BAGGING A CHEAP UPGRADE

However enthusiastic you are about air travel, one thing unites all travellers… the desire to turn left on the aeroplane.

Much of what I write on this blog is focussed towards attaining premium classes without paying premium prices. Upgrading Using Avios, as per this previous post, is one of the most cost effective ways of having a fully flat bed in the sky, and will extract the maximum value for each Avios if done correctly.

Along with paying full whack, shameless begging, and using Avios, there are other methods of bagging an upgrade, and today I will look into Pro-active Online Upgrades (fondly known asPOUGs). Just like trying to avoid extortionate UK air taxes, there is no exact science behind chasing a POUG, but there are games to be played!

What is a Pro-active Online Upgrade (POUG)?

After you have booked a British Airways flight, you may be offered to upgrade to the next class of travel through “Manage My Booking” (you can sign into this on the British Airways site to look at details of your flight, select seats, book hotels etc.)

BA will charge a cash fee for the upgrade.

BA may also offer similar cash upgrades in the airport at check in, and a trial of on-board upgrades is also being conducted.

Here is what a POUG offer looks like for an previous flight of mine to Madrid:

Now the outbound offer is nothing to shout about, but on the inbound flight, an offer of £79 may represent excellent value. I went on to check how much this upgrade would have been by simply booking business class on the website, and this would have come in at £239. This is £145 more than what I paid for my ticket. By upgrading after booking, utilising this POUG, I stand to save £66.

This is on a short-haul flight. The savings on a long-haul upgrade could be more significant.

So in the first instance, you should always check on Manage My Booking, by clicking on “upgrade using cash” to see if you can have yourself a bargain upgrade.

Can I speculatively chase a Pro-active Upgrade?!

In short, YES! As they say, you must speculate to accumulate.

Here is method that can be tried, but should be exercised with maximum caution. I would only advise doing this with a flight that you definitely want to take anyway, just in case anything goes wrong.

The loophole that shall become your friend is BA’s policy of allowing you to request a full refund of any flight (including non-refundable flights) within 24 hours of booking. This is in place to assist people who have accidentally booked tickets with the wrong name, or for the wrong date.

However, nothing stops you cancelling if you haven’t managed to find a cheap enough POUG!

Here is how it works:

1. Book your desired flight in the class of travel below that you would really like to travel in (you may only be able to upgrade by one class)

2. Immediately log in to “Manage My Booking” using your name and booking reference

3. Follow the links to “upgrade using cash”

4. Check if BA are offering you a POUG, and if so, check the price.

5. If this is satisfactory, upgrade, pay, and you’ve won!

6. If not, immediately cancel your flight (or keep it if you still want it in that class of travel!)

Can this go wrong?

It would be foolish to conduct such a plan with full confidence you will receive a refund. You should check BA’s terms and conditions carefully, and be aware that they may change. To be safe, only try this trick when booking flights you are happy to take anyway, that way, you can’t be disappointed.

How much is the average POUG?

There is huge variation between prices offered (if offered at all). However, the magical world of Flyertalk has a thread titled “Pro-active Upgrade Cost Tracking Thread” (click here to view). There are currently over 1700 posts detailing how much people have been offered upgrades for and is a fantastic place to get a good feel for POUGs. I have put together a few recent offers from the board in the chart below as a quick reference guide:

WARNING – you may still earn tier points and miles in accordance with your original booking class.

In conclusion

If you are after an upgrade, this is a method that may well suit your circumstances. It is ALWAYS worth checking both online, and at the airport. You may get lucky and get your upgrade for bargain price.

As always, please feel free to comment with any questions or additional tips you may have. Please follow the blog to get posts straight to your inbox, and follow the Miles Mogul on Facebook!

Nicky

 

SPENDING AVIOS – AVOIDING EXTORTIONATE TAXES

Taxes are the thorn in a miles collector’s side. As outlined in my posts about Reward Flight Savers, and Upgrading Using Avios, taxes can prove to be extortionate, making redemptions in economy terrible value. Avoiding these taxes is not an exact science, therefore the following advice will work in some situations and not others, but you can have a go with all of them to try and get what you want!

How much tax am I paying?

Let’s take a Club World British Airways flight to Sydney as an example. Amongst an assortment of taxes, you will pay:

· £146 “Air Passenger Duty” for the pleasure of departing from a UK airport; and

· £424 “Fuel Surcharge”.

These amounts are obscene. By comparison, a return flight between New York and Los Angeles attracts taxes of just £3.20!

Here is the full chart of Air Passenger Duty rates:

How can I avoid extortionate taxes?

1. Spend your Avios using Reward Flight Savers

2. Use your Avios for redemptions elsewhere once you are already abroad, such as the NYC to LA flight with American Airlines mentioned above.

3. Fly “ex-EU”

What do you mean “Fly ex-EU”?!

This is the nick-name given to flying from a European airport, and can be done to avoid Air Passenger Duty (APD) – this can be as much as £146 on a long haul flight and so avoiding it can lead to a significant saving. Also note that British Airways will often run sales on flights that originate from airports other than London, use Flyertalk to keep on top of these developments.

If you fly from another airport but transfer through London for less than 24 hours, you will not pay APD.

Popular airports to fly ex-EU are Dublin, Brussels, Amsterdam and Rome.

How does it work? A New York example

1. Book a redemption flight or even cash flight to New York from Brussels, thus avoiding high taxes.

2. Book a cheap one way flight to Brussels to arrive in time for your flight (allow as much time as possible to connect, the airline will not be responsible if you miss your onward flight!)

3. Now take your flight you have originally booked (Brussels>London>New York).

 

4. On the return journey, take you flight from New York to London, but then miss the last section of the flight to Brussels, you are already home!

A personal example

My business class seat on a low-tax Air Canada flight to Santiago, Chile:

 

When I travelled to South America I managed a fantastic redemption. I first caught a very cheap flight to Frankfurt in order to avoid high UK taxes.

I then began my full itinerary in Frankfurt. I flew to Buenos Aires with Lufthansa, and on to Santiago a couple of weeks later with Air Canada. My return flight picked me up a few months later in Bogota, taking me to New York for a week, before returning to London on Continental.

These flights were all in Business Class, and cost just 32,500 miles and £400 in tax. The true value of this route was in excess of £5,000!

In conclusion

If you are willing to put the time into researching different options and departure points, huge savings can be made. Always see how much cheaper you can get to your destination by starting your flight in a nearby European airport, or use your miles elsewhere!

As always, please feel free to comment with any questions or additional tips you may have. Please follow the blog to get posts straight to your inbox, and follow the Miles Mogul on Facebook!

Nicky

SPENDING AVIOS – LOW TAXES ON AIR BERLIN

Together with Iberia and Aer Lingus another way to avoid extortionate UK taxes on air travel is to use your Avios with Air Berlin.

Air Berlin has a good network of routes from Germany, and you can use Avios to book these flights, quickly and easily on ba.com.

How much can I save?

The savings on taxes are truly astounding. I have taken a couple of screen grabs to illustrate the difference. Here I have selected dates in November for return flights from London to New York on British Airways, and then Berlin to New York on Air Berlin.

Here is the cost of the British Airways flights:

And now the price of the Air Berlin flight:

This is a huge 82% saving of almost £300! You must factor in the cost of the connecting flights to Berlin, but these can be picked up extremely cheap, especially by using a Reward Flight Saver (read about these here).

This is just one small example. You should check the Air Berlin website for their full list of destinations, and try some dummy booking to see how cheap this can actually be.

I like luxury, what about Business Class?!

It should also be noted that Air Berlin is essentially a low cost carrier, but have an excellent business class product. The hard product is actually improving as we speak, as Air Berlin’s partnership with Etihad bears fruit, and the Etihad business class seats are installed on Air Berlin’s aircraft. This is a way of making even more significant savings, and enjoying some premium travel!

The new Air Berlin business class product:

Here is another astounding price/tax comparison between BA and Air Berlin for a return business class flight to New York:

British Airways: £530 taxes

Air Berlin: £65 taxes

It should be noted that Air Berlin only release 2 business class redemption seats per flight, so availability can be hard to judge, and you will not be able to redeem seats for more than 2 people in business class on the same flight.

Where can I go with Air Berlin?

They have a huge network, you should check out their website to see if they can take you where you want to go, but here is non-exhaustive list of some of their most interesting destinations from their various bases in Germany along with the amount of Avios and taxes due:

How do I book?

Due to Air Berlin’s different bases you may be best to find what you want on the Air Berlin website first.

Then sign into your executive club account on ba.com, click on ‘spending Avios’, and ‘book flights with Avios’. You can then search for your flights and book directly through this service.

Is there anything I need to be careful of?

Yes, here are a few issues you should be aware of:

· You will have to pay or use Avios for a flight to Germany (although this should be insignificant compared to the saving you stand to make).

· When booking your flight to Germany to catch your Air Berlin flight, this will be a completely separate and unrelated booking. As such, if this flight is delayed or cancelled, and you miss your onward flight, Air Berlin will have no responsibility to help you. It is often sensible to plan ahead, for example, fly to Germany the night before a morning flight.

· Some destinations, e.g. Los Angeles, will cost you more Avios on Air Berlin than they would do by catching a BA flight because being that little bit further away in Germany, they fall into the next bracket up. However this can work in your favour! Certain destinations such as Abu Dhabi cost less Avios. In all cases, taxes will be a great deal less with Air Berlin!

· If you book your flight from London with Avios to connect to your Air Berlin flight on one ticket, you will be charged the full Air Passenger Duty, thus wiping out much of your saving.

In conclusion

Using Air Berlin is a way to may enormous savings, especially on premium travel, to a huge range of destinations. Be sure to consider it as an option for your next long haul flight, and maybe even take it as an opportunity to explore a German city on the way!

As always, please feel free to comment with any questions or additional tips you may have. Please follow the blog to get posts straight to your inbox, and follow the Miles Mogul on Facebook!

Nicky

 



SPENDING AVIOS – UPGRADE USING AVIOS

British Airways allows you to buy a ticket for cash, and then use Avios to upgrade to a higher class of travel on BA, Iberia and American Airlines. BA call this “Upgrade Using Avios” (UuA). Here is a link to official BA page explaining this concept

Here is a quick picture guide to British Airways’ cabins, pay attention to the abbreviations, I’ll be using them from now on:

World Traveller (WT):

World Traveller Plus (WT+)

Club World (CW):

First (F):

 

What are the rules?

Here are some of the key rules associated with UuA:

1. You can only upgrade by one class (e.g. from CW to F)

2. You cannot upgrade a discounted WT ticket (i.e. cheap economy tickets).

3. You can upgrade almost any WT+ or CW ticket

4. You will still earn Avios and tier points on the ticket you pay for with cash (i.e. when upgrading from CW to F, you will still earn CW Avios and Tier Points)

How do I book?

Sign into your British Airways Executive Club (BAEC) account, click “Spending Avios” then “Book with cash and upgrade with Avios”

OR

Book your flight as usual, then sign into “Manage My Booking” on ba.com and follow the option to upgrade using Avios.

OR

Call the BAEC

How do I check availability?

You can sign into your BAEC account, and click “Book flights with Avios”. By searching this way, you can see all the redemption availability for each cabin and route. You can also utilise BA’s helpful “availability calendar” to see a wide range of dates. The availability is identical for UuA and booking flights with Avios outright.

How many Avios do I need to upgrade?

Historically the best UuA, and potentially the best use of avios overall was to buy a WT+ ticket with cash, and UuA to CW. However, since the changes to avios programme in April, certain sweetspots have disappeared.

Check out the redemption chart below. You will pay the difference between the Avios price for one class versus the next class up. This varies depending on length of journey and whether you are travelling on a peak or off peak day.

I have put together a chart of how many Avios are needed to upgrade for a range of destinations from London.

These are the amounts for a one-way flight, so double for a return flight.

REMEMBER – these amounts do not take into account the amount of Avios you will earn on the cash part of your ticket. This loophole usually means you will actually pay less overall than the amount shown.

In conclusion

UuA used in the right way used to allow you to extract up to £0.14 value or more from each and every Avios. Whilst not quite as generous now, you can still expect to get good value here and It puts into context the value of your 20,000 bonus points from the Amex gold card. You could use these 20,000 for an upgrade to Club World to New York and back worth over £1,000!

For more information on this process from BA themselves, click here.

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Thanks for reading!

Nicky

 

SPENDING AVIOS – REWARD FLIGHT SAVER

Earning Avios is the easy part. As many of you will have experienced, redeeming your Avios is more challenging.

Reward Flight Saver (“RFS”)

Key to the value of RFS tickets are the avoidance of crippling taxes. The wide variety of taxes payable when flying still apply to redemption tickets, and often make a redemption ticket more expensive than a discounted cash ticket you could buy on the internet!

RFS allows you to pay flat fee taxes of £35 for a return economy journey (£50 for business class) for any journey of less than 2000 miles.

This covers a wide range of destinations in Europe. For example a return flight to Prague will cost 9000 Avios (8000 off peak) + £35 in taxes.

Is it just British Airways?

No! RFS also applies in the same way to all British Airways “Fifth Freedom” flights (a BA flight that doesn’t take off or land in the UK, such as the Antigua to Grenada hop – more about this in another post!). You can also get RFS for slightly different prices on Vueling, and Comair (in South Africa)

Where can I go?

Any flight under 2000 miles is covered for £35. Here are some popular destinations, and how many Avios you must pay. Approximately double the amount of Avios for Business class.

Moscow – A First Class opportunity

Moscow is the only route covered by RFS on which British Airways operates long haul aircraft. Most interestingly, one flight of the three-a-day service is operated by a Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet. This flight is the only one where you can redeem a FIRST CLASS flight under an RFS ticket. For those who would love to try British Airways’ flagship service, this could be the ticket for you. This flight would normally cost around £2500, but could be yours for 40,000 Avios + £25 in tax.

How do I book?

You can book online at ba.com by signing into your Executive Club account. Follow the links to “Spending Avios”, and “Book Using Avios”.

The system is very easy to use, and the RFS will be available automatically.

Availability tends to be quite good on these flights. I have searched a few dates for all the routes, including Moscow in First Class, and in terms of availability, I certainly wouldn’t have any trouble booking flights if I wanted to.

In conclusion…

Reward Flight Saver offers fantastic value on short haul flights. Play around on ba.com to see what’s available.

As always, please feel free to comment with any questions or additional tips you may have. Please follow the blog to get posts straight to your inbox, and follow the Miles Mogul on Facebook!

Nicky