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Using US Airways Miles to Avoid British Airways Fuel Surcharges

by on April 29, 2014 · 66 comments

in British Airways, US Airways

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One of the bright spots in the American Airlines-US Airways merger and US Airways joining Oneworld is the fact that you can use British Airways Avios to fly US Airways, and you can use US Airways miles to fly British Airways. Although US and American airline reps have said that US Airways will charge the same taxes and fuel surcharges (i.e. high ones!) on British Airways and Iberia redemptions that American currently does, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the moment. In fact, taxes and fees on British Airways award tickets booked via US Airways are actually quite low. That might end any day, though, as the airline becomes more closely aligned with American, so if you’re thinking of using your US Airways miles and British Airways is one of your options, now is the time to book that award. Side note: To make my upcoming award redemption cost $0 out of pocket, I  plan on paying for my taxes/fees with my BarclayCard Arrival so I can use the 40,000 points from my sign-up bonus (worth $440) to cover the taxes and fees on my award ticket. 

You can't win, if you don't enter!

Forget flying US Airways – use your miles to fly BA with lower fuel surcharges!

Apart from just saving on flights to/from London, this could be a great way to get to Asia via Europe thanks to US Airways’ lax routing rules and its lower mileage redemption levels to various regions including North Asia (which includes Japan and China, but also Hong Kong, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

For example, flying from New York to Hong Kong using miles will cost you the following depending on the airline – just note, I’ve included the mileage for flying JFK-Hong Kong via London Heathrow versus just catching a non-stop flight on American or Cathay Pacific:

American Airlines British Airways US Airways
Economy 160,000 (70,000 direct) 100,000 (70,000 direct) 60,000
Business 210,000 (110,000 direct) 200,000 (140,000 direct) 110,000
First 265,000 (135,000 direct) 280,000 (210,000 direct) 120,000

But it’s the taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges where the advantage of using US Airways miles really comes into play. Here’s a sample itinerary in first class on British Airways from JFK to HKG via London – you’ll note I had to price it out as two separate itineraries due to American’s routing rules and maximum permitted mileage. Here’s the first leg including mileage and taxes:

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 1.46.45 PM

So the JFK-LHR return trip prices out at 125,000 miles and $1,186 in taxes and fees.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 1.46.29 PMThen the LHR-HKG route prices out at 140,000 miles and $970.60 roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 1.48.50 PMThat’s a whopping 265,000 miles and $2,156 in taxes and fees!

British Airways is even worse in terms of mileage, but not fees surprisingly. I was able to price out the same itinerary on BritishAirways.com for 280,000 Avios and $1,614 in taxes and fees.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 1.52.03 PMCurious to see what US Airways’ redemption would work out to on the route, I called the airline. Now, I spent quite a while on the line with the agent because she was not seeing the same availability on the return, even when I spoon-fed her exact flights and dates and gave her alternative dates as well. Eventually, I just had her book a first class Cathay Pacific ticket back from Hong Kong to New York non-stop rather than routing through London.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.22.15 PMLike the others, this trip is all in first class, and it’s actually a de facto round-the-world itinerary. However, thanks to US Airways’ rules, it priced out at just 120,000 miles and $131 in taxes and fees!

Curious, I asked the agent I spoke with to look up just the JFK-LHR portion of this trip and the same return as on the other itineraries and it priced out correctly at 125,000 miles, but $382 in taxes and fees. Keep in mind, I could actually have planned a London stopover on the outbound and continued on to Hong Kong and still ended up with the lower mileage and taxes figure.

Still curious, I looked up a random American Airlines business class itinerary from Raleigh Durham to London in October in business class that priced out at 100,000 miles and $326 in taxes and fees:

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.47.49 PMOn USAirways.com, it priced out at the same 100,000 miles, but $377 in taxes and fees.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.50.13 PMOn BritishAirways.com, it priced out at 80,000 Avios and $1,134.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.52.35 PMSo you’re pretty much splitting a $50 difference between using AA or US miles, but though you’re using 20,000 fewer Avios, you’re paying nearly $800 more!

In terms of booking a British Airways flight to London, I found the following itinerary from JFK-London on British Airways in business class, returning to LaGuardia via Boston.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.25.26 PMThe total came to 100,000 miles and $1,200 in taxes and fees using American miles!

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.24.32 PMI called back in to US Airways just to price the same itinerary out quickly and the agent I got – who had a bit of trouble finding British Airways (which she kept calling “British Airlines”) flights but with a bit of polite coaxing finally came up with the flights I told her one by one – priced out the itinerary for me at 100,000 US Airways miles plus $378.82 including a $50 phone booking fee.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.31.17 PMA much better deal than booking through American!

The Strategy

While it’s difficult to pull some hard and fast rules out of this, here’s my attempt to do so.

1. Do not use Avios when flying through London. You’ll get hit with hundreds if not thousands of dollars in fuel surcharges.

2. Only use US Airways miles to book British Airways awards. Both American and British Airways price out awards on BA itself with astronomical carrier-imposed surcharges while US Airways does not seem to be doing so…for the moment.

3. Use US Airways miles on complicated routings. The airline’s award chart sweet spots like 110,000 miles for business class and 120,000 for first class to North Asia are great in their own right, but what’s even better is that you can route through Europe from the east coast and even build in a stopover there – getting two trips for the price of one, and your taxes and fees will be much lower than using Avios or AAdvantage miles.

4. Flying to/from London might incur more surcharges than continuing travel. Per the US Airways redemptions I went through, even though I would be flying BA via London to Hong Kong, the taxes and surcharges actually ended up being lower than stopping in London either on British Airways or on American, so I would only plot this out for trips that do not begin or end in London.

Have any of you been using your US Airways miles on British Airways awards? What were your experiences and taxes/fees like?

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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  • Allen

    I’m sure this won’t last long, so get’em while you still can, and avoid the British Airways SCAM charges.

  • Daniel

    I booked an award PHL-LHR on US Airways using 20,000 Avios and my taxes and fees were $2.50. Yes only 2 bucks and change. BA does not impose fuel surcharges on US flights to UK, at least not from Philly.
    On the flight back the fees are like $90 or so.

  • pizza

    just booked IAD-LHR continue to HKG. Return from NRT to LHR to IAD. one stopover in LHR and one open jaw, all for 120K miles and $215 taxes.

  • Jon

    Thats all nice that US miles don’t charge the tax, but award availability on BA, and even AA is terrible if you are flying out of any US airport besides JFK.

    Also any idea how they restrict which Oneworld flights you can book with your points. I saw many flights that were bookable with BA Avios points, but when I called US to book with them (to avoid the high tax) I had several frustrating calls with agents claiming to say that award availability wasn’t there.

    So I think US is falsely advertising that they are part of Oneworld, when at whim they decide what inventory is available and what is not.

  • Pissed in Pittsburgh

    Just came over from VFTW to tell you to GFY for posting this … To me, there’s a very clear line on whether or not you should post something. That is “if I post this, will it kill the deal?” If the answer is yes, then don’t post it…

  • Hank

    Hurting for visits or something that you felt you needed to go kill a deal?

  • NN

    Seriously disappointed… thanks for killing this!

  • John

    A blogger posting these kind of things should not be rewarded with affiliate link clicks.

    Those of you who feel grateful, you won’t even be able to take advantage of it anyways since the cat is out of the bag unless you have the miles and several hours today to book.

    Had he not posted this, then this would have lasted longer when you probably would have had enough miles.

  • Joseph

    Thanks for killing another deal!

  • thepointsguy

    BA availability is actually pretty great, compared to other carriers

  • thepointsguy

    My loyalty is to my blog readers and not miles and points “insiders”. Sorry, but that isn’t changing anytime soon!

  • thepointsguy

    Disagree with you- this deal was out there publicly, so I’m just doing what is best for my blog readers and will save people potentially thousands of dollars. No good deal lasts forever anyway, so might as well take advantage while you can. If you knew about this deal and didn’t act on it, then that isn’t my fault.

  • thepointsguy

    This has been out there for a while. If you haven’t booked yet, then that is all on you. My job is to save my readers money and help them maximize miles and that isn’t changing anytime soon.

  • SeaBee3

    But for something like this, I would venture that far more are hurt by you revealing than helped by it. Those who knew have been booking/saving to book but you talking about it will bring it to greater attention of those who can do something to change it. If that happens, it will be shut down before your readers are able to get it all done (thanks to US Airways and how their agents work). Your blog, but definitely not a good thing to do to the community in the name of more advertising for you.

  • Sunrise089

    Can you explain what you mean by publicly? VFTW and OMAAT both suggest you’re the first blogger to publicize this.

  • thepointsguy

    No good deal lasts forever, so book sooner than later, indeed

  • Unsubscriber

    “save people potentially thousands of dollars.”… More like YOU want to make thousands of dollars. We all know that the only reason you posted this is to make money. You already make thousands just from your credit card offers… Unsubscribed.

  • John

    Your claim that you are helping your readers is laughable. You are helping yourself trying to draw more readership. If you were really trying to help people out, you would have provided this tip at conferences where you pitch and market your blog rather than blasting it all over the internet.

    The airlines read your blog and they are not that dumb. Good job pointing them where to plug that hole.

    Your publicist is going to pull some overtime hours in order to catch your gaffe. Are you going to get another dog maybe?

  • Joseph

    Your loyalty is to yourself first. Would you be doing this if you weren’t earning money in the process? You have to do what you feel is right.

    This has been on FT and a Canadian blog, but I am unaware of any other public venues where this deal has been publicized.

  • thepointsguy

    No, I just put my blog readers first and think that more people will be able to save money/ take advantage of the deal if they know about it.

  • thepointsguy

    If no one knew about it, then why are people up in arms? It was on smaller blogs, but I decided to share it with my readers because they are mypriority.

  • John

    He makes more than half a million dollar a year in credit card signups. That’s his bread and butter. He’ll do anything to get people to apply for more credit cards. Hence this post.

  • thepointsguy

    If you don’t want tips on good deals then not sure why you subscribed in the first place!

  • thepointsguy

    People would be stupid to think that AA/US doesn’t read FT and have google alerts set up so that even the smallest blog content is noticed. BA also doesn’t charge surcharges on US TATL award so there may be a temporary agreement. Regardless, it’s a solid tip that people who want to travel on BA with US miles should know about.

  • Marc

    Thanks for posting this. I hate that other bloggers try to keep these deals a secret so only they can benefit. I applaud you.

  • Marc

    Thanks for posting this. I hate that other bloggers try to keep these deals a secret so only they can benefit. I applaud you.

    So what if it kills a deal at least it allows everyone to get it and not just a select few

  • Matt

    Agreed, I think it’s pretty hypocritical of these ‘forum’ people to think they have some kind of secret society of FT and MP where noone checks it but then once it hits a blog ‘poof’ the deal is killed.

    If it’s posted on the internet, albeit a forum or blog, it’s open to the public so stop beating up bloggers for trying to share the deal (and in return get cc referrals lets not kid ourselves) for more people to take adv of it.

    What happened to MV killing the Lifemiles deal? Oh wait he didn’t despite the drones thread trashing that his post would kill it. Get over yourselves.

  • Matt

    Lucky’s response to TPG:

    c) I think it says a lot more about how out of touch TPG is with this
    hobby than anything else, given how he just discovered this (I know
    hundreds of people that have known this all along). You’d think this
    discovery wouldn’t come as a surprise to the top miles & points
    blogger. But I certainly could be wrong…

    #blogbattles

  • unsubscriber

    well said +1.

  • Mike

    I agree with many here and really wish you hadn’t posted this. It had been shared in some circles, but not by anyone with remotely near the visibility you have. I’m not one who thinks that bloggers kill everything, but in this case it is a clear glitch and now that it has been posted in such a hugely public way it’s likely to be fixed much more quickly.

  • Unsubscriber

    I do want tips and good deals (no brainier). We all know that you’re not running this website for us… you’re doing it for yourself. #BoycottTPG

  • thepointsguy

    How do you know it’s a glitch when BA also doesn’t charge surcharges on US awards? Maybe an interim IT issue before both sides start charging?

  • Mike

    That’s a fair point, however even if it’s an IT issue this sort of exposure will only serve to increase their urgency in correcting it and hasten it’s demise. There were a number of people (myself included) trying to put together the last few miles for a US Airways award on BA in order to take advantage of this, and while admittedly this could have been corrected beforehand either way, it makes it much more likely that those who were saving their dividend miles with the intention of booking one of these surcharge-free awards will be out of luck. Obviously you and I won’t ever see eye to eye on this one, but I was disappointed to see the post.

  • thepointsguy

    There’s no battle here on my end. I’m not on the defensive, so I won’t swipe back at him ;-)

  • ucipass

    I am with the pointsguy on this one. There is no way US Airwyas is that stupid forgetting charging fuel surcharges. This has to be a temporary thing until they figure things out. So why not allow the masses to save some money? Will this change soon? Probably…..

  • John

    Any flt with a stopover in London or originates in London triggers the U.K. premium cabin departure taxes.

  • sunrise089

    I appreciate you taking the time to reply. While I don’t endorse your decision, I think a position of looking out for your readers first even if it kills deals is defensible.

    That isn’t however the position you’re consistently taking. You say above “Disagree with you- this deal was out there publicly, so…” The “so” is critical IMHO, and indicates had the deal not been “out there” already you might not have published it. That leaves us debating just how “out there” it was, and while I’m sure your blog isn’t the very first place online to feature the deal, I think you’re also downplaying how under the radar it was and just how much more exposure the deal is seeing after your post.

  • Savvy Consumer

    I don’t know what’s the fuss is about. If people don’t like what TPG is doing, they’re free to unsubscribe. Like all of us who are doing a job or running a business, he’s running a business too and wants to make money. I see nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like what he’s selling, then as a consumer, nobody is forcing you to buy.

  • Ziggs

    Brian, I’m outraged by this post. How could you take information that was
    already readily available on the internet and post it here. If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the internet is great at keeping secrets. So congratulations on being the first person to ever make something go viral.

    I’m outraged by the fact that you are running a for profit business on the internet. I thought you were just maintaining this blog out of the goodness of your heart (like all of the other points bloggers). But, no, you
    had to go and make money. So congratulations on running a profitable business; unlike you I work for free.

    This post also outrages me, b/c I had a flight planned on BA using US Airways miles 7 years from now. Now I’ll have to spend an extra $800 on surcharges – I’m sure AA/US Air would have never figured this out if not for you. I was planning on going to Cambodia in first
    class. Instead of being able to appreciate the beauty of the country and realize how fortune I am to travel, especially as I stand amongst abject poverty, I’ll be miserable b/c you personally cost me an extra $800 dollars. So congratulations, b/c of you I don’t have perspective.

    I’m also outraged b/c outrage is what “we” do. As someone new to the points and miles games I desperately want to fit in. After reading the blogs and especially the comments sections I realize feigning outrage
    over trivial things is what “we” do. And I desperately want to be part of the “we.” So congratulations on helping me fit in.

    I’m also outraged b/c even though I don’t know you and have never met you, I can attest to the fact that you are a jerk. Why? B/c you posted this and I read it, which apparently makes me qualified to call you names. So congratulations on being a jerk.

    Oh, p.s. I did comment on the 25K AA mile giveaway, so even though I’m outraged, I’ll still accept the miles if I win. #hypocrisy

  • Yawn

    yawn. Get a life.

  • James

    +1 Not my favorite blog, but I don’t like it when bloggers who act like they are trying to help then don’t tell us about good deals they know about. So thanks Brian.

  • NewReader

    Had he not posted this, I would not have known about the deal to take advantage of it in the first place. Do you honestly believe that corporations like AA and BA will allow work-arounds like this to exist forever? In the four hours since this was posted, has either airline changed their policy?
    The people complaining about this blog post because they don’t have the airline miles saved up are the ones that sound selfish to me.

  • Ron

    Thank you for posting this … even if I don’t book an itinerary using this information.
    Bloggers and their detractors need to realize that their readers are consumers of information. If you are not willing to educate your audience by withholding information, don’t expect me to compensate you via affiliate links, etc.
    I find it distasteful that bloggers load some of their content with commission-earning affiliate links, but don’t then don’t share other information with me. If I’m worthy of receiving some of the information, then I’m worthy of receiving all of it.
    Brian, again, thank you.

  • Ralph

    I understand why TPG did this but the line “this deal was out there publicly, so I’m just doing what is best for my blog readers” is bull.

    My example: TPG used to have the Chase reconsideration numbers on the blog until big, bad Chase came and told him to take it down or risk losing his commissions. Being a smart businessman, he obviously took them down. But was this in the best interest of his readers? Wouldn’t having those numbers available allow at least some of your readers a chance to get reconsidered and save money by earning miles?

    Again, I get why you did this – you run a business, you want to make money. But dont try to fool us and “say I am doing what is my best for readers” – the end goal is the $$$ bottom line…

  • Vin

    I just booked JFK>LHR via BA using US mileages and cost me $252…

  • Andrew

    I have to say it’s really hard to like TPG. He’s bragging about all those places he’s gonna visit in 2014, a crazy list for one year, Bora Bora, Oman etc thanks to the money he makes here. Why would anyone use his links? He brings honestly no value whatsoever, only credit cards links. Really weird.

  • Laughing in Pittsburgh

    Calm down there internet gangster! haha

  • t

    Wow.

  • David

    Posting this trick is the most stupid thing you can ever do! You killed it! Shame on you for this! You deserve a cactus in your ass!

  • MYRflyer

    “Side note: To make my upcoming award redemption cost $0 out of pocket, I plan on paying for my taxes/fees with myBarclayCard Arrivalso I can use the 40,000 points from my sign-up bonus (worth $440) to cover the taxes and fees on my award ticket.”

    And this is the first time you’ve used your signup bonus from the arrival card? …. sure, Nice link opportunity.

  • Frequent Tom

    We all know deals come and go. I applaud you for sharing with your dedicated blog readers. Like you said, your loyalty is to your loyal blog readers and not the selfish few. We are the ones who in return will reward you with by using your affiliate links. You provide a great service and I learn so much – tips, tricks and these hidden gems.
    The naysayers are fooling themselves if they think the “loopholes” are not known by the airlines – they are not stupid after all! And yes the airlines will close them all anyway, so the more people who can cash in on them all the better!!

  • http://www.meetmike.co.uk Mike

    This is interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    So here I am, new to earning BA Avios, and I’ve racked up about 60,000 so far since I started a few months ago. I’m still trying to rack up more, but now I’m at the stage where I’m trying to work out how I could cost-effectively get to the USA (e.g. Denver, CO) from London, without incurring a ton of fuel surcharges and taxes. It seems that really the only cost-effective way to use my Avios is on short-haul flights.

    So this tip about using US Airways as a helping hand is interesting… but I’m sill trying to figure out some results!

    Any advice?

  • Jack

    I used to forward along good deals to TPG, but I recently stopped because of posts like this which help very few and hurt a lot. As a result, TPG completely missed putting up an epic airfare mistake a couple weeks ago (lowest international RT fare I’ve seen in over 30 years of travel). Lost all the money he could have made from the traffic! Tread carefully, my friend!

  • Martin

    TPG, you are right, just ignore the TROLL and continue providing the kind of service and information to your readers. I find your site very helpful. And yes I must say sometimes the reaction to your post is out of greed or jealousy. Treat all your readers equally. AMEN!

  • Hispanic Party Elephant

    Yeah – just look at all the credit card referral links in this post.
    Oh wait…

  • Martin

    TPG, please contact me I want to give you some suggestions which I don’t want to blast out here.

  • Departing from Phoenix

    Is this deal still available? Everyone keeps talking about it being killed. But I was thinking of calling US Airways immently and using my miles to book award travel on BA. Are they still not including the fuel charges?

  • Pfffft

    Ah, the glorious self-justification rears its head again. The Wall St taint and modus operandi doesn’t leave just because one doesn’t work on Wall St anymore….

  • aaa

    Preciously

  • pissed in Beijing

    you are such a selfish man..disgusting

  • boycotttpg

    i am sorry? “save money/take advantage?” you killed this deal

  • Michael Havens

    Thanks for this posting, very helpful!

    I have a quick question that would take me tons of research, but that you can probably tell me the right answer to in a heartbeat because of your vast knowledge and experience…

    -> I have a new job that requires me to fly ~100K-150K per year, and I currently have no status on any airline

    -> I live in Charlotte and currently have 12K miles and 16 segments for USAir Dividend miles for the qualifying year, and none on American AAdvantage

    -> I am about to go to India in a few weeks which will net about 15K miles

    So given the merger… am I better off continuing to pump my miles into USAir Dividend Miles which will get me Silver after this next trip and Gold by mid-summer, or should I do a challenge with American AAdvantage using my India trip and a few others to get me up to Platinum? (assume that I don’t mind paying a few hundred for the better service of a better program)

    What would you do?

    I appreciate any advice you can give me.

    Best regards,
    Michael Havens

  • Puritan

    Thanks a lot for posting this – they are now imposing the fuel surcharge

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  • Donna

    Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!

  • globalissues

    I wish flight industry would support helping global poverty issues . They gain so much money from passengers.

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