Ignoring terms and flying cheap via 3 stacked promos: BA sale, AARP discount, and Avios promo

Last Thursday was an exciting day.  I woke up early and noticed an announcement in my inbox about a two day British Airways fare sale on business class flights.  I knew that this would likely stack with a few other ongoing promotions, so I did a bit of research and published a Quick Deal:

BA two day sale on round trip business class fares. Here’s how to pay as little as $850 plus 30K Avios!

The deal was dependent upon three overlapping promotions:

  1. British Airways’ two-day fare sale on transatlantic business class flights
  2. AARP’s $400 discount for British Airways transatlantic business class flights
  3. British Airways’ Avios promotion (found here) which allowed customers to use Avios towards a paid flight for a much bigger than usual discount.

Each of the above promotion had specific terms and restrictions listed on the offer pages.  And, each promotion turned out to be better, or broader, than advertised.  In all three cases, the terms listed online were wrong.  This proved to be good news for many who either didn’t read the terms or chose to explore options outside of the stated terms.

Play by play

Soon after publishing the “$850” deal, I found that flights were actually pricing for less than $850 + 30K Avios.  I booked a flight to London for $646 + miles.  Then, I updated the post with the new information.

Next, I realized that I had accidentally booked one of the flights with old angle-flat seating rather than lie-flat.  So, I cancelled my booked flight and re-booked.  This time, the price came to $446 plus 30K Avios!  Again, I updated the Quick Deal post.  Then, I tweeted an update:

After that, readers found one deal after another that was even better. At 2:41 pm, MilesMath commented:

Nice deal! Got two direct business class (unfortunately looks to be angle-flat right now) on AA JFK to BCN for 60K Avios and $714. … Looks like you can bring down the cost by avoiding London fees and taxes by booking AA flights to other European destinations.

Wow!  MilesMath brought the paid part of the ticket down to $357 per person by avoiding London.  But, that was weird… Several parts of the deal seemed to require flying to London.  What was going on? At 2:54 pm, Mango Ceviche reported an even better deal, $283 per person:

Yes, you can dump the LHR extra fees by leaving from other cities. Just booked 2 people: LAX – LHR BCN-JFK JFK-LAX $565.98 plus 60,000 avios :-)

And then at 3:25 PM ET, Will Run For Miles posted another surprise:

That was interesting!  The AARP website clearly stated that the discount is for outbound travel November 1, 2014 – March 31, 2016.  Clearly they had extended the effective travel period without updating their website (note: they finally updated the website sometime over the weekend).

By around 4pm, most of the fantastically low fares had disappeared, but some remained.  Jordon Wadlington reported booking a $267 fare at around 6:30 PM.  Then, Fauxblogger reported scoring a $356 + 30K Avios fare at 7:10pm.

After that, most of the available fares for flights to Europe hovered in the $800 to $850 + Avios range.  That was still a great deal, but it seemed like a lot of money compared to what many had booked earlier in the day!

Current state of the deal

The deal required three components:

  1. British Airways’ two-day fare sale on transatlantic business class flights
  2. AARP’s $400 discount for British Airways transatlantic business class flights
  3. British Airways’ Avios promotion (found here) which allowed customers to use Avios towards a paid flight for a much bigger than usual discount.

As of Monday, October 19th, the current state of each deal is:

  1. British Airways’ two-day fare sale is over (it ended on Friday)
  2. AARP’s discount continues, at least through March 2017
  3. British Airways’ Avios promotion continues only through the end of day today (October 19th)

Yesterday I did a quick search and found nonstop business class flights from Philadelphia to Barcelona for about $2200.  By stacking the AARP discount and the Avios deal, I was able to reduce the price to about $1100 + 30,000 Avios:

Ignoring terms and flying cheap Save Mone yWith Avios

Ignoring terms and flying cheap BA_PHL_BCN_1099_30KAvios

This is still a good deal, but obviously its not in the same league of deal-worthiness as the opportunities found last week.

The Wrong Terms

Let’s look at each component of the deal and see why the printed words were wrong….

The Two Day Sale

The promotional email I had received on Thursday morning stated the following:

British Airways has announced a two-day all-inclusive Club World business class offer with fares starting at $2,015 (including all taxes, fees and carrier charges) from select U.S. destinations to London. Travelers looking to satisfy their European wanderlust can take advantage of the offer today and tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 16, for travel through Aug. 2016.

Notice that the deal specifically said that this was for flights to London?  On the website, they implied that this was specifically for flights to London with this: “London business class flights from $2015* round trip”

.Ignoring terms and flying cheap BA 2015 sale

Based on the email and the online ad I believed that prices would be $2015 and that flights must specifically be to London.  Neither of those assumptions proved to be true.  People found flights available for considerably less than $2015 (before stacking the AARP and Avios discounts), and many discounted flights were to other destinations in Europe besides London.

AARP’s $400 discount for British Airways transatlantic business class flights

AARP’s website specifically stated the following limitation for their British Airways discounts: valid for outbound travel November 1, 2014 – March 31, 2016.  As discussed earlier, that proved not to be true.  People were able to apply the discount to flights beginning far past March 31.

Over the weekend they updated the terms which now state: “valid for outbound travel through March 31, 2017.”

British Airways’ Avios promotion

The British Airways website stated the following about the Avios promotion:

Save up to £500 on Club and First when you part pay with Avios

Until 19 October, British Airways will give you 2.5 times the normal value per Avios when you part pay with Avios on selected premium long haul return flights from London Heathrow and London City. You will be able to use part payment with Avios to save up to £500 per person in our Club World or our First cabins.

Notice that it specifically says that this deal was for flights “from London Heathrow and London City”.  Then there were these further details:

We are delighted to be able to offer these Avios part payment savings from both London Heathrow and City to the below selected destinations:
Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Bangkok, Beijing, Bengaluru, Chengdu Shuangliu, Chicago, Dallas – Forth Worth, Delhi Indira Ghandi International, Dubai, Hong Kong, Houston, Hyderabad, JFK, Kuala Lumpur International, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Montreal, Mumbai, Newark, Philadelphia International, San Francisco International, Seoul, Shanghai Pudong, Singapore Changi, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington.

The website clearly seemed to say that you must originate in London and fly to one of the cities listed above in order to pay in part with Avios at 2.5 times their normal value.

I thought I was clever when I realized that you could originate in one of the above cities and fly to London rather than originating in London.  However, it never occurred to me to check whether flying to other European destinations would work.  It turned out that they did!  As long as you booked a business class flight from one of the listed cities to Europe on British Airways or American Airlines operated flights, the discount worked! 

Bottom Line

When I write about deals involving gift cards and shopping portals and such, I often point out that the stated terms & conditions are not necessarily true in practice.  It’s important to remember that fact for other types of deals as well.  Last week, people tested out options that went outside of the stated terms of all three deals and many succeeded in stacking all three of them anyway!

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. You forgot to mention the 4th stack that many of us will get with the BA/AA Fall Promo, which provides 25,000 bonus miles/avios for travel to Europe prior to Jan 31st, 2016. I got in on the deal at $336 (plus 30,000 Avios) per ticket WAS-LHR-BCN-LHR-WAS, but the total miles/avios coming back to me will be approx 14,300 plus 25,000 bonus = 39,300 miles/avios. This is the best part of the deal as I still recover all my Avios used plus some! I just love this game!

  2. How were you able to get the AARP discount? I tried most of Saturday and while the AARP site was up, their site for the BA discount was down. I called their tech support and they told me the server was down and they didn’t know when it would be working again. I just tried a few minutes ago and it’s still not working.

    • I don’t know. I didn’t have any trouble with it. Maybe you first hit it while they were updating the terms. Then, maybe when you tried again, your browser has cached the error message? Try private mode or a different browser.

      • I had the same problem, but my friend didn’t I had the issue when using Verizon as my ISP, but when I tethered to my cell (also Verizon), it worked fine. I tried different browsers, cleared cache, etc and nothing work. I think it may be a Verizon issue as it worked everywhere else, even on same laptop.

      • I tried two different computers and three browsers and still couldn’t log in. Then I went to my neighbor’s house and used his Mac and it still couldn’t log in.

        I’m on the phone now with AARP and they said their server has been down since Friday. You guys have been very lucky being able to log in!

  3. Out of curiosity was anyone scoring these super low sub $300 for summer travel or were those fall/winter times? I did see some June times that worked out to about $500ish to Edinburgh but I ended up with $770 to Madrid which is where/when we had been planning to go anyway. Traveling with school age kids really limits your options so I was still happy with the deal we got.

    BTW, small typo I noticed

    “By stacking the AARP discount and the Avios deal, I was able to reduce the price to about $11000 + 30,000 Avios”

    Obviously that was meant to be $1100.

  4. A few notes:

    The extension of the AARP discount was known a lot earlier in the day. IIRC, the FT thread had that info in the early am, as I used it to book for April and June travel well before noon.

    Could be wrong, but I think the sale was mostly to LON at first, but then as other carriers/alliances matched (to other cities as well), BA matched them to those too. This brought the price before AARP/Avios to <$1400 in a lot of cases.

    The only way I got the Avios discount to work for other cities, and was at it most of the day, was to go through LON. Other's could have found a work around, this was just my experience.

  5. On other note; just noticed that my credit card still has not been charged (or pending) for the ticket issued on 15th … wonder if this is a cause for concern.

  6. And this is what happens when one carrier publishes a sale for premium travel the other carrier are matching “Fare War”

    And that’s what happened here first its was as advertised $2015 shortly after that DL,VS published a $1800 fare and than BA,AA lowered it to $1800 and than $1600

    UA was late in the game when they published $1600 fares early evening hours

  7. Happy to be a twitter follower. Jumped on this for 2 RT @$840pp SFO-LHR for Christmas and July 4th. A few issues. Joined AARP at 1:00am and the discount verification never worked. Gave up after trying for an hour or so. Got woken up by a relative who had booked the BA deal (without AARP!) and wanted to plan a Christmas reunion in London. Tried at 8:00am and was able to get the AARP link to work. By which time I had lost my preferred return date (Jan 4) and had to be content with Jan 1.

    July trip was an add on. Again started booking on my account then realized there was some minimum spend needed for my wife’s Citi Prestige card. By the time I backed out of the reservation and rebooked under her name, lost the nonstop LHR-SFO 🙁 🙁 so now have a 4 hour AA NON flat bed from Chicago (JFK-SFO also got sold out by then).

    Oh well…can’t complain at this price. Thank you.

  8. I do think the $273 biz class tickets to Rome (with the winter 25K Avios bonus essentially wiping out the 30K Avios cost) was the best frequent flyer deal I’ve ever gotten — and I’ve gotten lots of deals! Thanks for the heads up, and it was great to see everyone working together last week to uncover more opportunities. There sure wasn’t much time!

    For those who knew the opportunity, the greatest limitation was access to Avios points. The best way to effectively stockpile them is in a Chase Ultimate Rewards account — where you can immediately transfer them to whatever program you need — but that strategy carries risks, too. But, oh would I have loved to have had access to a few hundred thousand Avios points last week!

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