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How Can I Avoid BA Fuel Surcharges Flying to Portugal?

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TPG reader Catherine tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy– “I’m booking honeymoon flights to Portugal and want to avoid British Airways fees and LHR. What’s the best business/first class product to fly? AA757, IB340, or other?”

I love helping people plan their honeymoons, especially when they’re to some of my favorite destinations like Portugal!

Catherine wants to get to Portugal using Avios in Business or First class while avoiding the hefty fees and fuel surcharges that British Airways tacks on to its award flights. So many people have tons of Avios, thanks to the recent 40% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards and the British Airways Visa, which offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Avios after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. You can transfer points in from SPG and Chase Ultimate Rewards as well; however, once people have a lot of Avios, they often don’t know how to use them!

You have a lot of options when it comes to getting to Portugal. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
You have a lot of options for getting to Portugal. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The best option if you want to avoid fees is to fly Aer Lingus or Air Berlin, which both fly to a bunch of different cities in Europe and have pretty decent business class products (Aer Lingus is installing lie-flat seats at present). Most people that aren’t me will be fine in Air Berlin’s business class, which is about six feet in length (I’m 6’7″, so I don’t quite fit).

I think American Airlines has the best overall business class service to Europe in their new 777. The food isn’t great, but the product is gorgeous and comfortable. However, you’ll have to pay fuel surcharges if you redeem Avios on American.

Another option is Iberia, which does have a decent business class with pretty good food, and a cool experience overall (see my review for more details).

Between those four products you really can’t go wrong, but I think Aer Lingus is the best product if you want to avoid surcharges. Also, if you can get to Dublin on Aer Lingus (but not all the way to your destination), then getting from Dublin to Portugal may actually be cheapest on (dare I say it) Ryanair, because booking a Ryanair flight may just be cheaper than the fuel surcharges you’d pay on an award flight.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Apply Now
  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable $95 0% Excellent Credit