British Airways Improved Online Award Search Tool

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According to this thread on FlyerTalk, British Airways has tweaked the functionality of their website for the better. Searching for award tickets, especially on oneworld partner airlines, is quite a bit easier now. I had to see for myself, so I tried out a few dummy bookings.

Scott has actually written up a helpful post on this for newbie travelers. To read his step by step, check out Free First Class Next Month: Using BA.com for oneworld Awards. Using BA.com to search for partner awards can be really useful. As we have mentioned before, Avios are great for short haul domestic awards on American Airlines. Expensive short haul flights within South America, South Africa and Australia are another great use for Avios. For more reading, check out Scott’s post, How Much Are Avios Worth? The Value of British Airways Avios.

In this post, I want to show you some sample partner bookings and how the award search process has vastly changed for the better on BA.com, though the improvements aren’t necessarily that obvious at first.

The first thing you need to do is to log in to your British Airways Executive Club account on BA.com. British Airways won’t let you search for award space if you aren’t logged in.

After logging in, you are taken to your Executive Club account summary page. There are a host of options here, but you want to burn some of your hard earned Avios on partner awards. Click “Spending Avios.”

You will then be taken to a spending Avios page. Click “Book flights with Avios” to be taken to the actual award search page and booking tool.

I wanted to show you a simple domestic search, so I plugged in an award that I am contemplating. Baltimore’s dreary weather in January is downright depressing. I would rather be relaxing on Miami Beach and strolling down Collins Avenue.

Let’s enter Baltimore <-> Miami as our city pairs and some random January dates.

Previously, this search would have yielded an error message that said “British Airways does not fly all or part of this route.” You then had the option of searching another route or including oneworld partners in the search. We know that British Airways doesn’t serve Baltimore to Miami directly, so this error message was an annoying and unnecessary step in the search process. Now, the message has been eliminated. Availability on American Airlines pops right up!

There are several other changes to the partner award search. Now the logo of the partner airline is clearly displayed (it was previously only shown as text). That’s just a cosmetic tweak, but it still helps when trying to book a specific carrier.

The real improvement is in how you search for dates with availability. As you can see at the top of screenshot above, you can now hop around by date or jump to a different week. That’s a huge benefit, especially when availability is scarce and you are flexible in your travel days.

I happened to luck out. There was space from Washington-Reagan to Miami on the days I wanted. I selected the best flight times and was taken to the booking page for payment.

Avios award chart is distance based. Flights under 650 miles cost a mere 4,500 Avios. Flights 651-1151 miles cost 7,500 Avios. No other program can match those redemptions for low mileage cost. This award would be 25,000 miles if booked using American Airlines miles!

Are there any other partners you can search for using BA.com?

Absolutely! Japan Airlines, or JAL, is another oneworld partner that displays availability on BA.com. To test out the improved award search functionality, I plugged in a route that JAL serves directly: Boston <-> Tokyo-Narita in January.

With the old BA.com award search tool, you would have to first check British Airways routings (always via their hub at London-Heathrow). Only then could you include partners like JAL. Now, partner award space is included along with British Airways flights.

Cathay Pacific is another oneworld carrier that is easily searchable using BA.com’s booking tool. I was pulled up Cathay’s Chicago <-> Hong Kong direct flight in October. My initial dates weren’t available, but I could hop around days quickly using BA.com’s improved functionality.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, intra-South America flights are another solid use of your Avios. I plugged in Buenos Aires, Argentina <-> Lima, Peru. This route is served by oneworld partner LAN Airlines. I tried a sample date in October of next year.

Instead of immediately being told their was no availability on British Airways, I was immediately shown several great nonstop options on LAN.

At the booking page, I only had to pay 20,000 Avios + $103 in taxes/fees for the itinerary. A cursory check on Kayak showed nonstop itineraries for $545 and up! By booking using Avios, I would be redeeming them for 1.85 cents in value according to the Mile Value Calculator (545, 103, 20000, 3910). Flights within South America can be surprisingly expensive. Avios are one great method to hop around the continent.

Recap

British Airways’s Avios offer great redemptive value for shorthaul domestic flights as well as flights within South America, Australia, and South Africa. Unfortunately, searching for oneworld award availability on the site used to be an exercise in frustration.

You were initially forced to search British Airways availability before including partners in your query. Now, partner itineraries display along with British Airways flights. You can also jump around by day or week.

These are simple changes, but as I outlined above, the booking process is smoother and it is now a little bit easier to spend your Avios on otherwise very expensive short haul flights.

Avios aren’t the best currency for long haul flights from North America to Asia, but using BA.com is still a great method to search for Cathay Pacific and JAL award space, even if you plan on booking the flights with AAdvantage miles.


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29 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for posting this!

    FYI, the screenshot for BWI-MIA is missing; there is a second copy of BOS-NRT in its place. Feel free to delete this note once you fix it.

    • Iberia flights display on BA’s website. I plugged in a sample award from Miami Madrid to confirm. Aer Lingus, unfortunately, does not. You will have to call in to British Airways directly to find flights with award space.

      Both Expert Flyer and United.com display Aer Lingus award space, but they don’t mirror what British Airways agents have access to, so they aren’t helpful for redeeming Avios.

  2. Bill – Thanks. Any idea on if the availability is still really good on Aer Lingus on the famous Boston-Dublin route? I know both economy and biz used to have lots of availability, but not sure if that’s still the deal. Thanks again!

    • I haven’t verified Aer Lingus availability, but am planning a trip to Ireland in 2013. When I start checking on dates, I will report back and let you know. The plan is for two business tickets from BOS-DUB.

  3. Hi Bill, I cannot seem to find any award space from SFO-SGN on any date in February or March. May I ask is there another way and/or site to find out? Thanks.

  4. Remember that Iberia offers low tax awards from the US to Europe as well. However, you must book these via the IB website having transferred your Avios to IB(which requires an IB account open for 90 days and which has earned an Avios).

    BA adds fuel surcharges to IB tickets, IB does not.

  5. Can’t seem to be able to us Avios points easily because I can’t find flights. How come sometimes when I look up award flights on AA they show availability on Saver and Anytime awards. But then when I use the BA website to book with Avios for those dates it doesn’t show any flights available? Or sometimes only a couple but not as many as on the AA website? I called BA to ask and try to book and they said that AA only alots a certain number of seats for Avios points compared to what AA offers with their Advantage miles. Is this true???

  6. I echo Dave’s comments. I have consistently found that aa.com either shows no AA inventory for my desired flight, even when I see SAAver awards on AA.com. But in addition, now when BA.com shows the annoying “we don’t fly there” dialog, there’s a suggestion: “Click date to check partner availability”. The date is unclickable, so there’s no way to even start the search for partner availability. Any way around this other than a (usually unproductive) phone call to BA?

  7. I’m so fed up with trying to find AA flights using Avios that I cancelled my BA Chase card. I don’t want to deal with BA but now I have all of these miles. When I’m able to find an AA flight it’s usually one flight and it leaves at 6 a.m. while on AA there are a lot of flights.

    • I sometimes wonder if these blog writers are connecting to a different ba.com than I am. I never get any AA flights showing up, no matter how many SAAver seats I find on AA.com. I wish the bloggers would investigate this a bit more thoroughly. They just seem to be doing one test of the “new, improved” site and base their commentary on that. My experience goes back years. Ba.com is just not consistent and their ultra-crabby phone reps just chalk it off to AA not making SAAver seats available. What the heck are the rules anyway? I have over 200K miles and they’re just sitting there collecting dust.

        • Scott,

          I have pulled up several itineraries over the past few days and most of them did show up on ba.com. Hopefully this is a permanent improvement and not an inconsistent one, as in the past. As you can see, others have experienced the inability of ba.com to show SAAver seats. If I encounter a future problem, I’ll post it here. I did have one last week that did not show up but it was a 3-leg flight so I can understand why that one might not show. But within the past 6 months, I have had a few occasions to call BA when they did not show SAAver seats, and was told on multiple occasions that “AA does not release all inventory to partners”. Made-up rule to get me off the line? Maybe.

          Geoff

        • Scott,

          This is related. I just tried to search for PHL-IST Oct. 18-Nov. 4 and got the result “Sorry, there are no flights available on Friday 18 October 2013. You can: – use the tabs or links above to check availability on another date – search again using another date or class”.

          To the right of the dates there’s a msg: “Click date to check partner availability” and the Info box shows this text: “There are no British Airways flights available on these days. To check availability on partner airlines click on the date.” BUT YOU CANNOT CLICK THE DATE! It’s not a hyperlink. So how do I search for partner flights?

          Geoff

          • Try my exact dates and click the Oct. 18 date. It’s not a link so it does nothing. I use Firefox 19 but have also tried with IE8. How do I search for partners in this instance?

          • Scott, you’re completely missing the point. Yes, I can click on the surrounding dates…but all that does is tell me that BA has no availability on those dates either.

            What I am trying to accomplish is to find a PARTNER that flies that route which might have availability since BA does not. The note says “Click date to check partner availability” and “There are no British Airways flights available on these days”. and on the little “i” note it says, “To check availability on partner airlines click on the date.” Are you seeing these? These notes imply that I should be able to click on October 18 and see what the partners might have available, but I cannot click on Oct. 18 because it’s not a hyperlink (my mouse is an I-beam and not a little hand, to get real elementary here).

            The site never takes me to the partner flights, it only repeats that BA has no flights; it says nothing about the partners having availability. How do I get to the partner flights?

          • I did misunderstand. And you are pointing out an error in what ba.com says. If partner space were available, it would be displaying on those dates, so it should say “There are no BA or partner flights available.” By the way, you should probably perform these searches on aa.com since it displays most of the European partners anyway, and is easier to use, especially for flexible date searches.

  8. Hi, I am desperate to figure this AVIOS thing out. We have tons of miles and we live in the USA and we want to book American Airlines flights. When I put in destinations on the AVIOS website that I know AA flies to, I get this: Error: British Airways and its partners do not fly this route. Please consider alternative destinations or call your Executive Club Service Centre.

    Some examples are: LAX – OGG, JFK – MIA, JFK – SXM, and DCA – MIA which is one you have above.

    Also, the prices for international travel are OUTRAGEOUS!!! I looked up a flight to Sydney from JFK for next March for 2 people. On AVIOS it is 180,000 miles and $1,972 and on Quantas.com it was $2,800. So AVIOS is telling me that I am only saving about $800 by booking with them AND I have to shell out 180,000 miles??? IS THIS FOR REAL??????

    If anyone can help explain this all to me, i would be grateful. We have already switched over to Delta for skymiles since they have a MUCH better system and don’t charge any of these fees (you can get a FREE trip to Europe if you have the right amount of miles).

    • Well you are in the right place at least, even if your Delta conclusion isn’t quite right. Avios has access to all the MileSAAver space listed on aa.com. British Airways collects insane fuel surcharges on most of its partners. Notable exceptions are AA within the US, LAN between the US and South America, and airberlin to Europe. Use your Avios for trips like that, or hire my Award Booking Service to do it for you. (milevalue.com/award-booking-service).

      Delta is probably the second worst though. I would recommend United or AA miles. If you want personalized recommendations based on your goals, fill out the form for a Free Credit Card Consultation (milevalue.com/free-credit-card-consultation)

  9. How is this an improvement?

    Previously one could search for partners availability for a week at a time when you clicked ‘include partners’. Now that option is gone, and you have to individually click on each date to check partner airlines. This is beyond tedious. Am I using a different ba.com site than the bloggers? Why do they love the re-design so much?

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