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How to Use British Airways Miles: Post 1

by on April 8, 2011 · 63 comments

in British Airways, Points Guy Pointers

This is the first installment of my series on maximizing British Airways miles. Since so many of you got in on the super-lucrative 100,000 mile BA Visa sign-up bonus (see details of the new offer below), feel free to check out: General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10 - Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability. Also, be sure to check out my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.

Update: The current offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios with $2,000 spend in the first 3 months.

Today’s lesson is how to book a flight to London, which is pretty simple, but I figured it was a good place to start. Tomorrow will be booking a business class Lan award to Lima from JFK. If you want me to cover a specific route or topic, feel free to comment in the section below. Upcoming lessons will also cover ways to maximize the BA Visa Companion Ticket, Household Accounts and stopovers. I’m off to JFK for my Global Entry interview now and then onto my last Scandanavian mileage run to Stockholm, so I have to stop here, but I hope you all have a great weekend, wherever your travels take you!

Go to britishairways.com -> Executive Club -> Spending BA Miles

Book Using BA miles

That’s it. These high fees are only on transatlantic flights – you’ll see in the next couple of tips that you can get flights much, much lower for US, South America, Asia and even Australia awards.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • noel

    I would love to know if there is a way to get to Australia using BA miles? maybe with a New Zealand stopover?

  • tpat

    Brian,

    Could you please discuss how to use British Airways miles to fly on Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Bangkok or Singapore in business class ? I booked a CX business class route to Bangkok a few months ago, but I didn’t see award availability on BA’s web site, so I used AAdvantage miles instead. I wonder if I didn’t search in the right place, as I would’ve preferred to burn through my BA miles first. Thanks.

  • The Points Guy

    Great ideas- will cover! There is a LAX-AKL screen shot in my original post. I’ll also give some expertflyer.com tips- that service helps check Qantas and AA availability

  • Nathan

    Please do some info for Australia and how to get favorable routings to hit multiple spots on 1 award (or even mix in Hawaii??). Thanks!!

  • rich (arizona)

    First of all I know almost nothing about BA nor One World except they have some high fees depending on where you go.

    1. If my home airport is PHX will that cause any major problems in redeeming awards?
    2. I have a bunch of points on a Diners Club card that I might cancel. Currently there is a 50% bonus if I transfer them to BA. Would you rather have 160,000 miles on Aeroplan (they seem to have a generous redemption policy on Star Alliance) or 240,000 miles on BA?

    Generally I enjoy travel to Europe although I wouldn’t rule out one day flying to Australia. I’m not too much into Asia. South America is also a bit iffy.
    (If it matters I’m CP on US Airways. I will also be getting ~150,000 miles through a couple of AA offers on CCs.)
    Thanks.

  • pixel girl

    Just wanted to say thanks, PG, for all the great information that you share with us!

    I know you run a business on award bookings, so it’s especially appreciated that you’re sharing all this info with us and happily answering our questions.

    Keep up the good work!

  • The Points Guy

    @rich-
    1) Phoenix has nonstop service to London (and beyond) on BA, so you should be fine. You can also fly American through Dallas or Chicago, so you should have a lot of options.
    2) I personally love flying British Airways, even though they have higher fees, so I’d go with BA. While the fees are higher, they have a ton of award availability- especially in first class, so its a tradeoff I’m willing to take. If you are already covered with Star Alliance with your US Airways flying, I’d say go for building up BA/AA so you have lots of options when it comes time to redeem. Using BA/AA miles to Australia is a good option because they both link up with Qantas (who just started service from Dallas, which has a lot of availability)

    @Pixel girl- thank you for the kind words! I’ve learned so much from others over the years and that knowledge has allowed me to travel around the world in a style I could never afford, so its only my honor to give back and help others realize their travel dreams :-)

  • Tao

    Thanks for the great information. I’m especially intrigued by your other post about booking US to South America using BA miles. My home airport is SEA. Could you cover a little bit about booking award tickets originating from SEA? Looking forward to your upcoming posts.

  • tima1212

    Appreciate your blog! Having never traveled to South America, I am interested in hearing about booking an itinerary from SFO to South America, especially emphasizing possible stopovers along the way (either domestic or international). The prospect of making a few stops and seeing many sights for only 40K (or 80K in J) miles RT is quite attractive.

    Of course, the aforementioned Australia via Hawaii and Bangkok/Singapore trips sound great too!!

  • Cay Squared

    Leaving JFK is a common start point when talking about using LAN as an example for BA redemption. What’s a great LAN-exclusive routing to max stopovers (nice +) out of SFO for us west-coasters ;-) ?

  • Joe

    Wow! Super excited to see these upcoming posts — especially S. America and Asia/Pacific. I’m coming out of BOS so hope that doesn’t put a damper on things. Thanks so much for putting these together!

  • Brandon

    Australia with a stopover in Hawaii, would be much appreciated. I like that itinerary!

  • michael

    I’m interested in how you put together a 100K routing starting at LAX and including Australia and/or Hawaii and possibly even London.

  • abcx @the people asking about LAN/S. America

    Here’s some itineraries out of SFO (you can replace SFO with any hub that has a LAN flight to LIM like JFK or MIA):

    SFO-LIM-EZE-SCL-IPC-SCL-LIM-SFO (I’ve personally booked and flown this so I can guarantee this works – though with the addition of the LIM-IPC flight I don’t know if they’ve tightened the routing rules and disallowed this)
    SFO-LIM-GRU-EZE-FTE-USH-AEP-LIM-SFO (I don’t know if BA will allow this routing but it’s worth a shot; if this is allowed, you can try adding Santiago on the way back from Buenos Aires; or if not, remove GRU and the rest should be allowed)
    SFO-LIM-SCL-EZE-IGR-EZE-LIM-SFO (haven’t tried this but I’m reasonably sure this should be allowed)

    Of course you can stop as many times as you like. You can also make these open jaws. So fly all the way down to Ushuaia through El Calafate, buy a one way back to Buenos Aires, and fly out AEP-IGR-LIM-SFO.

    You can probably add on flights to the Chilean part of Patagonia or to Cuzco if going just to Peru (you’ll probably have to terminate in Cuzco though – I don’t think you can add Argentina or Chile without backtracking through LIM, but I’m not sure.) If going to Ecuador, feel free to add on flights to the Galapagos islands. Go find a LAN route map and if something looks reasonable, just call BA and ask if they’ll allow the itinerary. And post back here so we know what’s allowed and what’s not. ;)

    Hope that helps.

  • jessica

    I have simple itinerary – JFK to London!
    How far in advance do they allow you to book?
    I need a flight for July 2012.

  • karen

    If you could cover booking a ticket from Boston to China using BA miles, it will be much appreciated.

  • kanyu hirminow

    This past several months I got a Chase UA card, applied for Chase Continental card, then denied/approved with call in for the Chase Hyatt card. I had to withdraw from the Continental app to get the Hyatt though.

    At this point is there any chance I would get approved for the BA card? Should I cancel the UA card since I never fly UA? I haven’t redeemed the Hyatt free nights yet. Should I cancel the Hyatt card?
    Does Chase claw back bennies? Does closing accts reset the clock?

    Thanks TPG

  • LV

    How about routings on AA from smaller markets in the midwest like OMA, MKC etc to Europe?

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  • abx

    I tried a few award searches on the BA site (US->US and US->Central/South America routes out of SFO) and noticed that AA flights never show up – even those with the Saver-level availability on the AA site. (And yes, I did click on “Include Partners”). Is there some rule preventing BA redemption on AA-operated flights? Or this is something specific to their online engine, and I would have gotten better results if I talked to BA reps?

    Thanks!

  • Eric

    Any help with MIA-FCO-MIA would be great. My wife and I both applied through your site and both were approved and we would love to go business class to Italy. I started playing around on the BA website and every date that I tried in October or November came back with no availability. I must be doing something wrong as I have always heard about BA having great availability on reward redemptions.

  • Maria

    Sorry if this question is obvious but, can you use these miles for an AA award, or on any of the other BA partners?

    Thanks

  • The Points Guy

    @Kanyu- not sure, but you should call Chase. I don’t believe they clawback benefits as long as you pay the annual fees.

    @abx- what flights arent showing up? Give me an example and I’ll look into it

    @Maria- yes- you can use BA miles for air travel on all Oneworld partners. My tip today is all about Oneworld, so feel free to read that to learn more about redemption options

  • Eugene

    What would be most useful to see in your future “tips” would be the best way to use BA miles to fly to Europe (including and via London) on its partners such as AA in order to avoid the sky-high fees that BA charges.

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  • Betty

    Anyone can tell me how to book Cathy Pacific reward flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver using BA mile? Actually I have booked Japan Airline using BA miles, but due to the earthquake, I want to change CX. However, over 4 months, I didn’t see any award availability on BA’s web site to show seat from HK to Vancouver between Dec 2011 to Mar 2012. I wonder do I search wrong.

    This is my first time to collect enough miles to get reward ticket, anyone can help me. Thanks.

  • The Points Guy

    Betty- using the technique highlighted in this thread should show any results. I’ll take a look for you- are you trying to fly coach, business or first class?

  • The Points Guy

    @Eugene- I did a post on fees yesterday- you still get dinged when flying other carriers to Europe, though not as much as if you fly BA

  • Betty

    I just choose the economy class because I only have 50,000 BA miles, it should be just enough to book 2 one-way reward seats from Van-HK and HK-Van. And I know BA only has CX partner Airline to provide direct flight to HK too.

    I don’t want to transfer from Japan to HK this time. Please help!!

  • http://[email protected] Debbie

    Dont think I am near any hubs. AVL – Can these points be used to get from Charlotte NC to JFK or other hub for Asia travel.
    Or
    How about how to get to carribean? jamaica or such on AA?

    thanks for the tips.

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  • becs

    hi!
    i am thinking of applying for this incredible sounding deal and only for one reason: i want to go to madrid spain sometime october 2011 until may 2012, so 1 adult. i am wondering how this would work with british airways rewards? it looks like flights may be around $1200 as is. could you help me?

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  • http://[email protected] patti Huth

    Hi! Sorry if this is a repeat, I’ve tried to search all of the comments. 4 of us are traveling to Rome and out of Paris. There wasn’t anything available, even for 1 person in and out of Italy in a 2 month range. If you are trying to fly in one country and out of another, do we need to call and not use the site? Also, do you find that using 4 will be too difficult? Thanks!

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  • Murad

    When using the BA site to search for award availability (and some other functions) I more often than not get the “Unfortunately our systems are not responding, so we are unable to process your request at the moment…………….”error. It happens with any browser I use (on multiple computers no less). After refreshing a few times, I sometimes get to what I am looking for. However, the next step often gives the same error. Needless to say, it is very annoying. I wanted to know if any other people have had a similar experience.

  • The Points Guy

    @Murad- I have been getting the same error. I only imagine its due to thousands more people using ba.com trying to book awards. There are no workarounds to my knowledge

  • ap

    Hi, thanks for the useful information. I am trying to book a flight from TYS to Toronto. On the AA website it shows it can be redeemed for 25k miles for August 12-15. But when I try on the ba website it says there is no availability. Should I just call them and try to book it through them or am I doing something wrong?

  • patti huth

    ap-I just booked mine by calling BA yesterday. I’ve spend the last week trying to book on BA using their website. The whole thing was completely flakey. My flight would be there, I would choose, it, and it would disappear when I tried to book it. I got on Qantas airlines, as the point guy recommended, and found AA would fly where I wanted to go (never showed up on BA website). I called BA and had them book that flight. They tried to charge me the $20, but I asked to speak to a supervisor and had it waived.

  • The Points Guy

    @Patti- glad you got it waived. BA.com has been HORRIBLE lately- I really hope they fix it soon

  • The Points Guy

    @AP- the BA website is VERY basic and many times you can’t book connecting flights. Most likley you will have to call to get it booked and just feed them the flights that have the SAAver availability

  • AP

    Thanks Patti and the Points Guy. I called earlier today but the wait time was over 30 minutes so I will try again tomorrow since I will have more time tomorrow. The points guy – you mentioned that it has to be SAAver availability? There is a flight from aa from TYS to Cancun which are SAAver offpeak, which are 12.5 miles each way (17.5 SAAver). Do you know if BA will honor the SAAver offpeak or only the SAAver? I know aa also periodically offers the 17.5 roundtrip domestic promos too which are called the super Saaver. Thanks again

  • RS

    Trying to book anything for my 100,000 + air miles on my BA Visa card is impossible.
    Here is my email to BA Customer service, will post the outcome as well.

    “Dear BA representative,
    It was great enthusiasm that I enrolled into a new credit card which gave me a 100,000 miles. I was thrilled to get it.
    But, very soon, I have realized, that this is indeed a big con. And it has costed me $95 yearly fee already. I have absolutely no hopes of getting any sensible ticket to use the miles. I have tried may times and have been unsuccessful to get anything sensible.
    Once, my choice was to travel on a particular day and the return available would be a few months later ! ( do real people have jobs with that much time off )
    Another time, my return availability was before my outbound date. ( do people or is it even possible to do the return journey before one goes away)
    Yet another time, the return availability was the same day as the outward journey. ( do people just take the airplane ride only to get back on the same flight )
    many times the website just does not function. ( is it deliberate to keep people from even trying to get their free airmiles booked )
    I have many other questions and suspicions with regard to the whole deal.
    I feel I have been suckered into a worthless card costing me $95 a year, and there is probably no way a real person will be able to utilize the miles.

    Thank you for your valuable time,
    I understand you guys are very busy ( conning more people into these deals) but would appreciate your response to this. ( Please take your time) As you can see, I am a busy, real world ‘ person’ with a real job, and am in no hurry to sort this out. You guys ROCK. “

  • Patriciakucey

    Have 60 000 pts with BA and want to go from Vancouver to Ho Chi Min city in Oct returning in end of Nov.
    2011. My dtes and route are totally flexible. How do I book this…running into snags..

  • Anonymous

    I think you need to provide more specifics. Are you 100% you checked all Oneworld and partner availability? Ba.com probably only shows 40%

  • Anonymous

    You should be able to book on BA.com. If not, first search for YVR-HKG availability and then HKG-Ho Chi Minh
    Once you have legs with availability you may need to call to book

  • Eugene

    To book CX using BA miles, specifically CX889, JFK-YVR-HKG, if Cathay is showing availability on CX889 JFK-HKG and JFK-YVR but not on YVR-HKG would that be a reason why British Airways can’t book it? Must both legs of that flight have availability or is there like a separate reward bucket for JFK-HKG and BA agents just don’t know how to book it correctly? I’m having a lot of trouble getting this flight booked :(

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  • Jacque

    So how do you find the other flights? BA says that my flight is $656 plus 40,000 avios to go roundtrip from BOS to LON. I could just pay $656 and get the same flight without losing points. I really don’t understand BA’s system.

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  • Julie

    Can I use Avios points to up-grade an already booked flight and how many points would I need to upgrade – flying from JHB SA to Perth on 18th Aug? Thanks

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