My Struggles Trying to Use the British Airways Visa Travel Together Ticket
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One of the most interesting benefits of the British Airways Visa Signature Card 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.
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:
I’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.”
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.
So 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:
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.
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.
Departing 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.
I’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 Signature Card. 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!