How Many Avios Seats Does British Airways Release on Each Flight?

Jul 18, 2019

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Redeeming your Avios for flights is one of the best value ways to use them. But, if you are struggling to find available seats, it’s useful to understand how, when and why British Airways releases seats for reward bookings.

The good news is that British Airways guarantees to release at least two Club World/Club Europe seats, and at least four World Traveller/Euro Traveller seats on every single flight when the schedule opens (355 days in advance). The bad news is that this guarantee doesn’t extend to World Traveller Plus or first class seats. BA might release some on each flight or it might not, and there’s no strict rule to this unfortunately.

British Airways First Class Image courtesy of British Airways
British Airways First Class Image courtesy of British Airways

BA is also decent at releasing some unsold revenue seats as Avios redemptions relatively last minute. The rationale for this is that if, for example, there are still six unsold Club World seats available three days before departure and the airline’s revenue management team believes it will only sell a maximum of two seats, it might offer three or four seats for Avios redemptions/upgrades rather than fly the plane with a half-full cabin.

Unfortunately, the logic of revenue management is enormously complicated and takes into account hundreds of different factors, so there’s no guarantee of last-minute availability. It depends on the route, time of year, pricing, competition, demand and many other factors. It’s a good idea to check as often as you can in the seven days before a flight departs to see if there are any extra Avios seats added. It could also be a good idea to set an ExpertFlyer alert, which will let you know if — and when — a reward seat does open up.

As an example, looking at a flight to Dubai (DXB) six months in advance, there are no Club World seats available:

While looking at just a few days away, there are several Club World seats available for redemption:

For very popular BA destinations like Sydney (SYD), Los Angeles (LAX) and Cape Town (CPT), you will need to book redemption seats as quickly as possible after they are released. I’m talking hours, not days or weeks. Using Cape Town (CPT) as an example, almost a year in advance there are no nonstop options, though plenty of availability via Johannesburg (JNB):

Does BA release more than its guarantee? Well, yes, on some routes at some times, it certainly does.

London to New York City is a great example for generous Avios availability. With so many flights each day, there’s usually actually very good availability and you can see from this screenshot that there are three first seats released on one flight a year in advance — far more than the minimum guarantee.

There’s also a whopping eight business class seats on the Gatwick (LGW) to New York (JFK) flight BA2273, which is enough for the whole family. This is is incredibly generous, given this is for peak summer travel.

So what are some tips for booking those seats?

  • Where possible, book as soon as the schedule opens. There are the minimum guaranteed number released, and BA may actually release more than that in advance.
  • Check regularly at the last minute (starting seven days in advance), as additional seats may be released. Remember this is also the inventory available to upgrade with Avios.
  • For popular destinations, if there are no seats available, consider flying somewhere nearby that may be less popular and therefore have much better availability. For example, instead of Cape Town (CPT), consider Durban (DUR). Instead of Los Angeles (LAX), consider San Diego (SAN), and instead of Singapore (SIN), consider Kuala Lumpur (KUL) or Bangkok (BKK).

Featured image by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy

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