How to Use British Airways Miles: Post 4, Spotlight on Taxes and Fees

Apr 11, 2011

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This is the fourth installment of my series on maximizing British Airways miles. Since so many of you got in on the super-lucrative 100,000 mile BA Visa sign-up bonus (see details of the current 100K offer), it would be beneficial to check out: General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10 – Using to Find Oneworld Award Availability. Also, be sure to check out my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.

One of the less desirable aspects of using British Airways miles is the high taxes and fees they tack on to most award redemptions. But, while these fees can be higher than what you are used to paying with other loyalty programs, you can still get great value out of British Airways miles because their One Oneworld Partner award chart is generous and there are some hidden gems. Some of my favorite  BA awards are Cathay Pacific Business/First Awards to Asia, Domestic awards on AA, and almost all South American redemptions on Lan and American.

Coach flights to Europe are hard to justify when the taxes/fees come to $500 – I’d probably just suck it up and pay for coach at that point. American Airlines flights to Asia don’t make much sense if you live in a Cathay gateway city (check out my post on Oneworld coverage from yesterday), since Cathay has nicer planes and lower fees. However, considering you can get a whopping 100,000 BA miles for $95 with their Chase Visa promotion, I guess we can’t complain too much about the miles not being the most valuable out there.

Overall, there may be other awards that make sense for you. My main goal is to give you a sense of what fees are out there so you can plan accordingly. If you want to do some research of your own, follow the tips I highlighted in this post – note that is by no means perfect. For example, if JFK-Madrid is available on American Airlines, it will automatically try to route you on BA through London. I’ll be highlighting other means of checking Oneworld award availability later this week, so don’t automatically think that the booking engine is 100% accurate – because it’s not.

If you still haven’t gotten the card, check out my original post on the deal and the long FAQ session in the comments section. If you apply through my site I get a commission, so if you support me doing more of these posts please consider using my link (it’s the same exact offer as

Now let’s check out sample awards, starting with British Airways. These are just a small sample of potential awards, but I think it should give you a decent idea of what to expect for award fees.

First example: British Airways Chicago – London in Coach… not worth it in my opinion unless its on a peak day and its over $1,200 to buy tickets
ORD-LHR Premium Economy
ORD-LHR Business Class
ORD-LHR First Class

Let’s move on to American Airlines and see what their fees are like.

Chicago to Dublin in Coach … Ouch
JFK to Budapest in Business

Miami to Buenos Aires in Coach

Miami to Buenos Aires in First Class
Domestic Coach Roundtrip
Los Angeles to Shanghai in Coach (one of their new routes – lots of award availability)
Los Angeles to Shanghai in First Class

Now let’s look at Cathay Pacific, which is one of the highest-rated carriers in terms of service.

Chicago to Hong Kong in Coach
Chicago to Hong Kong in Business Class
Los Angeles to Bali via Hong Kong in Business Class (Great honeymoon destination)
Toronto to Hong Kong in First Class
JFK to Vancouver in Business


Miami to Barcelona in Coach


San Francisco to Sydney in Coach
San Francisco to Sydney in Business Class – well worth it for such a long flight!

Royal Jordanian

JFK to Amman in Coach

Finn Air

Helsinki to Bangkok in Coach

Japan Airlines

Chicago to Tokyo in Coach
Honolulu to Tokyo in Business

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.