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Can I Use British Airways Avios to Travel in North America?

by on July 6, 2014 · 38 comments

in Avios, British Airways, Oneworld, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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This week’s “rookie” question (no offense–we all have to start somewhere with the points game) is from TPG Reader Suzy, who tweeted:

@thepointsguy Can you use British Airways Avios points to book airfare within North America?”

Suzy is wondering if she can use her British Airways Avios to book airfare within North America. She lives in Vancouver and is trying to keep her points from expiring. The answer to Suzy’s question is: absolutely! British Airways is part of the Oneworld Alliance, and you can redeem Avios on any of the Oneworld partners, which include American Airlines and now US Airways. To book these flights, you simply go to BritishAirways.com and log in with your Executive Club number, go to “Executive Club”, and then to “Spending Avios”. From there, select “Book flights with Avios” and you’ll reach the search screen, where you can find available flights for your specified origin, destination, and dates.

You can use British Airways Avios to book flights on airlines in the Oneworld Alliance. Image courtesy of Milosz_M / Shutterstock.com

You can use British Airways Avios to book flights on airlines in the Oneworld Alliance. (Image courtesy of Milosz_M / Shutterstock.)

Basically, if you learn how to use BritishAirways.com (which can sometimes be annoying), you can book award tickets there, which is more comfortable and easier than calling, and you’ll avoid ticketing fees when you book online. It’s also fairly easy to cancel tickets that you’ve booked online; you simply lose whatever you spent in taxes and fees, but won’t lose the miles. Another advantage to using British Airways Avios is that they’re distance based, so you’ll use fewer miles if you do short haul flights. In general, Avios are pretty useful, and simply booking one award will reset the expiration clock for all your remaining points.

I hope this answers your question Suzy, and I suggest you get out there are start learning how to use the British Airways website asap. If you have additional questions, please message me on Facebook, tweet me @ThePointsGuy, or send me an email at [email protected]

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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  • pacifico

    Just the gentle reminder you can also book the fifth freedom route between Vancouver and JFK on Cathay Pacific

  • Robby Hill

    British Airways hasn’t added some of the small airports USAirways flies to but AA did not. Unfortunately this makes a USAirways ticket to small towns in USA hard to make happen using Avios still. Assuming the merger will make them AA cities and all US destinatio s will be Avios-friendly.

  • jerry

    What other ways can Suzy keep her points from expiring?

  • Robert

    Using BA miles to book AA flights has saved me thousands of dollars over the years. It’s a benefit you can’t beat with a stick.

  • dee seiffer

    Any “activity” will reset the clock another 18 months. Suzy could add 1000 pts from her Amex, Chase or SPG accts. Or move a few Avios to her Iberia Avios acct (if she has one), then move them back.

  • dee seiffer

    If you book an award on USAirways.com, you pay $25 on-line booking fee. Plus, if you book within 21 days, USAirways charges a $75 fee. BA doesn’t charge either. You only pay the taxes.

  • Madhu

    I thought canceling a BA Avios domestic award now costs $25 or $55, not just the $2.50 or $5 (to be raised to $11.50 shortly) fees.

  • Sharon

    I used Avios to book my flight on Cathay Pacific from San Francisco to Hong Kong.

  • Chance

    So essentially…. BA, AA, and US air miles could all essentially be considered one of the same? Or am I reading this wrong?

  • CR

    US residents can also make an online purchase through the BA shopping portal, Gate 365. I just placed an order through Home Depot, and with in-store pickup even avoided shipping charges.

  • tassojunior

    Just used Avios for Alaska Airlines to Hawaii (only 25K rt from west coast). I was surprised how almost all flights were available with Avios.

  • SeaBee3

    That is correct – it was raised to $55, which is far more than taxes or fees on domestic flights. But, it is still cheaper than AA cancelation costs with their own awards!

  • SeaBee3

    That is an awesome flight and a great deal! Definitely the best transcon!

  • zackp

    I don’t think this is a “rookie question.” I have tried unsuccessfully
    for years to use Avios (BA miles before that) for North American
    flights. There just never seems to be any practical way to use them.

    To test this just now, I picked random dates far out (out March
    4,
    2015, return March 10, 2015), and tried them on Ba.com. I was using
    the “Book Using Avios” as as TPG just told us to do. I tried the
    following city pairs for those dates: SEA to SFO; SFO to JFK; LAX to
    HNL; SEA to JFK; SEA to HNL; and LAX to MIA.

    Ba.com shows no
    economy class availability for any of those pairs on those dates.
    Nothing. Zero. (If I look at AA.com for the same flights as above,
    there is lots of availability.) Ba.com does show first class
    availability for most of them; but the Avios requirement is much higher
    than it seems like it should be for some, e.g. it is asking me for
    90,000 Avios to go from SEA to SFO.

    Also, the only domestic
    flights online are AA and US. Alaska flights are theoretically
    available, but apparently you have to call them for that.
    In my experience, the hold time is usually at least 30 minutes to call for
    the Executive Club bookings.

    Am
    I missing something here? I have had the Chase BA Visa for more than
    ten years, but recently stopped using it due to this problem with
    efficiently booking flights in the US using Avios.

  • http://letsgorideabike.com Trisha

    I hope someone can answer this as I have had the same problem trying to book flights through BA.com. At first I thought it was because I was booking from Nashville but trying from ATL brings the same results.

  • J
  • J

    (For anyone): do aa and/or us charge bag fees for bookings with avios? Thanks in advance.

    fyi: it used to be possible to book a number of (great) short flights within South America online using avios (eg where their parner lan had low-level availability). No longer, and the agents can’t see them either now. Absolutely shameful of ba.

  • Darren

    BA.com does not see connections very well. If you search either multi-city or segment by segment, you will likely find the flights you are looking for. If multi city, you should be able to book it online, otherwise you will need to book it on the phone. In my experience, if it is not bookable online, they will waive the phone booking fee. If you find a saver award on AA.com, it will be bookable with Avios, but maybe not online. BA.com does not even know that there is an airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, but I have no problem booking it on the phone without a fee.
    In regard to the pricing for domestic first, they treat it just like BA first, so 3 times the economy price.

  • dee seiffer

    Thanks!

  • J

    Np; thanks to you too for the reminder of ur/chase and the ib transfer! I’ll have to keep that in mind, as I may need it.
    I’ve been very disappointed that ba suddenly made it nearly impossible to book short flights within South America (which I could use for my work there part of the year), so my avios sit unused in my account, going on 2 years. Shameful ba.

  • sux

    BriitishAirways.com sucks for booking award flights or upgrades in my experience. I’m in Denver, so there’s one daily flight to London — so that’s all it sees. Period. Even though US Air and American connections are plentiful.

  • Brenton

    I think they probably get more availability as the travel dates come closer. This past Tuesday I was able to book round trip flights to Chicago for 9,000 avios/person and a $5 fee over the 4th of July weekend. The same flights on American would’ve been 25k miles and $80, and 20k miles and $80 on United.

    I was also somehow upgrade to priority boarding with seats in economy plus.

    I agree that it’s not great for booking far out, but for last minute travel I had a great first experience.

  • Nick Knight

    No, they do not open up all their seats to each other.

  • MilesRunner

    Please give details. What site did you use for booking?

  • MilesRunner

    Please tell us how. Obviously many here can’t find any availability.

  • MilesRunner

    How did you do that? Did you book through the BA site, or call?

  • Robert

    @MilesRunner —-> I just go on the BA website and use “Book with Avios”. Also, the routes that I use don’t seem to be “high-demand” routes….I usually fly out of COS (Colorado Springs) to DFW, and from DFW, get a connecting AA flight. Again, I think it’s just an availability issue.

  • Thrunt

    I was recently able to book 2 one way business class seats for travel in august on AA from JFK to SFO for 25,000 avios each on the BA website.

  • noob

    hi, can someone please share the link to convert ultimate reward point to avios or how to navigate? thanks.

  • Juno

    Brenton, from where to Chicago? I tried searching from Chicago to Miami and kept getting error that BA does not have authority to fly between those two airspaces.

  • Brenton

    Juno, I just tried booking flights from ORD-MIA on July 11th returning July 15th, and found multiple non-stop options. If you don’t see these, make sure you’re scrolling down past the point that British Airways says “Sorry, there are no direct British Airways flights available on this route. Direct flights with partners are shown below” The options I found priced out at 20,000 avios + $5

  • selkie

    I agree with zackp. I am never able to get ANY flights using my Avios. For example, today I tried to book from LAX to London then on to Dublin. I searched the BA database for the entire next twelve months and nothing, nada, not one flight showed availability. My husband has accrued mileage with American and he just makes a quick phone call and “ta da” no problem, first class round trip using mileage on just about any date we want to go. This is so annoying and I wish that I could just transfer my mileage out of BA altogether and into American.

  • JIN

    I am planning a trip from msp-cmh sometime in late aug. I did a quick search on avios miles calculator and it showed 4500. But when i go to book it, it says no availability on any of the dates. Am I doing something wrong here? I am sorry i am new to this whole miles thing and this will be my first award booking :)

  • Pilipo

    I’ve given up trying to use my BA miles for flights from SEA or YVR to LHR. There are never seats available round trip. The last time I managed to use them — it was a long time ago — the fees were astronomically high.

  • djd1950

    Yes, how did you do this?? I see no flights, ever.

  • djd1950

    I am beyond frustrated. I have 53,000 apparently useless Avios…no matter what dates I enter, there is NO availability for flights between Oakland and Kauai, a route which Alaska flies….and flights to Hawaii were the sole reason I got this card. I tried another city pair – SFO – BOS – same result. No flight. Ever.
    Can TPG staff PLEASE help those of us who got the card based on your recommendation and cannot use it?? Is there any way to move miles OUT of this program to some program which actually offers flights?

  • dpham

    I think the issue is that people are searching for flights using the “book with Avios” option. I think this is more of a “pay with points” type thing valid for only BA flights. If you listen to the video, he said to click on “executive Club” (in the top menu” and click “spending Avios”. On this screen there is an option to “search and book reward flight”. Using this actually brings up flights for me.

  • traveler

    I’m learning this the hard way. dpham’s method is making the difference.

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