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Given the exorbitant cost of the Heathrow Express, it’s long been a favoured pastime of mine to search for added value here, whether through a discount code, bonus points or avoiding it altogether.
The bonus points route received a boost a little while back. As we have previously highlighted, you are able to earn Avios points on Heathrow Express journeys, at a rate of 100 Avios for a Saver single, 200 Avios for a Saver return. Earning rates are doubled in Business Class.
This moderate handful of Avios was preferential to the other points-earning option on the Heathrow Express, namely Heathrow Rewards points, where you would earn 1 point per £1 spent on online bookings. In terms of convertible value, 1 Heathrow Reward point = 1 Avios, so clearly, even at Heathrow Express prices, the Avios-earning option was better value.
This may well not be the case any more, however.
As we flagged here, Heathrow Express has now introduced heavily discounted advance purchase tickets. While largely inflexible (outward journey must be on the date specified, return journey must be within 30 days of this), if you know when you are travelling, these tickets are significantly cheaper than the standard Heathrow Express fares.
Given that travel to Heathrow Airport on the Heathrow Express will generally be on the back of a flight you have booked, the advance purchase tickets are likely to work for a lot of people. With the cost of the £35 return going as low as £11.90 as a result, it really does offer some value.
The problem is, if you book via the Avios route, you will not be offered these reduced price advance purchase fares – you will simply be shown the full price Saver options:
Accordingly, if you are happy booking a less flexible ticket, then you are likely to be far better off booking your ticket outside of Avios, earning the paltry Heathrow Rewards points on the purchase but paying substantially less for your ticket.
By way of example:
Let’s assume I want to travel from Paddington to Heathrow on 1 March 2016, coming back on 3 March.
If I book through the Heathrow Express website, I will only earn 1 Heathrow Express point (convertible to 1 Avios) per £1 spent, but I have the following ticket options:
As you can see, a return is as low as £11.90, a 66% saving on the price of a Saver return.
However, if I put the same dates into the Heathrow Express booking option on the Avios website, while I will earn the higher number of points outlined above, my “advance purchase” discounts are nil:
So the clear warning is this: if you are able to book substantially in advance and know that your travel plans will not change, do not be seduced by the extra points on offer through the Avios booking portal (which are at best worth just a couple of quid). Go with the substantially cheaper options available directly on the Heathrow Express website.
Sadly cashback is not available for Heathrow Express bookings, although it is for the Gatwick Express.