British Airways

Value of the British Airways Travel Together Ticket Post-Devaluation

Yesterday, I wrote about the British Airways Avios devaluation and how I didn’t think it was that terrible, mainly because of the following:

1. Short-haul partner award redemptions are staying the same, while the introduction of off-peak awards makes some British Airways redemptions cheaper.

2. The devaluation largely affects premium cabins, which are cheaper to book with partner reward programs anyway (i.e. American AAdvantage and Alaska MileagePlan for Cathay Pacific flights). Premium seats on long-haul British Airways flights incur hefty fuel surcharges, making Avios a bad choice to begin with.

3. While novelty awards like Cathay Pacific Vancouver – New York in a flatbed First Class seat are becoming less attainable post devaluation, we’ll live. A product that is so widely lauded is best enjoyed on a long-haul segment, don’t you think? Plus, nobody needs a flatbed seat on a 5 hour flight and if you absolutely do, then book JetBlue’s Mint class product. In some instances, it’s cheaper when booked with Barclay Arrival Miles or even TrueBlue points. Plus, if you’re not from Vancouver and using additional miles to fly there just so you can fly Cathay Pacific First to New York, you’re wasting miles and travel time.

British Airways Business Class

This brings into question whether the higher redemption rates for premium cabins increases the value of the British Airways Travel Together ticket. That depends on the distance you’re traveling and whether you’re flying Business or First Class. Most people put the Travel Together Ticket to use on First Class fares.

Starting April 28, a roundtrip First Class flight between San Francisco and London will require 200,000 Avios and $1,250 in fuel surcharges. In order to earn enough Avios to cover the flight and fuel surcharges, you’ll need to put $160,000 in manufactured spending on the British Airways Visa Signature card and $56,250 on the Barclay Arrival Plus card. Add another $56,250 in Arrival Plus spend to cover the taxes on the companion ticket and you’re looking at doing $272,500 worth of manufactured spending for two First Class tickets. [UPDATE: The standard earning rate on the British Airways Visa has decreased from 1.5 Avios per $1 to 1 Avios per $1. Thus, the amount of required spend mentioned in above has increased.]

How does that stack up against what other airlines require? Compared to the amount of spend required by most other frequent flyer programs, the British Airways Travel Together Ticket often ends up being pricier:

Alaska Airlines

  • 250,000 miles on American Airlines ($200,000 – $250,000 in manufactured spending)
  • 280,000 on British Airways ($225,000 – $280,000 in manufactured spending, plus fuel surcharges)

American Airlines

  • 250,000 miles (200,000 – 250,000 in manufactured spending + fuel surcharges on British Airways flights)

United Airlines

  • 230,000 miles on United ($153,333 – $230,000 in manufactured spending)
  • 280,000 miles on partner airlines ($186,666 – $280,000 in manufactured spending)

US Airways

  • 250,000 miles on partner airlines ($200,000 – $250,000 in manufactured spending)

(Note: the low-level manufactured spending required for Alaska, American and US Airways awards are based on Starwood Preferred Guest Amex spend and transfer bonuses. United’s is based on the 1.5 miles per $1 earned through the United MileagePlus Club Card)

Keep in mind that it takes $30,000 of spend each calendar year to earn the British Airways Traveling Together Ticket. Yes, that $30k also gets you a minimum of 37,500 Avios, but it’s still a substantial amount of spend to put on a card in exchange for a premium award ticket that comes with hefty fuel surcharges. 

If you’re earning your miles through Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll have to do a bit more manufactured spend than if you were earning your Avios through the co-branded credit card. The exceptions are transfer bonuses like the current 40% bonus offered by Amex Membership Rewards. With such a bonus, your Avios earnings rate would increase to 1.4 Avios per $1 spent. Another thing to take into consideration are the taxes and fuel surcharges tacked onto British Airways awards booked using American, Alaska, or US Airways miles.

The SFO – LHR award mentioned earlier is just one example of when the British Airways Travel Together Ticket may not be such a good redemption option. Hopefully it gives you an idea of how to determine whether redeeming a Travel Together Ticket with the new Avios award chart is a good value – specifically, if you’re earning your miles through manufactured spending. You might also want to reference this chart, outlining the amount of manufactured spending required for first class travel on various airlines across different regions when doing your own calculations.

So back to the original question: Does the Avios devaluation make the British Airways Travel Together Ticket more valuable? If you’re primarily redeeming Avios for travel in premium cabins and this currency is more readily available to you, then you’ll appreciate the Travel Together Ticket for discounting these redemptions. If short-haul flight redemptions are your game or you can book First Class awards with a rewards currency that doesn’t impose fuel surcharges or high redemption requirements, then the Travel Together Ticket won’t matter.

In light of the upcoming devaluation, how do you value the British Airways Travel Together Ticket?

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  1. Hi Ariana. I read one of your articles on frugal travel guy and have found your amazing blog through there! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! Quick question. On there you were described as someone who has “over 1.5 million miles saved up”. How do you have it saved up? Do you have hundreds of credit cards that are open and paying annual fee yearly on those cards to keep miles saved? Thank you in advance!!! =)

    • Thanks Mike! I’m glad you enjoyed my posts. I earned most of my points from multiple credit card sign-ups, manufactured spending and a bit of mattress running. For example, I earned over 500k Club Carlson points through the Big Night promotions of 2013. I cancel most of my cards before the annual fee is due, but do plan on keeping 4-5 of them long-term (I’ve actually got a post coming up on FTG where I discuss which cards I’m holding onto).

  2. Thank you so so much for replying Ariana!!!! Many bloggers do not even reply when you make comments on their posts so I totally appreciate your reply!!! I really really appreciate it! I can’t wait for that post! A follow-up question though. If you’ve earned particular points on a credit card and decide to cancel it before the annual fee is due, what happens to your points earned? Does it get cancelled? Do you have to use the points before you cancel your card? How do you save your points like how you have 1.5 million miles saved and yet cancel before the annual fee? Many thanks!

    • Sure thing! Frank beat me to the punch here, but his answer is spot on. Airline/hotel points are yours to keep, but bank rewards points are forfeited. You definitely want to transfer/redeem those before canceling a card.

  3. @Mike,
    It really depends on the credit card and the program they offer.
    Generally, with Bank Points (Thank You from Citibank, Membership Rewards from AMEX, Ultimate Rewards from Chase and Flexpoints from US Bank) you can lose the points if you close the card. There are a number of ways to circumvent that (like having a different compatible card from the same bank, having a spouse to transfer to, or simply moving the points to a partner airline or hotel program. But you need to make sure they are safe before closing the credit card account.

    With regular miles-earning cards (American from Citibank, United from Chase, etc.) or hotel points card (Hilton cards from AMEX or Citi, Club Carlson cards from US Bank, etc.) you do not lose the points once they are transferred each month to the partner program (you will lose any points in the current cycle if you close an account before the billing cycle ends).

    However, each program (whether Airlines or Hotels) has their own limit on how long you can have them in the account before they expire. These vary considerably: a few do not expire (like Delta miles – they just devalue them every 20 minutes so they don’t have to worry about too many outstanding); most expire after 18 months to 3 years without any movement in or out (you can easily earn miles from shopping portals, etc. as a way to extend the life of these miles).

    Those are general rules to follow, but each program has its own quirks (at least one says that miles will expire after x years from earning and so they will slowly disappear if you don’t use them). I have never lost any miles though I have a LOT at present in MANY programs (11 airlines and 5 bank points – I consider SPG points like other bank points except better – and 8 hotel programs). But I make a second career out of this (well, at least a significant hobby) and keep up-to-date on all of this nonsense!

  4. Ariana, I have the British Travel Together pass and am hoping to use it. I have plenty of BA Avios for short trips anyway, and I am thinking of a Business Class trip for 2, presumably to London as it has to be on BA metal. I could go to/from SFO or JNB and swallow the high fees, but I was hoping for something better. I don’t need (often I don’t like) first class and so we always fly Business Class internationally. And BA first class is not very good or so I hear.

    Do you know any sweet spots? I don’t mind $500 or so in fees for 10 hours.

  5. Anyway, Ariana, why not contact me next time you are coming up to Sacramento/Roseville area and we can chat over a coffee and compare notes? I think we’d have a lot to talk about.

  6. Thaaaank you so much Frank and Ariana!! You guys are so helpful!! I appreciate it!

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