How to Book American Airlines Flights With British Airways Avios

Apr 24, 2013

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A couple of days ago I wrote about the 35% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to the British Airways Avios program.  This bonus is automatic (no registration needed) and runs through June 7th.  In that post I discussed some potential uses for those points that don’t involve flying on British Airways.  One of the best uses is on American Airlines flights within the US and other nearby North American destinations.

I got several questions about how to actually book an American Airlines flight via British Airways, so I thought it would be useful to dedicate a post to that topic.

The first important thing to know is that British Airways Avios availability should match up with MileSAAver availability for American Airlines flights.  This does not mean that all options on AA can be booked on BA since, for example, Hawaiian partners with AA but not BA.  Of course that is assuming that all computer systems are in a good mood and communicating effectively – which is an assumption.  So, the easiest way to check for Avios availability for an American Airlines flight is via the American Airlines website.  Search for a reward flight there just as you would if you were planning to use American Airlines miles.  If I’m having trouble finding flights that will work, I like to use their “show full calendar” feature.

Once you see a date with MileSAAver availability, click on it to see the specific flight details.  These details are very important if you want to book with Avios.  Sometimes you will be shown options with really bizarre routings with multiple connections.  Not only are these flights annoying to fly, but with Avios they would also be much more expensive since the price in Avios increases based on the distance and number of segments.  You want the most direct routing possible.

For my example I am showing a flight from NYC to Nassau.  On this random date in February there is availability at the MileSAAver level to fly from Newark (EWR) to Miami and then connect from Miami to Nassau.  This means that I should be able to book these flights via the British Airways site using Avios.

First, I log into my British Airways account and then select “spending Avios”.

Then select “Book flight with Avios” and get to searching.

Not surprisingly the BA website turns up nothing when I put in EWR – NAS on the date that I found the availability for on the American website.  Why is this not surprising?  Well, because it seems to frequently have problems with flights that require connections.

So I change course and individually search for EWR – MIA and then MIA – NAS.  No surprise that it finds that availability to match perfectly what the American website has shown.  It prices out to 7,500 Avios for the first segment and 4,500 Avios for the second for a total of 12,000 for this one-way journey.  That is awesome, especially with the current transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to British Airways.

Back to booking…you could choose to just book the two segments online individually and call it a day, but there are some real drawbacks to that plan since your itineraries would be treated as two individual trips and if there are any delay issues along the way you could get stuck.  I have never been able to find a multi-city tool for Avios bookings, so the safer option is to call in to British Airways and feed them the individual segments you have found to book as one ticket.  This may mean you have to pay the $25 fee to book over the phone (though try explaining that the website was not working properly), but at least you can book the flights you want.  Don’t trust the website if it tells you the flights are not available – dig deeper before giving up.

After your ticket on AA flights is booked via BA, you can then add it to your American account by going to checkmytrip.com to get the AA confirmation number.  You can read more about this and other potential perks of booking an Avios flight on this post.

I wish the website made everything super easy – but sometimes having a little extra work is worth it in the end.  With the 35% Amex/BA transfer bonus that runs until June 7th, some extra work could mean a round trip ticket from New York to somewhere like Nassau in the winter for the equivalent of a little less than 17,000 Membership Reward points each.

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