Redeeming British Airways Avios On Alaska Airlines

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For the longest time, Alaska Airlines was the strangest airline to me. I hadn’t actually flown them until 2012, when I status matched to MVP Gold after I moved from Tampa to Seattle.

When I moved to Seattle it was the start of the rainy season, and I’d often find any excuse I could to escape the depressing weather. I’m not the world’s best planner, so I’d rarely take advantage of any cheap advance purchase fares, but that didn’t mean I wanted to pay for expensive last minute tickets either. Alaska is relatively good about releasing award space even close to departure, which made weekend jaunts possible.

Alaska-737
Alaska 737-800

While British Airways is a member of the oneworld alliance, they do separately partner with Alaska Airlines, and their distanced based award chart leads to some especially lucrative award redemptions. The unfortunate part is that British Airways prices first class redemptions on Alaska at the first class award price, which is three times the cost of an equivalent economy award.

British Airways Executive Club is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so it’s pretty easy to rack up the points quickly:

Flexible CurrencyEarn Miles With
American Express Membership RewardsPremier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
American Express EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
Starwood Preferred GuestStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express
Chase Ultimate RewardsChase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Ink Plus® Business Credit Card
Citi ThankYouCiti Prestige® Card
Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

British Airways has a distanced-based redemption chart, which prices awards on a segment-by-segment basis:

Distance in Air MilesAvios Cost in EconomyAvios Cost in BusinessAvios Cost in First
1-6504,5009,00013,500
651-11517,50015,00022,500
1152-200010,00020,00030,000
2001-300012,50025,00037,500
3001-400020,00040,00060,000
4001-550025,00050,00075,000
5501-650030,00060,00090,000
6501-700035,00070,000105,000
7001-1000050,000100,000150,000

A great resource for figuring out flight distances is Great Circle Mapper, which I also use to make the route maps I include in my posts.

As an example, consider a flight between Seattle and Los Angeles. Alaska would charge 25,000 Mileage Plan miles for a round-trip saver award ticket between any domestic city pair, while British Airways would only charge 15,000 Avios.

Finding Award Space On Alaska Airlines 

British Airways is able to book both economy and first class awards on Alaska Airlines flights. There are three relatively straightforward methods to finding Alaska Airlines award space:

For the average traveler who doesn’t have an ExpertFlyer membership, award space can be found using either Alaska’s or American’s websites.

Keep in mind that Alaska Airlines has different tiers of award prices, and only the lowest award types can be booked by partner carriers. American and British Airways should have access to all the same space, since they’re both just pulling the saver level award space.

Make sure to look for nonstop or direct flights (two segments under one flight number), as you’re paying separately for each flight in the award.

Using alaskaair.com

On the homepage, simply enter flight details into the “Book a Trip” section of the website and make sure to check the “Use Miles” box.

Alaska-Airlines-Home-Page-Search
“Book a Trip” section of alaskaair.com’s homepage

You’ll be presented with options on the next page, but you’ll want to make sure you’re finding award availability that corresponds with their lowest tier of award prices. 

Alaksa-Airlines-Award-Flight-Search
alaskaair.com Award Results Page

As you can see, Alaska is actually quite generous with award space. All the flights on that day have saver award availability in both economy and first class.

For reference, here are the saver level prices you should be looking for when using alaskaair.com to search award space bookable with Avios:

Award TypeAlaska Airlines Saver Award Price
Continental U.S. & Canada – Coach12,500 miles
Continental U.S. & Canada – First Class25,000 miles
Intra-State – Coach7,500 miles
Intra-State – First Class15,000 miles
Hawaii – Coach20,000 miles
Hawaii – First Class40,000 miles
Mexico – Coach17,500 miles
Mexico – First Class32,500 miles

On the homepage of aa.com, simply enter in your flight details under the “Find Flights” tab. Make sure to check the “Redeem Miles” button.

Using aa.com

AA-homepage-award-search
aa.com homepage “Find Flights” tab

On the “Select Dates” page, make sure to check a “MileSAAver” tab, whether for economy or first class. American will only display partner award flights under the “MileSAAver” tabs on their site.

AA-Alaska-Airlines-Award-Space
aa.com AAdvantage award “Select Dates” page

From there, click “Continue,” to see award options. To make the search easier, you can uncheck any airlines other than Alaska on the left side of the results.

AA-Alaska-Airlines-Award-Results
aa.com AAdvantage award flight selection page

Alaska Airlines flights show up, which means these are definitely bookable with Avios. American displays Alaska awards with “AS” prefixed to the flight number.

Using ExpertFlyer

When searching with ExpertFlyer, you don’t even need to use the “Awards & Upgrade” search feature. You can search under regular “Flight Availability,” which is a bit faster. 

  • In the “Airlines” box, enter in AS, which is Alaska’s two letter IATA airline code.
  • In the “Only Show Class(es)” box, enter in A and W fare classes. “A” is Alaska’s first class award fare code, while “W” is Alaska’s economy award fare code.

ExpertFlyer-Award-Search-Alaska-Airlines

Expertflyer.com flight availability search page

In the results, you’ll see Alaska is releasing two first class award seats on each flight that day, and at least seven economy award seats. Amazing!

ExpertFlyer-Award-Results-Alaska-Airlines
Expertflyer.com flight availability results

Redeeming Avios on Alaska Airlines

British Airways doesn’t make the redemption process easy. You can’t book Alaska Airlines Avios redemptions online, you have to call the Executive Club call center.

I’ve written in the past about calling British Airways, and it’s never a fun experience. The hold times are insane, but a good work around is calling one of their foreign Executive Club offices. I recommend calling their Japan or Singapore offices, as I find the hold times to be much shorter (~5 minutes), and they are open in the evenings while the US number is not. Using Skype or Google Voice is a great way to make cheap international calls.

There’s a USD $25 fee for booking over the phone with an agent, but I’ve found that if you ask politely and explain that you can’t book Alaska Airlines redemptions over their website, agents are usually willing to waive this. Sometimes I get pushback, but if you ask for a supervisor, you’ll usually get around this.

Once you get ahold of an agent (if you can), be sure to provide them with the flights you found that had award space. If an agent tells you awards are unavailable, or they can’t find the flight you’re talking about, ask them to “scroll down” or look for a specific flight. I find that about half the time, I have to ask twice about the specific flight I’m looking to book. However, I’ve never had BA not see an award seat I’ve found using one of these search methods.

There are no fuel surcharges on Alaska Airlines flights, so you should just pay the ticket taxes that you’d pay if you booked directly through Alaska’s own Mileage Plan program. Government imposed ticket taxes total $5.60 for a one-way Seattle > Los Angeles award, and the fees should be identical when booking with Avios.

Keep in mind

  • Any changes or cancellations have a USD $55 fee per ticket, in addition to a USD $25 fee for changes over the phone. As this can’t be done online I’ve had good luck in getting this second fee waived.
  • All changes or cancellations must be made at least 24 hours before departure. This is especially frustrating because BA doesn’t operate a 24 hour call center in the US, and not all of their foreign call centers are open on the weekends. My rule of thumb is to leave at least two days before the flight if I want to make any changes.
  • British Airways doesn’t like to give you the Alaska Airlines confirmation number. They have it in their system, but I find that their agents quite often don’t want to look for it. I generally end up calling Alaska to secure the Alaska confirmation number and seat assignments.
  • You can still receive many elite status benefits from Alaska, American, and Delta. If you call Alaska, they’ll be able to update the frequent flyer number from your Executive Club account number to whatever you’d like. Keep in mind, you won’t receive redeemable or elite-qualifying miles or complimentary upgrades, but you’ll receive benefits like priority seating and free checked luggage as you would on paid tickets.
  • “Same Day Flight Changes”can be made in accordance with Alaska’s policiesThis is especially helpful when you need to make a change close-in on a route that has multiple frequencies. Award inventory isn’t required, and you can generally change to any open seat in your ticketed cabin.
  • You can purchase paid upgrades if “U” class is available. Alaska has a pretty affordable paid upgrade program, and sells upgrades at online check-in, kiosk check-in, or at the gate. Complimentary elite upgrades are processed first, but routes with few elites, like Oakland > Maui or a late evening Portland > Los Angeles have good paid upgrade chances. You can view upgrade inventory on ExpertFlyer, but if a seat in “U” is available at check-in, the option to upgrade to first class will be displayed. Just don’t count on getting upgrades on midcon or transcon flights.

Hawaii on Avios

I find these to be some of my favorite redemptions using Avios. West Coast to Hawaii awards are only 12,500 Avios one-way in economy. This is especially useful for West Coast flyers, as a round-trip ticket to Hawaii is only 25,000 Avios, whereas Alaska would charge 40,000 Mileage Plan miles for the same flights.

First class Avios redemptions to Hawaii cost 37,500 Avios one-way, which isn’t nearly as good a value, but is in line with what other major programs would charge. For comparison, Alaska would charge 40,000 Mileage Plan miles for a one-way first class award ticket.

Alaska has tons of flights to Hawaii, and award space is generally plentiful.

  • Award space is much better out of secondary cities like Oakland or San Diego
  • Seattle is usually pretty tough for awards to Hawaii, but Seattle to Honolulu has multiple flights a day which proves better for award space
  • If you’re based in the Seattle or Vancouver areas, don’t forget that Alaska flies out of Bellingham (BLI) to Honolulu and Maui seasonally

alaska-airlines-hawaii-route-network
Alaska’s Hawaiian Route Network

Taking a look at award space for this December, Seattle to Honolulu has decent economy award space for at least seven passengers on several flights. This is a great way to get your entire family to the islands right around Christmas.

Alaska-Award-Space-Seattle-Honolulu
Award Space from Seattle to Honolulu, December 2014

Alaska-Award-Space-Honolulu-Seattle
Award Space from Honolulu to Seattle, December 2014

Space can also be quite good at the last-minute. Last December I redeemed Avios for friends the day before departure for Seattle > Lihue with a return from Kona. Paid fares were well over $800 per person, so it pays to keep checking.

Bottom Line

In general I find there to be better uses of miles than for domestic award tickets, but British Airways Avios are the exception. Personally, I’ve found Avios great for when I’ve needed to get between Seattle and Vancouver to catch a first class award on Lufthansa from Vancouver to Munich. 😉

Considering Avios can also be used for travel on US Airways or American at the same redemption rates, BA’s award currency is actually very useful for US-based Executive Club members, and I’ve redeemed more Avios than any other currency in the past year.

Have you redeemed Avios for travel on Alaska? If so, on which routes?

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Comments

  1. Yes based on a tip from “Hack My Trip” at FTU Seattle we are flying STS (North Bay San Francisco)-SEA next weekend for 9k roundtrip……….too bad their companion ticket doesn’t work for award tix………..

  2. When cancelling an avios reservation (alaska airlines), do they charge you the full $55.00 per reservation or do you just forfeit the taxes? I’ve read somewhere that they only charge you taxes and fees. Unless they changed it the last few months.

  3. Any need to ‘pre-transfer’ UR points to Avios before calling? Or can you transfer while on the phone after the agent confirms the availability? I don’t normally keep any Avios in my BA account, but am looking to book an AS flight (shows availability @ the owest level on AS site) and don’t want to orphan the Avios if it isn’t ‘there’ for whatever reason on the BA side.

  4. @Dragon2, you just forefeit the tax/fees if less than the change fee, so it’s often cheaper to cancel and rebook.

  5. Are saver lavel partner flights (suchs as American and Delta) that are shown on Alaska Air website bookable via Avios or only Alaska Air coded flights bookable?

  6. I use Avios to fly up and down the West Coast all the time – but I have never once been successful in asking BA to waive the phone booking fee.

  7. Just used Avios to book PDX – YVR. 4,500 Avios each way can’t be beat! Staying at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.

    Forgot to ask them to waive the fee though! Called back and they said they would pass it on to a manager to see if it could be refunded. We will see.

  8. @cedahm. You can do while on the phone at least for ultimate rewards. Just did this and it was instantaneous.

  9. Great post! I love Alaska Airlines.

    For the Seattle-Vancouver flight, the availability and convenience is there, and certainly the 4,500 Avios are worth the cost of the flight. However, there are taxes tacked on the Seattle-Vancouver award due to Canada taxes which can increase the revenue cost. Personally, I’d recommend Bolt Bus from Seattle-Vancouver. It’s around 4 hours (which could be similar to airport time + flight time for someone without TSA pre-check or priority check-in), has WIFI, and is pretty inexpensive.

  10. @ jedijood — British Airways doesn’t partner with Delta, so you couldn’t redeem Avios for them. You can redeem Avios for travel on American, however.

  11. Hi Ben,

    From SEA to SFO/SJC, how much would it cost one-way in term of miles? 4500 or 7500 Avios?

    The distance between 2 cities (SEA-SFO or SEA-SJC) is a little bit over 650 miles. I am not sure how their agents would price that on their computers. Thanks

  12. @Mr N…….if you were willing to fly into Sonoma County (STS)…..north of San Francisco in the heart of the wine country it would be 4,500 OW…..

  13. Hi Ben, When I searched LAS-SFO, BA’s web didn’t show any availability while pretty many seats are displayed for reward flights on LAS-LAX and LAX-SFO. If I book them separately it would cost 4.5k *2; is it possible to talk to an agent over the phone and pay 4.5k for LAS-LAX-SFO?
    Thanks

  14. Ben, you are amazing brother… called up Singapore Office directly, didn’t even bother to call up USA Tel#(well it might be closed.. well who knows.didn’t even bother) . got a very friendly agent within 2 minutes of dialing up and redeemed 9000 points on Alaska Airlines heading to SJC-SLC, SLC-SFO around holiday season .. as a courtesy they waived the $25 booking fee after putting me on a brief hold to talk to their supervisor.

  15. Lucky

    If you have booked a ticket with avios are you able to change the FF # to Alaska mileage plan number? I read of Scott from Hack my trip doing this, but am being told by an agent they cant change the FF# at all.

    Thanks

  16. Lucky

    Went through 2 separate supervisors and and a manager (just got off the phone after 45 minutes) and was told this is a big no no.

  17. @ brit44 — So hang up and call again. I’d never request a supervisor over this, because it will only get your record notated due to a misinformed agent.

  18. Brilliant tip, thank you! Got an Alaskan economy flight from LAS->SEA for 7,500 Avios plus $5 tax and they waived the booking fee without me having to even ask.

  19. Hi Lucky,

    I’ve got a fair amount of BA Avios and have been quite successful in using them on AA awards and BA upgrades. Going forward, I’d like to credit miles on my BA revenue flights to Alaska’s Mileage Plan (I’m sure you can guess why, ;)). My question is – if I did that, can I still use my Avios to upgrade (WTP->CW). If so, would I be able to do that on BA.com (as I have been doing)?

    On a separate note, I’m not able to login to your site. I tried creating an account sometime back and never received the confirmation email. Not able to reset password either (since I never get a “reset password” email even after requesting one).

    Thanks,
    Arun.

  20. @ Arun — You should be able to, though the easier way would just be to put your BA number on the booking, and then on day of departure/at the airport have them add in your Alaska number instead. That should do the trick. As far as the “Ask Lucky” site goes, do you mind sending me an email so we can investigate? Sorry about that!

  21. Has anyone found the BA reps to say nothing is available and when pressed they then state that the availability seen on alaskaair.com differs from what BA can offer? Just wondering if its worth another try or if this is indeed the case.

  22. Does this have to be done by booking ONLY the lowest tier of Alaska Airlines Rewards?
    Also has anyone encountered the BA Rep saying they can find no availability and when pressed they state that the results on Alaska’s site is different form the seats made available to them.

  23. I’m based in South Africa and strangely enough, Avios are relatively easy to accumulate here. I’m thinking is redeeming them on AS to fly from JNB to HKG and then to the U.S.

    Using Avios to fly through London has ridiculous tax costs.

    Do you have any suggestions Lucky?

  24. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for the post. I’m wondering, I see a range of points costs depending on the date on the AA website for BLI to Hon. For example, some dates are 17.5K points, and others 22.5K. Does this mean redeeming BA avios points for those dates will also be more? I thought it would be a standard 12.5k points for this distance. Thanks!

  25. Thanks for all the great advice & comments. Found a timeshare week in Hawaii I wanted, found 2 seats on flights from Portland, OR for 12,500 each way on Alaska using BA AVIOS. Was almost 11 pm, so used Skype to call Singapore BA center, short wait, very helpful agent. Gave him my flights, he confirmed, I put timeshare trade on hold, transferred Ultimate rewards and confirmed flights and timeshare. Asked nicely about waiving the $25 fee for each booking since I can’t book Alaska flights online; agent checked with supervisor and came back and said they would waive fee, Skype call cost about 50 cents. Appreciate all the great tips. BA agents I have talked to have all been very helpful and friendly!

  26. I am being told by BA that just because I see the “lowest available” they cant book it as it needs to be a “W” class. I hung up and called back and got same reply. Does anyone know if anything has changed w/ regards to booking AA using Avios?

  27. I’m getting the same response from BA that sdtraveler did. It’s showing that there are “lowest available” seats but BA is telling me there are no availabilities for Avios. Anyone have an idea of what’s changed?

  28. I am recently having the same problem with BA phone agents. Trying to book a simple one-way intra-California flight and the space shows up on both AA.com/AlaskaAir.com at the correct level. On Alaska’s site it even shows as a “W” fare. Yet 3 different agents today say they cannot find availability. Anyone know why?

  29. I transferred 75,000 miles from my Chase Reserve Preferred account over to the British Airways Executive Club, expecting to be able to use the Avios miles to get to Lihue, Kauai. However, after the one and a half hour wait to speak with a representative, I was told there were NO dates I could use Avios in June on Alaska Airlines. She tried different dates but was unable to find any availability. Is there anything I can do?

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