Rate my redemption: Open-jaw first and business class from London to the United States, using 155,000 Avios
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TPG reader Nick shares his most recent redemption:
One of my bucket list items is to drive Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, however as my wife works in a school we are tied into peak dates for holidays.
Armed with my British Airways Amex Companion Voucher, I booked 2 x Club World seats for the London (LHR) – Chicago (ORD) sector (using 60,000 Avios) as soon as they were released online at 1.00am 355 days before departure. I added the return Los Angeles (LAX) – London leg by phoning BA the day they were released, so overall I was very happy to have been able to use my voucher & 135,000 Avios in total to secure 2 x Club World seats on a popular long-haul route in peak season.
I also have SeatSpy alerts set up for First availability on both sectors, so when I received a notification recently that First seats had been released for the Chicago flight, a quick call to BA ensured that I grabbed those (for an extra 20k Avios & even a small refund on the taxes previously paid!). Here’s hoping that I’m similarly lucky for the return flight from LAX…
Overall, the flight cost for my wife & I (LHR-ORD in First, LAX-LHR in Club World) is 155,000 Avios & £1,245 in fees/surcharges/taxes.
You might already know the British Airways Companion Voucher from American Express can be used for mixed-cabin redemptions when you can’t find availability in the higher class of service on both legs (or when you only have enough Avios for the higher class in one direction).
By using the handy SeatSpy tool, which the TPG team uses all the time, Nick received an alert when two first-class seats opened up; then, it was a simple matter of calling BA to move up to the higher class by paying the extra Avios required. The small refund of fees and taxes doesn’t sound quite right and may have been a lucky error in Nick’s favor.
A little-known perk of the already valuable Companion Voucher is that it can be used for open-jaw itineraries. This is where you fly into one city and out of another. This could be useful if you are taking a land journey, like Nick is from Chicago to Los Angeles, and you don’t want to backtrack to fly home; it's also smart if you can’t find availability to fly out of the same city you flew into, and you are willing to travel in order to fly home in the desired class of service. For example, you may fly into Miami, but out of Orlando.
The rule for open jaws is that the distance between the airports you are flying into and out of (in Nick’s case, the distance between Chicago and Los Angeles) cannot be longer than either of the flights you are trying to use the Companion Voucher for. You can use the free gcmap.com tool to work out the distance by entering the various airport codes.
Related: The complete guide to maximizing stopovers and open jaws on award tickets
In Nick’s case, the distance between Chicago and Los Angeles "as the crow flies" is 1,744 miles; this is much shorter than both the flight to and the flight from London, so this open-jaw itinerary is allowed with a Companion Voucher.
While the 1,245 pounds ($1,526) in fees, taxes and surcharges will sting, there’s unfortunately no way of getting around these, especially if you wish to commence your journey in London.
Related: Why are the fees, taxes and surcharges on Avios redemptions so high?
Hopefully, two first-class seats open up from Los Angeles for Nick’s return journey. Regardless, though, I rate this as an excellent redemption and savvy use of both SeatSpy and the Companion Voucher’s generous open-jaw rule.