When Does It Make Sense to Use the British Airways Travel Together Ticket?
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Airline credit cards typically offer several standard benefits, like bonus earning on airfare purchases, free checked bags and priority boarding. But one of the most valuable perks any airline credit card can offer is a companion ticket that basically cuts your cost of travel in half (well, plus taxes and fees, in most cases).
For example, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card offers an annual companion fare in economy for just $121 ($99 plus any taxes and fees from $22); and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express both offer annual companion certificates as well. The Rapid Rewards points earned with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card count toward qualifying for that airline’s much-loved Companion Pass.
Thanks to its high welcome bonuses, earning structure and airfare discounts, the British Airways Visa Signature Card has long been considered one of the best credit cards from a foreign airline offered in the US. But it also comes with one of the most interesting companion travel benefits of any credit card, the “Travel Together Ticket.” Here are the details on this companion deal and how to maximize it.
Earning the Travel Together Ticket
British Airways has a whole webpage devoted to the Travel Together Ticket. Per the terms listed, US-based cardholders of the British Airways Visa Signature Card who spend at least $30,000 on their card in a calendar year will earn the companion ticket. A voucher is issued four to six weeks after you hit the spending threshold, and the voucher is valid for outbound travel up to 24 months from the date of issue (the return can be past that).
Qualifying spend for the $30,000 threshold does not include cash withdrawals, interest, balance transfers or fees, only purchases.
Only one voucher can be earned in any 12-month period. So you can’t earn one Travel Together Ticket by hitting $30,000 in spending in June, say, and then earn another by hitting an additional $30,000 by December 31. You could, however, earn one voucher, and then earn a second one in the following 12-month period and use both at once on the same itinerary.
BA Executive Club members who are the main account holder of the British Airways Visa Signature Card and have a registered address in the US are eligible to earn the Travel Together Ticket, but additional cardmembers are not eligible.
Rules of Use
These types of vouchers can only be applied to award bookings using British Airways Avios and on British Airways flights. In this way, the Travel Together Ticket is different from the other types of companion tickets out there, which are more like a two-for-one paid deal. In this case, you’re getting a two-for-one award redemption, but are still responsible for the taxes and other carrier-imposed charges on your ticket, which means you’ve got to find two awards open on the same itinerary in the same cabin.
The voucher is only good for use on round-trip itineraries originating in the US. The companion for whom you redeem the voucher must be booked in the same cabin on the exact same itinerary as you. So if you find a business-class award, you must find a second one on your exact itinerary.
Per the terms and conditions page again, “Members must remain eligible for this promotion at the time of travel. BA and Chase reserve the right to withdraw any vouchers in the event that the Member is in breach of the terms of the BA/Chase Credit Card or the BA Executive Club Terms and Conditions.” So though the terms are not explicit, you should plan to have your card open and in good standing at the time your want to use your Travel Together Ticket.
When It Makes Sense
Now we come to the real question: Is it worth even using the Travel Together Ticket? The answer depends on how you plan to redeem it. If you’ve read this site for any period of time now, you know that British Airways awards are notorious for the high taxes and surcharges on flights to or through London. While this generally makes economy awards a bad value, it can still be worth paying $1,000 to fly in business or first class as part of an award ticket compared to shelling out the cash on regular airfare.
Also on the plus side, British Airways award availability between the US and Europe (with the exception of the airline’s route between Los Angeles (LAX) and London Heathrow (LHR), that is) tends to be phenomenal compared to what US and other European airlines make available. So if you do want to book an award, your chances are good.
Now, let’s take four scenarios and compare the cost of using the Travel Together Ticket to the cost of purchasing airfare to determine whether this is a good deal.
To make things simpler, we’ll just look at a single route from Houston (IAH) to London Heathrow (LHR) over a single set of dates in September since award availability was open across all four cabins offered by BA on these flights and the taxes/fees are typical examples of what you would expect to pay.
First up, economy. A round-trip award on this itinerary would cost 32,500 Avios plus $536 in taxes/fees.
So if you were booking this as a Travel Together Ticket, you’d still be paying 32,500 Avios plus $1,072 for two tickets. Compare that to the regular economy fare of $1,388 per ticket.
It’s a lot of money for an economy round-trip in any case, but you’re still saving over $1,000 by using your Travel Together Ticket.
Now for premium economy. Here’s a sample award from the same week that would cost 65,000 Avios plus $646 for a single award ticket. For the companion deal, double those taxes/fees to $1,292.
A paid fare would be $1,743. You’re saving $2,194 by redeeming a Travel Together Ticket.
Though taxes and fees go up on business- and first-class tickets, you end up saving a lot more thanks to sky-high airfares. Here’s a business-class award for 125,000 Avios plus $1,302, so for two people, you’d pay $2,604 in taxes/fees.
Compare that to airfare for two, which would cost $11,436. Your Travel Together Ticket would save you $8,832 based on these numbers.
Finally, let’s look at a first-class award. This one on the same dates would cost 170,000 Avios plus $1,302 as well, or $2,604 for two people.
Compare that to the regular airfare of $6,500 per person, or $13,000 for two people. You’re saving $10,396.
Granted, you’re still paying a lot of money out of pocket, but it’s a fraction of the face value of a regular, paid airfare, and you’re saving half your Avios as well since you’re only redeeming the number you’d need for a single award ticket.
Also keep in mind that if you’re just passing through London rather than ending your journey there, taxes and fees do go down slightly depending on where your final destination is. To take a quick example, here’s a business-class round-trip with the same Houston-London flights but with a connection to Paris (CDG) tacked on. You would have to pay more Avios, of course, but the taxes/fees are $121 less per person.
If you do want to use the Travel Together Ticket but you don’t have enough British Airways Avios in your Executive Club account, the good news is that there are plenty of transfer options to boost your balance since the program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.
In order to transfer your Amex points to BA, you need a credit card that earns full Membership Rewards points like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, or The Amex EveryDay Preferred Card from American Express, among others. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio.
Starwood Preferred Guest points also transfer to BA at a 1:1 ratio (for now). Every time you transfer 20,000 points, you get a 5,000-point bonus. Of course, SPG is being folded into a newly combined program with Marriott starting in August, but that program will maintain the existing airline transfer partners (and even add some more).
The British Airways Visa Signature Card’s Travel Together Ticket is one of the more interesting airline credit card benefits out there.
The calendar-year spending threshold of $30,000 that you’ve got to hit in order to earn the companion voucher is high. Then, there are many restrictions to actually using the voucher, including finding round-trip awards on BA’s own flights between the US and Europe. Finally, taxes and fees on British Airways award tickets can be astronomical.
Still, it can be more than worth it to redeem Avios along with the Travel Together Ticket in order to save hundreds or thousands of dollars on a trip. That is especially true if you plan to redeem yours for travel in either business or first class, where airfares can sometimes range over $8,000-$9,000.
Given BA’s widespread award availability and how easy it is to earn British Airways Avios, both from the British Airways Visa Signature itself as well as from the airline’s transfer partners, using the Travel Together Ticket can be a great way to fly to Europe in style while saving money…as long as you’re willing to spend at least a little money on taxes and fees!