Using British Airways Travel Together Certificate for “Cheap” First Class Flights to London

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Last year I got the British Airways Visa Signature® Card both for the sign-up bonus points as well as to try and put $30,000 in spending on it in that calendar year to trigger the “Travel Together” certificate.  With this electronic certificate you can bring a companion on your Avios redemption on a British Airways operated flight for no additional Avios cost.  You just pay the prescribed number of Avios for one person and the second is “free” in terms of the number of points owed.  Sadly, you do still owe a pretty hefty amount in taxes and fees for both tickets, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Earning and Using the Travel Together Certificate:

It took me much of 2013 to hit $30k on the card (and I won’t hit it again this year), but I did it once and then had two years to use the earned Travel Together benefit.  Part of the reason I delayed using the certificate for this long was that the taxes and fees to fly on British Airways operated flights are very high from the United States, and the fees to just fly out of London in a premium cabin on any carrier are also quite high.  With the Travel Together certificate you had to fly on a ticket that both left from the United States and was round trip, so my wallet just wasn’t ready for those taxes/fees x 2 even though the Avios price alone was quite good.

How high are the taxes/fees you might be wondering?  We are talking a couple thousand dollars worth of taxes/fees for two people to fly on Avios round trip on British Airways operated flights in business or first class.  Economy isn’t even much less, but I found a way to make it much more affordable even in premium cabins.

Flying One-Way to Save Money on Taxes/Fees:

I had read a few anecdotal remarks about being able to use the 2 for 1 for a one-way trip over the phone, but I’m not very lucky/skilled with getting rules bent, so I didn’t act on it until I saw one-way functionality recently available online.  You can argue that you are cutting the value of the 2 for 1 certificate in half by only using it for a one-way trip, but it also brought the fees down to a level that I could live with, especially since we will just be using it to fly into London and not be hit with the extra fees that come with leaving from London.

I’ve only flown on British Airways on short hops within Europe, but I really enjoyed those short flights and hoped to experience their flights ‘across the pond’ someday.  Well, “someday” only gets here if you make it happen, so when my husband decided he wanted us to spend some time in Ireland and London next summer, it was time to put the one-way capability of the Travel Together certificate into action.

British Airways fees make redeeming Avios to fly coach basically a waste since the fees you paying are close to the price of outright buying an economy ticket much of the time.  Plus, let’s be real, I don’t obsess about miles to fly overnight to Europe in coach.  The taxes/fees for business class were exactly the same on our route as first class, so it was a pretty easy choice to go for first class since who knows when we will get to fly British Airways again (plus there was no nonstop business availability on our preferred travel dates anyway).

Using the certificate was very simple, you just click a box in the search process that says you want to use the certificate.  You then just search as normal and you are not charged the Avios for the companion.  In our case finding first class availability from Houston to London for next summer was pretty simple, though there were portions of the year that had very limited availability.  We needed seats for three, but I even saw seats for four in first class on several flights.  As long as you had some date flexibility multiple award seats were there to be had.

British Airways First Class Seats

Leveraging the Certificate for Relatively Cheap First Class Tickets to Europe:

The taxes and fees came to about $478 each plus 75,000 total Avios for the two first class seats booked via the Travel Together Ticket.  That averages out to 37,500 Avios + $478 for each person to fly Houston – London in British Airways First Class since the flight is between 4,001 – 5,500 flown miles on their distance based chart.  That’s not free, but that is a pretty cheap way to fly first class to Europe compared to other options.  Of course we needed three seats for our crew, so our total was 150,000 Avios and about $478 per person one way, which is still relatively cheap in terms of first class.  For comparison purposes the taxes on each round trip journey would have been about $1,250 each for a total of close to $4,000.

British Airways Travel Together

British Airways Travel Together

If we were a family of four we could have theoretically used two companion certs and flown for the same number of Avios as it cost us for three people.  For families who are flying with “lap infants”, British Airways is also a good program to look at as the infant is just charged 10% of the Avios price and not 10% of the actual ticket price as with many programs.  That can save $1000 on a premium cabin award ticket.

This was not something we have ever done before, and not something we will do again in the near term future, but something we are excited about none the less.  We are essentially paying coach prices and flying in first – what a way to start some family time in Europe!  As it stands we just have a one-way ticket to Europe booked, which is pretty cool, but ultimately we will need to get home at some point.  While we aren’t to this point yet, we are considering using Avios to fly British Airways partner Aer Lingus home out of Dublin.  Our Travel Together ticket would not have worked on an Aer Lingus operated flight anyway, but we will avoid the huge taxes/fees by flying home on Aer Lingus, so we might end up with the best of both worlds.

Have you used the Travel Together certificates for a family adventure?

 

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Comments

  1. Any reason why u didn’t use AA miles to pay for your 3rd ticket? I’m assuming you either have more Avios or u just wanted to have the 3 on the same PNR.

    • Angel, well I’d be hit with the same fuel surcharge either way but it would have been 62,500 AA miles vs 75,000 Avios so there is a good argument for AA miles there, depending on your valuations of both. The real reason I booked the way I did though was simply that the AA calendar doesn’t go out as far as the BA calendar, and thus I could not book the date I wanted using AA miles even if I wanted to without waiting until closer in, which I didn’t want to chance. I also like the BA cancellations fees better in the even we can’t make the trip for some reason.

  2. Great post indeed. Can you combine the comp. cert with the “avios+cash” offer they have? (e.g. where you pay some cash if you don’t have the full amount of avios)?

  3. We used 2 compantion tickets for a family of 4. Husband and I each used our companion for 1 kiddo. Flew BA Business Class and not to be snobby, but if I do it again it’ll have to be First. I wasn’t impressed with the wierd seats – you have to climb over someone’s feet to get out. The taxes/fees were steep, but I kind of equated it to buy 1 get 3 free.

    We had a ridiculous flight debacle, so in the end I got reimbursed almost all the taxes/fees under EU216(?). BA was pretty prompt with the reimbursement no argument. So in the end I guess it was really free.

  4. Unless you goal was to British Airways First, I don’t think this was a good use of miles. I find these certificates worthless given the high fees. For the same number of Avios (150,000+$375 total) you could have flown 3 people round trip from Boston to Dublin in J. Aer Lingus is introducing a new business class with full lie flat seats on all a330 flights by March. Yes, you would have purchased a round trip to Houston to Boston. Another caveat, Aer Lingus only release 2 J seats per flight. You would have had to split up. There are two daily BOS-DUB flights 3 hours apart so it would not have been two bad. Aer Lingus are also good about same day changes if there is room. My wife and 2 kids are doing this next summer. J availability is still wide open, but Aer Lingus are known to pull all of it with no notice. They pulled the BOS-DUB Y availability for July 2015 about 3 weeks ago.

    If your ultimate goal is to get to Ireland. You could have added a LHR to Belfast segment for free as part of your redemption on BA. Belfast is part of the UK and applicable for the free internal flight.

    • Robert, the Boston – Dublin deal is epic. Very very good deal. Heck, Aer Lingus in general is very good from nonstop locations. I’m hoping the rumors they are coming to Dallas are true. However, since we also wanted to go to London and since we don’t live in Boston the deal isn’t near as good for us. The availability issues you mention are also quite real with Avios much of the time. All in all, great deal, but wrong deal for this portion of the trip. I hope we are able to use Aer Lingus to help us get home from Dublin, but we’ll see what pans out.

      • What are your thoughts about using London as a stopover and then using the free connecting flight to get to Belfast on your BA ticket?

        • Robert, I think it is awesome! We had looked at going up to Edinburgh before heading to Dublin, and if we did that (or still end up doing that) it certainly makes sense. If we are only heading south of Dublin it probably wouldn’t be my first choice since just booking a ticket to Dublin is roughly the same price right now as the taxes on getting to Belfast, but it is a benefit worthy of a reminder I think, so many thanks for that.

          • I can’t believe I am about to say this, but don’t forget to look at Ryan Air. They just introduced a new family friendly policy with 2 free checked accessories for kids ( stroller, car seat, cot, etc. ) plus 50% discounted seats for kids. While I haven’t personally flown them in over ten years, these policy changes are a major improvement and I would consider flying them again.

  5. Couldn’t you avoid the extra large fees on a return trip by only connecting through London and not originating in London? So couldn’t you have booked connecting return flights to Dublin for roughly twice the fees of a one way?

  6. While the 2-for-1 T&Cs have always said round trip (actually “return” in BA speak), pre Avios, one could book an open jaw if you went in and out of the same BA-defined region.

    Any idea if this still plays today?

    Thanks.

  7. Do you have to fly before the certificate expires or just book by then? Also, can you connect on AA/US/AS to the BA flight and get the 2-4-1 deal on those segments as well?

  8. My wife and I are using the Travel Together ticket to go to Edinburgh over Thanksgiving! F out of Houston and C on the return (not a lot of availability). It was really expensive for the fees, but worth it to fly in the better classes long haul.

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