Although the window is closing fast, it is still possible to book British Airways award flights using US Airways Dividend Miles without a fuel surcharge. It took me a couple tries, but I just booked a mega-award redemption with two longhauls on BA without a fuel surcharge.
Unlike American Airlines, where the system knows best and there is no way to slip creative routings past agents or avoid any fuel surcharges due (on British Airways and Iberia flights), US Airways still prices awards manually and in most cases must store taxes manually. That can work out tremendously to your advantage under the right circumstances.
I had four objectives on this trip. First, Qantas First Class on the A380. Second, British Airways First Class on the A380. Third, Cathay Pacific First Class. Fourth, a North Asia award. And of course the overarching goal was to book all of this without a fuel surcharge—which adds $350-400 to each BA longhaul segment.
Based on my preferred travel dates and award space, I decided upon the following routing:
- Los Angeles to London in British Airways First Class, A380-800
- London to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class, 777-300
- (Destination in Hong Kong)
- Hong Kong to Sydney in Qantas Business Class, A380-800
- Sydney to Dubai in Qantas First Class, A380-800
- Dubai to London in Qantas First Class, A380-800
- London to New York in British Airways First Class, 747-400
- New York to Los Angeles in American Airlines First Class, A321T
A simple, but very appealing routing with lie-flat beds on each flight.
The key now was to get it booked and priced as a North Asia award and without a fuel surcharge. I figured a stopover in Australia would foul it up, so I just left myself a full day in Sydney in order to visit friends and enjoy the amenities of the Qantas First Class lounge.
The first agent put all the flights in, said it would not price, and put me on hold to contact her rates desk. 12 minutes later she came back and said the routing was illegal and we’d have to find another way to get me back. I wanted the outbound flights held to Hong Kong (LAX-LHR-HKG) so I played along and asked her to find another routing back after asking her for the confirmation number (always get the confirmation number as soon as possible in case your call drops).
I had actually found several routings back on JAL or Cathay First that would have been legal routings, but I wanted to see what she could come up with. She came up with nothing and I suggested that she leave the outbound flights in there and I would check back tomorrow on the inbound flights. She agreed.
About 20 minutes later I called back and the next agent re-inserted the HKG-SYD-DXB-LHR-JFK-LAX return. She put me on hold again to calculate the price and came back after a very long hold telling me the routing was illegal, but it would work if I just knocked off the New York to Los Angeles flight. Fine, I said. She said good, put me on hold, and came back 10 minutes later to tell me that her rates desk was still storing the taxes.
Finally she came back with a price quote—120,000 miles (good!) and $1368 in taxes/fees (ugh!). I thanked her and told her I would hold the reservation.
I let it sit a day, thinking that I may have been too late anyway, but then called back yesterday to try to add the JFK to LAX flight back in and get rid of the fuel surcharge. I reached an agent in Winston-Salem who added the flight back in and put me on hold to reprice it.
This time, the price came back 120,000 miles and $359. Even with two London connections, that was about $100 too high, but I was not going to quibble over $100 when my taxes were now $1,000 cheaper. So I ticketed the reservation on the spot.
Turns out she booked me on the wrong flight from New York to Los Angeles (an 8pm flight instead of a 5:30p flight), but I did not want to call back and argue over that, jeopardizing the whole award.
So a fuel-surcharge free award with British Airways premium segments is still available. The window is closing and as more agents read the memo, fewer will leave out the fuel surcharge, but it still might not be too late.
I redeemed a handful of awards on Star Alliance before US Airways left Star Alliance and now my account balance is at zero. US Airways is still offering a 100% bonus on purchased miles this month, which I am tempted to buy, and I may also try signing up for a second US Airways Mastercard from Barclays, which is now offering a 40,000 mile sign-up bonus with an $89 annual fee—well worth the exchange.
Award bookings are a work of patience, but with patience you can save $1,000 like I did on a British Airways award redemption with US Airways.