Please sign in to post.

Heathrow taxes

I know there is little sympathy for those of us who fly using award points, but I want to raise the question of London Heathrow's tax laws. I am flying to London on an award ticket. Unfortunately, AA pairs with BA and limits its reduced fare awards. Because I cannot get a suitable AA flight, I had to book one on BA. I am using my AA miles. My question relates to Great Britain's high taxes. Although my ticket is "free", I have to pay $800 in taxes to fly on BA. If I were lucky enough to get a seat on AA, my taxes would be $5.20!!!
BIG BIG difference. The other discrepancy is: if I booked straight passage to LHR and paid for my ticket, taxes, fees and carrier charges are included! I could purchase a ticket for $508 round trip in October and not be subject to the huge taxes BA imposes on award flights. Can anything be done about this--short of re-routing, not using awards, etc?

Posted by
4738 posts

It is very rarely worth taking transatlantic reward flights in economy at anytime with BA. The difference will be on carrier charges, not government / airport taxes, which would be the same (unless AA would actually pick up the tab for them).

If you want economy options with low YQ, then Aer Lingus via Dublin (if possible) or Iberia via Madrid may be options if AA isn't

Posted by
30 posts

Call American. We were able to avoid the taxes, but I am not sure how? I think we may have booked directly thru BA. American customer service was very helpful in booking our upcoming trip.

Posted by
4725 posts

It's not BA that imposes the tax but rather the government. The airlines have repeatedly complained about the high taxes along with public campaigns but to no avail. Unfortunately until there is evidence of tourists boycotting travelling to the UK because of the taxes nothing is going to change. Still, you get free entry to some of the worlds best museums so that offsets some of the cost.

Posted by
8868 posts

It's not BA that imposes the tax but rather the government.

Well, that is only part of the issue.

Looking at using Alaska FF miles, a LHR-SEA routing on BA has a fee of $355; same routing on AA the fee is $192. BA is obviously imposing some sort of surcharge that is not a government imposed tax.

The 'solution' is to avoid using BA if possible

Posted by
8889 posts

There are no (British) taxes for flights arriving at UK airports. The taxes are only for departing flights.
For scheduled flights it is between £13 and £150, depending on distance and which class you are flying. See Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Passenger_Duty

It is a bit disingenuous for the airlines and airports to complain about this, it is a small amount compared to their fares, and they are getting away with two huge tax subsidies, (1) Duty free and (2) Aircraft fuel is tax-free, which is a huge financial advantage compared with other methods of transport.

I have no idea what your $800 "taxes" are, but they are not British taxes.

Posted by
490 posts

The additional charges on our recent 2018 trip to Belgium, business class on British Airways:

Total government, authority and airport charges* USD 157.02
Total British Airways fees and surcharges USD 960.50
Total taxes, fees and surcharges per person USD 1,117.52

Posted by
1081 posts

I feel the need to chime in /correct some of the above comments. I have AA miles, and have researched this when trying to use them to go from US to Europe and back. Yes, taxes at Heathrow are higher than many other European airports, but the largest cost difference using AA miles to fly on BA is NOT UK taxes, but a user fee that BA charges when using AA miles. You can research this yourself if you have AA miles by starting to book a flight, then after selecting tentative flights (you are still just shopping), click on 'price and tax information'. You will be shown a detailed chart to the penny of all taxes and fees, including 'passenger service charge - United Kingdom' and also 'carrier imposed fees'. When using a BA flight, the 'carrier imposed fees' are usually the largest charge, and they are NOT govt taxes, they are simply an extra fee BA charges when using AA miles. As far as the OP's question of 'can anything be done about this?' Yes, refuse to use BA flights when using American miles - it's a ridiculous rip off and you are just encouraging this behavior. Use AA or other partners when using miles, or just pay for your flights on another airline.

Posted by
4738 posts

There are no (British) taxes for flights arriving at UK airports.

There are service and landing fees from the airport, security and immigration on both sides for a return trip. But these are in the tens of pounds, nearing one hundred at the most depending on the airport pair maybe, not hundreds. APD on departure is £78, reduced rate.

Posted by
490 posts

According to my receipt, the breakdown of the USD 960.50 of British Airways fees and surcharges:

Insurance and Security Surcharge** USD 956.65

Passenger Facility Charge USD 4.50

Posted by
13225 posts

“. . . . Simply an extra fee that BA charges when using AA miles.”

BA charges the same supplemental fee when using BA miles (Avios). It is not a penalty against using AA miles.

For a business class ticket on BA with BA (or AA) miles, it amounts to around $1000 per round trip, as JustTravel enumerated above.

Posted by
8868 posts

BA flt charges for FF ticket LHR-SEA
Total per passenger
32,500 miles + $349.31
Fare
32,500 miles + $158.10
Base fare
32,500 miles
Carrier imposed surcharge
$145.60

Partner award booking fee
$12.50
Taxes and fees
$191.21
United Kingdom Air Passenger Duty APD
$99.20
United Kingdom Passenger Service Charge Departures
$57.10
US APHIS user fee
$3.96
US Customs user fee
$5.65
US Immigration user fee
$7.00
US int'l arrival tax

LHR-SEA on AA LHR-SEA charges on FF ticket

Total per passenger
22,500 miles + $191.01
Fare
22,500 miles + $12.50
Base fare
22,500 miles
Partner award booking fee
$12.50
Taxes and fees
$178.51
United Kingdom Air Passenger Duty APD
$99.20
United Kingdom Passenger Service Charge Departures
$57.10
US APHIS user fee
$3.96
US Customs user fee
$5.65
US Immigration user fee
$7.00
US Sept. 11 security fee
$5.60

To me it is obvious BA is charging a fee that AA does not.

Posted by
1220 posts

Other countries and airports have their own international passenger fees as well. Playing around a bit on ITA Matrix with sample city pair, it looks like it's $96 in taxes and fees for a round trip to Frankfurt, $61 for CDG, $29 for Madrid, $48 for Rome FCO, $24 for Dublin, $23 for Oslo, $35 for Zurich, $30 for Moscow (DME), $25 for Prague, $26 for Amsterdam and $34 for Budapest at current currency exchange rates.

$63 or so on the US federal tax end. You're paying $7 for every time you pass through immigration on the way home and another $5.65 for US Customs services. (I do NOT recommend telling an ICE officer you're paying their salary though)

Also if anyone is looking for a cheap last minute trip, I found some $450 'economy light' New York-Amsterdam (one connection at LHR) fares for scattered dates in September on Delta when I was trying to get some sample tax numbers.

Posted by
3493 posts

The "carrier imposed surcharge" used to go by "Fuel Surcharge" but as fuel prices went down over the past few years and the fee didn't, BA changed the name.

The fee is much higher for business and 1st class tickets than economy.

But it is what it is. BA choses to charge this, if you don't like it your only choice is to use a different airline.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you everyone for your replies. I think the most correct reply is that BA charges for using AA miles on business class award. Unfortunately, many of AA's best scheduled award flights are booked on BA unless one wants to use double or triple the points to fly on AA. My trip home from London to New York on AA award costs $5.60 (lucky to get the AA non-stop flight). The trip going on BA (non-stop) with AA award miles is costing $800 in fees. (Not able to get non-stop on AA to London).

Posted by
11462 posts

I think the most correct reply is that BA charges for using AA miles on business class award.

BA charges the same using their miles as well. I have both AA and BA miles. I usually fly biz using miles. If a BA flight is involved, the fees are the same regardless of whose miles you are using.

I like a particular flight going over and that's on BA but for the return I always first look for an AA flight. Saves me hundreds of dollars.

Posted by
13225 posts

"I think the most correct reply is that BA charges for using AA miles on business class award."

No, it has nothing to do with using AA miles.

As several of us have pointed out, including Frank II directly above, BA applies their "carrier-imposed surcharge" to ALL award redemptions, no matter what kind of FF miles are used, AA, BA or AS (Alaska). And it is the same amount, no matter which program you are using. I just checked the Alaska Airlines website for business class award seats from Seattle to London on BA. They want $550 plus 60 K miles for the one-way booking. And $538 plus 60K miles for the return That is equivalent to what we pay when using our BA miles to book the same flights, That means we pay around $1100 each to fly roundtrip to London in business class with our miles. When I have checked on the cash price for our seats, it has always been up around $6000 each, so I feel we are getting good value.

Frequent flyer programs are able to set their own terms and conditions and are under no obligation to make the award seats truly "free".

Posted by
13225 posts

If you want to be sure of getting your flight on AA planes with your AA miles, you need to figure out when the Saver award seats are released, and book then. AA limits the availability of their Saver award Business Class seats, and they tend to get snapped up right away when they are released. After that, you need to pay more miles for an "Anytime" award, or pay the money for a seat on a BA plane.

Posted by
3706 posts

Many airlines promote a linguistic confusion in their own favour. A landing fee or other service fees at an airport are not "taxes", they are fees. So is the entrance fee to a national park, or a toll on the expressway. These are the costs of doing business, normal costs, yet airlines like to shift the blame onto government. My personal experience: Air Canada offered a 25 per cent discount on my next flight to compensate for a long delay. A handsome offer, until I found the airline would not count the fees and genuine taxes as part of the ticket cost. I ended up with a $100 discount, and very hard feelings for being suckered.