Cheap Avios flights mixing business and economy class

David Whitley August 3, 2015 Comments Off on Cheap Avios flights mixing business and economy class

Avios-Logo-520How a loophole in the British Airways Avios system allows you to combine classes on flights for a bargain rate.

 

The mixed class Avios loophole

It seems that the British Airways Avios system has a fairly significant loophole in it – as I have just discovered when booking flights to Australia. With some connecting flight, if you book one way in economy with one partner airline, than the other way in a higher class with another partner airline, you will pay the same amount of Avios as you would booking economy both ways.

 

Economy one way to Australia, business class back

I first discovered this quirk when looking at flights from Manchester to Perth. Using the BA site to search for rewards flights after logging in to my Executive Club account, I found one relatively poor value option.

I could go to Perth with Cathay Pacific in economy (with a fairly long layover in Hong Kong), then come back with Qatar Airways in economy for 100,000 Avios plus £306.

Given that economy returns to Perth can often be found for under £800, this would be a waste of Avios. So I played around a bit, to see whether I could get a better deal flying premium economy of business class.

There weren’t any business class seats on the outbound leg, so I switched to business for the return leg. The cash cost ended up slightly higher – £342.80. But, astonishingly, it required exactly the same number of Avios – 100,000 whether flying economy or business. If you don’t believe me, see the screenshot below…

Manchester to Perth, using the Avios loophole to go economy one way and business the other.

Manchester to Perth, using the Avios loophole to go economy one way and business the other.

 

The mixed class Avios rule of thumb

This seemed rather odd. Usually flying business costs three times as much as flying economy, so going economy one way and business another should logically cost twice as many Avios as flying economy both ways.

I wasn’t sure whether this was a one-off, so I tested with a few different routes and a few different partner airlines – such as Qantas and Malaysia Airlines. And the same thing kept happening, although not totally consistently.

I’m also not sure why it is happening, but a rule of thumb seems to be as follows:

 

If you book a return flight with Avios, taking a connecting flight with a partner airline in one class outbound and another connecting flight with a different partner airline in another class on the return leg, you will only pay the number of Avios needed to travel in the lowest class both ways.

 

That possibly sounds more complicated than it is. And due to the extra distance (and thus Avios) incurred on most connecting flights, it is probably not worth it for most destinations. But for destinations that two BA partner airlines fly to and there’s no direct route, this could work very nicely. The obvious ones are Australia and New Zealand, where there’s no option but to connect somewhere, but places like Lima, Kota Kinabalu or Bali seem like a decent bet for this trick too.

 

Open jaws and mixing economy with first

When it came to making an actual booking, it got better. I wanted to book a flight going into Sydney and out of Adelaide. But to do that on the BA site requires making two separate bookings, and the loophole didn’t work.

So I phoned up Executive Club and enquired whether it’d be possible to make it as one booking over the phone – and if so, what would the cost be. It turns out that such open jaw bookings can be made over the phone as a single booking. And the loophole, at least in this instance, still works.

So I went away again to find some flights that roughly matched my dates. I searched for an economy one way from London to Sydney, then a business class one way from Adelaide to London.

That second search was most interesting. Searching for business also brings up the first class options. These are not shown when searching in economy or premium economy. Given that economy options don’t show up when you search in business or first, this means you can’t see economy and first class availability at the same time. But the same loophole works over the phone.

The trick is to search for an economy return to the same destination. If the economy plus economy option is the same amount of Avios as the economy plus business option, then the economy plus first option will be the same amount of Avios too. Find an instance where economy plus business works, then do a separate search to see if there’s availability in first on the same flight. And book it over the phone.

It’s highly likely that the agent on the phone will say this is a more expensive way of doing it, so be ready with the exact dates and flight numbers.

 

My ridiculously cheap flight to Australia

So what flight did I end up with? Well, alas I couldn’t get the dates right within my potential travel window to go economy then get both legs of the return journey in first. But I did find the following:

 

11 November 2015: MH003 (Malaysia Airlines) from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur in economy, followed by MH0141 to Sydney in economy.

2 December 2015: CX0174 (Cathay Pacific) from Adelaide to Hong Kong in business class, followed by CX0253 from Hong Kong to Heathrow in first.

 

Further applications?

It may well be that there are further permutations where this loophole works – I’m really not sure because I’m not sure how or why it works. But if you’ve got the time and the travel date flexibility, this quirk of the Avios system is almost certainly worth exploring. Particularly if you’re going to Australia.

 

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