Avios: How to Find Award Availability

This week I had a reader question about using Avios points to book flights on American Airlines.  Since there are a couple of unique elements to booking flights using Avios, I figured it would be worth while to write an article on the topic.

Why?

Avois are the easiest points currency to accumulate because Avios is a transfer partner through the Ultimate Rewards program and the American Express Rewards program.  This, of course, is in addition to having their own British Airways branded credit card with Chase.

In a single day, a person could easily accumulate 165,000 Avios.

  1. Chase British Airways – Get 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days.  No annual fee for the first year.
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred – Get 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months.  Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to Avios.
  3. Chase Ink Bold - Get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months.  Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to Avios.
  4. American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card – Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months of card membership.  Membership Rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes American Express has transfer bonuses up to 50%.

How Many Avios Will My Redemption Require?

Since Avios is a distance based program, you can use their award calculator to get an idea of how many Avios a trip will require.  Avios are usually ideal for direct flights and for shorter flights.

How to Book Avios Flights:

You should be able to use your Avios online to book the following airlines:

  • AirBerlin
  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • LAN
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas Airlines
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
Go to ba.com.  If it’s your first time to the site, you’ll need to select your home country and language preference.
At this point, you’ll need to sign into your account on the top right.  Don’t worry if you don’t sign in. You’ll be prompted to sign in.  On the top navigation menu, locate the “Executive Club” tab.  When you click on it, there will be a drop down menu with “Spending Avios” as an option. Click it.
BA1
You’ll now see a page that gives you a couple of options on how to search for flights.  First, you can click on “Book Flights with Avios” on the left sidebar.  Alternatively, you can use the arrows on the main image to toggle across until you get to the image with the red button “Search and Book Award Flights”.
BA2

 

From there, it should be pretty self explanatory. Enter city pairs and dates.

Other tips:

If you are traveling somewhere that requires a connection, search each leg one search at a time.

For example, let’s say I was looking for a flight from Denver – Toronto.  I would first search Denver to Toronto to see if anything showed up. However, if I didn’t see any availability, then I’d search Denver – Chicago and Chicago – Toronto.  Sometimes you’ll be able to see more options by breaking down your booking into two searches.

Double check availability.

If a person were to search for flights on American, I’d suggest they also try searching on aa.com.  I haven’t checked things recently, but it used to be that American would show bookable flights that I couldn’t see on ba.com.  Sometimes British Airways could also see those flights when I call, and sometimes they can’t.

Add your AAdvantage number to your itinerary.

If you have a credit card like the Citi AAdvantage card that gives you free checked bags, you’ll want to follow these instructions to be sure that your reservation is linked to your AAdvantage number. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay for baggage.

Instructions for Flights Not Bookable Online

Other than flights on Alaska Airlines and Air Lingus, you ought to be able to search and book award availability online.  For flights on Alaska and Air Lingus, you’ll need to call British Airways (1-800-452-1201).  There is a $25 fee for booking award tickets online, but if you ask them to waive the booking fee since the fights are not available online, they will usually waive the fee.  If a person won’t do it and it’s worth your time, I’d just hang up and call back until I found a representative who is willing to waive the fee.

To search for availability on Alaska, use aa.com.  Typically, any open “MileSAAver” flights (light green in the aa.com award search) will be bookable with British Airways.

For Air Lingus, I actually like to use united.com.  I look for “Saver Awards” as those will be eligible to book with Avios.

With all this out of the way, it’s time to get online or on the phone and start booking some exciting vacations.

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