The British Airways companion ticket, also known as a companion pass, companion voucher or travel together ticket, can literally save you thousands on business or first class tickets. However, many people ignore the benefits of this voucher, making the mistake of thinking it offers little value.
This may be true if you redeem for economy class tickets, but that is not how you get maximum value from this perk of the British Airways Premium AMEX and standard American Express cards. By the way, use these referral links if you decide to sign up. You will receive an extra 1,000 AVIOS when you satisfy the minimum spend requirement.
8 Rules for using a BA companion ticket
Before you start collecting, you need to be aware of these 8 rules (or recommendations in some cases) for using a British Airways companion ticket. You may also wish to read ‘how to get your hands on a BA companion voucher‘.
#1. British Airways or the highway
Unlike a standard AVIOS redemption, which you can use to book flights with any of the Oneworld partners, the companion pass must be redeemed for flights on British Airways. Annoying? Yes. Avoidable? No.
Whilst this prevents you from experiencing business class on a partner airline, surely it is better to fly Club or First with BA than fly economy with another airline? In the UK, non frequent fliers will struggle to accumulate enough airmiles with other airlines as non AMEX credit card options offer less value.
#2. Open Jaw tickets.
It is possible to book an outbound flight to one airport and return from another airport but you will need to call British Airways to make this happen.
#3. Finding availability
Quite simply, you need to start your search as soon as possible, especially when factoring in #4. I usually have a shortlist of places I want to visit with my companion ticket, and a rough idea of the dates I want to go. Flights are available to book from 355 days in advance, and I will diarise the date to have the greatest chance of success. If you leave it until just a few months before your chosen departure date, do not be surprised if there is no availability.
#4. Strict expiry limits
If you earn your companion ticket using the British Airways Premium AMEX, it will be valid for 24 months. If, however, you earn it using the standard American Express cards it will only be valid for 12 months. This can pose a problem as availability may be limited on popular routes, and you may find that you can not redeem for your chosen destination. See rule #3 – you absolutely need to be flexible.
It is possible to return after the expiry date of your voucher, but your outbound flight must be taken before the expiry date. Note, the 12 or 24 month expiry does not relate to the date of booking but the actual date of travel. This means that you really need to act quickly if you have the standard American express voucher. The best availability is typically as soon as possible after flights are released.
#5. Maximising value
You will need less AVIOS for off-peak dates, so it pays to first check which dates are off-peak for your chosen destination. It is also worth watching out for special offers which may certain destinations more attractive.
Although two people get to travel for the AVIOS cost of just one ticket, sadly you need to pay taxes for two. This can be painful at best, as taxes and fees in the UK account for most of the cost of your ticket. In my experience it absolutely does not make sense to redeem your voucher for a short-haul flight, and although long-haul economy is better, to get the most value from your BA companion ticket, I recommend redeeming for either Club Class or First class tickets.
Whilst, you will need more AVIOS for these bookings, you will feel like the hassle of earning the AVIOS is worthwhile when you kick back in the lounge and sip on your champagne.
You can also check out the last minute options for bookings. I have personally never availed of this option but you can find details here.
#6. Flexible bookings
Making a booking using a companion voucher offers flexibility should you need to change your travel plans. You will simply pay a cancellation fee and both the voucher and AVIOS will be refunded to your account. Note, cancellations within 24 hours of departure forfeit all AVIOS so please bear this in mind if you think you may need to change your plans.
#7. Paying for your AVIOS companion ticket redemption
You can only redeem your companion ticket using AVIOS. It is not possible to part pay with cash so if you do not have enough points for your chosen flights, you are bang out of luck. You will need to do everything possible to ramp up your balance or risk running out of time to expire. You can buy up to 24,000 AVIOS per annum but it rarely pays to buy AVIOS
#8. You can only earn one companion ticket in a calendar year
This one is not strictly true as a husband and wife, each with a card in their own name, could each earn a companion ticket. Remember however, you need to spend at least £10,000 each to earn a British Airways companion ticket (£20,000 if you opt for the free card, but seriously do NOT do that. It is a false economy!) You may wish to stagger your card applications to give you the best chance of achieving the minimum spend. If you only think you can spend £15,000 on the card in a year, it would be better for one person to apply first, satisfy the minimum spend and then the second person can apply.
Top tip: make sure your spouse uses your referral link to apply. That way, they earn an extra 1,000 sign up bonus and you earn up to 9,000 referral points (4,000 only on the standard card. Again, do not do it!)
How do I book with my BA companion ticket?
You have two options. One is to call BA directly. You might want to make a pot of tea, grab a good book and put your feet up though, because I’ve never found the response time good. I usually end up cursing at the telephone and swearing never to do this again!
The other option is to book online. It is very easy but you may need to have a little patience while you hunt for availability.
Read more about the BA companion ticket
The Standard AMEX card incurs a representative 22.9% APR variable, based on an assumed credit limit of £1200. The Premium card incurs a representative 76.0% APR variable, and costs £195 per annum (assumed credit limit of £1200). My advice is to never ever take out a credit card that you cannot pay off in full each month, otherwise you will get considerably less value from the card.
Any other top tips?
I know that many of my readers are expert travel hackers so if you have any additional tips for redeeming BA companion vouchers, please feel free to have your say below.