges, plus the Avios, but you’ll be in “first” class. 😉

BA raised award prices?!

I noticed some changes to the way BA is pricing award itineraries with connections in Europe. I was rebooking an award for one of our clients over at PointsPros, and the pricing for the same itinerary a year out just wasn’t lining up.

A few phone agents commented that award prices changed this year. Nothing was publicly announced, but after a bit of digging it does indeed seem BA has raised award prices, at least for some short haul segments.

If you’re flying with BA via London to or from mainland Europe, the price for intra-Europe segment now lines up with the “Reward Flight Saver” option that requires the highest number of Avios.

What’s “Reward Flight Saver?”

British Airways introduced award prices where you’d pay a lower, fixed amount in taxes and fees plus a higher number of Avios several years ago. This was limited to flights within Europe, and only available to Executive Club members who earned at least one Avios in the previous 12 months.

Last year BA introduced even steeper discounts on the taxes and fees for these awards, with taxes on award travel starting at just €0.50. You would be paying much more in Avios for these discounts. The ~€30 in savings in taxes came at the cost of spending an additional 7,000 Avios or so. Ben covered those here, where he called them a terrible value.

This pricing has been expanded to long haul BA flights as well, but only for economy class awards.

Now the higher award prices have spilled over into long haul premium cabin awards, and even economy awards that aren’t “Reward Flight Saver” options.

For itineraries to or from continental Europe via London, you’ll now pay the higher price for the short haul segment plus the cost of the long haul segment, which hasn’t changed.

British Airways’ award chart & prices

Here’s British Airways’ award chart for travel on BA flights. This chart is no longer published on BA’s website. The prices for bands 1, 2, and 3 are what have increased.

Zone // Flight Distance Economy
Off Peak // Peak
Premium Economy
Off Peak // Peak
Business
Off Peak // Peak
First
Off Peak // Peak
Zone 1
1-650 miles*
*Not available in North America
4,000 // 4,500 5,750 // 6,750 7,750 // 9,000 15,500 // 18,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
6,500 // 7,500 9,500 // 11,250 12,750 // 15,000 25,500 // 30,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
8,500 // 10,000 12,750 // 15,000 17,000 // 20,000 34,000 // 40,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
10,000 // 12,500 20,000 // 25,000 31,250 // 37,500 42,500 // 50,000
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
13,000 // 20,000 26,000 // 40,000 50,000 // 60,000 68,000 // 80,000
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
16,250 // 25,000 32,500 // 50,000 62,500 // 75,000 85,000 // 100,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
19,500 // 30,000 39,000 // 60,000 75,000 // 90,000 102,000 // 120,000
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
22,750 // 35,000 45,500 // 70,000 87,500 // 105,000 119,000 // 140,000
Zone 9
7001+ miles
32,50 // 50,000 65,000 // 100,000 125,000 // 150,000 170,000 // 200,000

New short haul pricing

Prague falls into Zone 1, which is flights under 650 miles. Here are the pricing options for flights from Prague to London next September, with the “Reward Flight Saver” pricing:

  • 14,250 Avios + € 0.50
  • 11,000 Avios + € 20.50
  • 9,250 Avios + € 25.50
  • 7,750 Avios + € 30.00
  • 5,750 Avios + € 60.50
  • 4,500 Avios + € 85.50

My BA account is registered in an EU country, so everything prices in Euros. The prices are roughly the same if you’ve got an account registered in the US.

Note that the fourth option, 7,750 Avios and €30 in taxes and fees follows BA’s award chart. As I’ve credited Avios to my account in the past 12 months, I have the option of paying less in taxes and fees than someone without access to the Reward Saver pricing.

Here are the pricing options for an account that’s had no activity (meaning it hasn’t earn a single Avios in the past 12 months):

  • 14,250 Avios + $25.16
  • 11,000 Avios + $45.16
  • 9,250 Avios + $55.16
  • 7,750 Avios + $65.16
  • 5,750 Avios + $95.16
  • 4,500 Avios + $125.16

The Avios prices are the same, but the taxes and fees are higher for the person who doesn’t have access to “Reward Flight Saver” pricing.

The taxes on the one-way flight are just $25.20, so 14,250 Avios + $25.16 USD in the new base pricing for Prague to London. These variable pricing options seem to have crept their way into long haul award pricing.

Long haul pricing hasn’t changed

Take a look at the prices for London to San Diego in business class on the same off-peak date next year:

  • 62,500 Avios + € 486.23

That price hasn’t changed. There are more options that require less Avios and more in surcharges, but 62,500 Avios is the base price.

If you connect in London, you’ll now pay more Avios

However, when you look at the prices for Prague to London to San Diego, you’ll see the following options:

  • 76,750 Avios + €258.11
  • 67,250 Avios + €473.11
  • 56,150 Avios + €698.11
  • 45,250 Avios + €922.61
  • 40,750 Avios + €1,043.11
  • 35,750 Avios + €1,128.11

The taxes, fees, and surcharges are €258.70 when you pull up the fare on ITA Matrix, so that checks out. However 76,750 Avios is more than what I was expecting it to be.

After digging through the above, we determined that BA is charging the highest number of Avios for the short haul segment and adding it to the long haul price. There’s no benefit of saving anything on the taxes, fees, and surcharges.

The new Avios award chart for BA flights

While you can still choose the pricing that requires less Avios for short haul redemptions, if your itinerary includes a long haul segment you’ll have to pay the highest number of Avios now.

Here’s the new award prices for Zones 1, 2, and 3:

Zone // Flight Distance (For BA Flights) Economy
Off Peak // Peak
Business
Off Peak // Peak
Zone 1
1-650 miles
Old Price: 4,000 // 4,500
New Price: 8,500 // 9,000
Old Price: 7,750 // 9,000
New Price: 14,250 // 15,500
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
Old Price: 6,500 // 7,500
New Price: 11,000 // 12,000
Old Price: 12,750 // 15,000
New Price: 19,250 // 21,500
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
Old Price: 8,500 // 10,000
New Price: 13,000 // 14,500
Old Price: 17,000 // 20,000
New Price: 23,500 // 26,500
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
10,000 // 12,500
These prices haven’t changed.
31,250 // 37,500
These prices haven’t changed.

Note that Zone 4 didn’t change. It’s now cheaper than Zone 3 for economy awards on both peak and off-peak dates, and cheaper than even Zone 2 for off-peak economy awards.



Washington, DC to Athens via London



Washington, DC to Cairo via London is now cheaper

It’s cheaper to fly from the US to Cairo via London than it is to fly to Barcelona on an off-peak date or Athens on any day of the year. That’s only for economy class, though. You’ll pay more in business.

Bottom line

BA managed to raise prices during a pandemic for awards on their shortest flights. The “Reward Flight Saver” prices requiring the highest number of Avios are the new prices for long haul award travel with BA.

If you’re traveling long haul with BA and connect to mainland Europe, it’ll require more Avios. If you’re redeeming for short haul awards within Europe, you’ll still have the option to pay less in Avios and a bit more in taxes and fees.

Kudos to BA for managing to do this without anyone noticing!