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Buying Domestic-Travel Options With Avios Points

Dealspin Weekly

By Steve Lobell

A couple of years back, British Airways (BA) changed their award chart to distance-based, which means that you pay more (Avios award) miles for more miles (traveled). I’ve covered how best to use these points on various posts on the site.

Of late, in an effort to raise incremental revenues as much as possible, most airlines have raised their mileage redeposit (cancellation) fees to as much as $200 per canceled ticket. BA remains one of very few airlines that charges just $55 for redeposit online and $70 over the phone.

An interesting quirk of the BA program is that when you cancel tickets they only deduct the change fee from your taxes; they will not put an additional charge on your card if the taxes are less than the change fee. So if you paid less than $55 in tax, they can only remove that amount when you cancel. My assumption is that the system was designed based on BA’s exorbitant taxes and fuel surcharges, which are almost never less than $55. It was likely thought that taxes would never be lower than $55 and this would never be an issue.

However, for the last several years, BA has actually allowed partner award bookings on their website (meaning any other airline in OneWorld, the alliance they are part of), including American Airlines for domestic U.S. awards. Typically, all domestic awards have a $2.50 fee per leg. So, for example, when I book a flight from LaGuardia to Miami, I pay a $2.50 fee, and that is the most BA will ever charge me to cancel my ticket online.

So how do I use this, practically? Well, as soon as I think I may want to travel to somewhere AA flies domestically, and there is availability, I book the ticket. I still have 24 hours to cancel for free, and all cancellations are just $2.50 (per leg) after that. It’s a great deal. It’s like buying an option on travel for just $2.50. This works on both domestic coach and first class, but is still not a bad deal on international travel, as $55 is a relative pittance to the cancellation fees on other airlines.

A few important notes, though:

• You must cancel more than 24 hours prior. BA is extremely inflexible about this rule. If you are booking a ticket for less than 24 hours out, you will not be able to cancel at all. This rule overrides all their other rules.

• You must have the credit card number you used for the ticket handy. If not, you will not be able to cancel online, and will have to call in.

• Redeposits are instant, so no worries about having to wait for the miles to come back in. But to see them, you will need to log out and log back in to your account.

• Book all round-trips as one-ways. There is no reason not to. It will make your life much easier if you need to cancel one leg and not the other.

As long as you keep the above rules in mind, this is an incredibly great “option” to have. I hope it lasts.

If you have any questions, drop a comment on Dealspin this week, and I’ll do my best to get back to you. v

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Posted by on May 10, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.