Searching With British Airways

Note: Read the primer on Using Miles if you have not already.

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British Airways Avios is a distance-based rewards program. Awards are priced out segment-by-segment, meaning if your trip is actually made up of two flights with one connection, you pay for each flight individually according to the chart below. Also, business and first class awards cost a LOT of Avios, so we’ll focus on economy travel only.

Award Chart: See below.
Changes: $55 or forfeit all taxes and fees paid, whichever is less.
Cancellations: $55 or forfeit all taxes and fees paid, whichever is less.
Close-In Booking Fees: None.
Stopovers and Open-Jaws: N/A. Since you’re paying for each segment individually, you can create all of the stopovers and open-jaws that you wish.
Fuel Surcharges: On all airlines except Alaska and LATAM. Domestic flights entirely within the United States or from the U.S. to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America are also free of fuel surcharges. And while Aer Lingus and many of the Asian airlines have fuel surcharges, they are typically low, so these partners can be okay too.
Sweet Spots: United States (West coast) to Hawaii in Economy; short flights (under 650 miles) abroad, particularly domestic flights within Asia, Australia/New Zealand, and Europe.

Travel Distance Avios (Economy)
1 to 650 miles 7,500 (within North America)
6,000 (everywhere else)
651 to 1,151 miles 9,000
1,152 to 2,000 miles 11,000
2,001 to 3,000 miles 13,000
3,001 to 4,000 miles 20,750
4,001 to 5,500 miles 25,750
5,501 to 6,500 miles 31,000
6,501 to 7,000 miles 36,250
7,001+ miles 51,500

Note: Awards utilizing two or more partner airlines cost significantly more miles than what is in the chart above. You’ll want awards that stick with a single partner airline. Generally speaking, that will be the majority of your search results. If you do want to fly multiple partners, you always have the option of breaking up your trip into multiple single-partner one-way bookings.

British Airways shows award availability for all Oneworld partners. However, it does not show Mixed Cabin awards. This can problematic if you are searching for business or first class awards, so unless you are searching for flights in economy, you should always search British Airways one segment at a time.

  1. Use Airline Route Mapper (tutorial) to look up possible routes.
  2. Go to British Airways. Create an account if you do not have one already.
  3. Fill out the form and submit. Search one segment at a time for business or first class awards.
  4. Review your results. Note that there should be a business/first mixed cabin award available on the date I chose, but it is not displayed below because I wanted to show what happens if you do not search one segment at a time. Remember, one segment at a time for premium cabin awards!
  5. In any case, select your flights and complete your booking if you find something acceptable. You may have to call in for a mixed cabin award or if you want to verify award space before transferring points from American Express or Chase.

To search for awards on Alaska Airlines, you will need to use American’s search engine instead and then call British Airways at (800) 452-1201 to complete your booking over the phone. They should waive the phone booking fee if the itinerary was not bookable online.

Advanced Tips & Tricks

American Airlines Award Space – British Airways’ award search engine does not display American Airlines’ award inventory with consistency. It therefore makes sense to look on American’s website first if you intend to book an award on one of their flights using British Airways Avios. Assuming you find availability, you then will want to search for the same flight on British Airways’ site. It may be necessary to repeat your search multiple times (this can be done by clicking back-and-forth between different dates on the seven-day calendar of results from your initial search) to find the award space you found on American.

Nonstop Flights to Hawaii from the West Coast – This is one of the few sweet spots on the British Airways award chart. Nonstop flights to Hawaii from the West Coast will generally fall under 3,000 miles, regardless of where on the West Coast you are starting from, making the price of a round trip 26,000 Avios. You will need to use American to look for nonstop award availability on Alaska or American Airlines (ignore any results on Hawaiian Airlines because you cannot book those with Avios).

Using Stops to Save Miles – The number of Avios needed for a trip increases as the mileage flown goes up, but you’ll spot some oddities in the chart if you look for them. In particular, 13,000 Avios for flights under 3,000 miles is cheap compared to much of the rest of the chart. In many cases, you can save Avios if you can break off flight segments that are fewer than 3,000 miles. For example, a one-way nonstop flight from SFO-SYD (7,417 miles) would cost 51,500 Avios, but a flight with one stop, SFO-HNL (2,398 miles) + HNL-SYD (5,066 miles), would cost 38,750 Avios. You could also stay in Honolulu and turn the stop into a stopover if you wish.

Reward Flight Saver – Some results will display the below icon to indicate a Reward Flight Saver award. While they will cost the same number of Avios as a regular award, the taxes and fees will be at a lower flat rate and may result in a lower overall cost compared to other options.

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