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I recently set myself the challenge of finding the cheapest possible UK to USA redemption flights. I thought it might reveal some options I hadn’t previously considered, and be of benefit to those trying to get the maximum value for their miles/money.
The prerequisites I set for the challenge were:
- The flight must depart from the UK and arrive in the USA, without going through a 3rd country.
- All flights must be on a scheduled service, i.e. no limited charter services or short-term schedules.
- Totally miles agnostic. Assume adequate miles are held in the relevant frequent flyer program.
- All flights must be booked as redemptions, no booking low-cost cash fares for connections.
- Any connection within the UK must not involve changing airports – no flying into Gatwick and out of Heathrow etc.
- Any connection must be booked as one ticket
Naturally, the first thought is to try to avoid paying the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD). On an Economy flight to the US, this is £73. Looking for fares that dial this out has to be a good starting point. I’d also look at off-peak flights for all airlines, as these require the least number of miles.
The results were as follows:
International journeys that start in Inverness don’t pay APD. There are no direct flights to the US from INV, however BA does fly INV-LHR.
Using BA miles on an off-peak date:-
- INV-LHR-JFK 13K Avios plus £166 when flying the transatlantic on BA metal
- INV-LHR-JFK 20K Avios plus £142 when flying the transatlantic on AA metal
Using AA miles on an off-peak date:-
- INV-LHR-JFK 22.5K AA plus £161 when flying the transatlantic on BA metal
- INV-LHR-JFK 22.5K AA plus £99 when flying the transatlantic on AA metal.
Jersey is an is/isn’t airport. From the point of view of APD, it ISN’T considered as being in the UK. However from the point of view of using an American Express companion voucher (aka a 2-4-1), it IS considered to be in the UK, and thus a valid route. BA flies into Gatwick from Jersey. AA does not fly out of Gatwick to the USA so there is no AA metal option on this route.
- Using BA miles on an off-peak date:- JER-LGW-JFK 13K Avios plus £114
- Using AA miles on an off-peak date:-JER-LGW-JFK 22.5K AA plus £99
Belfast international has a zero rate APD on long haul flights that fly DIRECTLY to destinations beyond the UK. There are some summertime flights to the US (including Virgin 747 to Orlando), but the only year round schedule service is United’s flight to Newark, New York.
- Using United mileageplus miles:- BFS-EWR 30K miles plus £28.60
Arranging the above permutation into a table gives the following:-
It’s hard to draw a single conclusion from the above. If you are points rich but cash poor, then the Belfast route is the clear winner. At £28, it’s not only the equivalent price of a short Ryanair/easyjet domestic hop, but it is also the only route that doesn’t involve a connection, which is a major advantage. It does however require 30K of United mileageplus miles, and those are not easy to come across (although MBNA has a credit card that generates them).
If you have AA miles, then using AA miles out of Inverness looks appealing, 22.5K AA miles plus £99 is a good trade-off.
However the standout one for me is starting your journey in Jersey, and using BA Avios. It’s just 13K Avios plus £114. My challenge was for Economy pricing, but remember that you can use an Amex 2-4-1 voucher on this route. If you have one, then 2 people flying in Business Class can do so for just 50K Avios plus £340.
So there you have it. These are the cheapest UK to USA redemptions I could find. I certainly haven’t done an exhaustive search, but hopefully it gets you thinking. It’s possible I’ve missed a tricked somewhere and if so, please shares in the comments below.