What to Look for BEFORE You Book an Award Seat on an Airline Partner

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Scott, commented:

If you’re using British Airways Avios points for award flights on American Airlines, do they always have to be at the Saver level?

I am finding that there are fewer and fewer American Airlines Saver level award seats out of Toronto – even 11 months out!

This is a great question.  The answer is YES, when you use miles to book an award flight on a partner airline, you have to find a low-level (Saver) award seat before you can book it. 

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

You Have to Find a Saver Award Seat Before You Can Book It With a Partner Airline’s Miles. Search High and Low Until You Find One!

This is true any time you want to book an award seat on a partner airline, not just for British Airways or American Airlines.

I’ll show you what to look for!

How to Search for Award Seats on a Partner Airline

Scott wants to use British Airways Avios points to book an award seat on American Airlines, a British Airways partner.

Every time you book an award seat with a partner airline’s miles, you must find it available at the Saver level.

What the Heck Is a Saver Award Level?

Link:   American Airlines Award Chart

Link:   American Airlines Partner Award Chart

Link:   American Airlines Off-Peak Award Dates

Link:   Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro

If you’re new to miles and points, it can almost feel like learning a new language sometimes!

Very simply, airlines offer award seats at multiple levels, usually a low-level and 1 or 2 others that are priced higher.  But the catch is you can only book the high-level award seats when you redeem that airline’s own miles.

For example, American Airlines has 2 award levels: Saver and AAnytime.

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

Use Miles From Any of These Airlines to Book an Award Seat on American Airlines. But ONLY a Saver Level Award Seat!

American Airlines will make award seats at the lower level (Saver) available to all of its partner airlines.  So you can use another airline’s miles, like British Airways Avios points, to book these seats.

But if you find a high-level award seat (AAnytime), you can ONLY use American Airlines miles to book that seat.  This is true any time you want to use a partner airline’s miles on any airline. 

And, it’s a better deal to find low-level award seats.  That’s because you’ll pay far fewer miles for your award flight!

What to Look For When You Book an Award Seat

Let’s take a look at what this means in application.

Scott is based in Toronto, so we’ll look for flights departing from there.

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

Start Your Search on the American Airlines Website

Get started on the front page of AA.com.

Enter your flight details and dates.  Be sure to click “Redeem Miles” and then hit “Search.”  I looked for flights from Toronto to Dallas in May 2016.

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

Keep an Eye Out for “MileSAAver” Seats, NOT “AAnytime”!

On the next screen, you’ll see a color-coded calendar with lots of options at the top.

If you want to book a coach award seat with partner airline miles, look for “Economy MileSAAver.”  And if you want a Business Class or First Class award seat, only look at “Business/First MileSAAver.”

I found coach seats available nearly every day in May!

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

I Found a Business Class Award Seat Available Every Day in May

Award seats in Business Class were even more available.  I found a seat every single day!

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

Three Non-Stop Award Flights Showed Up Available in Coach

Even better, I found 3 non-stop flights with award seats available.  This is the information you need when you book an award flight on an airline partner.

Now, you can book this award flight with any of American Airlines’ partners, like British Airways.

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

Make Sure You Give the Same Search Criteria to the Airline Partner

Then, I looked for the same flights on the British Airways website.  Here’s my series on how to book award flights with British Airways Avios points.

Take care to enter the exact same flight details so you can find the flights you want.

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

I Found the Exact Same Non-Stop Flights!

Like before, I found the same 3 non-stop flights from Toronto to Dallas.

Because they were available at the Saver award level on American Airlines, I can book them with British Airways Avios points (or with the miles of American Airlines’ other partners).

Why Should You Go Through This Process?

Maybe you’re thinking, why go through all that trouble to find an award seat?

In the example above, you’ll notice award flights from Toronto to Dallas were 12,500 American Airlines miles each way.  But only 10,000 British Airways Avios points each way!

What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

There Are Many Reasons You’d Want to Use Your Miles on a Partner Airline. The Biggest 1 Is to Expand Your Travel Options!

That’s because each airline has its own award chart.  So you can book the same flights, but pay fewer miles!

From Toronto to Dallas, you’ll pay 25,000 American Airlines miles for a round-trip coach award flight.

But only 20,000 British Airways Avios points.  If you’re booking a trip for 2, that’s a savings of 10,000 points!

You might also book flights with a partner airline because:

  • You have more of 1 type of miles or points than another (maybe you have lots of British Airways Avios points but not many American Airlines miles)
  • You’re limited by the partners offered by your transferable points
  • Your airline does not fly where you want to visit (British Airways doesn’t fly between Toronto and Dallas, but American Airlines does)
  • Another airline has a more direct or better route, or better flight times for your travel
  • You want to experience a new airline
What To Look For BEFORE You Book An Award Seat On An Airline Partner

Partner Airlines Are Your Ticket to Exploring More of the World!

But the best reason is because you can take advantage of partner airlines to get more Big Travel with Small Money.  See more of the world beyond where 1 airline flies.  With partners, you can take advantage of more flights to visit more places!

Bottom Line

Any time you want to book an award flight using a partner airline’s miles, you must find an available low-level award seat.  This is true for any class of service: coach, Business Class, or First Class.

Airline partnerships give you access to many more award flights, and more destinations worldwide.  So it’s worth it to hunt down a Saver award seat on a partner airline.

Scott, I hope that answers your question.  Good luck finding an award seat, and have a great trip, wherever you decide to go!

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4 responses to “What to Look for BEFORE You Book an Award Seat on an Airline Partner

  1. I am from Montreal (yul). Try to find yul-lga or jfk at the low level , there is zero… Probably block till the new 4500-7500 miles change happen… AA and BA sleep together for that situation… By the way, i want to book airberlin to DUS from marsh 11th-15th jfk-dus but impossible to find flights from yul at the low level…

  2. With most airlines, if you are booking a standard award, you can fly only on that airline’s metal. There is an exception. When you book a standard award with United, you can include partner segments, so long as “saver” inventory is available on the partner. (For example, to fly from San Francisco to Florence, if no Saver awards are available on United, you can book Standard award space on United metal from San Francisco to Frankfurt, connecting to Saver award space on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Florence, all as a single United Standard award. This is offered “seamlessly” – it is displayed on the Web site as a single Standard award from San Francisco to Florence, but if you check booking codes you’ll find you’re booked in HN or YN on United; X on Lufthansa.)

  3. @Dan – I was able to find a decent number of award seats from Montreal to New York. It helps a lot if you’re flexible with your dates.

    Maybe you could try ExpertFlyer to help you find award seats to Germany:


    And keep checking, because you never know when a seat will open up. Good luck finding the flights you need!

    @UAPhil – Thank you for the helpful tips!

  4. a friend recommended your blog and I love it. thank you for all the helpful information you post.