Fly Business Class on the Cheap

Collaborative Post

We are not rich, but can afford to fly business using companion vouchers.

Flying First or Business Class was never going to be possible for my wife and me. We are both self-employed, my wife as an event caterer, and me as a plumber, both aged 35, married with 2 school age kids and a large mortgage. Bogged down!

I thought I might just manage it after retirement. But then I discovered British Airways Companion Vouchers and had a dream trip with my wife last August to Grenada on British Airways (kids went to Spain with their grandparents). We flew Business class for the very first time, and now we’re smitten. The kids can go in Economy but from now, we will try hard to fly Business on long haul flights.

Cash cost of the tickets was £5759, but with my Companion Voucher, I paid only £1010, a huge saving of £4749. 

The amazing thing was that paying £1010 for Business was actually CHEAPER than the Economy tickets which were £1154.

Travel Planning

What??!! I hear you say.

Yes, it’s true. A friend told me what to do and now I want others to know. You don’t have to be posh or rich to fly First or Business. You just have to be savvy, dedicated and smart! 

I did this using airline points, easy to collect but the criticism has always been that the “free” flights are elusive and hard to find. I certainly found so using BA’s website as you have to search many times before you find your preferred dates. But, I discovered a great tool called rewardflightfinder.com which allowed me to set up up to 20 alerts for different destinations & dates. They constantly check BA’s systems to see if the special reward flight seats are available. If they are, they notify me immediately and I then book direct. Saves loads of time, costs little, and that is how I found those Grenada tickets. BA does not allow you to set alerts. 

With careful planning and judicious spending, you too can live the caviar life on a tuna fish budget. 

Here’s how – I’ll keep it simple


What is a BA Companion Voucher ?

British Airways has a loyalty scheme which allows you to earn and spend points called Avios. A Companion Voucher is a “two for one voucher” – it allows you to get “buy one get one free” on the Avios cost of a round trip. 

The Companion Voucher is earned when you spend a minimum amount on a BA American Express credit card. I will explain this later. 

Our trip to Grenada cost 125,000 Avios plus £1010. Here’s the breakdown:

                        My ticket    Wife’s ticket

Avios needed                    125,000    nil

Taxes & charges                £505        £505

How I earned a companion voucher

1    First, my wife and I joined the British Airways Executive Club on its website. Easy to join and free. This is where your Avios balance is recorded. 

2    I then applied for a British Airways American Express Premium Plus card (Amex). I got a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios after spending £3,000 within 3 months. The card cost £195 per year (now increased to £250) which I treat as a tax allowable expense within my business. Don’t baulk at the fee. Your savings on the two tickets will far exceed it.

3    Using BA/Amex’s referral scheme, I invited my wife to get a second BAPP card. I collected a referral bonus of 9,000 Avios and my wife got 26,000 Avios on spending £3,000 in 3 months. 

4    I opened a British Airways Executive Club Household Account on their website. This allows you to pool Avios from up to six different people. It is the only way for children under 18 to earn Avios when they fly.

5    You get a Companion Voucher when you spend £10,000 each membership year. The voucher is valid for two years. You receive 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on the card. So, spending £10,000 will net you 15,000 Avios. You receive double Avios (3 per £1) when booking flights or holidays directly with British Airways. 

6    Each of us spent £10,000 in the year and each earned a Companion Voucher. 

7    Pooling the Avios, by this stage we already had 90,000 Avios.

Don’t think you can spend £10,000 in a year? 

Don’t think you can accumulate 125,000 Avios?

Yes, £10,000 sounds a lot but if you are determined and savvy, it is easy to achieve. 

Use your Amex card to pay for EVERYTHING. All your personal expenses. All your business expenses. Even family and friends’ expenses so long as they pay you back!  

My wife and I used our personal Amex cards in our businesses to pay for all our business materials and equipment, then was repaid by our companies. So long as it was a legitimate business expense, our accountant was happy. We made sure to pay off the card each month by direct debit as the interest rate on the card is high. 

The magic is you’ll be getting rewarded for spending that you would be doing anyway — so why not make the most of it? 

Plus there is the double dip – you get Avios from your Amex card PLUS you get any bonus Avios from the retailer (see below).


Bonus Avios

We used the British Airways eStore as much as possible in order to get bonus Avios. By clicking through the dedicated portal https://www.shopping.ba.com/ you can earn up to 15 Avios per £1 spent on your everyday normal online purchases. You click through to the usual websites and pay the normal prices. There are over 1,200 well-known brands. 

We used the portal to pay for online Sainsburys orders every other week (5 Avios per £1); car, home and pet insurance (up to 6,000 Avios each), mobile phones, AA breakdown (1,000), Sky TV (7,000), broadband (2,500), concert and theatre tickets (5) , and all everyday shopping. These bonuses can be huge – up to 30,000 Avios for taking out life insurance.

We transferred an ISA into Nutmeg, getting 72,000 Avios. 

We also paid for large purchases made by trusted friends and family who then repaid us. 

We spend £600-700 per month on groceries and alcohol from Sainsburys. With bonus Avios we earn 6.5 Avios per £, giving us roughly 50,000 Avios in a year from just one retailer. 

It all adds up fast!


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