How To Use British Airways Award Search Tool

British Airways has made several updates to their award search tool in the past year, and on the whole it’s much more user-friendly than it was previously. There are still a few quirks, however, so I thought it might be helpful to go through the basics, especially given the new redemption opportunities with TAM and US Airways joining OneWorld yesterday.

Signing up for British Airways Executive Club

In order to search award space on the British Airways website, you need to be a member of the British Airways Executive Club.

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Fortunately, you don’t have to have any Avios in your account, so once you’ve registered you’ll be able to use the award search tool.

Navigating to the OneWorld search tool

Log into your Executive Club account on the upper right of the website.

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Under “Executive Club” select “Spending Avios”

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This will take you to the next screen, which lists the various options for spending Avios, and select “Book flights with Avios.”

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You can also bookmark the Avios search page, which will take you directly to the search screen if you’re logged in to your account.

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Basics of the British Airways award search tool / Searching OneWorld award space using the British Airways site

In general, when you’re using the British Airways site, you’re going to want to search segment-by-segment. This is a good practice for searching award space in general, as you’ll almost always get better results if you’re not relying upon the computer to find your routings.

To search OneWorld award space, just enter the airports you’re interested in flying between, along with the cabin of service. British Airways will automatically show three cabins at a time in the search results, so unless you’re searching for space on a route with a four-class cabin there isn’t really a need to change the default setting.

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On the next screen you have the option to select a stopover point, and for the most part you want to skip this. That’s because the only option it will give you for a stopover on the website is in London. Even if you are wanting to book a stopover, you’re really better off verifying that award space is available on the individual flights before you start piecing the itinerary together. Also, keep in mind that British Airways charges for awards on a per segment basis, so you don’t save Avios by booking segments together vs. separately.

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The British Airways award search tool has an interesting way of displaying flight results, which can be a bit frustrating if you’re not prepared.

First, all direct British Airways flights will be listed, followed by any direct partner flights.

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After that will be British Airways flights with a connection:

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Then flights mixing British Airways and partners:

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And then, theoretically, should be mixed partner flights.

However, if there is a route that British Airways has availability on, they don’t always display all the partner options. This is why it is so important to search segment-by-segment, rather than relying on the website “intelligence” to craft a routing.

My favorite new feature of the British Airways award search tool is the “Change” button at the top of the page. You used to have to return to the home screen in order to adjust the search parameters, so having a pop up window is a significant improvement.

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Finding award space when the British Airways site doesn’t recognize the airport

Occasionally, the British Airways award search tool won’t recognize an airport code. This used to be more of an issue, but it seems this has been improved with the latest round of updates.

However, there are still some airports, such as Hanoi, Vietnam, that aren’t listed in the drop-down menu.

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Fortunately, you can still just enter the airport code, and in most cases the award search tool is still returning results:

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Booking flights using British Airways Avios on high-density routes

One frustration I have with the British Airways award search tool is that you can’t specify a time, or otherwise filter results. This is fine on routes with one or two flights per day, but on high-density routes it’s rather inconvenient.

For example, LAN Peru (a OneWorld partner carrier) operates nearly two dozen flights between Lima and Cuzco. You can search LAN space using the British Airways website, even though “Cuzco” doesn’t appear in the drop-down list:

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The British Airways tool will return some flights, but clearly not two dozen:

LAN Award Space

The frustrating aspect here is that it’s impossible to know if these are the only flights that have availability, or just the only flights that British Airways is choosing to display. If you’re looking for a flight at a different time you’ll have to call, unfortunately.

Booking flights you’ve found using the British Airways award search tool

If you are hoping to redeem British Airways Avios then you can typically book flights right on the British Airways website. Keep in mind the award search tool won’t allow mixed-cabin itineraries, connections over four hours, or stopovers outside of London. To book an itinerary with any of those elements, you’ll either need to book several separate tickets, or call the British Airways call center.

If you want to redeem miles with another OneWorld carrier, I generally recommend making a note of which flights have availability, and then call the airline you have miles with to book your award tickets.

Generally speaking, all OneWorld carriers should have access to the same partner award space. There are some instances of phantom award availability (in particular for travel on Cathay Pacific), in which case you can verify space using the JAL search tool, but for the most part I find the British Airways tool to be pretty accurate.

Partners not bookable on the British Airways award search tool

One of my favorite Executive Club partners is Alaska Airlines. Since I live in Seattle and British Airways has a distance based award chart, I book well over a dozen Alaska Airlines tickets a year using British Airways Avios given what a good value they are.

The only catch is that Alaska Airlines award space doesn’t show up on the British Airways search tool, so you have to call to book. However, you can use American’s website to search for Alaska award space, and British Airways should have access to the same space over the phone.

Minimizing phone hold times with British Airways

My frustrations with the British Airways call center are well documented, in particular with their hold times. If calling their US or UK Executive Club phone numbers you’ll almost always be subjected to a wait of at least 45-60 minutes.

One trick to avoiding this is to call their Singapore call center instead. In my experience the hold times there are consistently much shorter, often only a few minutes. They can be reached at +65 6823 2095. The only catch is that they’re only open from 9AM till 5:30PM local time Monday through Friday.

Bottom line

While I don’t find the British Airways award search tool to be especially user friendly compared to the Star Alliance award search offerings like the United or ANA award search tools, I do find it to be the most comprehensive in OneWorld.

I prefer American’s award search tool as it’s more user friendly, since you can search award space using a calendar view for a month at a time. The downside, however, is that they only display award space online for about half of their partners.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. I checked availability on ba.com for flights from Zurich to London City (LCY) and I couldn’t find 3 seats available in any class for any date, and on avios.com they are displaying 9 available seats in economy for the same flights. Whats going on? is there any way I can get this availability to use with my executive club account?

  2. One more easy option to AVOID waiting time over the phone is to call INDIA call centre. Do try it .

  3. Lucky,
    Are there penalties and fees associated with cancelling an Avios ticket for a BA flight? I am a Silver member and have some summer travel I wanted to book but couldn’t clearly find information about the consequences of cancelling a ticket and whether you got the points and fees back.
    Thanks so much as always!

  4. I have been trying to search using Avios from NY to the Carribean on the BA site. All the searches route me thru London. What am I missing?

  5. $40 or whatever you paid in fees, whichever is LESS. I just cancelled an avios booking and only lost $5.

    Oh, and fyi the Wandering Aramean tool doesn’t seem to show the new AS flights to SLC yet, but at under 650 miles they are a great deal!

  6. Lucky-

    In terms of calling Singapore, when you say local time I’m assuming you mean local time in Singapore, right? As I’m typing I realize how stupid this sounds but want to make sure! Thanks

  7. @dutza – Avios.com has slightly better economy inventory available than BA.com – if you can find it on them then it’s free (and instant) to transfer Avios across to them and book there instead.

    Re hold times – never been more than a few minutes when I’ve tried the Gold line recently, perhaps helped by their extended opening hours trial (one of the few remaining benefits after yesterday’s devaluation!)

  8. So, to be clear – if I want to book US Airport 1–>US Airport 2, and US Airport 2–>US Airport 3 on a US Airways flight (and the corresponding return flights), but pay with BA Avios, can I book that through the BA website, or do I need to call BA (“If you want to redeem miles with another OneWorld carrier, I generally recommend making a note of which flights have availability, and then call the airline you have miles with to book your award tickets”) — isn’t there a booking fee penalty for phone booking?

    Thanks 🙂

  9. Is there a way to use American Air or Alaska miles to book via the BA/Avios site? Or transfer miles? I have only booked BA via the other sites in the past and I don’t believe that all availability is shown there/

  10. @ susakajo — Nope, you always have to book through the airline with which you’re redeeming miles. So if you want to redeem Alaska miles you have to use the Alaska website, while if you want to redeem American miles you have to use the American website.

  11. The info about how there are some airport codes the BA Website doesn’t recognize but can still find when you type them in was particularly helpful to me (especially since I have been looking into an HKG – HAN RT)! Thanks so much for this post!

  12. How would you use this to find award space between TWO unknown airports. Say LAN award space between ARP and BRC? I tried many dates, but nothing seems to show?

  13. Hey Lucky, if I can view US Airways flight on AA.com and can book with points, does this mean I should be able to do the same with Avios, even if I can’t view it on BA.com? The site is pretty buggy right now showing US Airways, and I want make sure I can do it before making the collect call to Singapore! Excellent tip, by the way 🙂

  14. Hey Lucky,

    a week ago I enrolled for Executive Club. Everytime I log on and click on ‘book with avios’ an error message appears: ‘Unfortunately our systems are not responding, so we are unable to process your request at the moment.
    We apologise for this inconvenience and suggest you try again later.’

    I am testing that on a daily basis. No success. Do you have any ideas?

    Grüße aus Deutschland

    Michael

  15. @ Michael — That’s odd. Have you tried a different browser maybe, or cleared your cookies otherwise? I’ve had that happen occasionally, but switching browsers has done the trick up until now.

  16. Hi Lucky,
    Just a question on the date when the award flights first become available. I am searching today on flights in December, e.g. from DOH to PER. There is availability on 8 and 9 Dec on multiple routes (direct and indirect) however it disappears completely from 10 Dec onwards.
    thanks, victor

  17. @ Victor — That’s probably because it’s peak season in Australia, so they’re not releasing much award space at that point. That’s pretty normal, unfortunately.

  18. I’ve been trying to book avios reward ticket since last 2 weeks but everytime (without fail) I’ve come to the error page “Unfortunately our systems are not responding, so we are unable to process your request at the moment.

    We apologise for this inconvenience and suggest you try again later. ” when I click to continue to the payment page.

    Is anybody else experiencing this or has been able to book an avios reward ticket?? I’ve tried Chrome, IE9, Firefox.
    I’ve seen availability come and go and this is very frustrating. The only option left I believe is to call them and go through the long wait times 🙁

  19. Wow! The problem was that they had my info from the BA card I signed up for and my birthdate was “null”. This probably cause their systems to crash leading to the error page.

    I guess my software skills have good use in award booking specially with BA!

  20. Are there any other ‘good’ method to search One world partners award availability beside with BA and JAL ?

    How about CX, AA, QF and MH ? Any link from your websites of how to use their search tool (one world award availability?). Or they dont have good search tool. Thank you Lucky.

  21. @ Lee — I do like using the American website to search for space, since they show space for a month at a time (through the calendar view) and you can specify to search just for nonstop flights. The only catch is that they don’t display space on all partners. You can’t search space on Qatar, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, etc., on their site, unfortunately.

  22. I swear this game is getting harder and harder to play. 🙁
    So I’m trying to find a ticket from TPE – NRT (stop over) – New York – TPE. From experience, I thought this is a straight forward ticket. I just booked a similar one in February. However, this time around, I can’t get both BA and Qantas to display partner award space. Is it because I’m doing something wrong or is everyone else having this problem? IS there another website to use?

    Thanks

  23. There seems to be a problem with the search tool because I don’t get any further than the stopover screen. Anyone else having this problem?

  24. @ Daniel — Have you tried using a different browser or clearing your cookies? Usually does the trick.

  25. @Lucky, I have tried different browsers on different notebooks. Nothing helped…until I ate the cookies! 🙂 Thx.

  26. Thanks Lucky, The BA website shows no availability of award space on Qatar after May 7, 2015! I was trying to find award space for the second week in May.

  27. Hey Lucky

    BA site doesn’t show proper availability for lot of OW partners (CX, Qantas etc). You had another post about it as well. How about putting the list in here as well?

    It would really help.

  28. Hi Lucky,
    You should write a follow up on BA award availability. Out of all airlines, BA seems to be the absolute WORSE airline to book for a premium award cabin. If it wasn’t for AA and short-haul these points would be worth less than sky pesos. Without exception, I have never found one seat available in F with BA. Ive been searching LHR-LAX, not ONE seat available in the next 12 months

  29. @ Leon — Agree that route is horrible for award availability. That being said, if you check out other routes you’ll find quite a bit more space. Just takes some flexibility.

  30. I find lots of saver fares on American that are not available via BA. I even called BA once and asked because it didnt come up when i tried to find it on line. Any ideas how to find award flights on AA in the US domestically?

  31. @ Ben — BA should have access to the same domestic AA/US space that those airlines do, so you should be able to book it by calling.

  32. I am trying to book RT flight using BA Avios between LIM -> CUZ on BA.com but CUZ doesn’t show up as the airport. Has anyone recently booked a RT flight between LIM and CUZ using the BA call center? I read that even call center is not able to book these flights using avios, so before I call and be put on a hold for about 45 – 60 minutes I wanted to find out if this is even a possibility now? Appreciate if you can help with this.

  33. @ Moiz — It’s just a website glitch. If you type “CUZCO” into the destination field it will return the correct results, and flights are then bookable online.

  34. Thank you Tiffany. YES !!! I was able to see several flight options between LIM and CUZCO. I also need to find out how to book from GYE to Galapagos. LAN flies from GYE to Baltra (GPS airport code) as well as San Cristobal (SCY). I tried various combinations of airport codes and name combination but it gives error and says no flights are operating. I did check the LAN time table and find several flights a day from GYE to Galapagos. Any help will be extremely appreciated.

  35. @Lucky, yes. Once I find availability on BA’s site can I call AA and try to ‘marry’ the two segments? Can I book a stopover on a one-way on an AA award?

  36. @ Dan Lee — Yes you would book by phone, and no, you can’t do stopovers of more than 24 hours on American awards.

  37. I keep seeing costs in the hundreds of dollars associated with all of my searches. I don’t have any miles (avios) but I have chase 1:1 points that I could transfer.

    I’m keeping it fairly basic, even houston-Heathrow round trip shows ~50000 avios + 600 dollars. What am I doing wrong, it says reward flights available in economy.

  38. @ Sean — If you’re flying British Airways then you’re being hit with their very high fuel surcharges. If you redeem on some of their partners then there aren’t fuel surcharges.

  39. I’m trying to book business class awards from Tokyo-ORD for next April. The BA site only shows Qatar, but the JAL website shows award availability. Will I still be able to book this using AA miles if I call AA?

  40. @ scott — Can’t hurt to call and try, as there are sometimes discrepancies in availability.

  41. Hi Ben
    Is BA blocking “intense” award search?
    Searched yesterday different routings from Switzerland to Asia via LHR/HEL/DOH/HKG etc. And after one hour or so, suddenly the BA award site blocked me out saying “too much traffic from your network” (I just typed the routings manually, no software or other sort of hacking 😉 ).
    Never happend to me before. Is it just me or is this a new thing to avoid people from finding a open award space?

  42. @lucky what’s the best way to find reward flights from London to a region (as opposed to individual airports)? For example, london to Caribbean.

    Thanks!

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