What is British Airways’ Reward Flight Saver?

One of the better uses of Avios – even if you have a small balance – is to redeem flights with Avios on short-haul routes.

Prior to its introduction in late 2011, reward bookings were only attractive if you booked last-minute or required the added cancellation flexibility. They were subject to the usual high taxes, fees and surcharges – especially if departing from London Heathrow.

The Reward Flight Saver scheme (RFS) effectively replaced the variable cash supplement with a much more affordable fixed price supplement capping at £35 return in economy or £50 in business in most cases – at times going down to as low as £31 depending on the destination

Scope

RFS is available across most of BA’s short haul network and are subject to the availability of the usual redemption classes (ie. 2x Business seats and 4x economy seats per flight).

The scope also extends beyond the confines of Europe to include South Africa, by virtue of BA franchise carrier, Comair’s network.

Several fifth freedom flights operated by BA also qualify as RFS. The qualifying factor being that the sector distance is less than 2,000 miles. Fifth freedom flights allows an airline to sell tickets for travel between foreign countries as a part of a route connecting to the airline’s own country. St Lucia (UVF) to Grenada (GND) is an example.

Limitations

At present BAEC members cannot redeem Avios for Iberia Express (I2) or Vueling (YV) flights. However, Iberia Express flights with an IB code may be booked as standard redemptions.

Additionally, on the Madrid to London Heathrow route where Iberia operates a number of flights on behalf of BA, these flights cannot be booked as Reward Flight Savers.

Furthermore, it is also worth mentioning that if BA substitutes a wet lease aircraft then Reward Flight Savers may not be offered on it, particularly early on.

It is also important to remember that RFS is priced per flight on Avios not per journey and therefore it may be worth considering a cash ticket if flying from Edinburgh to Geneva via London.

Rules

To be eligible for an RFS ticket, passengers must meet the following criteria:

  • Distance between departure and arrival destination must be under 2,000 miles – on all sectors;
  • All flights must be operated on BA, if one leg is on BA and another on Finnair then this does not count for RFS.
  • If one of your sectors includes a long haul flight (ie in Zone 4 or greater), the entire ticket reverts to a standard redemption and is priced accordingly.
  • You need to have earned at least 1 Avios point in the 12 months prior to booking to be eligible for the RFS option.

London Heathrow to Moscow Domodedovo

If you asked any frequent traveller what the craziest thing you could do with the RFS scheme would be, they would hands down say to book a flight to Moscow.

the rational is that while both St Petersburg and Moscow both fall comfortably within Reward Flight Saver’s 2000 miles cutoff, despite not being ‘traditional’ short-haul routes. St Petersburg flights are operated by genuine short-haul aircraft, the Moscow route on the other hand features not only mid-haul A321’s but also a proper long-haul four-class aircraft – currently the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on one of the 3 flights a day.

This fundamentally means you are able to book BA First class to Moscow for a fixed £55 + 68,000-80,000 Avios return.

The benefit of doing so would be if you wanted to sample what travelling in first is like – Going through the first class checkin counter at T5, experiencing the concord room and a quick elms spa treatment and being able to sample that champagne before takeoff. Remember Air Passenger Duty is what costs when flying in a premium cabin – outside the EU this tax alone is £515.


Calculating the ticket

A reward flight consists of:

  • an Avios amount
  • taxes, fees and carrier charges

Avios

For Avios, a 2015 update came with a variable pricing method split across distance and seasonality.

For BA, two thirds of the year is classed as off-peak. When booking reward flights, the Avios required will reflect your desired dates if you can choose all peak dates, all off-peak dates, or a mixture of the two. The taxes, fees and carrier charges remain the same for both peak and off-peak dates.

One Way in Economy OFF PEAK PEAK
Flights up to 650 miles (distance) 4,000 4,500
Up to 1150 miles 6,500 7,500
Up to 2,000 miles 8,500 10,000
One Way In Business OFF PEAK PEAK
Up to 650 miles 7,750 9,000
Up to 1150 miles 12,750 15,000
Up to 2,000 miles 17,000 20,000
Source – Prospero @ Flyertalk

Cash Requirements

Reward Flight Saver fees are:

British Airways flights in Europe – £35/€42 return in economy (Euro Traveller) and £50/€60 return in business (Club Europe)

Comair flights in southern Africa – £80/ZAR1000 return in economy (Traveller) and £140/ZAR1800 in business (Club)

Point to Consider: Is business really worth it from city Airport?

if you are thinking of booking a business class ticket from London City Airport remember that there isn’t a lounge and the Embraer aircraft are already in a 2×2 configuration in economy. Additionally, priority boarding isn’t worth much due to the high percentage of passengers who fly from the City and Canary Wharf with British airways status. Furthermore, passengers from London City get a snack and drink as well.

BA Reward Flight Saver 2019 Trial

In mid 2019, BA trialled a scheme that expanded on RFS allowing passengers to pay the fees and surcharges using Avios and reducing the cash requirement to as low as 50p one way. the trail applied to every European destination to which British airways operated to.

While flexibility is always advantageous, the return had from passengers using Avios in such a way is poor and was criticised both on TPG and headforpoints.

Verdict

is it worth it – in some cases yes. The fact you are able to book a return from Paris, Amsterdam or Brussels with 8,000 and £35 is hard not to pass if you want to go. For last-minute flights especially, Reward Flight Savers can be enormously valuable, as their fixed price keeps the flight cost low, assuming there is availability.

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