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Is the British Airways 50% Off Awards Promotion Worth It?

by on August 8, 2011 · 31 comments

in British Airways

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Last week, British Airways announced a 50% off “sale” on award tickets. However, there were two main caveats – only on British Airways flights and excluding international business and first class. The exclusion of premium cabins killed the deal for me, however there are a lot of people who redeem for coach awards so I thought I’d do some analysis on whether this deal makes sense since British Airways imposes substantial surcharges and fees on award tickets.

I’ve never flown Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) on British Airways, but per britishairways.com it gets you 2 free checked bags of 23kg each and two carry-ons. In-flight you can expect more legroom, an adjustable headrest, amenity kit, enhanced 3-course dining and power-outlets at every seat. Doesn’t sound too bad and I’d like to hear your thoughts if you’ve ever flown it.

As far as my analysis goes, I understand there are many factors to weigh in, especially when comparing award tickets versus paid tickets. Firstly, you don’t earn miles or elite status on award tickets so factor that in if Oneworld elite status is important to you. Secondly, paid fares vary drastically by the day and most of my examples are for itineraries booked in advance – understand that the value of your itinerary depends on the price of the flight you’d actually would have paid for (whether on British Airways or another carrier).

My examples (to calculate value of each mile used I took the revenue ticket price and subtracted the cash needed for an award ticket and then divided that amount by the number of miles used):
1) Los Angeles to London in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy). Leaving November 27 and returning December 5.
Award ticket: 37,500 and $627
Paid ticket: $2,059
Each mile used equates to 3.8 cents - a solid value.

LAX-LHR Award ticket

LAX-LHR Paid ticket

2) A last minute, economy roundtrip JFK-London Heathrow. Leaving August 8 and returning August 10 (itinerary priced on August 7).
Award ticket: 25,000 miles and $529
Paid ticket: $2,778
Each mile used equates to 9 cents - an amazing value.

JFK-LHR Last minute award

JFK-LHR Paid ticket

3) A Miami to Maldives roundtrip with a stopover in London on the return in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)
Award ticket: 135,000 + $1,126
Paid ticket: $4,797
Each mile used equates to 2.7 cents - a decent value.

Miami to Maldives Award

Miami to Maldives paid ticket

4) A New York to Mumbai rountrip in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)
Award ticket: 67,500 and $808
Paid ticket: $2,682
Each mile used equates to 2.8 cents - a decent value.

JFK-BOM award

JFK-BOM Paid ticket

5) A Chicago to Nairobi, Kenya roundtrip in Economy
Award ticket: 45,000 miles and $796
Paid ticket: $1,515
Each mile used equates to 1.6 cents - a nothing-to-brag-about value.

Chicago to Nairobi award

Chicago to Nairobi paid ticket

6) A Boston to Stockholm roundtrip in Economy
Award ticket: 30,000 miles and $529
Paid ticket: $886
Each mile used equates to 1.1 cents - not a good deal at all.

BOS-ARN Award

BOS-ARN Paid

So what is a good deal? It’s different for each person. Personally, I wouldn’t use my BA miles if I wasn’t getting at least 3 cents a mile in value. That’s easy to do when redeeming for premium cabin awards, but much harder for coach – especially from the East coast to Europe. It’s also pretty incredible to think that the 100,000 miles earned from this year’s Chase 100k British Airways Visa sign-up bonus can easily get you $2,000+ in value. If you are getting 3 cents a mile, that means the 50,000 points earned from the Sapphire Preferred card ($95 fee waived the first year), could easily be worth well over $1,500 if you transfer them to British Airways and redeem them smartly.

I think this 50% off promo is best for a) last minute travelers who are faced with sky-high fares b) people who are flying from the West coast to Europe and are faced with high fares c) people who value the World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) product – especially those going to far off destinations like India and the Maldives.

That being said, do the math on your own and compare it against paid fares on other airlines and award redemption using other miles. I still believe that the best overall value with BA miles is with roundtrip awards to South America (40k coach/80k business) and Asia (50k coach, 100k business, 150k first) with a bunch of stopovers built-in.

However, if you do want to get in on this 50% off deal you need to book by August 12, 2011 so do you research now! Britishairways.com has been very buggy lately, however do not use their normal search tool- use their flexible BA tool.
Britishairways.com -> Login -> Executive Club -> Spending BA Miles -> Check reward flight availability (to book partner awards you usually click Book Using BA Miles, but that tool has been giving a lot of errors lately).

So, any TPG readers out there get in on the 50% off awards? If so, what route did you use them for and roughly how many cents per mile in value did you get?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    I’ve flown BA’s Premium Economy (WT+) product but not for a 5 years although I understand it’s not changed that much.

    It’s not a bad product, albeit not he best Premium Economy product out there. I wouldn’t ordinarily redeem BA Miles on WT+ but given the 50% sale I do believe it is more attractive now than it has been, particularly if you are redeeming with an Amex Companion Voucher.

    In terms of the current promo I think the biggest winners are UK based residents who can combine the 50% sale and companion vouchers to effectively travel at 25% of the normal miles rate.

    Long haul this is good in WT+ and short-haul I believe it offers good value for the longer flights (ATH, DME, IST, etc) where you can get 4 hours+ in Club Europe (ok it’s not the best). I priced up a trip to Moscow and for 2 in CE it was 20,000 miles and £208 which in my view is good value given 2 tickets in economy were £540 to buy and 2 in business were £1,800 to buy (all for travel in Apr/May ’12).

  • AmityDelia

    On maximizing stopovers with BA, what would be a good route or max stopovers for a Qantas hub in US to Australia/New Zealand. Thanks for all that you do.

  • AmityDelia

    On maximizing stopovers with BA, what would be a good route or max stopovers for a Qantas hub in US to Australia/New Zealand. Thanks for all that you do.

  • VR

    I booked ATL-LHR one way economy for July 2012 for 12500 miles and $180 in taxes. I believe it is a good deal for me, since summer fares tend to get very high and 12.5k miles only cost me a bit over 8k membership rewards points.

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  • Toula

    I’ve travelled BA WT+ a couple of times and found it ok. However, my last trip was probably 10 years ago (UK to Australia) so not sure how it has changed since then.

  • Joanna

    I have flown BA World Traveler Plus a few times and find the seating and the space to be better than United Economy Plus and definitely better than BA Economy which is very cramped. I just booked a last minute ticket one way from DAR to LHR using the promotion and it was 18750 points and about $268 in taxes/fees for a $1700 ticket which seems good to me.

  • Ben Law

    I priced the following just for fun:

    November 14

    SFO-VCE (venice)
    BA is pricing it at a whopping $2080 for a one way

    using points
    15,000 miles $247.05 -
    12 cents per point

    7,500 miles and $367.05
    22 cents per point!

    There is some value here if you are flexible.

  • Chaney Kourouniotis

    We used the promo to book a flight for my husband from San Francisco to visit his family in Athens, Greece in Nov. 32,500 miles in coach plus $550 in taxes & fees. SFO to Athens is not a cheap route, so that saved us about $500-$600 over regularly priced tix on other airlines, and the flight quality was good (reasonably short layovers, but long enough to get through passport control). We wouldn’t do it at full price (65,000 miles to save $600) but at 32,5 it seemed worth it.

  • PJ

    Sapphire Preferred Rocks!! weird i cud not find my previous commnet to add reply to it:
    indeed was done : Chase Freedom points are trasnferrable to Sapphire Preferred as long as the primary holder of the Sapphire Preferred is the AUTHORIZED user of other freedom cards. They did give me some anxious moments when several REP insisted I need to be a COSIGNER on the points-receiving cards or the Sapphire primary holder be a cosinger of the points-giving cards. A very happy ending and I assume this is another great boost for the Sapphire Preferred.

  • Rob Perelman

    You forgot one more item that makes this promo good for… one way flights! I am flying LAS->LHR->BRU next week and am doing it for 12,500 miles + around $350. Not sure when I’m returning or where I’ll be flying back from, so I don’t want to book my return travel just yet. I will most likely gamble and book a return from Amsterdam at a future date that I will be able to change dates for free (so I can get in on the 50% off sale).

  • SA

    Anyone able to actually get through to BA? I’m trying to book a flight on AA (DEN-LAX-NRT) that shows $57 in fees on the AA site, no BA codeshares – and when I try to book on the BA site, it shows $750 in fees despite not going through Europe. The excess is all fuel surcharges. When I call the Executive Rewards number, I get a ‘your call can not be completed at this time’ due to high call volume message, and now even the website gives an error. Very frustrated!

  • Anonymous

    Keep trying with BA. By the way, they charge fuel surcharges on partner airlines as well. I’ve heard people maybe getting them lowered by calling, but I’m skeptical. Let us know what they say when you finally get through.

  • SA

    I don’t know what I’m going to do with all these miles if I can’t get flights without crazy fuel surcharges – I knew I couldn’t go to Europe with them – but everywhere else?? First I have to get through and figure it out. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=622967766 Chad Wallace

    I’m having the same problem. I get an error message when trying to book through the 50% off email link. Then I find a flight through the regular BA exec club channels and when I try to click to see what the actual miles damage is I get an error message telling me to call. What’s more frustrating is that when when you call the number, they keep telling you to go to the website for all the best deals. It’s particularly infuriating when they unceremoniously drop your call when they tell you all the lines are busy . . . but tell you to try the website. NOT IMPRESSED. Grrrrrr.

  • Hoverturf

    I booked two WT+ tickets from SEA to CDG from June 26th to July 4th for 75K in miles and $1,100. It’s quite a bit for out of pocket expense, but that is the beginning of summer travel. I can’t estimate a CPM since it’s so far out and the WT+ tickets are $5K on kayak.com but I think I found the best use of my miles despite the fees.

  • JMSL

    True enough, but if you were truly flexible you would never book the SFO-VCE for $2080, so it is meaningless to take that as the “value” you’d be getting from the miles. On the same date, Kayak is showing SFO-JFK for $179 (Delta and AA) and then JFK-VCE for $409 (Air Berlin) for a total of $588. If you take that as the baseline for what a SFO-VCE coach ticket on that date is “worth,” suddenly the 12 cents per point drops down to about 2 cents, and the 22 cents drops down to less than 3 cents.

    If you prefer to fly BA and your dates are fixed, this might be a good deal for some. But if you are really looking to squeeze the most value (or even something close to it) out of your BA miles this is not the way to do it.

  • Adam Rubin

    Has anyone had any luck getting the 50% off deal using a single partner award? I read a comment mentioning success with this in the original post but I’m not having any luck. My dates are flexible and I can book one-way or round trip. Travelling between MEL & CLT but realize I will most likely be best off booking MEL – LAX and then a separate AA Saver fare from LAX – CLT.

    Current One-Way Levels:
    MEL – LAX = 40k points
    LAX – CLT = 12.5k points

    Any ideas?

  • Anonymous

    Qantas flight LAX to SYD shows the 50% off points deal… business class. Book through ba website. LIMITED FLIGHTS AVAILABLE!

    Award ticket: 160,000 points + $759
    Paid ticket: $7200

    You save BIG BIG BIG!

  • Roomsinc

    how do i book ATL to Maldives? the Ba.com craps out each time i try to look it up

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=756670957 Metodi Lazarov

    Are you serious, is that form the 50% off rewards BA promotion? I was pretty sure that promo was only for BA only flights (BA metal) not for partners or codeshare flights. Still interesting case to look through, bugs always happen and we love them:)

  • Anonymous

    We are waiting a couple more days to book. I can only think because there is NO BA flight options? The hard part is finding an available business class flight that doesn’t connect!

  • JMSL

    I’m pretty sure 160K would be the standard rate, not 50% off: https://www.britishairways.com/travel/partnertable/execclub/_gf/en_us (N. America to Southwest Pacific– 80K for coach, 160K for business.)

    Granted, the one-partner-only rate is considerably less than it would cost to fly BA on the same route (280K), but it’s still their usual rate, not 50% off.

  • Anonymous

    I plan to book business not economy…

  • JMSL

    Sorry, are you finding Qantas business class awards for 80K round trip? The usual cost for business would be 160K round trip per the chart linked above.

  • Anonymous

    No…just for one person.

    Oh no…am I wrong? Dang it…

    I guess it just brought it to my attention… and then I got excited to see how much money I would be saving with a typical award booking…

  • Anonymous

    This promo is only for BA flights- not partners

  • Ben Law

    Totally agree JMSL.

    It’s for those who need to be in Europe on short notice or are strapped for cash and got lucky with this promotion. Even then it’s still a hard sell. This promotion is really for those in a very specific situation given the value you can get going to Latin America or Europe.

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  • Chris Boothroyd

    I had the same problem – but I called the UK number (open until 20.00 UK time) and got right through. The guy I spoke with was very friendly and helpful. I wasn’t trying to use this special offer, but it might be worth a try.

  • SA

    I finally got through, very nice guy who was stunned by the fuel surcharges on a strictly AA itinerary. I looked up some JAL-only flights (which I wouldn’t be able to use from Denver, but wanted to check), and surcharges were similar. I did book a trip to Mexico, for which the fees were exactly double ($120) what the AA site showed, but not prohibitive. Basically, looking forward to the AA miles from the Citi cards! Thanks for all your advice – you are amazing!

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