How to Work Around Disfunctionality

by on July 6, 2011 · 40 comments

in British Airways

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I got in on the 100,000 British Airways Visa payday like many of you and I’ve written many posts about using to check Oneworld award availability (like this one on partner awards).  There’s even a rock-star 50% transfer bonus to BA with American Express Membership Rewards points until July 31, 2011, so I anticipate even more people trying to us However, lately has been abominable lately – refusing to work and giving out frustrating errors.

The dreaded error!

Is there a way to get around this? I’ve personally found that using the site at off-peak US hours works best. Between midnight and 6am EST, I’ve been able to use it with decent results – only getting an error once in a while and once I restarted, I was able to price out itineraries.

If isn’t working for you no matter what, you’ll have to call BA to book the award. But be prepared, the hold times can be long and the agents surly, so you should do all of your research before you call. How do you do research if is down? There are a couple tools that can help.

Free tools:
Qantas’ search engine for AA awards (all SAAver level awards can be booked using BA miles)
Calling American AAdvantage at 1-800-882-8880 (usually no wait time) and working with a knowledgeable rep to find Oneworld space. Write down the flight numbers and then call BA to book.
Iberia’s search engine also has a Oneworld engine. Not perfect, but better than nothing. Click here to get an IberiaPlus account and then

Paid tools:
KVS Tool- Not the sleekest interface, but I still find it pretty good at getting availability. Not Mac-friendly (KVS Tool- I know you’ll probably comment to this post, so can you let us know when a Mac version is coming out?!) Limited Oneworld availability, see this post on how to use it with BA miles

I’m sure there are other tips and tricks, so please feel free to share your experiences below. No matter what – don’t give up!

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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  • Rincewind44

    I’ve found – and I wish I was making this up – that as the route becomes more exotic (or as it involves the system having to generate more connections), the more likely I am to get an error.

  • Afkabp

    I tried to book a reward flight a few weeks ago and kept getting the error. After hitting try again enough it would finally show the route. Then I would enter my information in to pay and it would error during the payment processing and not complete the payment. I would have to start the entire process again.

    I tried during all hours of the night and while I would get the error less during my search, it would still not process the payment. I ended up phoning my order in and paying $40 more, but I was able to get the tickets I wanted.

  • LarryNYC

    I just used my 100K BA miles (plus 5K miles earned in charges) to book three out of the four flights I need for a Mexico vacation this summer. I found that the search engine was flaky — sometimes I would get the error that Brian mentions, but just as often the engine would report no availability when I could see there was some at, and then a few minutes later a new search would find the tickets.

    So if you believe there is availability, keep trying the search. Once the tickets were found I was able to book them with no problem.

  • EvanInDenver

    I booked an AA DEN-DFW-BOS award ticket two weeks ago. The website was so slow, and I had to click and re-click to get beyond the error messages, but it was worth the extra time to be able to call a booking agent and schedule a stop-over in DFW.

  • Nellie

    I’ve found the exact same thing. I also noticed that routes with a lot more availability have a lot less errors. When you get to routes with limited/no availability it starts to error out. I spent hours and hours hitting try again recently trying to find availability for a trip to China on CX.

  • hobo13

    I agree. BA agents, esp out of the JAX call center are surly. They know it all!

  • Brandon

    TPG – thanks for the tip. I got in on the BA Chase and AA Citi deal. I am looking at DEN-DFW-FRA next March. AA has off-peak sale (20k e/w). Can I use 40k BA miles instead of AA miles?
    If you lived in Denver, which miles would you see as more valuable – BA or AA?

  • Anonymous

    Definitely go AA for offpeak. BA will honor it, but it will be at their normal rates (50k+ coach RT plus crazy taxes). In general offpeak rates are only good when using that airlines miles.

  • Anonymous

    And to answer your other questions, AA miles are more valuable because you can mix carriers on an award. For example you can fly AA from DEN to MIA then Lan to South America. With BA, you can ONLY fly one carrier if you want the lowest awards and Lan doesn’t service Denver

  • Anonymous

    I guess I’d be surly too if I had people calling me all day to piece together multi-stopover complex trips on a single carrier ;-)

  • Tyler

    Hear hear.. Would love a Mac version of KVS..

  • Phoebe

    I tried to use my BA miles to book from Boston to London in July and finally gave up and paid for a ticket. The customer service gave me more availability than what was available on line though. They told me to call back and I just couldn’t wait any longer. Next time I will try the other search engines like Qantas and Iberia. Thanks for the tips. Love this site.

  • Nate

    TPG, thanks for the info. It’s unfortunate, but strangely reassuring, to know that one’s own troubles with BA’s website are not unique, and that the surly staffers are consistently so. Persistence and tolerance for unfriendly customer service seem to be the recipe for finally booking reward trips.

    Be advised that the phone staff is extremely argumentative about waiving the $20/ticket surcharge that booking via phone is supposed to cost, even though you CANNOT BOOK ONLINE. So, I suggest you politely demand to speak to a supervisor to waive this fee, as the first item of business when calling the phone center for this purpose.

    If BA would fix their website woes, then they would almost certainly greatly reduce the demand on their phone center staff, which would probably enable them to provide faster service. Even so, I was amazed at how lackadaisical the phone staffers were. An hour phone call to book an open-jaw itinerary for 2 people traveling together? Yep. Like swimming in molasses! On line, it would have taken me maybe 15 minutes, but for their website issues…

  • Elena

    I finally booked a flight over the weekend for August. Today, when I logged in and checked availability for another day, they had a flight that I originally wanted to book. I tried to change the flight online and there was a grayed out link, so I called customer service. I waited 15 minutes at 1:00pm EST. She told me that there is a change fee, but put me on hold and confirmed that I was unable to change my flight online and waived the fee.

  • Wandering Aramean

    KVS is just showing you the data from the Qantas website anyways. Unless you really want to pay for that data there’s no real point in supporting that.

  • Mitch

    So it seems that is trying to mimic DL.dumb now?

  • tassojunior

    I love BA.

    I’ve just used BA to book AA and did find it was better to check AA first then call BA. The BA site often can’t access partners. The agents I spoke with were incredibly nice and helpful and actually forced a couple flights open that AA did not show as available. There was never any mention of a telephone fee. May be a matter of telephone roulette.

    Also I like that BA not only allows stop-overs on AA (I’m stopping in LA to break jet lag to DC from Hawaii), I also like that their fees are much lower and their rules way less strict. If I have to redeposit my miles it’s only $70 with BA, while $150 each with AA , etc. I didn’t know my companion’s birthdate or middle name and BA booked with guessed ones and told me to call with the proper ones. AA would never allow that.

    Unless something eye-popping happens before 7/30, I’ll be transferring most of my 180K MR to the 50% BA promo.

  • sabes23

    I signed up for the100k BA card a couple months ago and met the $$$ requirements, but still haven’t had the miles show up into my BA account? I have already had a statement or two pass since I met the requirements. Anybody else have this problem?

  • Anonymous

    Thats weird- I manage my entire families accounts and all of the 50,000 points posted after the first purchase statement closed and the other 50k after the spend was hit. I’d call to inquire- sounds like something is off

  • Mmt

    Beware of reward mileage costs using the AA availability website. Ba charges way more for AA first class flights than will be shown on the AA availability. You wont find out until you call BA (unless their booking engine starts working).

  • John

    The chances are that if the web site is slow/buggy/broken, then the internal tools that the BA call center staff use are not perfect either. Bear that in mind when you get frustrated with the time it takes on the phone with the (understandably) surly agent.

  • Anonymous

    While there are no immediate plans for a native Mac version, many KVS Tool members run it on their Macs using one of the solutions, listed at

    KVS Tool supports Award Availability for BA, AA and all other OneWorld member airlines and most OneWorld carriers are covered by more than 1 engine (e.g. currently 3 for CX), so if a particular engine is ever ‘acting up’, you can easily switch to an alternative data source with just a single click (or keystroke).

  • Sabes23

    I called and they didn’t have my membership number on file (even though they created it for me when I opened the card!). Said they’d fix it and couldn’t have been nicer or more apologetic. Thanks!

  • Jon

    I’ve been trying for days to purchase 2 one way tickets from LAX to LIMA (Iquitos (IQT) to be exact) but having lots of problems with the site. Sometimes flights show up as still available (for mid August) but the call center tells me there aren’t any available through late August. I’m not sure what to do. 2 out of 3 CSR told me that if it doesn’t show up on their end (ie the phone) then it’s not available. Another one told me the inventory for online and call center is different.

    Numerous times I’ve tried to purchase and have entered all credit card info etc and it processes and reports back with “Sorry we have been unable to complete your transaction at this time..Please contact your local BA office”

    any one have any idea which is true?

    Any ideas how to purchase two one way tickets for the same cheap price using my BA miles? Can I use them with Lan Peru or Lan Chile directly?

    thanks so much.

  • Senorric

    Beware! Booked BA using Exec. Club Miles SYR to LHR. Upon arriving 07/04, found they had lost my luggage and had no idea where it might be. Still waiting! Advice: Use their miles to fly AA —-

  • James

    Brian, I’ve been thinking about managing my family’s FF accounts. Mother-in-law, brother, etc. Where do you draw the line? i.e., do you take their SSN, personal info, etc and sign them up for lucrative offers and make sure the points post, and then let me take care of paying off the cards, or do you just open the FF accounts and book award travel for them, and let them do the rest?

  • James

    I’ve had lots of bugs and errors with’s award booking tool as well. My average hold time to get a CSR in Jacksonville is around 20 minutes, but once I get through, they generally are willing to waive the $20 booking fee when I explain the bug. I’m just booking simple coach 25K AA flights, BNA-MIA, BNA-JFK, etc. so maybe they are more stingy about waiving the fee when international travel and/or multiple legs are involved.

  • M124

    Is the KVS tool free?

  • Gpuzzi

    With my mileage experience I have tried to avoid BA’s program like the plague. If you fly the cheapest flights you receive a quarter of the miles, if you fly their partner airline American on the cheapest flight you get nothing. So after three flights I ended up with less then 4,000 miles. That was the end of me flying BA except internally in Europe.

    Well suddenly after a credit card promotion I end up with 100k miles and I feel as bad as it is to earn them it is to spend. My buddy and I take a yearly trip to Munich for Oktoberfest. Trying to use 107,000 miles to fly but it has been a job just trying to figure out how to make it work. Finally took an idea of flying into Zurich, having an open jaw and flying out of Munich. Called BA with the flights they had to manually put in taxes and fees. Came back with it costing 100,000 mile for two plus over $1100 total. If I booked both flights it would be 1800$, not a deal. Maybe only way to get value out of BA is fly business? Any recommendations on how to get rid of these horrible 100,000 BA miles.

  • Anonymous

    No- I think its $75 a year

  • Anonymous

    I’ll take em off your hands! Definitely do NOT redeem for coach awards to Europe- probably the worst use of BA miles. Your best bet is using them on domestic AA, South America on AA/LAN or Asia on JAL/Cathay. I highlighted a lot of the best partner redemptions in my BA series if you click the BA category button on the right.

  • Anonymous

    I usually just sent detailed info on which cards to get/ deals to take advantage of. I know all of their passwords and CC info, so I usually book everything myself because its easier.

  • Nate

    Gpuzzi, to reinforce what TPG has already said, the BA reward miles are a much better value when applied to a Business Class trip. For example, we just booked open jaw BA business class tickets from SFO to MUN then DBV back to SFO (via LGW and then LHR). It cost us 110k miles plus US $585 each. Compared to paying US $4,880 each. Even if we had waited for such time as a lower price business class ticket might be available for that itinerary, figure it would still cost $3,500 each. So, the miles, for us, are worth $3k-4k discount per ticket. Because we’d be buying those tickets otherwise. (We decided a couple of years ago that business class isn’t twice as good as economy. It’s ten times better!)

  • Anonymous

    @M124: Please see for KVS Tool membership options.

  • Dustin

    I did a search and it stated no award availability from JFK-SCL and SCL-IPC. Any chance that if I call BA they could open up something?

  • MileCards

    About a year ago…before the highly publicized bonuses…the wait times were much shorter. Fun to see the impact the success of the promos has had. Guess it will die down some after the summer…

  • Mike

    A couple of months ago I was trying to book on AA to fly from DEN to KOA, flying through LAX. The BA site showed available seats on a flight from DEN to LAX, as well as available seats on a flight later that day from LAX to KOA. However, when I tried to book the whole DEN to KOA route, it showed no availability. I called BA and after a long wait, got one of the surly agents. I walked through the issue with her, and she said she could book it, but I’d have to pay the phone booking fee. When I pointed out that it was impossible for me to book this online, she got a supervisor involved. According to the Sup, “BA doesn’t want you booking that itinerary, so that’s why you can’t do it online. And since it requires an agent to book this special itinerary, you must pay the fee.” Total BS, but there’s only so long I’ll argue to save $40. By far the WORST online booking engine of any major airline, and it’s scary that the phone service is even worse!

  • Anonymous

    @Wandering Aramean: Actually, the KVS Tool provides a significantly more comprehensive and accurate OneWorld Availability coverage, compared to the QF website.

  • Anonymous

    @Tyler: Your desire for a native Mac version of the KVS Tool is certainly understandable, but solutions like CrossOver for Mac already provide a near-seamless experience as can be seen from the attached screenshot. Please refer for more details.

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