Update: The current sign-up bonus offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios. 25,000 upon first use, and another 25,000 when you spend $2,500 within 90 days.
This is the final 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 tips, Post 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.
As you’ve learned so far, there’s no 100% perfect way to check Oneworld award space. Britishairways.com is buggy and will automatically try to route you through London, even when other options exist. However, it will show true Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific availability, which other engines do not. Expertflyer.com is decent too, but only shows American, Alaska, Qantas and some Finn Air award space.
I personally use Qantas’ frequent flyer website to find European awards, since BA.com is maddening and skews results due to its preference for British Airways awards (and we try to avoid them since they have the highest amount of taxes and fuel surcharges).
First step, create a free account using this link. You will be assigned a temporary pin and once you login for the first time, you’ll be prompted to change it.
Once logged in, the search process is pretty painless. Simply click Frequent Flyer -> Using Points - Award flights
For this example, lets try to search Los Angeles to Madrid since AA, Iberia and British Airways all service that route with connections (or non-stop on Iberia).
Notice that I selected flights that are all operated by the same carrier so that we can use the generous Oneworld Partner award chart. If you mix BA and American, for example, it will jack the award rates up exponentially. Once you have your final awards, you can try replicating the results on britishairways.com, though many times you can’t pull up the same results because the engine sometimes only shows British Airways flights, which is true for this scenario.
Only BA flights show up, even though there are options on American. In this situation, you’d have to call British Airways at 1 (800) 452-1201 and give them the American flight numbers and they will be able to book the award – and make sure to have them waive the fee since the award can’t be booked online.
Overall, I find the Qantas search engine to be pretty smart and easy to to use, but I don’t recommend using it for Asia awards, since it omits Japan Airlines and sometimes shows false Cathay results.
If you haven’t gotten a Chase British Airways Visa with the incredible 100,000 mile sign-on bonus, make sure you apply by Friday May 6, 2011!