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

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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!

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