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Step-by-Step: How to Search for British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro!

Step-by-Step:  How to Search for British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro!

Scott LiebermanStep-by-Step:  How to Search for British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro!Million Mile Secrets Team

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Lots of folks collect British Airways Avios points, because they’re easy to earn!  And you can use them to book award flights to Europe and beyond on British Airways, fly cheaply to Hawaii on partner airlines, or get a great deal from the East Coast to Ireland on partner Aer Lingus.

British Airways has a distance based award chart, which means the number of points needed for an award flight depends on how far you fly.  This makes British Airways Avios points a particularly good deal for short-haul routes.

And I’ll tell you the what to avoid so you get the most from your points!

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Use British Airways Avios Points for Award Flights to London and Beyond

There are lots of ways to earn British Airways Avios points, because they’re a transfer partner of 3 of the main flexible points programs:

And now is a great time to consider the Chase British Airways card, because the 100,000-point sign-up bonus is back!

I’ll show you step-by-step instructions on how to use British Airways website to book award travel!

British Airways Award Chart

Link:   British Airways Flight Awards

British Airways frequent flyers earn and use British Airways Avios points in the British Airways Executive Club (free to join!).

British Airways Uses Avios Points as Their Rewards Currency

Avios points are the rewards currency of other airlines such as Iberia and Aer Lingus, too.  And you can transfer your points between the 3 currencies at Avios.com.  This makes Avios points even more versatile, because you can use them across different programs to get the best value.

1.   Know the Basic Rules

Here are a few general British Airways award booking rules:

  • Travel can be booked round-trip or one-way (for half the number of British Airways Avios points)
  • British Airways does NOT charge last-minute booking fees
  • Award flights price out on a segment-by-segment basis (more on this below), so you can book unlimited stopovers and open jaws
  • Award flights differ in price based on peak vs. off peak dates
  • Flights that depart from or connect through the United Kingdom will incur huge surcharges, up to $500 per person, each way

2.   Awards Are Priced by Distance

The cost of an award flight booked with British Airways Avios points depends on the distance flown.  This is different from most other airlines (such as United Airlines and American Airlines), which price awards based on the regions of travel.

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Because British Airways Uses a Distance-Based Award Chart, Shorter Flights, Like From the West Coast to Hawaii, Are Cheaper

This means that award flights using British Airways Avios points aren’t restricted by region definitions (more details on this below).  This leads to some sweet spots, but also some frustrating pricing.

And British Airways no longer publishes an award chart, so you’ll have to search for individual flights to see pricing.  That said, you can check out this post for a screenshot of their award chart.

3.   Prices Vary by Number of Segments, Airline, and Season

The cost of award flights using British Airways Avios points can be tricky to determine, because they vary based on distance, stopovers (because each segment is priced individually), airlines flown, and peak / off-peak dates.

For example, a non-stop coach flight on American Airlines from Los Angeles to New York City will cost 12,500 British Airways Avios points.  But if no non-stop flights are available, an American Airlines flight with a connection will cost at least 15,000 British Airways Avios points (minimum 7,500 points per segment X 2), and sometimes more!

For the simplest way to determine the price of your award flights, visit the British Airways flight reward calculator.  

Use the British Airways Avios Rewards Calculator to Determine the Price of Your Award Flight

Enter your origin, destination, travel class, and currency to view award flight prices for your trip.  But remember that award prices only matter if you can find available flights that work for you!

And watch out for fees, because British Airways adds substantial fuel surcharges to award flights on its own planes, and on certain partners.

If you prefer a more simple approach, just search for the award flights you want on the British Airways Executive Club site.

How to Search for Award Flights on British Airways’ Website

Link:   British Airways Executive Club

Link:   British Airways Award Flight Calculator

The British Airways website is fairly intuitive and easy to navigate.  And British Airways makes it easy to search for award flights on almost all oneworld airlines such as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, etc.

Unfortunately, you can NOT search for award flights on some partner airlines (such as Alaska Airlines or Aer Lingus) on the British Airways website.  For award flights on these partners, or if you prefer to talk to someone in person, call British Airways at 800-452-1201.

Step 1.   Log-In to Your British Airways Executive Club Account

Part 1.   Existing Account Holders

In order to search for award flights, you must be logged-in to your British Airways account.

Part 2.   Creating a New British Airways Executive Club Account

If you are not already a member, create a free Executive Club account.  To do this, click on “Register Now” on the home screen’s top right corner.

Or navigate directly to the registration page.

Join the British Airways Executive Club in Just a Few Minutes

On the next screen, enter your personal information and register for your free Executive Club account.  The whole process should take less than 3 minutes.

After entering your personal information, write down your account number and password so you don’t forget it.  Once you are registered and logged-in to your Executive Club account, you are ready to start booking award flights.

Step 2.   Searching for Award Flights

To get started, head back to Britishairways.com, hover over “Executive Club” and click on “Spend Your Avios.”   Finally, click on “Book a Reward Flight” under “Reward Flights” to take you to the award booking page.

Or click on this link to be taken directly to the award flight search page.

Click on “Spending Avios” to Be Taken to the Award Search Page

Note:   If you have not yet logged-in, you will not be able to click through to the award flight booking page.

Part 1.   Enter Your Desired Travel Information

After clicking “Reward Flights,” you will be taken to the screen to begin your award search.

Enter Your Search Information to Find Available Award Flights

Then, enter your origin and destination, dates of travel, travel class, and number of passengers.  I also recommend that you select “One way only” and search for your flights one segment at a time.

Then press “Get flights”, and wait while your results load!

For example, here is a sample search for a one-way flight for 2 adults in coach from Washington, DC to London.

You Can Search for More Than One Ticket at a Time
Part 2.   View Available Flights

After clicking Get flights,” wait for the results to load with available award seats.  For the example above, I found multiple available flights in different classes of service.

Note:   Remember to check your departure airport, because some cities have more than one airport.  For example, this search from Washington DC includes both Dulles (IAD) and and Baltimore – Washington (BWI) airports.

To view the specific price of a flight that fits your schedule, select the flights you want.  The total price of your flights will display under Journey summary towards the bottom of your screen.

Coach Flights From the US to Europe Can Be a Great Use of British Airways Avios Points, but Watch for Fuel Surcharges on Certain Airlines

Note:   All prices quoted are the amount for all passengers.  In the above example, 40,000 British Airways Avios plus ~$256 is the total price for both passengers.

British Airways charges high fuel surcharges on award flights, so using British Airways Avios points can sometimes be frustrating.  But this award search is a great example of how British Airways award flights can cost very few miles, but sometimes higher fees and surcharges.

And the cost of the taxes and fees goes up significantly if you want to fly Business Class or First Class!  For example, this trip for 1 person from Washington DC to London costs:

  • 20,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$128 one-way in coach
  • 40,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$128 one-way in Premium Economy
  • 60,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$506 one-way in Business Class
  • 80,000 British Airways Avios points plus ~$506 one-way in First Class
Ouch! Taxes and Fees on First Class Flights Can Cost Over $500 per Person
Part 3.   Details

You should view the details of each flight before you book them.

Don’t Forget to Check Your Departure Airport!

This will open a separate window that will include your flight details, including aircraft type, duration, airport names, and any additional stops.

Click on the Specific Flight Number for More Flight Details

Note:   This can be a great feature if you want to try out a specific type of plane, like British Airways’s double-decker Airbus A380 or Boeing 747!

Or, you can change the date of your search by clicking on the different date tabs at the top of the screen.  This allows you to quickly view different days in case your first choice has no award flights.

Easily View Different Dates to Find Award Flights That Fit Your Schedule
Part 4.   Confirm Booking

If the prices and details for the flight you selected look good, you can book them by selecting the “Continue” button to the right of the price.  Enter your passenger details, payment information, and contact information, and you’re all set!

Step 3.  Consider Booking Business Class or First Class

For folks who want to fly Business Class or First Class, the British Airways online tool makes it very simple.  When searching for award flights, select the class you want to view.

Search for Flights in Any Class of Service

Note:   The British Airways tool will always display the class you chose, plus 2 lower classes.  For example, selecting First Class will display First Class, Business Class, and Premium Economy.  While selecting any of the other classes will display Business Class, Premium Economy, and coach.

Search results are displayed side by side, so selecting Business Class or First Class allows you to easily compare available award seats.

Step 4.  Using the Availability Calendar to View Possible Dates

If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you may find the Availability Calendar helpful for viewing other possible travel dates.  In order to view available award seats across a range of dates, click “Find availability with British Airways on other dates” in the top left of the screen.

View the Availability Calendar If Your Dates are Flexible

When looking at the availability calendar, all dates with available flights in the class of service you searched will be populated.  For example, the below calendar shows dates with 2 coach award seats from Washington, DC to London.

View the Flexible Award Calendar to See Dates With Available Flights

This view also makes it easy to revise your search criteria on the left side of the screen.  This can be helpful if you are willing to fly in different cabins of service or if you need to change your number of passengers.

Note:   The availability calendar only displays dates with award seats on British Airways.  Partner flights will not display on the calendar.  This means that even if the date does not show up, there may still be available flights on partner airlines such as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, etc.

Strategies for Booking

1.   Complex Itineraries

The British Airways tool does a fair job of piecing together complex itineraries.  Typically, the system can only handle 1 or 2 connecting flights.  If you think your itinerary will require more than one connection, I would start by searching for your longest flight segment first.

Then, you can add on individual flights that are easier to find.  For example, a couple who wants to fly from Savannah to Barcelona might start by searching for the longer, transatlantic flight first (such as New York to London or Washington DC to London).  Then, they could search for the shorter flights from Savannah to New York and from London to Barcelona.

Cheap Fares To Europe
Piecing Together Complex International Itineraries Can Be Difficult With the British Airways Booking Tool

If you have to piece the itinerary together one flight at a time, take note of the specific flights that you want.  Then, call British Airways Executive Club at 800-452-1201.  The folks at British Airways customer service are very helpful and typically don’t have long hold times!

Note:   When calling British Airways, you can save time by having your Executive club account number ready.

2.   Trends for Finding Award Seats

British Airways lets you book award flights ~355 days in advance.  To find the most award flights, try searching as far in advance as possible.

But remember that available award seats on British Airways’ partner airlines depends on when each individual airline makes award seats available.  So some award flights on airlines like Qatar and Qantas might not be available until ~330 days in advance, for example.

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Planning Far in Advance is Sometimes Necessary When Booking With British Airways Avios Points

Unfortunately, British Airways isn’t very generous with releasing last minute award flights.  This means that you are typically better off booking your flights as soon as you know the dates you want for travel.

For the most award seats, try booking as early as possible and being flexible with your dates.

3.   Avoiding Fees and Fuel Surcharges

The biggest downfall of booking with British Airways Avios points is undeniably the high surcharges and fees charged for award flights.  Award flights that cost $500 in fees are hardly a bargain!

A strategy to avoid high fees is to use your British Airways Avios points for flights on certain partner airlines.  For example, flights on Cathay Pacific have much lower fees and can be a great value.

Avoid High Fees by Flying on British Airways’ Partner Airlines

Additionally, the United Kingdom charges hefty fees for long-haul flights departing from any airport in the UK.  This means coach flights from London to the US will often cost more than $200 in fees in addition to the required amount of British Airways Avios points!

Avoid Departing From the United Kingdom to Save on Fees!

To lower the fees, try to avoid flying British Airways through London Heathrow airport.

You can still get great value on European vacations with British Airways’ partner airlines (like Aer Lingus from Ireland, Iberia from Madrid, Finnair from Helsinki, or American Airlines from a variety of European cities).  This can represent considerable savings, and is one of my favorite uses of British Airways Avios points.

Award Search Tools to Help

If you can’t find award seats that fit your schedule, you can consider setting an award alert with an award searching tool.  An annual premium membership to one of these tools ranges from $75 to $129.

But if you frequently book award flights, it can be a worthy investment!  The following 3 tools are the most commonly used:

Each of the above tools has the capability to search the British Airways Executive Club site.  But if you still need help finding specific award seats that aren’t available (yet!), consider using one of these Award Booking Services.

Want More British Airways Avios Points?

1.   Earn British Airways Avios Points Directly

You can earn British Airways Avios points directly with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card.  The sign-up bonus is a total of 100,000 British Airways Avios points after completing tiered minimum spending requirements.  Here’s my review of the Chase British Airways card.

2.   Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to British Airways

You can also transfer flexible points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio with these cards:

If you have the Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, or Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card, you must combine points with one of the cards listed above to transfer to British Airways.

3.   Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to British Airways (With a Limited-Time Bonus!)

And if you have one of these AMEX cards, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio.  Plus, there’s a 40% transfer bonus through September 17, 2017:

4.   Transfer Starwood Points to British Airways

You can move Starwood points to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio.  And you’ll get a 5,000 British Airways Avios point bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points transferred:

And because you can transfer Marriott points to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio, you can earn Starwood points with these Marriott credit cards, too:

Bottom Line

The British Airways Executive Club website is simple and easy to use.  You can search for award seats on several oneworld alliance partner airlines, and it’s easy to search across flexible dates.

But remember that British Airways often adds incredibly high fuel surcharges.  Be sure to search for an itinerary that has lower taxes and fees, like on certain partner airlines!

What’s your favorite award to book with British Airways Avios points?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Can you do a similar post about searching & booking on the OneWorld site?

How quickly do the transfers post? I am reluctant to transfer to BA unless I know I have availability on the flights I want. If it is nearly instantaneous like UR to United, then that’s great news. If it takes days or weeks, not so good.

It is instant on Amex. I believe it is instant on Ultimate Rewards (UR) too.