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My Struggles Trying to Use the British Airways Visa Travel Together Ticket

by on March 12, 2014 · 50 comments

in British Airways

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One of the most interesting benefits of the British Airways Visa from Chase is that when you spend $30,000 on it in a calendar year, you are given a “Travel Together” Companion Ticket that is basically like getting a half-priced award redemption. The way it works is, you redeem your Avios for one award in any class, and then you get the second award seat without having to spend any more Avios. You do, however, have to pay the taxes and surcharges on both tickets, and there must be two award seats available on the same flight in the same class for this to work.

The British Airways Travel Together Ticket.

The British Airways Travel Together Ticket.

Here are the key terms and conditions of it:

1) The Travel Together Ticket must be used on British Airways flights only – no Oneworld partners or codeshare flights. This means all flights go through London and will have $600+ fees, and closer to $1,200 in business and first class.
2) All flights must originate and end in the United States (and must theoretically be roundtrip, though people have been able to book one-ways).
3) The cardholder must travel on the entire itinerary
4) The companion must be on the exact same itinerary as the cardholder
5) These are only good on roundtrip awards
6) Vouchers are valid 2 years from date of issue (and usually arrive electronically 4-6 weeks after you earn it)
7) Vouchers will be posted to your online account and can be redeemed online (unless you have a Household Account–which I’ll discuss in a later post–and redeem for someone outside of your household)
8 ) You can use the vouchers for mixed itineraries, like coach on the outbound and business class on the return
9) Open jaw itineraries can be booked over the phone
10) A cardholder can only earn one (1) companion voucher per calendar year
11) No Avios can be earned on the voucher
12) Additional cardholders on the account are not eligible to qualify for vouchers
13) Outbound travel must take place before the voucher’s expiry date, but inbound travel can take place beyond the expiry date

You can see the full terms and conditions here.

It usually makes the most sense to try for business or first class awards with the companion ticket since you’re still stuck paying those huge fuel surcharges and fees. Those can be around $600-$1,000 on economy and premium economy tickets, and $1,100-$1,300 on business and first class tickets. So as long as you’re stuck paying a couple thousand dollars, you might as well try for the highest class of service possible.

My Companion Ticket(s)

I’ve had the British Airways card for several years now, and over time, I’ve actually earned two companion tickets. One of them is set to expire in April, so lately I’ve been looking for a good way to put it to use. I am supposed to go to Dublin over the weekend and had been hoping to use it on this trip since several friends are coming with me for my birthday, but I’ve been searching award space for nearly a month, and I just can’t seem to find two award seats in business or first class from either Miami or NY on the days I want. For reference, here are their North American gateway cities:

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 4.17.10 PMI’ve been searching everywhere including JFK and Miami where I primarily travel from, to Chicago, Dallas and even Denver. Nothing in the next few days. I ended up just buying a ticket to Dublin this time, but I still have over a month until my companion ticket expires so I haven’t lost hope yet, but I still would have liked to use it for my trip.

Based on some quick research, it looks like using a companion ticket is going to be hard, but not necessarily impossible if I can be flexible with my scheduling. It makes it a bit harder to nail down award space since you can’t search ExpertFlyer for it on BA and British Airways’ website is still a bit clunky (though much better than it used to be). Just remember when you are searching for award space with one of these vouchers that you click the box that says “BA Chase Redemption Voucher for a Companion.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 3.07.13 PM

What I’ve found is that my most likely route will be from JFK-London since there are so many flights between the two cities, and that award space tends to open up within a week of a flight, as shown by the availability in this screenshot for later this week.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 5.29.34 PMSo being able to travel (fairly) last-minute will be important. I thought that I might have better luck searching for some of the less-frequented routes on BA’s schedule, like the ones from London to Phoenix or Las Vegas, but I couldn’t find award availability using a voucher throughout the spring or summer and into the fall!

That said, there was flight availability in mostly premium economy and economy but with a few business class awards sprinkled in from both Boston:

BOSAnd Chicago O’Hare:

ORD

So it’s not hopeless – for instance, here’s a roundtrip companion ticket award in business class for a 10-day trip in April for just 80,000 Avios and a whopping $2,358 in surcharges for both tickets.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 3.25.31 PMOr this one from May 14-20 from JFK to London in business class.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 5.51.32 PM

And one flight I’ve had my eye on – British Airways’ new route from London to Austin aboard its all-new 787, actually had a couple dates available for companion ticket redemptions in business class in August and September.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 3.13.48 PMDeparting August 26 and returning on September 1 – so that could be a fun quick trip to take later this summer to test out the new product. It prices out at 100,000 Avios total plus $2,523 in taxes/fees.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 3.16.53 PMI’m asked all the time and you cannot avoid the huge taxes/fees when redeeming your Travel Together ticket, because you must depart from the US and on British Airways flights, however you can avoid huge BA fuel surcharges on regular Avios redemptions by following these tips and when crossing the Atlantic, make sure you fly Aer Lingus or Air Berlin.

The other tough thing, though, is that closer-in outbound dates might be available, but the problem can be nailing down a return award since more space usually opens up closer to the actual date, so even booking a trip of a few days or a week can mean that your return dates don’t have nearly as many awards to choose from.

I’m going to continue looking into this, since the “Travel Together” ticket is one of the major selling points of the British Airways Visa. Ultimately, I think it will depend on award availability on the more heavily trafficked routes like those from London to New York JFK, Boston BOS and Chicago ORD, as well as having some flexibility in my travel schedule and being able to jump on last-minute awards within a week or so of departure, though some careful searching does turn up other itineraries from other BA destinations in the US.

Have any of you tried booking “Travel Together” tickets lately? If so, how was your experience? Comment below!

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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  • Casey

    I’ve had those same issues. We fly Seattle to London often and I was looking at using my companion pass for next Spring and already it’s really limited availability!

  • mwilson77

    Agreed. Been trying to book 2 tickets in First over the summer JFK>LON for the better part of 2 months and agree that it’s been a challenge. Not simply because I haven’t been able to find the right space around the dates we are considering, but because the award space itself seems to jump around dramatically everyday I check (and I now check daily.) Whole days will open – yesterday, for instance, one flight loaded 8 business class award seats – then the next day they dissapear, only to be filled with a completely new and random assortment of 1 seat here, 1 seat there flight avails. Then 2 seats will randomly open on the outbound, but not the inbound. By the time inbound shows 2 seats, the inventory on the outbound is radically different. I mean i guess it’s somewhat encouraging that the inventory changes daily, but it’s no less frustrating or annoying.

  • zoonoonoffo

    I booked BOS to PEK in F with no problems, but I always book BA redemptions a year early because that’s the only time I can ever find seats. The problem with Avios is it’s so easy to cancel that people just book and then cancel, blocking out everything. I kind of wish BA made it more expensive to cancel, as it would make it easier to get the awards you want.

  • Aarif

    Wouldn’t using Avios for trans-atlantic AA flights be another way of avoiding the fuel surcharges?

  • Justin

    Ugh I was working on getting to the Travel Together ticket but now I’m not so sure I should put my spend elsewhere. Wife and I have Envoy SA awards on US booked to Scotland (she travels one day before me…not the end of the world for $2.50) but we haven’t finalized coming back from Dublin. I was leaning towards Aer Lingus to JFK based on what I read above (seems like the best idea.) Also was leaning on using Avios to get from Edinburgh to Dublin while there. Sigh…would love to hear your thoughts going forward on that Bri.

  • asafds

    You can only use travel together on BA metal

  • travellmann

    must be persistent. used last year from JFK to Athens with return from Marseille. next month flying biz class to london and 1st class to India, returning through Paris…worth the time and effort..

  • hargreve

    This essentailly feels like a con by BA. They must be aware that finding flights is next to impossible, as everyone who has tried has found.

  • Aarif

    Right, but I was referring to where TPG stated: “however you can avoid huge BA fuel surcharges on regular Avios redemptions by following these tips and when crossing the Atlantic, make sure you fly Aer Lingus or Air Berlin.”

  • Ben Price

    Say what you will, but spending that kind of money and redeeming all those points on a flight that’s less than 7.5 hours……

    Rather spend the time/aggravation on a super long haul, i.e. MIA to LON to BOM or something…

  • tigermark82

    Even if you use BA Avios on AA they still charge you fuel surcharges.

  • hmaia

    How about GRU-LHR or GIG-LHR? No fuel surcharge on those routes – thanks to the Brazilian government. You would have to position yourself there, but I suppose it could be fun if you have time. There are plenty of direct flights from MIA-GIG/GRU.

  • sb

    I’ve practically given up on using my Travel Together ticket. I wanted to book SFO-DEL. Tried all dates throughout the year and nothing was available. I’ve also cancelled my chase BA card and will not be collecting any avios wince they are almost impossible to redeem.

  • Sam Wolfe

    I get one a year (two banked at once last year) and have had no problem for summer F redemptions for two (usually JFK-LHR-XXX [in Europe]). I think you’re issue is you’re a bit too late…I usually book Dec/Jan for July travel. That said, award availability in premium cabins on BA Apr-Sept 2014 has been way more difficult than in previous years. The UK & US economies improving could be partially one of the reasons…

  • Sam Wolfe

    Wouldn’t work – TPG’s specific companion ticket deal is ex-US only.

  • LAbzb

    One ticket last earned last year. No time to go. One earned this year and nothing available from LAX-London for the summer. Looked regularly starting almost a year in advance! Too many restrictions and too few/no options to make it work. No longer using BA credit card.

  • joeypore

    Isn’t JFK > LON business class only?

  • Ryan S

    I just went through all of this myself! I ended out deciding to go via Houston to Dublin in August with a stopover in London. It added a marginal cost to get to houston, but the first class flights and the free stopover I think make it worth it.

  • joeypore

    With BA, I find that what I want doesn’t open up until very close-in before the flight. That’s usually all I use Avios for anyway… last minute tickets that I’d have to pay for anyway.

    The reason I haven’t gone for the companion pass is because of the “must depart from the US” rule. Would love to use it from LHR > JNB… at only 100,000 RT for biz, for TWO people, that’d be great, even if we had to pay the taxes. Oh well :/

  • mwilson77

    Yeah, meant London the city, with LHR having the most options

  • Jenny

    I had an incredibly easy time booking IAD-LHR, first class over/business class back, using the companion ticket, but I booked for end of July in January. Was able to get $12,000 worth of tickets for about $2300, using 100K points and companion ticket

  • Liz

    We booked our open jaw tickets from MIA for last November 9 months out (to Milan and from Berlin) in Business class. Availability at that time was no issue, did via phone (fee waived since system wouldn’t let us do it online and negotiated with the agent). Surcharges around US$1,100 per ticket. IMO, the BA business class experience was well worth the cost/comfort and plan on using the companion ticket we accumulated in 2013 in next year or so.

  • italdesign

    Can you change the itinerary in any way once booked?

  • jana

    I had a similar trial of using the companion voucher, no seats available. Very high fees, literally I could buy the ticket without using miles for the same price as what British Air charges in fees. I am quitting by British Air Visa card as a result.

  • rj123456

    Please have the honesty to diss the hand that feeds you with referral $$$ and call a spade a spade. The BA 50K miles bonus is great (because it can be used on AA, Aer Lingus etc) but the Travel Together is is a joke. The fees are paid per person and often times than not are as high as an economy ticket; and business/first availability is almost impossible. My wife and I have had 2 vouchers expire in the last 3 years.

  • Allen

    I dumped British Airways and their criminal scam charges.
    I’ve been using my Adios Points for short haul flights.

  • mgstiles

    Wonder why business and first seats show up on Alaska’s website and not on BA’s site? Trying to book 3 tickets from anywhere in the US to Zurich in December using a TT ticket.

  • Karl Mitchell

    It definitely requires persistence and monitoring, but it’s not impossible. I was lucky, in that I wanted to fly to the UK this summer, and a bucket load of August 2014 First Class (A380) availability opened up, albeit briefly, from LAX (my home airport) to LHR, which I leapt on immediately. Taxes & fees were not cheap, but not significantly different from an Economy ticket.

    Depending on how you value things, the miles (150,000) and the companion pass were either worth $0 (relative to economy), so 0 cpm, or ~$28,000 (relative to first class ticket price – taxes and fees), so 18.6 cpm, the latter of which isn’t bad for a total ~$32,500 spend on credit cards!

  • brian kusler

    We used a travel together ticket book June flights from JFK to LON (on the all business class a318). We booked in early December and had no problem finding availability.

  • Turnip Truck

    I always regard companion-ticket offers with skepticism. However, I did recently manage to book a Travel Together, BOS-LHR, out in business and back in first, for this coming December. 100,000 Avios and about $2350. That’s less than a single all-business-class roundtrip usually is.

    The BA Visa really only works for Americans if you have certain very specific travel patterns–flying to London from a gateway city in business or first a lot. I no longer do that, so I’m using up my Avios while I can, but I extracted some decent value from the program while I could, especially on the CX JFK-YVR flights, which don’t have the surcharge.

  • Brian

    You can cut down on the taxes by flying somewhere other than the UK, which will spare you the draconian Air Passenger Duty

  • Peter

    My Travel Together certificate expired. I spent months trying to get lax to Lhr in business or first and got nothing. Canceled the card after spending 30k to get a worthless certificate.

  • GAM

    I redeemed a companion ticket for BOS-LHR-FCO & back. NYC/BOS-DUB isn’t worth a redemption though because BOS-DUB in Aer Lingus J is so easy to book and it’s a much easier flight than connecting in LHR.

    BA availability issues aren’t new, but over the past year, it has been especially bad. I’m not sure if it BA is locking up more award seats because revenue seats are up, or if more people are redeeming their avios, but I’m not impressed.

  • Christopher

    I was able to book Denver to Paris and then Paris to New York on the voucher. However, I did book the ticket in June 2013 for December of the same year, so I did it WAY in advance.

  • Dump Obama

    We booked a companion trip to Rome from DFW in Oct 2013 for a Sep 2014 trip. We were able to get Business going but only Economy returning. No problem as we view the outbound as the critical flight. We decided to check back if seating opened. In Jan 2014 seating opened in Premium Economy and we called and changed our seats, as well as extended our return date.

    The only problem we had was we could not select our seats. The system told us we did not have a confirmation recorded yet and we could not select seats until we received our email.Over a period of two months we called every weeks and eventually got an agent to confirm the two seats we wanted (to be sure we’d sit together) and the email arrives maybe three months later.

    Turns out that when you normally book a flight everything is automated. But when you make a change as we did it’s a manual process and since we had almost 10 months until our flight they were busy dealing with people who had earlier flights.

    So just be aware that on changes you may not be able to select your seat with calling and pestering.

  • David

    I was kind of pissy about the BA companion certificate too, until I finally figured out how to use it without paying an arm and a leg. I was able to book two first class one-way awards IAD-LHR (direct) for 60,000 Avios and $876 for this July.

    I recently got the Barclay World Mastercard and used 40,000 pts to knock $400 off the taxes and fees, so that my total outlay was 60,000 Avios and $476 for two first class tickets.

    To book a one way award, I forget the exact process, but I think I recall that you do your search as normal, and then switch to calendar view. Hope that helps!

  • Phxtrav

    Tried to go PHX-LHR-CDG round trip. Started looking in December 2013 for Sept 2014 trip. Searched departures from DEN/DIA/LAX/LAS/SFO daily. Finally found 2 tix LAX-LHR-CDG roundtrip. Found it through website although I enlisted agents by phone (who were nice, but acknowledged getting 2 seats from US to LHR is nearly impossible). Not worth it to try for another companion voucher. Will cancel credit card.

  • dean

    let’s hope the lawsuit against them and the “bogus” fuel charges as it pertains to oil/etc futures it totally bunk. perhaps it will help out ;)

    I, for one, will hold off that $1 spend over $30k until as late as I can in the year.

    Question: is the 30K for the CT based on calendar year? or 1yr from card anniversary??

  • mcm

    I have two Travel Together awards, one for each of our two BA cards. They’re both going to expire, June and October 2014. I CANNOT find seats to anywhere we’d like to go. I NEVER see availability in business or first. It is TOTALLY a con job and it’s really ticked me off. What a waste of all those spending $$’s that could have towards something real. Don’t get sucked in by the promise. It’s a crock!

  • JustSaying

    No one should try the Canadian or Mexican airports as the companion is for USA airports only and it will just error out and waste your time……..the BA Visa is dead and you might as well bury it and put the 30k spend on a more rewarding card……..there are many to choose from that slams this card in the mud……

  • John Griffin

    The most ridiculous BA conduct is sending out flights with many open seats in First and Club World. They just would rather send them out empty than allocate Z class seats. The second most ridiculous thing is that you can’t even stand by for an earlier flight in First. If you have a late flight and want to travel earlier in the day, BA won’t permit it, even at the airport. They will send that aircraft out with empty First seats rather than allowing you to fly on an earlier flight. This is hurting us, and Chase Bank, for the Chase Visa customers are getting the raw deal.

  • John Griffin

    Like today, we cannot use Avios points for Club World from AUS to LHR, even though ExpertFlyer shows 9 plus seats in inventory. These should be allocated to award seats at this juncture, instead having the aircraft half empty, with Chase card customers left in the cold.

  • tivoboy

    The problem isn’t the 2-4-1, it’s BA’s award availability in general. for premium cabins, USA to LHR (the only real gateway to other cities) it can be next to impossible to find. It DOES happen though and even as bleak and frustrated as one/I can get trying to find availability to the cities I’m looking for, with some reasonable flexibility of dates in the end I have usually found something very close to what I’m looking for. We did SFO-LHR-Mumbai-Delhi-LHR-SFO a couple years ago and this fall will be traveling on the unicorn of flights (a DOUBLE unicorn no less!) SFO-LHR-CPT-LNB-LHR-ORD! Those were next to impossible to get, but with a couple weeks of daily searching and tracking and calling, the tickets were booked for the dates we wanted (give or take an extra day in CPT – which based on TPG’s reports of CPT we’re lucky to have!)

  • CW

    Agreed: I’ve been using these (actually the UK based equivalent from AMEX) for years and had some really nice travel out of it – e.g. LHR to SYD in Bus, LHR to IHD in First – but it is much much harder now – availability is non-existent.

  • Hanh Hua

    Brian, did you end up booking your companion tix for April? What was the final itinerary?

  • rlc

    Is the Travel Together ticket holder required to keep the Chase BA card open until the Travel Together ticket is booked? Or is it possible to cancel the card, and avoid paying the annual $95 fee, while still using the Travel Together ticket before its expiration date?

  • Mike

    I tried to book a one-way AUS-LHR-MAD with the BA companion certificate by calling BA to no avail. Then I did it from the web page by starting with a round trip and then switching to one-way. Thanks for the tip.

  • Rski213

    If you can be flexible this is a great program. Flying JFK to Nairobi via London in First in three weeks. The leg from the US to London is the hardest to find. With some patience well worth it. Taxes and Fess are high but compare that to two First tickets JFK to Nairobi which run 15K per ticket!

  • Point Saver

    RLC,

    Did you find the answer to your question? I am wondering about the same whether we have to keep “Chase BA card open until the Travel Together ticket is booked”? Has anybody paid the taxes of the award+companion ticket using a NON-Chanse BA card?

  • Point Saver

    I am wondering whether we have to keep “Chase BA card open until the Travel Together ticket is booked”? Has anybody paid the taxes of the award+companion ticket using a NON-Chanse BA card? I have already received a companion voucher, which will expire in Dec’2015. Can I cancel my Chase BA credit now (to save $95 annual fee) and redeem the companion voucher a year from now?

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