Don’t Make This Mistake When Using BA’s Award Search Tool

One of the best websites for searching oneworld award space is the British Airways award search tool.


While American’s website is my preferred way to search oneworld award space (given that it’s easy to use and displays a month of availability at a time), the limitation is that American’s website only shows award space on select oneworld airlines. For example, American’s website doesn’t show award space on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, etc.


With that in mind, British Airways’ website is the most comprehensive, as it shows award space for all oneworld airlines. It is a bit clunky to use, though, as you can only search availability one day at a time.

Anyway, reader JamesYVR asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” forum:

It appears that the award booking part of the BA executive club has been broken for the last few days. It is stuck at the whether there is stopover part in a loop. Is this your experience?

This is going to sound outrageously obvious to some, but it stumped me close to a dozen times last week, which perhaps shows what a creature of habit I am. And I suspect it was the same issue the above reader had.

What was I doing wrong?

As always, I went to the award search tool and entered the route I wanted to book.


But then I got to the next page, where I got an error message. I didn’t even bother reading the error message, since I assumed it was the usual “there was a system error” message. I know that’s totally ridiculous, but BA’s website glitches out so often that I’ve become accustomed to it, and assumed that any red font must say that.


It wasn’t until I tried it several more times that I realized what happened. British Airways has changed the default on the award search page from one passenger to zero passengers. So now you have to manually select one passenger before you can execute a search.


I know this sounds obvious when you see the above, but if you’re a creature of habit like I am, it’s easy to get “trapped” by this stuff. And I suspect the above reader was facing the same issue.

So, to make me feel better, does anyone want to fess up to having made the above mistake multiple times before realizing what was going on? Or was it only me?

Hopefully that’s also the problem JamesYVR was facing!


  1. I also faced the same “problem”. I ended up checking Flyertalk to see what was happening, lol

    So I guess I’m also a creature of habit. 🙂

  2. I’ve been through the same issue but my error message just said “system error” or something so I didn’t know about this until I read this on Flyertalk. This is such a silly issue that BA should fix. I mean, why not just make it auto mark 1 passenger just like everyone else?

  3. Hey Lucky,
    Thanks for the tip! Also, CX has not been releasing hardly any award space the past month from the US to Hong Kong, even a day before when Expertflyer shows there are multiple seats. Getting worried that they have started blocking American Awards. Any thoughts?

  4. HI Ben,

    Indeed this was the problem! I will file this under RTFM (in this case M= Message)! 🙂



  5. Made the same mistake about 3-4 times last week before finally realizing what happened! (And then another few times before I had trained my brain to remember to change it)

  6. Why does no one mention the Quantas search tool? It’s almost as easy to use as AA and I think covers the whole Oneworld and Emirates…and possibly a few others.

  7. I hate it. Horrible usability. You have to spend hours on it to master all of its quirks, and even then it times you out, switches date formats on you, doesn’t default to the previously selected items in select boxes when you ask to modify your search. And then there are the frequent system errors…

  8. Yeah had the same problem. But i read the error message and quickly figured this out…
    Really you do want to read carefully…

  9. I had the same issue! However, it seems to me that BA’s default setting should be 1 adult. How likely is it that one would be searching on behalf of children or infants ONLY? Almost, but not quite, as frustrating as Delta setting both the outbound and return date calendars from today’s date — as in, how could I return any sooner than I departed?

  10. @Kirby: I would have thought the reason for the “0” default was obvious.

    When a company makes a web process less convenient, it’s usually to reduce costs in a call centre. People didn’t notice the “number of passengers” field when booking, then consumed call centre time changing a booking. BA lost money paying the call centre for this “unnecessary” call. From BA’s perspective this is a “problem” and the inconvenience we’re all cursing today is not a “problem”.

    BA is obsessed with call centre costs, which is why they are the queueingest queue in the world.

  11. @YYZgayguy “…which is why they are the queueingest queue in the world.” Awesome line! I may have to quote you on that one!

  12. @mspswede: Thank you for your kind words! The BA queue is a big irritant for me. I’ve actually given up on a planned booking (using a different carrier and getting less value) purely because of the goddamned queue. If there’s one appalling business lie in today’s culture it’s when companies say they’re “experiencing” lots of calls. It was clever to adopt this word at first but I’m sickened by how people still fall for it.

    Call centres are essentially evil at their core. So it follow logically that we’re better people, morally and spiritually, in inverse relation to the number of minutes we spend connected to one, over a lifetime.

    When I was EXP on AA my calls were answered without delay by very confidence-inspiring voices, whose greetings had fewer than four syllables. It was utter bliss and I rank that specific benefit very highly among all the perks I enjoyed during that brief sunlit era of peace and pleasure.

  13. @YYZgayguy – I disagree. I think making a change such as this ADDS to the burden of the call centers.

    How many people do you think saw that error, called BA only to be told it was a simple mistake on their part, then hung up and continued to make the booking themselves thereby using the call center as nothing more than tech support while at the same time depriving BA of $30 revenue to make the booking and consumed the agent’s time? Here’s my guess: a LOT!

    I’ll bet if you could see their call stats since they implemented the change, you’d see a spike in calls without the correlating large increase in revenue over the same period.

  14. What an example of appalling web design and really poor user experience! Funnily enough to me it’s consisent though with BA’s overall experience (hospital style bathrooms in their lounges and all)!

  15. I do like the month view of AA’s search but am frustrated by the limited number of airlines. I do have a couple of questions about using BA or Quantas searches to find availability for all OneWorld flights. If it shows available there is it available for AAdvantage customers too? Can I use that tool to book using AAdvantage miles or do I just use the information when I call AA customer service?

  16. This happened to me today after searching for a round trip to Hawaii. I got an error message to “try later”

  17. I made this mistake for a few days. It was utterly bizarre to me that a search engine would default to zero passengers. I think it’s the only one I’ve ever seen that has. So, yeah, it was an issue I got tripped up on too.

  18. I have a feeling the ‘zero passenger’ glitch was done on purpose to discourage award redemptions.

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