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It’s the bane of many an award search to Europe with American AAdvantage miles.
You see space available on dates you want, but when you click to see the flights, they’re all on British Airways, which tends to have lots and lots of award space to Europe. And that space often comes with maddening fuel surcharges of hundreds of dollars on an ‘award’ ticket.
You could choose to avoid British Airways altogether using these alternatives.
But we took a deep look into current British Airways fuel surcharge prices by destination (you can see the info below).
And while some of their surcharges are truly obscene, like $1,636 for a roundtrip in Business Class from the U.S. to South Africa, completely ignoring British Airways options for your award travel means you’re missing out on reasonable options that can take advantage of British Airways’ generous award availability, especially in First and Business Class.
We’ve found using British Airways for award travel from the U.S. with AAdvantage miles can be very reasonable if you:
Fuel surcharges are generally set in the currency of the region you’re starting your trip.
And with the strong dollar and weaker demand for flights from Europeans, you’ll save a lot by booking two one ways instead of a round trip if you’re starting in the U.S. That will let you take advantage of more favorable European pricing for your flights back home. Otherwise if you just book a straight roundtrip on one ticket, you’ll pay U.S. based prices for the whole thing.
Here are examples:
And you’ll find this discrepancy between two one ways and a straight up roundtrip with just about every British Airways destination from the U.S.
Never, ever book a single roundtrip British Airways award from the U.S.
Always book a roundtrip as two one ways. You’ll pay the same number of miles, but far less in taxes and fees.
The current surcharges for flights from the U.S. to destinations British Airways serves are pretty high when you fly British Airways the whole way:
But if you fly an American Airlines flight to London and connect to a British Airways flight, here are the surcharges you’ll pay:
For the most part they’re much lower than flying British Airways across the ocean, especially to Europe, even though you’re still flying British Airways beyond London.
There are some modest airport taxes of about $30 for connecting in London, but these are all reasonable prices to pay.
This is even more interesting when you consider American has recently opened up tons of Business Class award space on its own flights to London.
When you’re flying from Europe you’re going to be paying over $100 in taxes on an award ticket no matter what airline you fly or miles you use, thanks to the governments and airports there.
Adding fuel surcharges on top of those taxes, most trips back to the U.S. with British Airways flights across the ocean will run you $400 – $500 all in for Business and First Class tickets.
But there are some cities where you’ll pay closer to $300, even on British Airways flights across the ocean, thanks to lower taxes and surcharges:
Since you pay about $100 or so in taxes no matter how you fly back, think of it as paying about $200 extra to take advantage of the great availability of British Airways award seats in Business and First Class.
Here are current surcharges and taxes for flights to the U.S. from some of the most popular destinations:
Surcharges are the same no matter where you arrive from the U.S., so the prices above apply for New York, Los Angeles, Houston, or anywhere else you can reach in the U.S. with your miles.
Here’s a trip in the height of summer from Los Angeles to Rome.
On the outbound, you can fly American to London, then British Airways on to Rome in Business Class.
That leg is just 50,000 miles plus $40 in fuel surcharges on top of the typical taxes.
And on the way back you can fly British Airways all the way to New York in First Class, followed by American’s luxurious transcontinental First Class from New York to Los Angeles.
Just 62,500 miles plus $270 in fuel surcharges on top of the taxes you’d already be paying with or without British Airways.
All very reasonable for a luxurious award with convenient connections during the height of the summer.
So if American’s recent generous award availability to Europe in Business Class gets tighter, know that not all British Airways options are obscenely priced. You just have to break up your search, and be creative with the strategies we listed above.
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