Tips and Tools for Using British Airways Miles

We all have our mileage strategies.

Here’s how and why I plan to use my British Airways miles.

In case you missed it, on November 15th, 2011, British Airways is changing their mileage program.  They’re changing the name.  They’re changing the award redemption levels.  And they may be changing more.

The most frustrating part of the change is the fact that British Airways isn’t revealing their new award chart until this change has taken place.

This means that if you book flights with your British Airways miles before November 15th, 2011, you know what you’re getting (the current award chart).  However, if you hold on to those miles, you’re gambling.  The value of those miles may drop in half overnight.

As a result, I plan to book flights before the 15th.  Thus, I have 100,000 BA miles to burn.  The worst case scenario, in my mind, is that if the changes were not as dramatic as many are predicting, you can simply pay $50 per ticket and have those miles redeposited back into your account.

Tips for Using British Airways Miles

Important Note:

The last thing you want to do with British Airways miles is fly on British Airways.  Why?  Because British Airways charges huge fuel surcharges.  A trip to Europe on miles can easily cost you more than $500!

Unfortunately, they also seem to have some high fuel surcharges to destinations in Asia via Cathay Pacific.  If you use American Airlines to fly to Europe using BA miles, they’ll also tack on fuel surcharges.

If you want to avoid high fuel surcharges, I’d focus on flights on American.  I’ve looked into flights to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Stateside, Mexico and south.  All of those routes have reasonable taxes and fees.

Also, LAN has some great options for South America.

British Airways Online Booking Notes

Don’t trust the BA online booking results.  They are terribly inaccurate.  I’ve found that if I know a flight is available and search a day or two off from that actual date, then even with searching availability over the next seven days, I will not find it.  However, if I search on the exact day, it will show the flight as available.

Moral: You need another source or resource to help you know what flights are indeed available.

British Airways Call Center Notes

It’s not unusual to be on hold for a long time when you call.  Also, (like most airlines) you cannot trust the phone agent to know best.  You must have more facts (information) than any person you attempt to call!  For example, I called this week looking for flights from JFK to Santiago.  Here’s the conversation:

“I’m wanting to get help booking flights from JFK to Santiago.”

Agent: “Oh, those are really hard tickets to find availability.”

“I saw flights available online for five.”

Agent: “FIVE!  That’s highly unlikely.”

“Can you please just check?”

Agent:  click * click * click * “Sorry nothing available.”

“I’m on BA.com right now, and I see three different flight options on those dates.  It’s flight x, y, and z. ”

Agent: “Sorry.  All I can tell you is that it’s not available on my system.”

That’s how we plan to use our miles.

Sources to Find Available Flights on British Airways

  1. Use a tool like Expert Flyer to help find available flights on select airlines.  Expert Flyer does require a paid membership, but you can also try it for seven days.
  2. Search for your flights on AA.com.  If you can find flight availability on AA.com, then you call the BA call center and tell them the flights to book.  If you get an incompetent phone agent (like I had), just hang up and call back.
  3. Set up a free account at Qantas.com and use their award search matrix.  Qantas has a very helpful search engine so you can find good One World flight availability.
  4. The Points Guy has a helpful series on using British Airways miles.  You can find a lot of helpful information between the posts and the comments.

How we plan to use our flights

We’re still working out the details, but we’ll probably been flying from JFK to Mendoza, Argentina.  We’ll fly down there (our family of five) for 100,000 BA miles and $94.00 in taxes and fees.  I got those 100,000 BA miles from the Chase BA 100,000 mile promotion.

We’ll fly back from Santiago right to Cheyenne, Wyoming for another 100,000 (American miles) and $250 in taxes and fees.

I think that’s a pretty good return for 2.5 credit card applications (that’s how we accumulated the 200,000 miles) and just under $350.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *