British Airways Launch $1 Flights… But Are They Too Good To Be True?

If it sounds too good to be true...

British Airways Launch $1 Flights… But Are They Too Good To Be True?

Image: BA

British Airways has a knack for generating some juicy headlines — take the time they served KFC to business class travellers or their seats that were banned for being “too comfy” as prime examples — but their latest cash-grab announcement is a genius bit of marketing spin.

In a move that has turned heads amongst budget travellers and frequent flyers alike, British Airways has expanded its Avios part-payment service, allowing Executive Club loyalty members to book any flight for a mere £1 (US$1.24/A$1.93) plus Avios points.

While this may appear to be a wonderfully generous offer on the surface — conjuring blissful images of travelling the world for less than the cost of a cup of coffee — a closer look at the details reveals that this deal might not be quite as sweet as it sounds.

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Previously, the Avios part-payment option allowed prospective travellers to earn varying cash discounts on flights, influenced by a number of factors like route and booking time. With this new update, flyers can reduce the cash portion of their fare to just one pound, a change that has predictably been marketed with much fanfare by the airline.

Colm Lacy, British Airways chief commercial officer, said this:

“We’ve listened to our Members’ feedback and we’re really excited to be introducing this latest update for them… We know that most of our customers choose the lowest cash amount when it comes to making Reward Flight bookings, so we anticipate this to be a popular option for those using Avios part payment too.”

Colm Lacy

Here’s the catch: not only are a massive amount of Avios points required to secure the nominal cash outlay, but standard award redemptions generally offer more flexibility, including options to cancel or modify bookings up to 24 hours before departure. These features are all restricted, or more costly, under the part-payment scheme.

Jordan Waller, The Points Guy, explains:

“At a glance, these new updates to the Executive Club program may seem like a great deal. However, it’s worth noting that making a part-cash, part-points payment often offers worse value than what you would get from a standard award redemption.”

Jordan Waller

The new part-payment structure comes off especially badly when you consider that these flights still accrue fewer Avios and tier points compared to standard bookings. This will have a knock-on effect for frequent flyers looking to maintain or upgrade their loyalty status.

As BA heralds this change as a win for the common consumer, the reality is that this is a cleverly dressed-up bit of PR that will likely end up costing passengers far more than they bargained for.