According to this thread on FlyerTalk, British Airways has tweaked the functionality of their website for the better. Searching for award tickets, especially on oneworld partner airlines, is quite a bit easier now. I had to see for myself, so I tried out a few dummy bookings.
Scott has actually written up a helpful post on this for newbie travelers. To read his step by step, check out Free First Class Next Month: Using BA.com for oneworld Awards. Using BA.com to search for partner awards can be really useful. As we have mentioned before, Avios are great for short haul domestic awards on American Airlines. Expensive short haul flights within South America, South Africa and Australia are another great use for Avios. For more reading, check out Scott’s post, How Much Are Avios Worth? The Value of British Airways Avios.
In this post, I want to show you some sample partner bookings and how the award search process has vastly changed for the better on BA.com, though the improvements aren’t necessarily that obvious at first.
The first thing you need to do is to log in to your British Airways Executive Club account on BA.com. British Airways won’t let you search for award space if you aren’t logged in.
After logging in, you are taken to your Executive Club account summary page. There are a host of options here, but you want to burn some of your hard earned Avios on partner awards. Click “Spending Avios.”
You will then be taken to a spending Avios page. Click “Book flights with Avios” to be taken to the actual award search page and booking tool.
I wanted to show you a simple domestic search, so I plugged in an award that I am contemplating. Baltimore’s dreary weather in January is downright depressing. I would rather be relaxing on Miami Beach and strolling down Collins Avenue.
Let’s enter Baltimore <-> Miami as our city pairs and some random January dates.
Previously, this search would have yielded an error message that said “British Airways does not fly all or part of this route.” You then had the option of searching another route or including oneworld partners in the search. We know that British Airways doesn’t serve Baltimore to Miami directly, so this error message was an annoying and unnecessary step in the search process. Now, the message has been eliminated. Availability on American Airlines pops right up!
There are several other changes to the partner award search. Now the logo of the partner airline is clearly displayed (it was previously only shown as text). That’s just a cosmetic tweak, but it still helps when trying to book a specific carrier.
The real improvement is in how you search for dates with availability. As you can see at the top of screenshot above, you can now hop around by date or jump to a different week. That’s a huge benefit, especially when availability is scarce and you are flexible in your travel days.
I happened to luck out. There was space from Washington-Reagan to Miami on the days I wanted. I selected the best flight times and was taken to the booking page for payment.
Avios award chart is distance based. Flights under 650 miles cost a mere 4,500 Avios. Flights 651-1151 miles cost 7,500 Avios. No other program can match those redemptions for low mileage cost. This award would be 25,000 miles if booked using American Airlines miles!
Are there any other partners you can search for using BA.com?
Absolutely! Japan Airlines, or JAL, is another oneworld partner that displays availability on BA.com. To test out the improved award search functionality, I plugged in a route that JAL serves directly: Boston <-> Tokyo-Narita in January.
With the old BA.com award search tool, you would have to first check British Airways routings (always via their hub at London-Heathrow). Only then could you include partners like JAL. Now, partner award space is included along with British Airways flights.
Cathay Pacific is another oneworld carrier that is easily searchable using BA.com’s booking tool. I was pulled up Cathay’s Chicago <-> Hong Kong direct flight in October. My initial dates weren’t available, but I could hop around days quickly using BA.com’s improved functionality.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, intra-South America flights are another solid use of your Avios. I plugged in Buenos Aires, Argentina <-> Lima, Peru. This route is served by oneworld partner LAN Airlines. I tried a sample date in October of next year.
Instead of immediately being told their was no availability on British Airways, I was immediately shown several great nonstop options on LAN.
At the booking page, I only had to pay 20,000 Avios + $103 in taxes/fees for the itinerary. A cursory check on Kayak showed nonstop itineraries for $545 and up! By booking using Avios, I would be redeeming them for 1.85 cents in value according to the Mile Value Calculator (545, 103, 20000, 3910). Flights within South America can be surprisingly expensive. Avios are one great method to hop around the continent.
British Airways’s Avios offer great redemptive value for shorthaul domestic flights as well as flights within South America, Australia, and South Africa. Unfortunately, searching for oneworld award availability on the site used to be an exercise in frustration.
You were initially forced to search British Airways availability before including partners in your query. Now, partner itineraries display along with British Airways flights. You can also jump around by day or week.
These are simple changes, but as I outlined above, the booking process is smoother and it is now a little bit easier to spend your Avios on otherwise very expensive short haul flights.
Avios aren’t the best currency for long haul flights from North America to Asia, but using BA.com is still a great method to search for Cathay Pacific and JAL award space, even if you plan on booking the flights with AAdvantage miles.