Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – Types of Awards & Charts
- Part 3 – How Much Will My Award Cost?
- Part 4 – One-way, Openjaws, Stopovers, & North American Gateway Cities
- Part 5 – American Airlines, Alaska Airlines & Hawaiian Airlines for North American awards
- Part 6 – International Award Routes
- Part 7 – Finding British Airways Award Availability
- Part 8 – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using the British Airways website
- Part 8b – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using Japan Airlines’ Website
- Part 9 – Finding Iberia (& European) Award Availability using the Qantas Website
- Part 10 – Finding LAN & South American Award Availability
- Part 11 – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with FlightStats
- Part 11b – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with ExpertFlyer
The best free way to check British Airways award availability is by using the British Airways website.
Using British Airways awards makes it much easier to get to Europe using American Airline miles because not only can you fly on British Airways to London, but you could also fly on American Airlines to London (to keep those fuel surcharges down) and then connect on a British Airways flight to the rest of Europe (~$20 in fees per segment).
Or use British Airways to go to Africa, India, and the Middle East using American Airline Miles.
The British Airways website is a bit clunky to use initially and will occasionally crash, but is easy to navigate once you get the hang of it.
Remember, British Airways has terrific award availability from many cities to London. Sure the fuel surcharges are a bit high (~$250 in coach, ~$400 in Business Class or First Class per segment), but you’ll almost certainly find seats from 23 cities in the US & Canada to London. If you’re looking for more than 2 award seats, chances are that you’ll find them on British Airways.
Even if your final destination is not London, but Europe (say Rome), you can find award availability to London from the US on either American Airlines or British Airways and then connect to another British Airways flight to Rome (or wherever else you’re going in Europe).
American Airlines will charge you the same amount of miles for a trip from the US to Europe regardless of whether your routing is New York to London or Kansas City to New York to London to Rome.
As I wrote in my earlier post, the best way to search for award availability is segment by segment starting with the international segments first.
Let’s say I want to find 2 seats from Chicago to Rome on October 10, 2012 in First Class.
I can search for the direct flight from Chicago to Rome on AA.com, but that won’t show me availability on British Airways.
So I break up my flight into segments. I’ll first look for award availability from:
- The US to London on British Airways using the British Airways website
- Then London to Rome on British Airways using the British Airways website
- Finally the award from Chicago to the US departure city of my international flight (if my international flight didn’t leave from Chicago) on AA.com
The above will cost the same amount of miles using the American Airlines all partner chart if you fly from Chicago to Rome on a non-stop flight or if your journey has a few segments.
That’s because American Airlines doesn’t charge you by segment (like British Airways does when you redeem British Airways miles), but charges you based on the destination in their award chart.
Segment 1 – US to London Award
I’m assuming that I did NOT find availability from the US to London in business class on AA.com (or that I prefer to fly on British Airways), so I’m now trying to see if there are British Airways award seats available.
Log into your British Airways account account by entering your membership number and PIN in the top right side of the screen and click “Log in.”
If you don’t have a British Airways Executive Club account, sign-up for one here.
Click on “Spending Avios” on the left hand side menu under “Executive Club.”
In case you’re wondering, Avios is the new name for British Airways miles.
Click on “Book Flights with Avios”
Let’s say I want to check availability from Chicago to London.
I enter “Chicago” in the “From” box and “London” in the “To” box and select my class of service. Note that you can’t book British Airways Premium Economy seats using American Airlines miles.
Remember that British Airways charges very high fuel surcharges on economy award seats (~$250) so it may not make sense to redeem for economy seats.
That’s because a regular coach ticket should cost you ~$800 round trip so there’s no point spending miles AND $500 in taxes and fees.
I then enter my departure date and click the “One way only” box because I like searching segment by segment.
And finally, I click on “Get Flights”
Step 5 a
You’ll see the results including the number of award seats on the flight in a pink box.
In our example, there are 3 First Class seats available from Chicago to London Heathrow. If you don’t see the pink box, that means that there are many award seats available on the flight.
You can click on the “Search up to 7 days earlier” or “Search up to 7 days later” (circled in red below) to see more availability if none shows up.
You now know that there are 3 First Class award seats from Chicago to London on British Airways flight 0296. So instead of relying on the American Airlines agent to find this flight for you, you can feed this specific flight to the agent to book.
At this point, write down the flight details. For example, I’d write down:
BA 0296 from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to London Heathrow (LHR) departing at 20:35 on October 10 and arriving in London on October 11 at 10:00 am in First Class
Step 5 b
If no award availability shows up from Chicago to London, search for British Airways award availability by changing the class of travel or from a different city by repeating steps 2 through 4.
I listed the many US cities from which British Airways flies to London in Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 6 – International Award Routes
If you’re curious to find out what the taxes and fees are, click “Continue.”
You will see that British Airways charges $412.70 as taxes and fees for this First Class segment. Expect American Airlines to charge you around the same amount if you book a British Airways ticket using American Airline miles.
But the same First Class ticket from Chicago to London costs $10,000! So being able to fly in British Airways First Class for less than the price of a coach ticket is definitely worth it! At least once in your life. But I know that these fees and surcharges can add up. Especially if you’re traveling with a family.
Segment 2 – London to ROME Award
Now that we’ve found a flight from the US to London, we’ve got to find a flight from London to Rome. Taxes for flight from London to Europe are quite reasonable (~$20+).
Repeat steps 2 through 6 above to see availability for flights from London to Rome.
Flights from the US usually arrive the next day in London, so make sure that you’re searching for the correct date. In our case, that’s October 11, 2012.
Yes, you could have searched for the entire trip from the US to Rome at once, but I prefer breaking up my searches segment by segment.
Tip – If you’re paying for a Business or First Class award, consider flying (& searching for) the segment from London to Rome (or elsewhere in Europe) in coach as well.
That’s because there may be more Coach Seats (Euro Traveler seats) available than Business Class (Club Europe) seats.
Business Class seats for flights within Europe are usually the same size as coach seats. The only difference is that the middle seat may be blocked off to signify your importance.
The screen shot below shows just how valuable piecing together awards can be. It is very hard to find awards on American Airlines flights from the US non-stop to Rome.
But it is much easier to fly either via American Airlines or British Airways to London and from London to find a British Airways flight to Rome. Suddenly your summer trip to Rome is much more possible!
At this point, write down the flight details. For example, I’d write down:
BA 560 from London Heathrow (LHR) to Rome (FCO) departing at 12:50 on October 11 and arriving in Rome on October 12 at 16:10 in Business (Club Europe).
Segment 3 – US City to Chicago Segment
Because we’re leaving from Chicago, we don’t have to worry about this step. But if you were leaving from, say, Kansas City, you’d have to find an American Airline award flight from Kansas City to Chicago.
Search for this segment (Kansas City to Chicago) on AA.com. Again it pays to be flexible, and you may find that there is only 1 seat available in first class and 1 seat in coach.
At this point, write down the flight details.
Calling American Airlines to make the booking
I’d then call American Airlines (1-800-433-7300) and ask them to put on hold (for up to 5 days) these specific flights which I found.
I’ll post more on how to make the call separately, but here’s something to get you started.
American Airlines Agent: American Airlines, Sabrina Jackson (made up name)
Daraius: Hi! I was hoping you could help me out. I spoke with an agent some time back and she was terrific and found award seats from Chicago to Rome for me on October 10 for 2 people in First Class. But I had to check with my partner so I couldn’t put them on hold.
Could we put those flights on hold now, if they are available?
Here are the flight numbers which I wrote down.
[Make sure that the agent searches for the flights segment by segment (i.e Chicago to London first & then London to Rome). Do NOT let her search by herself, because she almost certainly won't find what you did. If you get an agent who doesn't seem helpful, politely hang up and call back. (The dog is biting my foot. Gotta go) ]
American Airlines Agent: Ok.
Daraius:British Airways 0296 from Chicago to London on October 10, 2012 departing at 12:50 pm arriving at London Heathrow the next day on October 11, 2012. [This is the 1st segment which we found above]
…connecting to British Airways flight 560 from London Heathrow to Rome on October 11 in business (or economy if there were only economy seats) [This is the 2nd segment which we found above]
American Airlines Agent: [Click. Click. Click.] This will be $450 in taxes + the $25 telephone booking fee.
Daraius: Here’s my credit card.
Congratulations on booking a $10,000 ticket (which I hope you’d never considering paying cash) for $450!
Here’s an example of what the taxes and fees on a few British Airways segment costs in different classes.
1. Chicago to London in Coach - $242.70 in fees
2. Chicago to London in Business Class - $412.70 in fees
3. Chicago to London in First Class - $412.70 in fees
4. London to Rome in Coach – $20 in fees
5. London to Rome in Business Class – $26 in fees
It costs nothing (besides time) to find award availability and to put a dummy reservation on hold. Much better to practice now than when it is time to make your award booking.
I feel extremely happy when I piece together an award and admire it after putting it on hold!
Bottom Line: British Airways is know for high fees and surcharges, but they almost certainly will have award availability.
Even if you don’t want to pay for the trans Atlantic segment on British Airways, consider flying to London on American Airlines or other partners and then connect to a British Airways flight to the rest of Europe.