London is a great city and should be on everyone’s must-visit list. It’s a wonderful destination for all ages. There are so many things to see and do and so much delicious food to eat. However, flying in and out of London means paying high airport taxes and airline-imposed surcharges.

When planning a trip to the United Kingdom’s capital, your first instinct might be to start searching for award tickets on British Airways. It’s the U.K. biggest carrier after all, and London is the destination. However, British Airways is one of the worst offenders when it comes to passing surcharges.

Add to this the pesky Air Passenger Duty imposed by the government on all flights originating in the U.K. plus taxes, and you’d often pay more in fees than if you were just to buy a ticket with cash. And the cash co-pay is even larger for the higher class of service, including premium economy.

Let’s look at a couple of ways to minimize the damage. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid all fees when departing from London, but there are ways to spend less cash on your U.K. trip by being more strategic about your award redemption.

Why Does It Cost So Much to Fly to and from London?

U.K’s Air Passenger Duty is levied on any flights that originate in the U.K., with a few exceptions for smaller airports in the Scottish Highlands and the Scottish islands. If you’re connecting in the U.K., you don’t need to pay this tax, but you still need to pay airline-imposed surcharges and airport taxes and fees.

The U.K.-based carriers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, pass on carrier surcharges and other taxes and fees. For example, booking an award ticket to and from London with British Airways Avios means paying hundreds of dollars in surcharges, both for economy and business class awards.

Why Does It Cost So Much to Fly to and from London

While we might be able to live with a $200 cash component for the economy ticket, paying almost $900 in addition to 50,000 miles for business class is unacceptable.

Why Does It Cost So Much to Fly to and from London

So what can you do to save on taxes and fees?

American Airlines

Fly a U.S. Carrier

Flying a U.S. airline will help save money on the trip TO London, but you’ll still have to pay the U.K. Air Passenger Duty when departing FROM London.

For example, you’ll pay just $5.60 flying from the U.S. to London on United Airlines.

Fly a U.S. Carrier

American Airlines also operates nonstop flights between the U.S. and London, and you’ll pay the same $5.60, even if you fly in first class.

Fly a U.S. Carrier

You’ll have to pay the U.K. departure taxes on your trip home, whether flying on a U.K. or a U.S. airline, but you can save a lot by choosing a U.S. carrier, because U.S. airlines don’t pass on any surcharges, unlike BA and Virgin.

Fly U.S. Carrier

So if you book a flight operated by American Airlines (top row of the screenshot above), you’ll pay the Air Passenger Duty and the airport taxes and fees. Compare this to the flight operated by BA (the second row of the screenshot above) that adds hundreds of dollars of its own surcharges.

Depart from Another Airport

You can save a lot of cash by flying home from Dublin. Yes, we know Dublin is in a different country and on a different island, but flying home from Dublin might save you lots of cash because surcharges are a fraction of what you’ll pay for London departures. This’ll also give you an opportunity to see another country on the same trip.

Here’s an example of how much you’ll pay by booking a flight with United Airlines out of Dublin (DUB).

Depart from Another Airport

If you’re using United miles to book a round-trip flight to London, don’t forget about United’s Excursionist Perk because your flight between London and Dublin will be zero miles—you’ll just have to pay the modest taxes.

Depart from Another Airport

If you aren’t using United miles, or aren’t booking a round-trip award, still consider Dublin as your departure point because you can often find cheap flights between London and Ireland.

Dublin Airport is one of a handful of airports outside of North America that has a U.S. preclearance facility. You’ll go through customs and immigration in Dublin, and your flight from Dublin will be treated as a domestic arrival when you land in the U.S.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines

Dublin is just one option. Flying from another location in the U.K. will also be easier on the wallet. For example, you can fly from Manchester, England (MAN), to Houston (IAH) on Singapore Airlines’ fifth freedom route. You’ll need just 25,000 KrisFlyer miles in economy per direction and 116 British pounds in surcharges.

Depart from Another Airport

Surcharges are higher in business class, around 218 British pounds, but it’s still much cheaper than flying from London-Heathrow (LHR) or London-Gatwick (LGW) airports.

Depart from Another Airport

Airports in the Scottish Highlands region are exempt from the Air Passenger Duty, so if your plans include visiting Scotland, check flights from Inverness (INV), which has nonstop flights to Amsterdam (AMS) operated by KLM, where you can connect onward to the U.S. You’ll pay about $120 in surcharges for a one-way award in economy and about $270 for a one-way award in business class.

Europe has a lot of low-cost carriers, so it might be cheaper to take a flight to a nearby country that has good U.S. connections and fly home from there.

You can also take a Eurostar train to Paris, Amsterdam or Brussels. Spending some time in one of these cities is never a bad idea, but if you’re short on time, you can take a local train or bus from the main train station directly to the airport. You’ll also find lots of great award redemption options from these major European hubs.

Use a Program That Allows Stopovers

United’s Excursionist Perk is available on round-trip awards only, but other programs allow stopovers on one-way bookings. For example, Aeroplan allows stopovers on one-way awards for just 5,000 extra points, so you can fly from London to Frankfurt (stopover) then to the U.S. Because the Air Passenger Duty is much lower on short-haul flights, you’ll shave off a couple hundred dollars and get to visit another country.

Some Caveats

When you’re departing from a different airport, you might save on taxes and fees, but it’s important to do the math and see if you’re indeed saving enough money to come out ahead.

Here are a few things to consider.

You’ll need to allow for extra time, so if your trip is a short one, that might not work. Consider the time you’ll need to fly or take a train to a different city, time to get to and from the airport, time spent on trains, etc.

Do the math carefully and see if you’re still saving money. If you were planning to add Dublin to your London trip anyway, flying home from Dublin will be cheaper than flying from London. But if you’re doing it just to save on the U.K. departure taxes, take into account the costs associated with transportation to and from the airports, hotels and other expenses.

If you’re planning to do everything in one day, you’ll need to make sure there’s enough time between the flight from London to another airport and your flight back to the U.S. If you’re traveling on a separate ticket and the first flight gets delayed, you might miss your flight home and the airline doesn’t have to accommodate you because you’re flying on two separate reservations.

Final Thoughts

The U.K. departure taxes are notoriously high, but there are a couple of ways to minimize them. Flying out of a different country might save you a few hundred dollars, but take into account the time it’ll take you to get there and the expenses associated with going to a different airport and booking additional flights.

Using a program that allows a free or inexpensive stopover is another good option that also allows you to explore a different destination.

There’s no way to avoid paying all departure taxes when leaving from a U.K. airport, but you can minimize the damage by using the right programs to book your London trip.