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The case for paying British Airways surcharges – great West Coast availability

by on Tue December 23, 2014 • 2 Comments

British Airways fees

We hate British Airways surcharges and the destruction of award availability on American’s own flights to Europe. And we talked about how we can’t recommend American AAdvantage miles for travel to Europe in Business or First Class anymore.

But there is one situation we overlooked where paying the ghastly British Airways fuel surcharges can be a good value.

It’s flying from the West Coast to Europe during the peak summer season.

Yes, you’ll get hit with $1,000 – $1,300 in taxes and fees on top of 100,000 – 125,000 miles for a roundtrip award in Business or First Class.

But here’s why it can be worthwhile:

  • Coach fares next summer to Europe are running $1,500 and more roundtrip from the West Coast, even with inconvenient connections
  • These flights are 10+ hours in a lie flat bed, something that costs over $5,000 retail
  • There are lots and lots of dates available, so you can plan around your work and school schedules
  • Buying a coach ticket and upgrading it will cost you over $2,000 plus 50,000 miles, so the idea of spending an extra 50,000 – 62,500 miles to save $1,000+ gets you over 2 cents a mile in value
  • Booking on American’s own flights with miles will set you back over 270,000 miles
  • Other airlines have almost no space to Europe during the peak summer months at reasonable prices – unless you buy a ticket to an East Coast or Midwest gateway

So as sad as it seems, this is still a good value for your points.

And availability is really, really good right now.

Take a look at this royal display for next June and July out of LAX. This is availability for at least 2 seats per flight.


And Seattle to London is an absolute gold mine…


While coach fares with lousy routing are running $1,500 and more

There’s no more stylish way to get to Europe than to fly in true First Class on British Airways. And if you just picked up 100,000+ easy American miles from credit card deals, well, a flight this long is worth the treat at least one way of your trip.

Still not sure?

If you’re booking with AAdvantage miles, you can change your flights up to 21 days before departure with no fees. And if you happen to find flights that don’t involve surcharges (think American, US Airways, Air Berlin, and almost Iberia) you’ll get the fuel surcharges you paid refunded.

An even better deal

The best deal of all is to take advantage of the British Airways travel together ticket which gets you 2 award seats for the price of 1 (though you pay the taxes and fees for 2 seats).

When you spend $30,000 in a year on the British Airways Visa you’ll get a Travel Together ticket that’s valid for up to 2 years.

(The information related to the British Airways Visa Signature credit card has been collected by and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.)

The catch is you need to be entirely on British Airways flights originating in the U.S., and as noted below most of the availability above involves connections on American or Alaska. Some East Coast gateways have great non stop availability. For example if you want to fly from Atlanta to London in Business Class it will cost you just 100,000 Avios roundtrip for 2 of you, plus about $1,000 in fees each. So it’s like getting tickets to Europe for $1,000 each + 50,000 miles each.

Not bad – it’s like buying a cheaper than coach ticket and getting to upgrade for 25,000 miles each way.

Last summer Avios availability from the West Coast was dreadful, so take advantage of it while you can.


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2 thoughts on The case for paying British Airways surcharges – great West Coast availability

  1. Gary Leff

    You’re going to want to re-run the searches for availability and set the filter on the left hand side of the screen for non-stop only. You’ll see that neither Los Angeles nor Seattle non-stops actually have award space open. The LAX flights are all connecting flights, through a variety of BA gateways. The Seattle flights are mostly Alaska Airlines to Vancouver … BA had stopped selling F from Vancouver but will return F service to the market March 29 and award availability opens up wide. (PHX/LAS/CPT are also getting F back.)


      @Gary – Yes indeed – sadly hard to find anything even with connections using UA or DL miles from the West Coast then so these connections become viable. LAX-East Coast-LHR a nice way to go if you’re using AA miles, not so much with Avios. Hopefully LAS / PHX open up the same way as YVR. 4500 Avios tag to LAS or PHX will be nice for LA.


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