Using British Airways Avios can seem challenging and even overwhelming to travel hacking beginners who are most familiar with U.S.-based airlines.
You might be wondering, “What can I use Avios points for if I’m not flying to London?”
But, in fact, the best ways to use British Airways Avios comes not necessarily on transatlantic flights, but for short-haul flights in many places around the globe.
In this beginner guide all about the British Airways frequent flyer program, you’ll learn:
- the program basics,
- the best way to earn Avios,
- how to search for BA reward flights, and
- how to use Avios points for the best value.
A Beginners Guide to Using British Airways Avios
British Airways Frequent Flyer Program Basics
British Airways is part of the Oneworld Alliance. Their partners include American Airlines, Iberia, Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Japan Airline, and several others.
British Airways also partners with Aer Lingus. In fact, both Iberia and Aer Lingus use the Avios currency.
Knowing which airline alliances and partners an airline is connected to allows you to get more from your miles. In this case, you can use BA Avios to fly on any of their Oneworld partners, as well as their non-alliance partners.
So while you can’t transfer British Airways miles to American Airlines, you can use British Airways Avios to redeem for flights that are operated by American Airlines.
What’s more, using Avios to book award flights operated by American Airlines can sometimes be better than had you booked the flight with AA miles.
Instead of using geographic zones as part of the calculations to determine award pricing like with United or American, British Airways calculates the number of Avios needed for an award flight by distance.
This means the number of miles flown dictates how many Avios an award flight will cost.
There currently isn’t a published British Airways Avios award chart, but they do have peak and off-peak redemptions for British Airways award flights.
Their off-peak redemptions can deliver great value on your BA Avios, especially given you can find off-peak pricing for nearly 8 months of the year on flights operated by British Airways.
British Airways Peak and Off-Peak Award Chart
For award flights operated by a British Airways partner, like American Airlines or Qantas, there’s no off-peak pricing.
This award chart below shows the number of Avios you’ll need to book flights with your British Airways Avios that are flown by a partner airline. You’ll note that there is a specific Zone 1 with its own pricing for flights within the U.S.
British Airways Miles Chart for Partner Awards
The British Airways award calendar opens up just about a year ahead of time.
In general, it’s best to book flights using Avios points as far out as you know your travel plans. Although you won’t be charged a last-minute booking fee, British Airways reward flight availability is better the farther out you search.
Keep in mind, however, that all British Airways Avios partners don’t necessarily release their award space as far in advance as British Airways.
So, if you’re searching for partner flight availability on some of the calendar’s farthest dates, there could be a gap in which partners are showing award space and which are not.
For example, let’s say British Airways opens up its award calendar through September of the following year. But, a partner airline only has its award calendar open through August of the following year.
That month gap won’t accurately reflect the award space eventually available to all partners.
One of the major criticisms of British Airways is its tremendous surcharges on some of its flights. As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid these fees as much as possible.
Clearly, it doesn’t make sense to redeem an award for X number of Avios and also have to pay $600+ in fees, for example.
What is the best way to earn Avios with British Airways?
If you’re just getting started with travel hacking, you might not realize how to get Avios. In fact, there are quite a few ways to earn British Airways Avios!
While there’s no British Airways American Express card available in the United States, Chase offers a British Airways Visa Signature® Card.
British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Current Welcome Bonus: Earn up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 75,000 Avios after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months from opening your British Airways Visa Signature card. Then, earn another 25,000 Avios after spending $20,000 in the first 12 months as a cardholder.
Favorite Card Features:
- 3x for purchases on British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL
- 2x on hotel bookings made directly with the hotel
- 1x on all other purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- Save 10% on British Airways airfare for flights originating in the U.S when you book with the website provided when you receive your card
Annual Fee: $95
If you’ve previously had the British Airways credit card but closed it at some point, you’re eligible to earn the welcome offer again after 24 months have passed since earning the previous one.
Luckily, British Airways also participates as a transfer partner in transferable points programs. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 transfer ratio.
Travel rewards credit cards like the:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card,
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and
- Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card,
earn Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred to British Airways. They’re also great cards to start with if you’re new to miles and points.
American Express Membership Rewards points also transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. So, travel rewards cards that earn these points are also highly valued.
Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio. When transferring points earned with your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, transfer in 60k-point increments to receive a 5k Avios bonus, for a total of 25k Avios.
American Express occasionally runs transfer bonuses with British Airways, which allows you an even better return on transferring MR points to BA Avios.
In fact, at times these transfer bonuses have been as high as 40% when transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Avios.
British Airways also has a shopping portal where you can earn Avios for the items you’re planning to buy anyways. You can book BA flights with Avios earned from shopping.
Lastly, the worst travel hacking mistake is to let your points expire.
British Airways Avios expire after 36 months with no activity to your account. To reset the expiration date, earn or spend a couple of Avios.
For example, if you have the co-branded British Airways Visa Signature® Card, make a purchase with it. Or use the British Airways shopping rewards program to buy something you were planning to buy anyways.
Even transferring the smallest amount of flexible points from Chase or American Express will help you reset the expiration date on your Avios.
How do you search for British Airways award flights?
British Airways has a decent search tool when it comes to searching for partner award flights.
In fact, the general rule of thumb is to use the BA or Qantas websites to search when you’re looking for Oneworld Alliance award flights.
You’ll need to log in with your British Airways membership number to search. If you don’t already have a British Airways number, it’s free to join.
Be sure to keep yourself organized by recording your member number and password for future searches.
From the British Airways homepage, hover over the “Book” option. Select “Book a flight with Avios” from the dropdown menu.
Because British Airways has a distance-based award pricing system, you’ll want to search for and book nonstop British Airways and partner award flights.
While BA doesn’t limit the number of stops you can take, each segment will price out individually. The result is usually an overpriced award flight.
So, after you enter your search details, British Airways will ask you if you want to break up your search into segments. Always click no.
Another award search basic tip is to look in one-way segments.
Let’s say you’re looking for a round-trip flight between New York and Montreal. Search the departing and returning flights separately. You might see additional availability that wouldn’t have come up in a round trip search, as well as reduce the chance your award flight search will result in an error.
British Airways does a pretty good job of displaying partner availability. However, if you’re hoping to use British Airways Avios for an Aer Lingus flight, search on United’s website for award availability.
Lastly, you can also use a British Airways Avios calculator to determine how many Avios you’ll need for the route you want to fly.
The Wandering Aramean tool Avios tool will calculate the number of Avios you’ll need for an award flight. I use the Wandering Aramean tool and it’s a great way to experiment with how to use Avios for your potential travel plans.
How to Use Avios for British Airways Award Flights
So, before going into some specific redemptions, let’s just quickly review the basics of airline alliances.
Even though we’re searching for award flights on British Airways and using British Airways currency, Avios, the actual flight booked might be flown by one of their partners if it’s a route that British Airlines doesn’t fly.
So while you can’t transfer your British Airways points to a non-Avios partner airline, using Avios for flights operated by their partners can be a fantastic value!
ProTip: Did you know that British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus (and recently Qatar Airways!) all use the Avios currency? As such, these are the only 3 airlines where it’s possible to transfer Avios among them. For example, Iberia Avios can transfer to my British Airways account, assuming I follow all the transfer rules.
If you’re earning Avios with all of the Avios-earning airline credit cards, you can combine these Avios balances into a single account with whichever Avios airline you choose.
To maximize the value of your Avios, you also want to avoid those high BA surcharges we talked about earlier. The more premium class you want to fly, the higher the fees typically get.
“So then, what can I spend BA Avios points on?”
British Airways doesn’t charge surcharges on flights operated by American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights within the United States, to Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean.
Depending on your departure city, it could be cheaper to use Avios than to book with American Airlines using AA miles.
- Going by the British Airways Avios award chart, flights to these regions will typically fall within the range of 7.5k-30k Avios one-way versus 12.5k-30k+ one-way with American Airlines.
- In particular, southern U.S. cities like Miami and Dallas will have much cheaper award flights to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America.
- Don’t just assume you’re departing and arrival cities are too far from one another.
- Use the British Airways Avios calculator above to figure out the cost. Great Circle Mapper is another great tool for determining the distance between 2 airports.
For example, you can fly from LAX to Vancouver for only 7.5k one-way, 15k round trip. Compare this with American Airlines, where you’d need at least 12.5k each way.
Similarly, I did the east coast version of this by flying from NYC to Montreal to ski at Mont Tremblant for just 15k Avios round trip!
Just as a comparison, here’s United’s round-trip pricing for NYC to Montreal:
A few other short-haul 15k Avios roundtrip examples are:
Washington D.C.-Montreal, Toronto, or Miami
Chicago – Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Atlanta, or Orlando
San Francisco – Portland, Los Angeles, or Salt Lake City
Miami – Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, or the Bahamas
Los Angeles – San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Tucson, or Los Cabos
Short intra-continent and intra-country flights will be where British Airways Avios shine.
Using Avios to book flights intra-Europe costs just 4,750 one-way, off-peak with a flat fee of about $30.
This is perfect if you’ve used other miles to get to Europe or scored a cheap flight. Use BA, then, to position yourself in your intended destination.
For example, you found a cheap $300 one-way flight to Paris on a budget airline. But, you want to go to Prague. You might pay for the flight and then use 4,750 Avios to fly to Prague.
Intra-Japan flights are also great redemptions, as these short flights can be pricey! Compare just a few thousand Avios one-way between Tokyo and Osaka with the cash price of $200+ at peak times.
Similarly, using Avios on Qantas between Australian cities is an equally great value! Remember, Qantas is in the Oneworld Alliance and can be booked with BA Avios. You can fly from Sydney to Melbourne or the Gold Coast for just 6k Avios!
Short-haul value can also be found in Africa. Consider Johannesburg to Capetown for just 8,250 Avios one-way during peak dates and 7,250 off-peak!
But, short-haul flights aren’t the only valuable rewards…
Because BA is distance-based, there may be some situations where it would seem counter-intuitive to consider using Avios. (The world is actually a lot smaller than we think!)
Consider these 3 examples.
- You can fly from 5 Eastern U.S. airports, NYC-JFK, Newark, Boston, Hartford, and Chicago to Ireland for just 13k Avios one-way off-peak. (Peak is 20k one-way.)
- Using Avios miles from western cities like Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Phoenix, and Los Angeles, you can book a round-trip economy flight to Hawaii for only 26k Avios round trip.
- Similarly, you can fly Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan for just 25,750k Avios one-way. Plus, you can fly with partner Japan Airlines known for their high level of quality, service, and comfort.
British Airways is a valuable Oneworld partner and their Avios currency is easy to earn via flexible point transfers with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the co-branded British Airways Visa Signature® Card.
Their distance-based award chart can return a great value when maximized effectively and play a strategic role in achieving your travel goals.
What questions do you have about how to use British Airways Avios?
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96 thoughts on “A Beginners Guide to Using British Airways Avios”
I’ve been very slow to the party with travel hacking but pleased to see I did know a couple of these tips at least (more there for me to implement though!). So much to know and I don’t want to particularly study all the details, I just want the benefits and to travel more!! (I know, you have to put in the effort ..!)
Ha! Yes, Amanda, you do have to put some time into learning. But once you do, the sky’s the limit, literally. 😉
We don’t use points for our travel because we don’t really know how so this is very helpful!! We will bookmark in case we ever fly with a British Airways!
Remember, Victoria, it’s not only BA but also their partners that you can benefit from as well. Thanks so much for reading.
Great tips here on flying with Avios. I hadn’t heard of it before.
Thanks for reading, Aleney. There are so many travel rewards out there so definitely keep learning to take advantage of them.
As an Australian, the last time I flew British Airways I was about 7!! But I’m a more regular Qantas user on the other hand, so the One World benefits might be worth looking into. Thanx for the tips!
For sure, Marion. If you can earn BA Avios, then you can redeem them on Qantas. 🙂
I’ve said it before but will say it again. I always love reading your posts! Always learn something new. Too bad I am limited with millage/cc companies in the Philippines that provide points.
Lol, Anna! I’m glad to hear it. Must have something to do with the teacher part of me! 😉 Hopefully someday you’ll be able to put some of these tips to use for travel rewards.
Interesting. Good to know how airlines help travel and benefit more from travels.
I have not seen any such deal in Emirates yet or may be I am not aware yet.
Thanks, Indrani. Emirates isn’t a part of an airline alliance, but they do have several partners like TAP Portugal, Korean Air, Virgin America, and more. These partnerships are great for reciprocal earning and rewards benefits.
Thanks for this guide – being from Australia I’m apart of the Qantas FF program, which is part of the One Wolrd Alliance, so it’s nice to be able to use my points for Britiah Airways flights. Totally agree that knowing which airline alliances and partners an airline is connected to allows you to get more from your miles – I can highly recommend one world, love the airlines in the alliance.
Sounds like quite a lot of different ways to earn Avios points – more so that Qantas allows us in Aus! Will pass the info on to my British friends looking for a way to get into travel hacking – thanks for the great insight into the program, and tips.
Thanks for reading, Meg. Yes, so many ways to earn Avios for Brits and Americans. Hope you can put them to good use on those short-haul Australia flights!
Wow what a comprehensive post making your case. I have AA points but I’ve never cashed them in as I never seem to have enough to redeem. I never knew their redemption was higher than others on the same alliance. Something to investigate further
Thanks, Adelina. That’s why transferable points are so valuable. You have more flexibility. Keep earning those AA miles, too. They’ll be valuable in the future. 🙂
Good to learn about the BA Avios system. I dont have a chance to fly with an OneWorld Alliance member because of where I am based right now but might be helpful for my next move!
Great, Eve! Hope the guide is helpful in the future.
BA with their AMEX and Avios program is a waste of time. 400,000 Avios points and never once in more than 10 years have I ever been able upgrade with them. Call centre and customer services simply do nothing. Hello Virgin and let’s hope it’s a more pleasant journey
Sorry to hear of your bad experience with BA, Gary. Thanks for reading!
The details which you have explained here are so useful. I never really dwelt into these programs with so much depth and which is possibly why I never made the most of them. I definitely need to look at them differently after reading these tips. I just might find that they are more beneficial than what I make them out to be. Thanks for sharing this.
Thanks for reading, Ami. I hope you’re able to put the info to good use.
I’ve been trying all day to find a flight on BA for an American Airlines flight from PDX to HNL. I can’t seem to locate the right “button” to obtain info on American Airlines flights. I’ve used my Avios numerous times to book flights from PDX to London, but trying to utilize their sister airlines is baffling me.
Thanks for reading. I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. One thing I’ve heard is there have been some glitches with the AA availability showing on BA recently. There is no right button. You just have to search normally, making sure the system knows you want to book with Avios. Hawaii routes are also tough depending on how close to the date you’re trying to book. I would try searching in one-way segments instead of round trip and see if that makes any difference.
Hi. Do you know if you can upgrade yourself on Aer Lingus if you use Avios to book the round-trip ticket? Will you be able to pay the extra$$ after booking for business class?
Thanks in advance
Thanks for reading. It may be possible but several factors come into play like availability. There are reports of travelers calling in periodically before their flight to see if an upgrade was possible and paying the difference in Avios. Aer Lingus also allows you to check if you’re eligible and, if so, request an upgrade from their upgrade yourself webpage. If you’re eligible, you’d be able for an upgrade. Good luck!
I have used BA points with a lot of satisfaction. I have found the best way for me, is to research the route and air line options that could work for me. I then phone BA and have them do the searching for rewards availability. Once I have something that works in terms of route, timing and class, I book. They charge you but for me it is good value.
Glad you’re getting great value from your BA Avios, Lola! Keep in mind, if you try to book online and can’t, tell the phone agent. You might end up getting that fee waived. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading.
Interesting article. I came across it trying to figure out if I can use my Avios points to fly from Lima to Cuzco. When I do it through BAs site, I get the message below:
“Plan Your Journey
We are unable to find seats for your journey. The most common reasons for this are:
You may have requested a route that we do not operate at that time of year.
We may not fly to the destination you have chosen.
What you can do:
Search again using different dates.”
Am I doing something wrong? Can’t seem to figure it out.
Thanks so much for reading. It could be for a few reasons that you’re seeing that error message. Make sure you’re doing an award search (Book with Avios) through their Executive Club. Search in one-way segments and try different dates. Keep in mind, if you’re trying to find a last minute flight, there could be nothing available. I did a quick search and just chose a random date in December. The screenshot is below. Good luck and hopefully, you’ll find something! -Jackie
Very interesting reading – thankyou! I am based in AMS but want to fly to JNB. Using avios, however, whilst I can get the outbound, the return date is not available.
I dont see the option to search for partner airlines, it shows and states only will display BA flights.
I will certainly try and go the one way version with avios, but am I missing something.
ie: Iberia JNB-MAD-AMS or Qatar JNB-DOH-AMS – can’t imagine all reward flights are taken.
Any tips would be greatly appreciated
Thanks for reading. I’m not sure which dates you’re looking for, but I selected a few random dates and only saw availability on BA routing through London on peak and off-peak dates in October and January. If you’re opposed to routing through London, it may be worth a phone call to BA, as sometimes the BA website is glitchy and doesn’t show all the partner awards available. If you have Qantas membership, you could also search Oneworld awards there and see if the BA website shows the same. Here’s a sample of what I saw. Good luck!
I am almost 83 years old and our household acct of Avios has 64000+ points, almost 8000 of these are going to expire in the next ten days. I hope to spend those soon on an “experience”. With the remaining 56000 avios I’d like to fly to Paris in August. My aim is to use up all these points because I don’t expect to travel to Europe again. Currently I am not at home but will be on April 2nd. Is there any hope of my getting a flt to Paris with one stop, using all or most of my avios? I will phone when home but the last time I did the person was no help at all.
Hi Barbara, thanks so much for reading. First, you can save those 8k Avios by making even a small purchase in the British Airways Shopping portal I’m not sure where you’re flying from so it’s hard to say exactly. But, in general, there are very high fees when using Avios to fly from the U.S. to Europe. One way to get around these fees is to use Avios on Aer Lingus or Iberia to fly to Europe and then from there get to Paris. So one such example might look like this. U.S. to Dublin on Aer Lingus and then a flight between Dublin and Paris also with Avios on Aer Lingus. If you’d rather not deal with all of this, I’d recommend using an award booking service like the one run by MileValue Even though there’s a fee, it’s smaller than the fees you’d pay if you booked an award with British Airways for a flight to Europe. Thank you again for reading. I hope this helps. 🙂
Thanks very much for this help. The link to the shopping portal gives me reward possibilities in pound sterling or US dollars. Can you find one in Canadian dollars? So I can spend some of those points about to expire. Cheers, Barbara
Hi Barbara, So glad the information was helpful. British Airways only has the US or the UK version of their shopping portal. You should be able to use the US version of the portal as long as the store ships to Canada. I see you’re thinking of spending some of your Avios before they expire. You can also shop at one of the merchants in the portal and pay with money. You’ll earn Avios for shopping and reset the expiration date on your expiring Avios. There’s no minimum. You just have to earn at least 1 Avios to save the ones set to expire.
How can I find best use of points to fly SDF-GCM in August 2018. Would like to use BA Avios
Thanks for reading, Don. So, BA charges Avios based on the distance flown. In your case, there are no direct flights from SDF to GCM. British Airways will break up your itinerary into 2 segments each way because you’d need to connect. You’d also pay separately for each segment for around a total cost of 30k Avios round trip. The BA site has been very glitchy lately so repeat your searches over and over, change dates, go back to your original dates, and if you need, even call into BA. Otherwise, if you have Ultimate Rewards points, you may want to look at the Flying Blue program (Air France/KLM). Their partner Delta flys to GCM for similar mileage pricing. Good luck!
I gave up on getting a flight to Paris with my points mentioned above. Instead I bought a one hour cruise on the Seine with my about to expire points (for four people). I used most of the large supply of Avios to buy 4 hotel nights , three in a smaller city, and one in Paris. Assuming each night is worth perhaps 200 Cdn dollars, that’s $800. Is that a good Avios use or not.? I’m flying Airtransat for a real bargain price. Not much over $800 in fact.
You made the best of it, Barb! Glad you put those points to use…much better than having them expire unused. 🙂 I hope you have a great trip to Paris. I love that city. Thanks for reporting back and for reading the blog.
Hi, I know this may sound a stupid question but how can i use my avios on a japan airlines flight – if I go on the ba site and try to book Bangkok to tokyo it routes me through Heathrow!!.
But JAL flys from bangkok to tokyo but I don’t know how to actually search for a reward flight on there site.
Thanks for reading, Dave, and not stupid at all! A couple of things, BA is the place to look although it’s been super glitchy lately. I would check on the Qantas website for availability and if you see it and BA isn’t showing it, the website is acting up. If not, there may not be awards for your date. Also, on BA, when it asks you if you’d like to break up your search into segments or stops, make sure to say no. Hope that helps!
Can I use BA Avios to fly SDF to GCM?
Technically yes, but you’ll pay per segment since there are no direct flights between SDF and GCM. Instead, why not look at an Iberia Avios redemption. You pay for overall distance flown not per segment and will work out cheaper. They are in the Oneworld Alliance, so partners with American Airlines like BA. Hope that helps, Donald! 🙂
Do you know if you can book AA award flights that have a connection through BA using avios?
I want to fly from Columbus to Honolulu on AA. AA has awards space via LAX both ways. However, I was wondering how the stop in LAX changes the booking process with BA.
Thanks for reading, Nate. Since BA charges based on the distance flown, each segment has a separate cost. This means BA is not the best choice when a stop/connection is involved. Instead, you might want to look at Iberia. Your BA Avios can transfer to Iberia. Although Iberia also prices awards based on distance, it’s the total distance flown versus an individual price for each segment like BA.
Hi Jackie, really interesting article, thanks! I had a quick question: it’s probably me being simple, but I’m trying to book a return flight Lima-Santiago (Chile) using avios, but on the BA website it says no flights available. (I also looked at Iberia with the same result). LATAM fly direct, and are part of Oneworld, but I’m not sure how to use the avios with them (they have something called LATAM Pass). Is it even possible and where should I look for the flights?!
Thanks in advance!
Thanks for reading, Oli. The BA website can be so frustrating sometimes. I would search on Qantas for the award availability you need. If you find what you’re looking for, call BA to book and tell them it wasn’t bookable online so they waive the phone booking fee. Qantas is a super reliable Oneworld search tool. If space doesn’t show, it’s probably not available for the dates you want. Good luck!
Would you recommend using Avios points to visit Thailand from NYC? I am looking at Cathay Pacific flights that go from JFK to Phuket via Hong Kong, for example. I have 60,000 points from the BA credit card. Alternatively, I could transfer points to Asia Miles/Cathay from AMEX or Chase. Right now, neither BA nor Cathay is letting me log into their websites. It’s very strange. They claim to have sent PW reset emails to me, but I’m not receiving them. I’m currently on hold with BA. I tried calling Cathay a few days ago, but they kept telling me their systems were not working. This all takes so much time.
Thanks for reading, Karen. I wouldn’t recommend using BA for a NYC to Phuket (connecting in HKG). Since BA has distance-based pricing, this wouldn’t be a good redemption. Also, you want direct flights with BA or else you’ll pay per segment, not overall distance flown. You can use Amex points with Asia Miles, but Chase points don’t transfer to Asia Miles. If you’re thinking of more than 1 place to visit (i.e. phuket and another SE Asia destination), have you considered using United’s excursionist perk?
Hello, I’ve had a read of your article. It is very helpful! As a student, which AMEX card would you recommend getting for the best value on miles per pound spent? (does it work like that?). I’ve had a look on the website but it seems abit confusing for me. [LINK EDITED OUT] Thanks!
Thanks for reading, Kathy. Glad the article was helpful. Unfortunately, I can’t advise about UK credit card offerings. I recommend you check out the blog Travel the Globe 4 Less. Anne is great with UK miles, points, and credit cards. She will be able to give you better UK credit card advice than I can.
Hi Jackie, I am planning on transferring Chase Ultimate Reward points to BA for Avios miles to book a domestic non-stop flight from Charlotte NC to Chicago. This would be the less expensive choose for these tickets since only 7,500 avios miles one-way, which is way less than paying cash for ticket or using my AA miles. My question is after I booked the flight on BA’S website will I be able to make seat assignments? I seen a lot of conflicting posts regarding this and want to get a straight answer before I transfer my Chase rewards, since once I do I can’t get them back. Thanks.
Thanks for reading, Jay. You should be able to select seats on AA after you make your booking on BA. As you make your booking, remove your BA FF# which tends to auto-fill in the passenger details as you go through the booking process. Once booked, your BA record locator should be usable on the AA site. Enter that and your name and from there you should be able to select seats and edit passenger info, like add your AA FF# to the booking. You’ll also see the AA record locator which is good to note for your travel info. Good luck!
I live in England and last year I got an American Express Charge Card. I gave me twenty six thousand Avios Points. I used these to fly one way from Funchal to London. We are a family of one adult and two children. We used Easy Jet a budget airline to reach Madeira from England. I cancelled this card. Now I have a British Airways Credit Card and a Virgin Credit Card which uses Mastercard. Not everywhere accepts American Express you see. If I spend three thousand pounds in 3 months I will get twenty six thousand Avios Points. To get a double voucher I would need to spend ten thousand pounds. I wish to get the points and book a flight for the 3 of us for a trip in April 2020.
Great travel goals, Maxine. Avios is a solid currency that can help you achieve your award travel goals.
I have 30k in Asia miles, 30k in emirates skywards and 40k in MR through Amex. I also have the option to get 110k avios through a cashback website. I will be bAsed in Australia for the next 3 years and will want to travel to Japan and Asia. Is converting to avios the best way forward.?
Thanks for reading! Avios will be helpful for flying within Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, as well as positioning yourself by using inter-Japan flights. But for long distances, British Airways’ distance-based awards won’t be your best currency. For that, you’re better building your MR points, especially, but Asia miles will be helpful also. MR points will give you access to a variety of airline transfer partners including Asia Miles, but also ANA and Singapore among others.
HI there. Thanks for posting these great tips. One thing I’m not finding, though, is what my options are in flying from Vancouver or Seattle to London or beyond. It seems like BA is my only choice, so I’m always stuck with the hefty taxes. Am I missing something? I tried to find flights via Iberia, but no luck. Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.
Thanks for reading, Roby. You aren’t missing anything. BA long haul flights from the U.S. to London are a bad deal because of those fees. You’ll want to look for a flight operated by AA and that will mean connecting in a city where AA flies to London from, like Chicago, LA, NYC-JFK, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, Raleigh, or Charlotte. My suggestion would be to search in one-ways, and look for the leg to London first. So search Chicago to London. Then search, Seattle/Vancouver to Chicago. When you find it, piece together online or call BA to book. Hope that helps. 🙂
Jackie I need your help! BA started a direct flight from Charleston to Heathrow. I constantly have to travel to Warsaw and other destinations in Europe. Currently have 42,000 Avios. No clue how to use them or upgrade premium to business etc. What are you recommendations? (I assume best value is the cheap avios flights from London to Warsaw).
Thanks for reading, Tyler. Absolutely the flight from London to Warsaw will be the best value. Using Avios to fly across the Atlantic is a bad value because of the fees BA charges. You could pay cash for your flight to London and then upgrade using Avios. Keep in mind, you can only upgrade one cabin and a seat has to be available. If you find a cheap BA fare, call right after booking and try to upgrade paying the difference in Avios. Good luck!
I have so many Avios points and they are “never” available for flights within the US on American. Can I transfer there points to American Advantage program or can I use the points for anything other than travel like shopping or Gift cards?
Thanks for reading, Lisa. Availability comes directly from AA so if nothing is available on AA then BA won’t have any either. Have you tried searching for your dates and routes on AA first and then searching the dates with availability on BA? This is how I booked flights just last month to Miami and then onto Costa Rica, using BA Avios for AA flights. You can’t transfer BA Avios to AA, but on the BA website there’s a spending Avios section which allows you to use Avios to pay for hotels, car rentals, and also as a partial payment along with cash to book flights with BA. Good luck! 🙂
Hi, so wondering if you can help me. I have like a 150,000 amex points and they are offering a 40% transfer upgrade to AVIOS. Thing is I live in the Midwest closest larger airport is MSP. We are thinking of going to Rome or Paris next summer. How would I make my points worthwhile.. Thanks!!!
Thanks for reading, Amy. I know that 40% Avios deal is so good but for your routing I’d recommend looking at Flying Blue, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic. All are Amex transfer partners. Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic have also had bonus transfers in the past so it’s not out of the question another will come along. Flying Blue is the loyalty program for Air France and KLM. Air France has a direct flight from MSP to Paris. Delta does also, but you can book Delta flights through Virgin Atlantic for cheaper than what Delta would charge, usually. Good luck! 🙂
I have over 200,000 avios and have tried for every year for 10 years to either book/book and upgrade with them and have never ever, not ever found availability. Always getting the “There is no availability found for the dates that you have selected. Please select different dates.”. I even use their calendar and it never shows any availability. I am hoping to figure out what I am doing wrong…
Thanks so much for reading. BA’s lack of a calendar search is frustrating for sure. It only lets you check one day at a time. You can also use Qantas and AA (at least for some partners) to see more dates at once. Then once you find availability, head back over to BA and search those exact dates. Good luck!
I have booked a flight with Cathay Pacific in business class from ICN-BKK via HKG. I used BA’s Avios to book it. I am not able to make any requests on their website to pick seats or request special diet (my wife is a vegetarian). We have other flights booked with Cathay Pacific on this trip that I used some Alaska Airlines’ miles. When I made those reservations, I got a confirmation number for Cathay as well as Alaska. This allowed me to log in to my booking on Cathay Pacific’s website and pick seats and request special diets. Do I have to call BA to be able to make this request or is this not a request that can be made? Thanks!
Thanks for reading, Jonas. Yes, you should call BA and ask for your Cathay Booking reference number. Once you have that you can pick seats and meals. 🙂
Dear Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie,
I have patiently read all your wisdom and most Q & A. Like another 83 yr old person I cannot quite figure out how to get the best out of nearly 96000= + Avios I have collected. I am interested to travel return trip to India any city from Toronto Canada – generally flexible dates.
should I start with US East Coast to Ireland – or USA – Alaska- Korea- Malaysia- India etc. – same way return ??- There are plenty of OFF PEAK in BA between now and jan 2020 – likely dates in Dec.-Jan
-Or rather than troubling you who is already doing so much answering e-mails pay the consultant you recommended in an e-mail
Thanks for reading, Shiva. BA Avios are best used on short-haul flights. That being said, you could book a flight to London from Toronto and then from London to Dehli, for example. That would cost about 45k Avios and a few hundred US dollars in taxes/fees. Another option to consider is looking for an award from Toronto to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. This flight is searchable and bookable on the BA website with BA Avios. From there, you could fly HKG to Dehli. Off-peak pricing for this route is just 13k Avios one way. Hope that gets you started and good luck! 🙂
I used to put all my purchases on my BA Visa Signature card to collect Avios to fly my wife and I and sometimes daughters as well on business class or even First from Seattle to Europe. (I have also done the same over the years with our Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cards to use on BA for biz class travel to Europe.) However, in recent years I have found it increasingly difficult to find availability of ANY premium seats on BA using BA Avios (or Alaska miles on BA, for that matter), even starting 9-10 months in advance. The overseas portion of the trip is ALWAYS on coach. Many writers discuss the benefits of one credit card or another and one mileage plan or another, but rarely discuss the actual AVAILABILITY of premium seats, the number an airline like BA releases, when they are released and how best to capture premium seats. Of course it does no good to have massive Avios if you can’t use them for premium seats, should that be your goal. For travel to Europe this last September, starting my booking search last Fall, I sat with 900,000 Alaska miles and 600,000 Avios and could not find a single premium seat on the overseas portion and ended up traveling coach. Any tips? What am I doing wrong?
Thanks for reading, Robert. You are so right that no matter what miles and points you’re earning, they have to be able to be redeemed! Premium class availability is harder to come by because there are fewer seats and not all are released for award travel. With that being said, search one-ways instead of roundtrips. Oftentimes, no availability will show if just one of the segments has no availability. I’d also recommend using a tool like Expert Flyer. You can search for award availability but also set seat alerts. This way, you’ll get notified instantly of open seats and can book them right away. I’d also recommend searching for availability on Expert Flyer for other airport availability. For example, perhaps there are business class seats to London leaving from Las Vegas instead of Seattle. You can then work to find a positioning flight to Las Vegas which will be easier to do than wait for seats to open up from Seattle. Also, it’s important to note the high fees involved with long-haul premium seats on BA, even when Alaska miles are redeemed for BA partner award flights. Be sure the value you’re getting in the premium seats is worth the fees. Lastly, Alaska has a really generous free one-way policy on one-way award flights and 2 free stopovers on roundtrips. You could fly a free one-way as your positioning flight on Alaska airlines and then catch your BA flight to London. Hope this helps a bit! Good luck. 🙂
Thank you, Jackie, for the quick reply!
I believe that Alaska opens its award seating 330 days in advance. Did you say that BA opens theirs one year in advance?
And do you know if BA opens more award premium seats for holders of BA’s Avios than for Alaska mileage customers booking on BA?
Does anyone discuss and compare the number of mileage award premium seats that various airlines open (and thus the relative value of various mileage award credit cards if one is using them for this purpose?
I have avoided cards that allow you to use points for “dollars” on any airline, wrongly or rightly, because on BA, for example, business class seats might cost 2-3 times the mileage for coach seats, while the seats might cost 5-7 times as many dollars.
Of course, if they don’t release enough seats and they are not available, it doesn’t matter anyway.
BA does open space just about a year in advance. And technically, Alaska and BA should have access to all the same space. I understand your point about the number of seats not being competitive with the number of credit cards issued. This is not only a BA quandary. The best we can do is use tools like Expert Flyer and to be creative and flexible in our routings to ensure we get max value for our miles and points.
Just read your blog and feel better informed about using our Avios. Unfortunately, like the previous comment we continue to not be able to book with Avios because there are no “Avios” seats available. This happens whether it is 6mos out or 12months out. So frustrating!!!
We just want to use them!!! Any advice?
Thanks for reading, Lisa. Sorry to hear about your frustration with using those Avios. What are you trying to book? Is it a flight operated by British Airways or a partner like American Airlines? If it’s AA for example, AA has to have to space open and showing on their website in order for it to show on BA. Not sure if this helps at all…
Thank you for responding so quickly.
So this is what I have done. I look up the AA flight(s) I would like to take. I assume there are regular seats available because AA is giving me the ability to book the flight on its website. What I think is happening is they (AA) only allow a handful of seats on each flight to be purchased with rewards whether it be AA points ? or BA Avios.
So when I call BA to book the AA flight…(that obviously has seats available) 99% of the time we are told there are no rewards seats available. ?
When you search on AA, are you seeing sAAver award seats? Regular, anytime award seats won’t work. Also, there have been some cases that a BA phone agent can’t see what’s showing on AA, so it’s not impossible. But make sure, you’re seeing available sAAver seats in whatever class you’re searching on AA before trying to replicate the search on BA’s website or with an agent.
Thanks for your post. We too are teachers who love to travel. We were thinking of transferring our RBC points to BA or Asia mile to book flights to Asia from Calgary. Does BA offer open jaw options? How can we find out what our surcharge would be?
Thanks for reading, Henry. BA charges by segment so it’s easy to book an open-jaw itinerary. Simply book the routes you need in one-ways to accommodate your travel plans. 🙂
I have a question: would it be better to save the BA points when you are flying long distance flights, If we want to fly from SFO to Bali or Thailand due to the taxes / fees? (fuel costs)
Thanks for reading, Amy. Typically, yes. You don’t want to fly long haul because of those fees. However, it’s always worth a look for the comparison because depending on the route and the partner who might fly it some of the variables can change.
Can I use Avios to get travel insurance?
Thanks for reading, Sakhiwe. To my knowledge, no. You can’t use your Avios to pay for travel insurance.
Awesome blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any ideas? Appreciate it!
Thanks for reading, Teodoro. I would buy your own domain and get cheap hosting with a company like Hostgator. Then build the site with WordPress. Good luck!! 🙂
Hi, you state that “ While there’s no British Airways American Express card”. But there is, I have one and use it all the time.
Just thought you should know.
Steve ( UK )
Thanks for reading, Steve. I should have been clearer. The British Airways Amex card is only available in the UK, not in the U.S.
GOOD DAY, I HAVE NEARLY 300,000 AMERICAN EXPRESS REWARDS PROGRAMME M.R AWARDS. I ALSO HAVE AN AMERICAN EXPRESS GOLD CORPORATE CARD ISSUED IN SOUTH AFRICA.
CAN I CONVERT THESE M.R. MILES TO MY AVIOS ACCOUNT OR MY BA EXECUTIVE CLUB ACCOUNT TO FLY BA ?
MANY THANKS AND KIND REGARDS.
Thanks for reading, Mel. I’m not sure about South Africa Amex Membership Rewards. In the U.S, it is possible to transfer MR points to British Airways. 🙂
Firstly thanks for the helpful tips.
I noticed the line “While there’s no British Airways American Express card”, though I have had one for years. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you mean? My challenge is finding any available flights to use my points. Maybe I need to search nine months in advance? I’ve never found a way to successfully spend my points so far.
Is there an online video available to show exactly how to get great value from one’s Avios points – one of those Avios for dummies approaches, i.e. click this and then click that? This would really help a lot of people who simply quit the BA site feeling frustrated and confused and think… never again.
Thank you for reading the blog, Robin. I should edit that to say in the U.S. We have only a BA card offered by Chase Bank, not by American Express. Unfortunately, I don’t have a tutorial video to show right now but appreciate the feedback. One tip I would offer is to look at the American Airlines website. AA and BA are Oneworld Alliance partners. AA will show many of the same partner flights as BA, as well as show BA flights. If you find a flight you want on AA, go to BA and replicate the search with the same dates, etc. I hope that helps a bit! Thank you again for reading!
Hi – can you tell me if all flights appear on the BA website? I am looking to book Las Vegas to Austin next March – but I cant see that route n the BA website even though there are flights available on AA?
Thanks for reading, Lauren. BA can only show the award space AA releases to them. If you’re seeing the space on AA, it likely means it’s not considered saaver space and therefore, partners like BA can’t see it. Unfortunately, it’s up to the airline to determine what space gets released to partners and which doesn’t. You can try another Oneworld partner like Qantas just to search for the space. If Qantas can’t see the space that AA is showing, then it’s as I have explained. If though, Qantas does show the AA space, then it may be a glitch on BA’s end and potentially worth a call to see if an agent can see the space.