How to book award flights using British Airways Avios
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Whenever the topic of British Airways Avios comes up, we hear complaints that Avios are worthless. Indeed, if you’re looking for award flights from the U.S. to Europe on British Airways, Avios are often close to worthless due to high carrier surcharges on awards and low paid flight prices.
However, don’t let these frustrations keep you from looking into the program’s sweet spots. TPG currently values Avios at 1.5 cents each, and you can get much more than that thanks to British Airways’ distance-based award chart.
By taking advantage of the sweet spots in the Avios redemption program, I’ve gotten over 12 cents per Avios in value on an Iberia premium economy flight and more than 6 cents per Avios from short-haul intra-Europe flights. A TPG reader got almost 9 cents per Avios in value on American Airlines flights. TPG’s Loyalty and Engagement Editor Richard Kerr has scored over 10 cents of value for flights in the Caribbean.
And by using Iberia Avios — which can be transferred 1:1 from British Airways Avios — you can book round-trip flights to Europe from 34,000 miles each way (with reasonable taxes/fees).
There’s dozens of examples of times that it makes sense to book American Airlines award flights with British Airways Avios. Some great sweet spots include:
- Domestic U.S. flights under 1,151 flight miles
- Lie-flat business class on U.S. domestic routes from 15,000 Avios
- Flights between the U.S. Northeast and Ireland from 13,000 Avios each way
- Flights between the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii from 13,000 Avios each way
- Flights between the U.S. Southeast and the Caribbean from 7,500 Avios each way
- Flights between the U.S. West Coast and Japan from 25,750 Avios each way
So, there’s certainly value to be had from British Airways Avios. But if you’ve never booked using British Airways website, it can take some getting used to. Let’s walk through the process of booking flights using British Airways Avios.
Sign up for a British Airways Executive Club account
First, in order to transfer points or search award availability, you’re going to need a British Airways Executive Club account. Click here to sign up if you don’t already have an account.
Sign into your British Airways account
British Airways’ website is one of the better options for searching Oneworld award availability. However, Qantas’ website is even better and American Airlines has recently added online booking for most of its partners. So you might want to start on another website to find space before heading back to the BA website to book award flights.
When searching for awards on the BA website, I usually log in to my account using the log-in widget at the top right of the www.britishairways.com homepage:
Alternatively, you can select “Manage” from the top menu and then select “Log in to my Executive Club” to be taken to the Executive Club log-in page.
Know which partners you can book online
As noted above, British Airways is a great way to search partner award availability. You can search and book award flights on all of the carrier’s fellow Oneworld members:
- American Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Royal Jordanian
- SriLankan Airlines
However, award inventory on the program’s two non-alliance partners — Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines — is not available online. To book awards with either of these carriers, you’d need to search for award availability on another site. For both of these airlines, you can use ExpertFlyer to search, or you could use Alaska’s website for Alaska award space or United.com for Aer Lingus award space.
To book, call the U.S.-based call center at 800-452-1201 from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Searching award availability on BA’s website
Once you’re logged in, you’ll want to navigate to BA’s Book Flights With Avios page to search award availability. On the following page, simply fill in your origin and destination airport, date, class of service, number of passengers and click “get flights” at the bottom:
The search results will show award availability for three classes of service. So, if you’re flexible on which class of service you’ll want, you’ll want to pick “premium economy” to see economy, premium economy and business. Or choose “business” to see premium economy, business and first class.
Don’t click on the “check reward flight availability” link — which will redirect you to another page when you’re already in the right spot to be searching for award space.
If you haven’t already confirmed availability on another website, hopefully the same award availability will appear for the date you search. If not, BA lets you easily search plus or minus three days at the top of the results page, helpfully noting which dates that you’ve searched have availability.
If you’re looking for a particular flight — perhaps one of those AA lie-flat flights — make sure to scroll down to see if its available. Also, for those booking American Airlines domestic first-class flights, it’s important to note that British Airways shows these under the “business class” column, due to a change that AA made to its fare codes in 2016.
Transferring points to British Airways Avios
If you don’t have enough Avios in your account to book these flights, we recommend only transferring points once you’ve confirmed that there’s award space. If you already have enough Avios, you can skip to step 6 below. If not, here are some sources of British Airways Avios:
American Express Membership Rewards points: To make the transfer, log in to your American Express account, navigate to the point transfer page and select “Transfer Points” under the British Airways tile. In our experience, Amex MR transfer to BA Avios instantaneously.
Iberia Avios: Iberia Avios transfer to British Airways Avios at a 1:1 rate. However, there are some limitations that must be met in order to successfully transfer. First, both your British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus accounts have been open for at least 90 days and had some activity. Next, make sure your personal information is identical in both accounts. Your birth date, email address and name all have to match exactly before the transfer can occur.
Marriott Bonvoy: You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to British Airways at a 3:1 transfer ratio with 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points transferred. However, the downside is that it can take three days to transfer Bonvoy points to British Airways Avios.
If you’re looking for a source to stock up on one or more of these transferable points currencies, here are a few of our favorite credit card offers available now:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
- American Express® Gold Card: 35,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership (though you could be targeted for a higher welcome offer through the CardMatch Tool — offer subject to change at any time)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 60,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months (though you could be targeted for a higher welcome offer through the CardMatch Tool — offer subject to change at any time)
If you want to skip the transfer process and earn Avios directly, consider adding the British Airways Visa Signature Card to your wallet. It’s currently offering a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Avios: 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening and an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year.
Booking flights using British Airways Avios
Once the Avios are in your account, it’s time to book your flight. Select your preferred option from the search results and then click “Continue” at the bottom.
Read and agree to the terms on the next page, clicking “Continue” again to progress. On the next page, your personal information should be populated from your account profile. Update as needed and click “Continue” again. On the final page, complete your payment information to finalize the booking.
Remember to use a credit card with trip delay and baggage-insurance protection. Top choices include the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay).
While it’s not the easiest website to use, booking award flights with Avios on British Airways’ website can help you take advantage of incredible sweet spots like American Airlines lie-flat business-class flights domestically for 16,500 Avios, intra-Japan JAL flights for just 4,500 Avios, flights between the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii for 13,000 Avios and flights between the East Coast and Ireland for just 13,000 Avios. So, it’s definitely worth mastering the process.
For more on British Airways, please see the following:
- Here is the official new British Airways Avios partner award Chart
- Maximizing the British Airways distance-based award chart
- Here’s why you should care about British Airways Avios
- Using Avios for Short-Haul Flights From Oneworld Hubs
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.
Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.
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