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How to Use British Airways Miles: Post 7, Using Expertflyer.com for Partner Awards

by on April 14, 2011 · 45 comments

in American, British Airways, Points Guy Pointers, Qantas

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

This is the seventh 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 current 100K offer), it would be beneficial 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 look at my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.

Today’s lesson is on using ExpertFlyer to help find awards that can be redeemed using British Airways miles. Note: ExpertFlyer does not have access to British Airways award availability- only a handful of its partners: American Airlines, Qantas, Finn Air and Alaska Airlines. As many of you have realized, using britishairways.com is buggy and slow, but generally reliable once you get the hang of it. For a quicker way to scan available awards, I use ExpertFlyer, which is a paid service that has access to select airlines’ award availability.

ExpertFlyer has a ton of features, but for the purpose of this post, I’ll show how you can use it to find award space, which you can then plug into britishairways.com to book an award. I personally use ExpertFlyer every day to quickly search award space and put together complex routings that the airline websites would never figure out.

If you want to try out ExpertFlyer, you can sign up for a 5 day free trial.

Now let’s get started. One of the key themes covered in my earlier posts on BA miles is that using them on Oneworld partners is generally cheaper than redeeming them on BA itself. However, the online search engine is clunky and doesn’t automatically pull in partner award availability, at least not without a lot of prompting and jumping through hoops. Enter Expertflyer.com.

One of the easy ways I search for award availability is through ExpertFlyer’s Award & Upgrades function. The two other functions that I mostly use are Flight Availability and Seat Alerts- both of which I’ll cover in detail tomorrow.

Once you click on Awards & Upgrades, you’ll enter the city pair that you are searching for availability – in this example New York JFK to Rio de Janeiro, then your dates and then make sure to select the +/- 3 day drop down box if you are flexible on your dates, then select the airline. Once you select the airline, you will see a bunch of options. In this example, the only AA awards that you can book using BA miles are MileSAAver awards, so only check boxes for those awards. When searching Qantas awards, you should only select First, Business or Coach – premium economy awards are not redeemable using British Airways miles. Side tip for American Executive Platinums: you can search for EVIP upgrade space by selecting the Business – Upgrade C box. Once you select the fare class you are interested in searching for, click Search.


You’ll then get the results page. On the top half of the page will be the outbound segment’s availability. As you can see here, there are 0 Business class seats and at least 7 coach seats. There may be more than 7 seats, but American stops at 7. Some airlines stop at 9 – none will let you know how many seats above 9. I’m not exactly sure why they stop at either 7 or 9, but that’s how the system is programmed. Let’s pretend we are fine with coach (since coach awards from US to South America are only 40,000 miles roundtrip using BA miles for travel on a single Oneworld partner like American – a MAJOR steal, especially on this route).

Scrolling down, you’ll see the return segment and nothing was available for my original return date of 6/19/11, but good thing I clicked the +/- 3 days search feature. This allows me to check others dates with the click of a button where you see the red circles. Luckily the following day, 6/20/11, there are at least 7 SAAver seats in coach – perfect!

So what now? I could call BA at 1 800 452 1201, but they’d ding me with a $20/ticket fee most likely. Instead, let’s head to britishairways.com -> Executive Club -> Spending BA Miles -> Book Using BA Miles and enter in the flight dates that I found using ExpertFlyer.

The search engine automatically asks if you want to stopover in London. Just ignore and click Continue.

Oh no! No British Airways flights found. Perfect. Select either the Search or Include Partners buttons to pull in partner award availability.

Well, what do you know? There’s American Airlines award space available! Who’d have thought? Oh that’s right, we would have because we are expert award searchers. And as award ninjas, we get to reap the reward of a valuable award redemption for hardly any miles.

Bam – a roundtrip New York to Rio flight for only 40,000 miles and $56 – now that’s what I call a bargain.


For kicks, I pulled up the same exact flights on AA.com and the trip priced out at $1,240.10. So subtract $56 from $1,240.10 and that means 40,000 BA miles saves you $1,184.10 – getting you nearly 3 cents per point in value. At that rate, the 100,000 mile sign up bonus could net you nearly $3,000 in value – all for a measly $95 annual fee (note: award flights do not earn miles, while paid flights do, so take that into account when valuing award vs. paid reservations).

What’s an even better deal is the cash and points option of 20,000 miles and $311 for the flight. That would mean 20,000 miles save you $1,240 – $311 = $929, or 4.7 cents per mile. At that rate, you could fly five people roundtrip (since there were actually 7 award seats on each flight) for 100,000 miles and $1,555.

I think this redemption shows that you can get tremendous value from the British Airways 100,000 mile bonus, even if you don’t redeem for first or business class. It also goes to show that spending a small fee to invest in a service like Expert Flyer can save you time and money in the long run. Even though my example was for American Airlines, you can follow the same process for Qantas or Finn Air awards. If this post convinced you to apply for the BA Visa card, please consider applying through my link.

Note: Alaska Airlines is a partner of British Airways, but not part of the Oneworld alliance. Therefore you can check award availability on ExpertFlyer and just call BA to book per what you see online.

Disclaimer:  ExpertFlyer does not check availability on code share flights.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Michael

    Very helpful! I guess the only thing left to chance is surviving coach on an AA763 for 11 hours…ha! Does this work in reverse for booking BA on AA.com?

  • Joe

    Thanks so much for this series of posts, Brian!

    A question: what do we do if we have beginning and end points that are served by BA, but we don’t want to fly BA? I’m hoping to fly Royal Jordanian from HOU or NYC to IST, via AMM. But the BA site will only show me BA routes to IST via LHR. Will they not allow us to fly with a partner if they can get us there themselves?

  • troy

    I couldn’t get the coupon code to work – any thoughts?

  • The Points Guy

    @Michael- Expert Flyer doesn’t have the ability to search BA availability, but in general- if you can find an award on ba.com (except premium economy) you can use AA miles for it

    @Joe- You will have to call to get availability- the website is super crazy and will only show BA if its available. There are other tools like the Qantas website or the kvstool.com that will show all Oneworld availability- I’ll do a quick spotlight on them as well. Remember- you can only fly one Oneworld partner if you want cheap awards and since Royal Jordanian doesn’t fly from Houston, you’d have to choose either their Montreal or NY gateway. But yes, it can be done- you will just have to call.

  • The Points Guy

    @Troy- its only for yearly premium memberships. If that still doesn’t work, I’d email expert flyer customer service- they are very responsive. I’d recommend doing a free trial first just so you are sure you want the year subscription.

  • http://www.expertflyer.com ExpertFlyer Voice

    @Troy – Like TPG said, you can use the coupon either when you sign up or at any time during your 5-day trial for a Yearly Premium service. Any questions please email us at customercare@

    @Joe – The Qantas.com.au Oneworld search tool is your best, and only, source. It is the only source for Oneworld airline award data outside of BA.com or ExpertFlyer. There is a trick with the BA.com award search tool where you find a date that BA doesn’t show any awards for the route in question, then do the Partner search, then Previous/Next day the search until you get to the day you want. It’s not always perfect but it may be the only way aside from the phone. Any other website that shows OW award information is screen scraping from either the BA or QF website and has the same limitations.

  • Tao

    I love ExpertFlyer.com, but is KVS tool better? I haven’t tried KVS yest, but it seems to have more search functionality. Any thoughts?

  • The Points Guy

    @Tao- I’ve used both extensively. I prefer ExpertFlyer, but it does have its limitations (I would love more award coverage- specifically with Delta, British Airways and Cathay)

    KVS doesn’t work on Macs, unless you use workaround, which I find annoying. It also only searches one day at a time which is time consuming. It also requires frequent software updates, but I do like it for Oneworld availability because it saves me the time from having to using Qantas and British Airways’ websites.

    Neither are perfect, but I think ExpertFlyer is a better made product.

  • http://www.expertflyer.com ExpertFlyer Voice

    @Tao – KVS is a tool that screen scrapes from airline and travel agent websites, so it’s all available otherwise for free. For example for OW, it screen scrapes from the Qantas and BA website award search tools. We recommend AwardNexus.com as an alternative, it screen scrapes the same airline sites, however it has a basic free version as well, we think AN is a great compliment to ExpertFlyer.

    That being said, ExpertFlyer is different than any screen scraping service as we get our data directly from the GDS reservation systems. This allows us to have unique features like our Flight Availability Alerts and Seat Alerts, as well as showing information that isn’t found on airline websites, like AA and DL upgrade availability.

  • Ed

    Just applied and used your link…Got approved no problem…Amazing posts—thanks so much and keep them coming…Appreciate everything…

  • Sunny_SC

    Thank you SO much for this series of posts! I pulled the trigger last night and applied for the BA card through your link!! :)

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  • The Points Guy

    @Ed and Sunny- THANK YOU! Applications like yours keep this site running- and hopefully your 100k bonus miles will keep you traveling in style :-)

  • Matt

    Would we be able to use your code to extend an expertflyer subscription for another year?

  • Carlos

    Hey TPG I just applied using your link and got accepted!!!! Yay OMG! Haha! I cant wait to redeem this probably to South America since fees are cheap.

    That flight to Rio is really cheap. How would I go about adding a stop in that? Like, if I get one way to Rio… that be 20,000…. What about it I want to stop in… Colombia (Assuming it is only on AA steel and there is availability) before Rio, will it still be 20,000? Then 20,000 from RIO to JFK? Can I book JFK-COLOMBIA-RIO on the website or I have to call if I want to stop somewhere before my final destination? If I book JFK-COLOMBIA, COLOMBIA-RIO, RIO-JFK separately would that be only 40k for all 3? Seems like it would be more…

  • The Points Guy

    @Matt- probably, though I’m not sure

    @Carlos- congrats, you got in on an amazing deal. You can’t do JFK-Colombia on AA and then continue onto Rio because AA does not fly between Colombia and Rio, therefore you’d be using multiple Oneworld partners and you’d have to pay a ton extra. Instead, you could do 1 way NYC-Bogota (20k miles), Bog-Rio (10k)- Rio-JFK (20k)
    50k for all that is still a steal!

  • Lee

    This is BA deal is amazing for South and Latin America. What about to Asia? Singapore or Bangkok or even Bali … TPG Please write similar for Asia

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  • http://www.KVSTool.com/ KVSTool.com

    @Tao: You are correct. In fact, the KVS Tool has 100% Award Availability Coverage across all OneWorld member carriers (BA/QF/AA/CX/JL/IB/AY/MA/S7/RJ/LA/XL/LP/4M). Please see http://Help.KVSTool.com/#Classes for complete details.

  • http://mandyandadam.com Adam

    Great information! Wish I had it when redeeming my first 100k BA miles, luckily the offer is back and my wife was able to sign-up (through your link). Question regarding the points being shown for a flight on AA.com versus BA.com:

    - Route is CLT to MXP (via LGA or JFK without a London layover)
    - AA shows open seats for 40k points roundtrip
    - BA shows exact same open seats when you select the “partner” airlines option, however they show 60k points AND ~$400

    Any idea what is happening and why BA is so much more?

    Thanks!

  • Anna

    Thank you very much for this info! I’ve signed up for that offer and got approved, but I have a question about using Alaska Airlines, since I’m based in Seattle and majority of flights I take are one Alaska.
    You’ve mentioned “Note: Alaska Airlines is a partner of British Airways, but not part of the Oneworld alliance. Therefore you can check award availability on ExpertFlyer and just call BA to book per what you see online.”
    Does that mean Alaska flights won’t show up if I select partners on BA site?
    If that’s true, what’s the strategy – find award flight on Alaska and call the BA to book it?
    Let’s say I want to go to Hawaii, or Alaska, does that mean I don’t even bother searching for those flights on BA.com, try to find them on AlaskaAir.com, write the dates and then call BA to book?
    I also have miles on AlaskaAir – can I combine those miles with BA miles somehow?

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  • Joseph

    This is great info. BUT:

    ExpertFlyer.com shows plenty of availabilities for an AA flight from JFK to TLV, but when I search on BA’s website, it shows nothing available. Any advice?

  • The Points Guy

    @Lee- use the same method for Asia awards. Fees are higher than South America awards, but less than trans-Atlantic

    @Adam- AA is offering you offpeak awards. BA does not have offpeak awards, so you pay their standard 60k.

    @Anna- correct- you can use Alaskas site or expertflyer and if there is availability in at the saver levels, you can call BA and book those flights.
    You cannot “combine” BA and Alaska miles, but you can use BA miles to book one Alaska award and Alaska miles to book another award on an identical trip

    @Joseph- I’m confused, AA does not fly to TLV from JFK. What dates/flights are you referencing?

  • Anna

    Thanks a lot for clarification on Alaska!
    I’ve seen several comments from people from Seattle complaining they couldn’t book Alaska flights with BA miles, so I had a concern that I wouldn’t be able to use those BA miles as efficient as I hoped for.

  • The Points Guy

    No worries Anna. People rely too much on Britishairways.com to solve all of their problems and give up before realizing that tons of options actually exist! Good luck using the miles- feel free to let me know how it goes booking Alaska awards using those hard earned BA Miles!

  • Joseph

    Re: AA from TLV to JFK.

    On ExpertFlyer, I entered my itinerary as JFK to TLV, and it returned a list of *connecting* flights, such as JFK –> ZRH, and then ZRH –> TLV. The return flight shows TLV –> BUD, BUD –> JFK.

    Is BA unable to provide award travel on partner airlines that have stopovers? (When I tried to find a one-way flight on BA.com from JFK to ZRH, it didn’t give an option for searching partner airlines.)

    Thanks!!!

  • Joseph

    Re: AA from TLV to JFK.

    I just saw what you wrote in Post#2: “Any MileSAAver awards can be booked using British Airways miles – you just have to call BA if the trip has multiple stops.”

    Sorry for not doing my homework! I guess I have to call them now.

    Thanks, as always, for your help.

  • The Points Guy

    @Joseph- no problem- good luck!

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  • Raghav

    Excellent post. How about LAN award availability? Is that avlbl on expert flyer too?

    Also, does LAN allow different stopovers each way for South America for 40k? For eg, JFK-LIM, LIM-EZE, EZE-GIG, GIG-JFK.

  • The Points Guy

    @Raghav- Lan is not on ExpertFlyer, unfortunately. You can use BA.com though with relative ease since it won’t try to route you through London (usually) for South America trips

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  • Paul

    Excellent article. Loved the screen shots. Very helpful to a newbie like me.

  • Ari

    Thanks for the helpful tips, this sites been great. Just to be clear, any AA domestic MilesAAver flight with a connection can be booked with BA miles, just not online? I’m seeing tons of availability on Expert Flyer but none on BA.com? If that’s the case, any way to get around the fee for calling and booking? Thanks again for the great site!

  • The Points Guy

    @Ari- correct. BA.com is stupid and doesn’t make connections so you have to call to book a lot of flights. They should waive the phone booking fee if your trip isnt bookable online.

  • Ari

    @ Points – Great! Thank you very much and thanks as well for the super fast reply!

  • Alissa

    Thanks for the great post. I’m a bit confused however – Expert Flyer is showing award availability on AA for LAX-MAD-BCN-LAX, but when I called British to book (their site was down, server problems) they are telling me there is no availability. We’d like to book in economy and upgrade w/ miles to business. Any hints? Thanks so much!

  • Solomon

    Would love to know how to use expertflyer for a search that isnt so simple (i.e. crossing multiple airlines)

  • JediJood

    I found a little flaw in the Expert Flyer application. Background: Since BA is changing their award chart in the coming months, I decided to cash in on my BA miles on American before Nov 16th. I used Expert Flyer to search HNL routes on American to redeeem on BA. What I found out was that Expert Flyer may show an x number of seats and certain flight segments available on American , but it doesnt necessarily translate to BA availability to book via their reward system. After talking to a BA customer service rep on why I didnt see the exacts same seats or the same flights available on American flights, they said, the reason is because American only releases a certain amount of seats and flights segments for BA executive club members. So if you see 7 seats available on Expert Flyer for American on a saver award, it doesnt necessarily mean you will see 7 seats when you try to book it on BA website. Also, when you see a flight segment available on Expert Flyer, it doesnt necessarily mean BA has it available on their site for you to book. I thought I would like to share for those who are scrambling to use their 100k BA miles before the Nov 16th deadline. For me, I want to use it on a big trip for the family so seat searching is important. Expert Flyer is a great help but has some limitations when using BA to book American flights.

  • JR

    Searching via instructions – how can you get past ba.com showing BA flights only? No option to view partner rewards.

  • Xtravel agent

    In case no one has reported this yet, the reason why you only see 7 to 9 seats and no more in ExpertFlyer is because you only see this many seats in the airline’s own CRS (computer reservations system) such as Sabre (AA) or Apollo (UA). So, an airline reservations agent also can only see this number of seats available in a certain class of service. I know, because I worked as a travel consultant on Sabre and Apollo for 18 years. It is obvious that ExpertFlyer is pulling from the CRS systems for each airline and is equally limited in displaying the number of available seats. Just thought people would want to know- the airlines hide complete availability also from their own employees!

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  • Marys046

    I can not seem to find any flights on ba from ord to ogg using avois. I saw them last year. What changed?

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