How to Book Award Flights With British Airways Avios

May 10, 2018

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Whenever the topic of British Airways Avios comes up, there’s a pretty consistent chorus of cries about how Avios are worthless. Indeed, if you’re looking for award flights from the US to Europe on British Airways, Avios are often close to worthless due to high carrier surcharges on awards and low paid flight prices.

However, Avios are far from worthless. TPG currently values Avios at 1.5 cents each, and personally, I value them even higher than that. By taking advantage of the mileage-based sweet spots in the Avios redemption program, I’ve gotten over 12 cents per Avios in value on Iberia premium economy flights, and often get over 6 cents per Avios from short-haul intra-Europe flights.

Want more examples? Recently, a TPG reader got almost 9 cents per Avios in value on American Airlines flights. TPG’s Senior Points and Miles Contributor 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 could recently book business class travel to Europe for just 51,000 Avios round-trip.

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.

1. Sign up for a British Airways Avios Account

First, in order to transfer points or search award availability, you’re going to need a British Airways Avios account. Click here to sign up if you don’t already have an account.

2. Sign in to Your British Airways Avios Account

British Airways’ website is one of the best options for searching Oneworld award availability. Qantas’ website is even better, so you might want to start there 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 homepage:

Alternatively, you can click “Executive Club” from the top menu and then select “My Executive Club” to be taken to the Executive Club log-in page.

3. Search Award Availability

Whichever way you log in, there are two main ways to start searching for award availability. For simplicity, immediately after logging in, I usually use the left-hand sidebar “Book with Avios or money” to begin my search. To do this, select “Book with Avios” from the drop-down menu, enter your search terms and click “Find Flights” to begin your search.

However, this sidebar only reliably shows up for me just after logging in. An easier way of searching is to bookmark this page and navigate to it after logging in.

4. Find Award Availability

If you haven’t already confirmed availability on Qantas’ website or ExpertFlyer, hopefully you’ll luck out and there will be award availability for the date you search. If not, BA lets you easily search +/- 3 days at the top of the results page, helpfully noting which dates that you’ve searched have availability.

Tips for searching AA flights: Don’t trust your original search results. Instead, make sure you know about the frustrating way you have to search AA awards on BA’s website. If there is low-level MileSAAver award space showing via a search on American Airlines own website, then the space is there, even if it doesn’t immediately show up at British Airways.

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. This is due to a change that AA made to its fare codes in November 2016 that effectively halved the price of these award tickets.

5. Transfer 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, skip to step 6.

Thanks to American Express changing back to a 1:1 ratio for British Airways transfers from Membership Rewards in July 2017, you now have three flexible point options that transfer to British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio…

Amex 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.

If you need to stock up on Membership Rewards, some top options are The Platinum Card® from American Express, and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

Starwood Preferred Guest points: Starpoints generally transfer 1:1, but you’ll get a 5,000 Avios bonus for each increment of 20,000 points you transfer. However, the downside is that it can take as much as five days to transfer Starpoints to British Airways Avios.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points: If you need points right away, Chase UR are another good source, transferring at a 1:1 ratio, and the points usually arrive instantaneously.

If you’re looking for Chase Ultimate Rewards points, top options are the Chase Sapphire Reserve (50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months) for consumers, or the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months) or Ink Business Cash Credit Card ($500 cash back or 50,000 points when linked with another UR-earning card after spending $3,000 in the first three months) for businesses.

6. Book Flights With Avios

Once the Avios are in your account, it’s time to book. Select your flight 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 are the Citi Prestige ($500 per passenger for 3+ hour delay), the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay) and Chase Sapphire Preferred ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay).

Bottom Line

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 15,000 Avios, intra-Japan JAL flights for just 4,500 Avios, flights between the US West Coast and Hawaii for 12,500 Avios and flights between the East Coast and Ireland for just 13,000 Avios. So, it’s definitely worth mastering the process.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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