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?”
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 Ticket, Household Accounts, Using Avios to Upgrade Paid Tickets, The Avios and Cash Option, Save Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia, Using 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.