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SRQ: Whether Or Not to Use The British Airways Travel Together Companion Ticket

by on March 3, 2013 · 20 comments

in British Airways, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

TPG reader Rhoda has earned a British Airways Travel Together Companion Ticket thanks to spending on her British Airways Visa, but now she wants to know whether it’s worth using it because of BA’s huge fees and taxes. Here’s her question:

“I’m wondering if you can provide me with some insight about how I should use (or not use) the BA companion certificate.  I pretty much know that I have to fly BA metal and will not be able to get away from the hefty fuel surcharge; therefore, my dilemma is on what itinerary to use it.

Do you know of certain destinations in Europe (after the UK gateway) that have less expensive fuel surcharges? My husband and I are also open to go to Asia (via UK).  I’d appreciate any information you can provide.  Thanks in advance!”

Companion tickets can be extremely valuable ways to travel by spending a lot fewer dollars or miles to get to your destination. The question is Rhoda has about the British Airways companion ticket in particular is whether you can use it without spending a huge amount of money on taxes and fees since it must be used on British Airways flights only (no codeshares or partners!), and the sort answer (unfortunately) is no.

However, you can minimize the fees on it by redeeming just to go to Europe because when you redeem it to fly beyond London – say to Asia, as you mentioned, or South Africa – you’re essentially doubling the taxes and fees you will have to pay on it due to flying into and out of London.

The "Travel Together" companion ticket is one of several great benefits to the British Airways Visa.

The “Travel Together” companion ticket can save you tons of money and miles.

However, there are still good values to be had. Because Avios are distance-based awards, British Airways only require 80,000 Avios to fly roundtrip from New York to London in business class – which is 20,000 miles less than most other airlines charge. So even though you’re paying $1,100+ in fees per ticket, by using the companion ticket, you’re essentially getting two business class tickets for 80,000 miles and $2,300 – as you can see from the sample award itinerary I pulled up in April below. Not too bad a deal if you have the cash.

BA JFK LHR 80k 1150

However, if either the miles or the cash (or both) are an issue, you can even further reduce your outlay by just redeeming the companion ticket for a one-way award. Ostensibly, it’s only supposed to be used on roundtrip awards, but a lot of people have reported being able to use them on one-ways, so your chances are good, and this cuts your taxes and fees a lot and you can redeem the return using miles that charge much lower fees, like United. You can also use the companion ticket on open jaws (you must book over the phone) or mixed-class itineraries, so you can fly business on the outbound and economy home if you need to because of your miles situation

As always, do the math and redeem for what makes sense for you, both in terms of miles and money, and in this case, think big picture because even though you might be spending more miles on those taxes and surcharges, you can get some incredible values on what basically amount to half-price miles redemptions.

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  • http://twitter.com/ConfuciusJcksn Confucius Jackson

    A typical discount business ticket to continental Europe from the US Mid-Atlantic or Midwest is $2700.

    Stretching it out to 75k of spend over two years (to earn enough miles to redeem the first ticket as an open jaw into London and back from continental Europe to avoid the APD), you’re looking at 2700*2-2200 = $3200 benefit, or 4.27% return on spend.

  • R. Freed

    I previously purchased a BA award ticket for 2 people in First and now I have a Travel Together Ticket. Will British Airways allow you to apply the travel together ticket to an already purchased award ticket?

  • thepointsguy

    Hm good question- never hurts to call and ask. Anyone have experience with this? Let us know if you do call and ask

  • RTA

    What happens to the taxes if you do first instead of business? Also if you are already based in Europe any ideas as to better options?

  • http://themilesprofessor.com/ The Miles Professor

    You can always cancel the award ticket for a small fee of $65 (or $40, depending on the agent you get ;) ) and rebook using the travel together ticket. This is, of course, provided there is still award availability in the class you booked.

  • http://themilesprofessor.com/ The Miles Professor

    Travel Together Companion Award can actually be used to a lot of places as long as you connect in London. For example, you can go to India, South Africa, Thailand – pretty much anywhere British Airways fly. And you can do it in First Class. The taxes and surcharges are higher for further destinations, of course, but may be worth it to fly BA First Class for some of the more exotic places.

  • jayzee

    do you get a 10% discount on the taxes and fees associated with the companion pass if you use the BA visa

  • Saverocity

    The way I look at using the award to London is pretty much you buy one for cash and get a free one for 80k miles…

    Personally I would rather 2 for 160k miles… And no cash.

    Though London itself is tricky due to its high airport taxes so any carrier will charge you more than average on an outbound award.

  • Narikin

    Taxes in BA First are pretty much the same as business – no meaningful difference. If you have the miles, it is definitely worth considering on longer flights, as the companion voucher is even better value as you’re getting a First Class ticket for free rather than a Business one.

    Note that BA First Class is a definite step up from Business, not at all the same thing as an American Airlines ‘First’, which is BS – it’s just a standard business seat, by any other regular metric.

    On the other hand, a truly flat bed (like Business in Club World) = a truly flat bed (like in First) – you can’t get flatter than flat… so YMMV.

  • Narikin

    oh and companion reward vouchers have to start in the USA, so you can’t use them “if you are based in Europe” without getting to USA first.

  • Guest

    I just used the BA companion voucher to book two First tickets to Tokyo via London. 300k miles plus $3,200 in taxes & fees. So essentially 150k miles & $1,600 each for almost a round the world and back in First. It allows for layovers in London in both directions. Our exact flight is pricing out at $43,oo0+. Without saying, would never spend that much, but I think that is besides the point, it’s what BA charges for the flight. Thanks to two BA Visa 100k sign ups and the Nordstrom’s bonus of last year, not too much spend was required for these miles. Good value for the way I earned them, IMO.

  • Ken

    IYO, which carriers impose the least amount of fees both in the U.S. and originating from the U.S. for international travel? And yes, I will DTM and INHTA.

  • jmw2323

    used one this past june for the wife and I in F. after the avios change, we shortened it to just LHR as it wasn’t worth the extra miles to fly intra-europe J. Have 2 more certs that will most likely go unused as the planned trip to spain for my family of 4 would still cost us over $4000 in taxes and fees.

  • guest

    thanks for the tips. but may I say that your puppy is the star of the post here? his ears are just ridiculously cute!

  • thepointsguy

    Miles is the star for sure!

  • R.Freed

    They told me NO but that I could cancel and rebook though it may not go back into the system and theres no other availability. Is it worth the risk for 150,000 Avios!!??

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=719531696 Sam Wolfe

    I think the companion ticket works ‘better’ for tickets in F (eg. 110k to Europe), because the taxes are similar or the same as business.
    But, as Brian stated, it all comes down to your own personal sense of
    value. If you can justify the horrible taxes by thinking of it as a
    copay or a cheap economy ticket that you are upgrading, you can get
    yourself over that barrier of avoiding BA altogether on principle!

  • Donn

    Brian , Do you know does Chase use your anniversary year or calendar year for the $30000 spend.

  • thepointsguy

    Calendar year.

  • Doug

    You should look into http://www.freshpatch.com for your dog on that balcony!

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