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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – British Airways Visa Signature Card
I have gotten a bunch of questions about the British Airways Companion Pass – the Travel Together Ticket – which is a benefit that you get when you hit $30,000 in spend on your British Airways Visa Signature Card in a calendar year, and seeing as we are getting towards the end of the year, I think a lot of you are finally hitting that spend threshold and getting the pass, so it’s a good time to go over a couple of the basics.
Robin tweeted me @thepointsguy:
I have a BA companion pass for 30K spend on BA credit card. Can I use it when booking flights on partner-air through BA with Avios?
Then Kerry asked:
I currently have over 300,000 British Airways Avios and a BA companion certificate. I would like to travel for two people on Business Class to Hong Kong and return from Singapore (my home airport is San Francisco). From reading your posts, it does not make sense to use my British Airways Avios for such long distance travel because of the high taxes charged. I know Cathay Pacific is a Oneworld partner – do you have a suggestion of how to use my Avios for Cathay Pacific – or will I still incur the high taxes from using Avios, even if it isn’t a British Airways flight?
These are very topical questions since Chase and British Airways once again teamed up to launch an offer yesterday for a sign-up bonus for a total of 100,000 Avios on the British Airways Visa. You get 50,000 Avios for spending $2,000 in 3 months, an additional 25,000 Avios for spending $10,000 within the first year, and 25,000 more Avios for spending a total of $20,000 in the first year.
First off, let me answer Robin, who asked if she can use it on partner air through BA and Avios? The answer is no, you have to use the companion pass on British Airways-operated flights.
There is no way to get around the giant taxes and fees using the companion pass since you’ll likely be flying through London. But that being said, it can still be a great value. The longer you go and the higher the class of service you can book, then the more it is going to cost you in Avios and the higher the fees. So if you connect from the US to Europe and Europe to Asia, then you are basically paying double the fees, and the same if it is Europe to Africa. However, you’re paying zero Avios for the second ticket, so while the fees might be high and you’re using a lot of Avios on that first ticket, it’s like getting two half-priced award tickets in terms of the Avios you’re using.
I generally think the Travel Together ticket is good for non-stop travel from the US to Europe – yes, you are going to pay an amount like $529 GBP ($848) per ticket in taxes and fees – but for New York to London roundtrip, for example, you can get two Business Class tickets for 80,000 Avios which isn’t that bad, especially when you consider that those tickets can be upwards of $5,000 or $6,000 a ticket.
The other question is from Kerry. She has 300,000 British Airways Avios and a BA companion certificate – can she fly Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and will she still incur the high taxes? Luckily, taxes and fees on Cathay are much less than on British Airways, but you are still probably going to pay $300 or $400 per ticket. But once again, if you redeem for business or first, it absolutely can be worth it. Because she’ll be flying Cathay, though, she cannot use her BA companion ticket.
Also remember that Avios prices each ticket segment by segment on a distance-based formula, so if you are in a secondary city in the US – such as Tulsa, OK – then fly to Chicago, and Chicago to Hong Kong, then you are going to pay for both segments a la carte (you use the Avios Calculator to figure this out). On the bright side, if you fly coach on one segment then it will price out at the coach level, and your other segment will price out at whatever level you book that one at, unlike some airlines that charge you for the highest price possible for the whole trip.
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.
I hope this clears everything up! I have written at length about British Airways and Avios in the past, so follow the links below for more information.
Maximizing British Airways Avios series: Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile Offer, Spotlight on Taxes and Fees, Travel Together Companion Ticket, Household Accounts, Using Avios to Upgrade Paid Tickets, The Avios and Cash Option, Save Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia, Using Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions, Maximizing British Airways Avios Series Distance Based Awards.