How to book award flights using British Airways Avios
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.
Whenever the topic of British Airways Avios comes up, we hear rumbles like those points come with high fees, they’re hard to use and I’m not going to London anytime soon. 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 relatively affordable 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. Some folks have even 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 points (with reasonable taxes/fees).
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There are 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 on American Airlines under 1,151 flight miles for 9,000 Avios each way
- Lie-flat business class on U.S. domestic routes from 16,500 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
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 award 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 added online booking for most of its partners in recent years. 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 for partner award availability. You can search and book award flights on all of the carrier’s fellow Oneworld members:
- American Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian
- SriLankan Airlines
However, award inventory on Aer Lingus is not available online on the British Airways site. To book awards with this carrier, you’d need to search for award availability on another site. You can use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to search, or you could use United.com for an approximation of Aer Lingus award space.
To book, call the U.S.-based British Airways 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 for 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 — the service selected, plus the one above and below. 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 award availability.
If you’re looking for a particular flight — perhaps one of those AA lie-flat seats — make sure to scroll down to see if it’s 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.
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.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards points: If you need points right away, Chase Ultimate Rewards are another great source, transferring at a 1:1 ratio, and the points usually arrive 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. 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.
- Capital One: You can transfer Capital One miles to British Airways, though the ratio is 2 Capital One miles: 1.5 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 Preferred Card: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- American Express® Gold Card: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six 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: 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 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)
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 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Booking flights using British Airways Avios
Once the Avios are in your account, it’s time to actually book your award 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 just in case something goes wrong. Some 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.
It’s one of those programs that is worth using even if it takes a little extra effort.
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 and Jennifer Yellin.
Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.
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