The British Airways Companion Ticket Is Worthless From The West Coast

a screenshot of a screen
On the surface, the British Airways 2-for-1 Travel Together certificate that comes after spending $30,000 or more in a calendar year on the Chase British Airways credit card sounds like a fantastic deal.

While many people find Avios most useful for short-haul domestic tickets which only cost 4,500 miles each way, in general I prefer to use my miles for long-haul premium cabin flights. So in theory, this certificate is exactly the type of thing that would appeal to me, since I’d be able to save 150,000 miles for example on First Class flights from San Francisco to London.

While the certificate is good for 24 months, I’m quickly approaching the expiration date for mine. I’ve been trying desperately to find a good use for it over the past year, but am at the point where I’m going to give up and let it expire. Here’s why.

The rules and restrictions

The British Airways certificate comes with some very restrictive rules that make it both hard to use and cost-prohibitive. Here are some details from the terms and condition:

“The Travel Together Ticket (voucher) allows the main BA/Chase account holder, when making a return flight booking using Avios, to book another seat on the exact same journey for a companion without having to pay the Avios flight price for that Companion. Taxes, airline, government, or other separately charged fees and charges must be paid by Member redeeming the voucher and is payable at time of booking”

A lot of words here, but the main takeaway is that you have to pay fuel surcharges on both tickets, which can be substantial. Let’s look at what the surcharges would amount to on a SFO-LHR First Class ticket for example:

a screenshot of a screen

Each leg in First Class comes out to $479.60 per person, or an astonishing $1,918 round-trip for two people! To put that in perspective, over the past couple months you could easily find paid Business Class tickets for a similar route for as low as ~$1,500. Additionally, those tickets would earn both elite and redeemable miles, and were widely available on almost any date.

So in essence, you’d be purchasing 150,000 miles by using the companion pass for $1,918 which is a rate of roughly 1.3 cents-per-mile (CPM). It’s worth nothing that at times that have been up to 50% transfer bonuses to Avios from American Express Membership Rewards, and in that case would effectively bring the cost of “purchasing” Avios down to just 1.0 CPM.

In itself, that’s not a bad deal at all, if you’re able to find availability.

Where’s the availability?

“All travel must originate in and return to the US. The voucher cannot be redeemed for travel with BA’s franchisees, code share partners or oneworld Alliance members.”

This is perhaps the nail in the coffin in terms of finding a practical use for the certificate. In short, you can only use the pass for travel to/from the US, and it must be on British Airways flights – no codeshares with other partners, including American Airlines, are allowed.

“The voucher will be issued in the name of the main BA/Chase Credit card account holder, who must travel on any voucher.”

On top of that, you must be one of the two people traveling, which means that unfortunately you cannot use it for others.

So how does availability from the West Coast look like? Let’s look at a few examples – there’s no availability for close-in flights from SFO to LHR:

a screenshot of a calendar

And nothing from either SFO or LAX to LHR several months out in March/April:

a screenshot of a calendar

a screenshot of a calendar

Even if you’re able to plan 10-11 months in advance, there’s still nothing!

a screenshot of a computer

Adding it all up

So if you live in the West Coast and are determined to use the certificate, you’ll essentially to make your way Eastbound to other US gateways. For example, from ORD and JFK there is some decent award availability for both close-in bookings and further out in March/April 2015 for example. But even then, finding availability for both the outbound and return flights within a specific window of time isn’t easy. You’ll have to be extremely flexible.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

a screenshot of a calendar

Since the companion certificate does not cover non-British Airways flights, you are left on your own to pay for the cost of getting to gateways such as ORD or JFK. Even if you’re able to plan in advance, round-trip airfare for two can easily cost $500-$600.

And on top of that, for a crazy risk-averse traveler like myself, flying on two separate tickets and facing IRROPS isn’t something I’m willing to deal with, so depending on the flight schedule I’d likely find myself arriving the night before and booking a hotel.

When you add up all those costs and also take into account the availability of cheap Business Class fares, it simply does not make sense for West Coast flyers to utilize the British Airways Travel Together Certificate.

I’d love to hear from others who have successfully used the companion ticket, is there anything I’m missing?


  1. Great post. I do have a friend who successfully used the companion ticket to go to Africa, but that was a couple of years ago, so award availability was a lot better.

    1. Yeah, I’m kicking myself for not using it earlier when there was somewhat decent availability. Now, it’s non-existent!

      I don’t even want to guess how much your friend paid in fuel surcharges =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *