Back in late 2011 British Airways announced a massive change to the structure of their Executive Club program, and there’s no doubt that for members based in North America the changes were overwhelmingly negative.
They switched from a zone based award chart to a distance based award chart. Previously you could book a roundtrip between the US and Asia for 100,000 miles in business class, or a roundtrip between the US and South America for 80,000 miles in business class. And in both cases you could have an unlimited number of stopovers.
Then they switched to a straight distance based award chart, whereby you’re charged exclusively based on the number of segments you fly, and the distance of those segments:
|Distance in Air Miles||Avios Cost in Economy||Avios Cost in Business||Avios Cost in First|
That means there are no “free” stopovers now, or I suppose if you’d like to look at it differently, there are unlimited free stopovers (since you can “custom build” each itinerary as you’d like, and be charged accordingly).
There is one exception to this chart, however, whereby British Airways doesn’t charge on a per segment basis and gives you “free” segments. And that’s for flights within the UK that are part of larger awards.
Let me explain in the form of an example, which is bookable on ba.com.
If you book a flight from London to Boston using British Airways Avios in first class, it will cost you 60,000 Avios plus ~$611 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges. That makes sense, since that’s the cost of a 3,001-4,000 mile sector in first class.
Meanwhile if you book a flight from Edinburgh to London to Boston on the same date, it will cost you 60,000 Avios plus ~$610 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.
Using the award chart, it should cost an extra 4,500 Avios for the segment from Edinburgh to London in economy, but British Airways doesn’t charge for segments within the UK as part of Avios award tickets leaving the UK.
And you can even add the “free” segment before or after a stopover. So if you want to fly from Edinburgh to London, have a stopover for two weeks, and then fly from London to Boston, it would cost the same number of Avios.
The only catch is that the taxes and fuel surcharges will be a bit higher, since the connection is over 24 hours.
So anyway, this probably isn’t especially useful to most, though it explains why pricing might seem a bit lower than you’re expecting for awards with intra-UK connections. This doesn’t work in any other regions, so you can’t have a “free one-way” within the US, or for destinations in Europe outside of the UK.
(Tip of the hat to Mac)