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Sunday Reader Question: Does Britishairways.com Show Accurate American Airlines Award Availability?

by on February 3, 2013 · 20 comments

in Avios, British Airways, Sunday Reader Questions

TPG reader Aaron asks:

“If I see award availability for a flight on AA.com and don’t see the same flight available on britishairways.com with British Airways Avios, does that mean that BA actually has less AA availability, or just that their website shows fewer flights? I’ve often noticed that for high-volume routes (NYC to Chicago, for example), the BA site only shows the earliest flights of the day while AA.com shows several more. Does that mean if I call BA, they should also have Avios availability on flights later that day that AA.com shows? Is there a 1-to-1relationship for availability among all the Oneworld award programs (e.g. AA to Qantas to BA to Iberia or whatever), or among Star Alliance award programs, for that matter?”

Ever get this error message on britishairways.com when you know award availability exists? You're not alone!

Ever get this error message on britishairways.com when you know award availability exists? You’re not alone!

First off, although britishairways.com was recently revamped, it is not perfect. Generally, all American MileSAAver awards should be bookable using partner airline miles, like British Airways Avios but there are still some key problems with the online search engine:

1) Not all available partner flights will show. As you mentioned, sometimes just the earliest flights will show as available, when others exist.

2) The engine is not smart at all when it comes to connecting flights. If you are leaving from a small airport, don’t expect multiple connections to appear as possible, especially when combining several airline partners. You should use Qantas.com.au to find each leg, write down the numbers and then call to get the award booked. You should always ask to have the phone booking fee waived since the website is broken and doesn’t allow all awards to be booked. Some agents are nicer than others about waiving the fee- but it never hurts to ask!

3) The engine still gives great preference to British Airways operated flights, even when other partner flights exist. British Airways wants to collect as many fees as possible!

For more info on maximizing Avios, check out my last series. Posts include Master FAQ Post on British Airways 100,000 Mile Offer, Distance-Based Awards, Spotlight on Taxes and Fees,  Travel Together Companion TicketHousehold AccountsUsing Avios to Upgrade Paid TicketsThe Avios and Cash OptionSave Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to IberiaUsing Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions

Bottom line – even though the booking process can be frustrating, there is huge potential value in Avios if you know how to work the system.

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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  • Lance Manyon

    “Generally, all American MileSAAver awards should be bookable using partner airline miles, like British Airways Avios but there are still some key problems with the online search engine.”

    Following your advice on previous posts, I tried to book an AA MileSAAver award last week (DCA-MSY) using Avios but was unsuccessful. Despite the fact that there was clear availability on the AA website, I called BA but was told that it didn’t matter what AA showed, it only mattered whether BA had that award space, and they did not. So: clueless rep or am I missing something?

    (Ultimately, I booked with Mileage Plus.)

  • Caroespecial

    I noticed this problem yesterday, I found IND-MIA on the AA wesbsite in Miles Saver, but nothing in BA. I am surprised, the system used to work well until a while ago.

  • http://twitter.com/Stompey5 Stompey5

    @TPG I have been waiting for a MileSAAver to open up from BOS to JFK so I can use my avios. Right now only the early flight is available – is it worth it to book and change later or just hope some award opens up (for late april)

  • Onemakaveli130

    Anyone have any ideas on how to avoid British Airways fees and flights via American Advantage miles going to Dublin, Ireland from Washington Dulles? I keep getting stuck with BA flights. Going May 6-15 of 2013. Thanks.

  • Garyst16

    I too have had the same issues trying to book with BA on AA routes. Many times when BA stated there was no availability, AA had plenty of saver seats available… so much for partnerships! :-(

  • Dov

    I find that searching for one ways will most of the time solve this “no availability” problem on BA.COM, the system will most of the time show no flights if 1 of the direction is not availble

  • arcticbull

    Sometimes their systems may not see legitimate award space. In this type of situation I always ask the agent to long-sell the award and 99% of the time it works. They know what it is and how to do it, you just have to ask.

  • arcticbull

    Like I mentioned above ask the agent to long-sell the award.

  • Chris

    Whats long-sell?

  • Frequent Tom

    I have searched (mostly unsuccessfully) too. I have observed that open flight segments always have 7 seats available (never more!!). When the seven seats are gone for that particular flight segment, BA shows it as unavailable. I have gone to AA and yes, there is still availability!

    This is problematic because AA always flyies out of major hubs like DFW ORD and MIA (for Carribean and Soutn America)

    You may have to combine AA (or other awards programs like SouthWest/Airtran) to get you to/from the AA hub city and then look for BA availability to your destination.

  • Rob

    I’ve seen that happen often. So, I call BA up and book the flights over the phone – the award space is magically available to them. The caveat is that they’ve charged me a booking fee every time. I’ve requested a fee waive because the site “didn’t work” and well, that has never worked.

  • jmw2323

    it is much better than in it’s last incarnation. However, I still check back to see whether or not there are actually AA flights available when the BA website says there aren’t. Happened recently. No flight shown. 2 minutes later, a flight with 6 award seats popped up. Helps to check AAs website as well.

  • Frequent Tom

    To clarify, 7 seats per segment per flight date & time

  • Andrew

    WTF is a long sell

  • thepointsguy

    Reservation agent speak- if you ask them they’ll know. Basically it’s them manually pricing the ticket and requesting it instead of an auto system which may not “see” the availability

  • Vivian

    Just called ba.com to request a “long sell” and the agent said “what?” so I asked whether it can be requested and she said no. what’s on the website is what’s available. Hm…

  • shonuffharlem

    Don’t you just take Air Lingus, which is only bookable by phone wth BA?

  • Brendan

    I know this is an old article, but thought an additional data point might be helpful.

    I was looking for a last-minute ticket from ORD->LGA and saw availability on AA’s website. When I searched on BA’s site, though, the flight did not appear (only the earlier flights in the day were showing). So, I picked up the phone to call BA because a $25 fee is better than a $300 last-minute revenue ticket.

    As I was waiting to speak to a representative, I was messing around with the BA search tool and kept switch back and forth between the day I wanted and the day after, and suddenly the flight I wanted (and knew was available from my search on AA’s site) appeared!

    I tried this out for several other days and got similar results, so my tip would be to try out the search a few times (and then switch back and forth between the days surrounding the day you want), and you just might get lucky.

  • Jeff

    I am having this exact same problem. Want to book NYC-ORD. AA availability wide open at 25K level. BA shows nothing after noon-ish on any day of the week in either direction. Called BA and they claim not to even have some of the flights showing on the BA website. Very frustrating since I bought a United ticket yesterday (before I realized that BA website may be wrong) and only have a few hours left if I want the 24 hour cancel.

  • Jeff

    I solved my problem with the age old solution — call a different agent. After the first BA agent told me that there was no afternoon availability between NYC-ORD, I called again and the second agent saw wide open availability that the first agent didn’t see and isn’t on the website. He also waived the fee because he saw it wasn’t on the website.

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