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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.
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.
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?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.