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Avoiding High Carrier Fees / Airport Surcharges - BA / LHR

We decided to use our FF miles for a R/T trip from US to Rome and placed a hold on the trip. I was shocked at the taxes and carrier-imposed fees which totaled $985 USD. Turns out that the R/T booking included British Airways in / out of LHR. Did a little research online and found a couple threads on similar experiences as it seem that BA adds on some significant fees as does going into LHR. Afterwards I went back online and did a search for One-Way flights. Although I had to shift departure/return days by 3 days, I got to use the same FF miles amount AND bypass BA / LHR. My total taxes & carrier fees: $165 USD. That's a whopping $820 savings!! : ) I was amazed at the difference in carrier fees / passenger service charge etc. LESSON LEARNED: Might be worth avoiding certain carriers and airports if you can help it. The savings will go towards hotels, meals, excursions. Glad I took the time to research a little.

Posted by
16860 posts

I don't know whether BA charges the same fees with each FF program, but that is consistent with BA's fees I've seen on Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan awards. BA also gives out fewer Alaska miles for tickets that you purchase; not the full number of miles flown.

Posted by
3533 posts

BA and American Airlines do pool flights across the Atlantic so expect the same surcharges on AA free tickets. It's worth saying that management and no-one else decides which of its expenses, including airport fees and taxes, it passes down the line in consumer loyalty programs. Other airlines vary.

Posted by
164 posts

I recently booked a trip to Rome via Heathrow and back via Venice/Heathrow by way of American airlines miles, but on British airways...it resulted in $685 each for my husband and I. We are now looking to shift these - and even with the $150 for each ticket that we'll have to pay, as we made separate reservations using miles, we may end up with about $350 per person saved. Looking into going out of JFK instead of Boston (a real pain for us), using Iberia instead of BA, or maybe even using US Air out of Philly. What a ripoff....you finally collect enough miles to get the "free" ticket and then find out that they imposed such fees. And....to top it off, I called British airways to get seats assigned, and they told me there would be a charge for assigning seats (on all four flights of the two of us) - and the only way we could get out of those fees would be to wait until 24 hours before flight time to get the seats....and you can bet that we would then be about 20 aisles separated, of course. What I now for sure (as Oprah would say) is that I'm switching my allegiance from AA as soon as all this is said and done......

Posted by
4528 posts

It is rarely worth redeaming on BA in economy except for short distances when it can be cheaper in miles/avios terms on AA flights than miles actually from AA. The value has always been on business and first class redemptions, although that is diluted away by changes later this year.

APD is a fact of life from GB airports, but you can mitigate by leaving via going to DUB or BRU or AMS first if they fit in with your plans.

Posted by
3408 posts

There is a little bit of misinformation going on here about American Airlines fees being the same as British Air. We booked frequent flier flights to Europe for this summer and noticed the high British Air fees.
We took an American Airlines routing to Frankfurt (no stops in London) and paid a total of $11 in fees for two people.

The routing is what makes the biggest difference in fees. It hardly makes sense to book on British Air with miles due to the fees. The challenge can come that the best routings are usually snatched up the minute they become available (about 330 days out) and all that shows up are the routings with the higher fees.

Posted by
332 posts

With Capital One, you redeem your points AFTER your travel. Whether its hotels or flights. They essentially let you tell them what is to be redeemed/credited. I believe you have up to six months to redeem.

It is slick. Plus, because you made the "purchases" you still get points for the original purchase.

I wouldnt .mess around with trying to obtain "free tickets" too much hassle.

Of course the negative is being able to cash flow the purchase depending on timing of your statements.

Posted by
4546 posts

While London airports have high taxes, it is usually the fuel surcharge that really causes the high price on BA frequent flyer tickets. Some airlines treat this as a tax and include this charge on Award tickets. A round trip award ticket to London on BA costs significantly more than the same route on United.

This article identifies some of the carriers that do this
http://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/how-to-avoid-fuel-surcharges-on-award-travel/

Posted by
1976 posts

What about flying into/out of LHR regardless of the carrier? Do the fees apply when you fly into LHR only, or out of it only, or both?

Posted by
4546 posts

Sarah, UK airports have high departure taxes on long haul flights. For example, on United a one way Award ticket from IAD to LHR would cost me about $10. A one way award ticket from LHR to IAD would cost me about $190.

If I were to book an award ticket on BA, they would not only charge the taxes but also hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharge.

Posted by
126 posts

In my experience it is just British Air that has these ridiculous "fuel surcharges" and they are found on most/all flights. In the past I have booked those with my alaska miles, but have been able to find something better at a later date. You can change and get your BA surcharge back. they usually have the most seats availble just because they are more expensive. sue

Posted by
783 posts

I think British Airways/LHR are the culprits. I used AA miles to fly direct ORD to FCO last summer and fees were under $100. This upcoming winter, I am going to Amsterdam. Chicago to Amsterdam on AA using miles will inevitably take you through LHR which hikes up the price. I modified the trip to go to Berlin first with plans to take the train to Amsterdam after. Non-stop Chicago to Berlin on Air Berlin, charged 5.00 in taxes.

It is quite annoying. But in the end, I am flying to Europe round trip for $10. I try to plan my trips to Europe way in advance when I know I will be using miles. More chance of getting the good routes.