According to this thread on FlyerTalk, British Airways has made some enhancements to their Avios booking functionality on BA.com. I normally cringe when I hear the word “enhancement” associated with a frequent flyer program, but this is actually good news!
Back in December I wrote up British Airways improving their online award search functionality. Once a frustrating experience with multiple unnecessary clicks, BA.com could now display oneworld partner availability immediately and allow you to hop around to different dates on the calendar. That may seem like a laughably obvious tweak, but it was a time saver, especially when helping clients at our Award Booking Service.
What are the newest improvements? How does one search ba.com now?
Now, British Airways has made even more marginal improvements to online searches. The tool displays multiple classes of service for each query. You will no longer have to hunt and peck separately for business and first class award space. They are all displayed on the same screen. As an example, I pulled up flights from Chicago to Tokyo in December. The results were a sight for sore eyes!
This simple matrix gives a much clearer understanding of award availability. Both oneworld members American and JAL show all cabins of award space on one screen. Previously, you would have to run a separate search for economy, business, and first class seats. If no first class seats were available, BA.com would display the next highest cabin of service. This is just a simpler solution.
Royal Jordanian is another oneworld carrier whose award space displays better with the new tool. Below is a sample date from Vienna to Amman.
This improvement is just as handy when looking for Cathay Pacific award space, another oneworld partner. Cathay has a great business class product and a fantastic first class experience. The new functionality can much more easily give you the landscape of availability on each Cathay flight. For example, I pulled up San Francisco to Hong Kong in June. (Cathay is normally reliable about releasing premium cabin award seats 330 days from departure.)
You can now see how many business seats and first class seats are remaining on this flight. This change may seem minor, but it’s extremely beneficial, especially when putting together a complicated Explorer Award using AAdvantage miles.
Are there any other changes to the site?
Very minor ones. A “Change Flights” and “Back” button now appear on the fare quote page. This isn’t earth shattering, but they do make searches quicker. You now no longer have to click “Start Again” whenever you need to make a different selection.
Can I just type in my city pairs and expect results to display properly?
No, the British Airways tool isn’t perfect by any means. Searching segment by segment is paramount in constructing an award itinerary. If you live in San Diego and want to reach Hong Kong, search for Cathay Pacific award space from Los Angeles or San Francisco first. Then search for how to get to San Francisco or Los Angeles from San Diego.
Does the BA.com online tool display non-oneworld partners such as Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines?
No. To find and book Aer Lingus space with British Airways Avios, you will need to call their award reservations line. To find space on Alaska Airlines, use the AA.com award search and then call British Airways to book with Avios.
Unfortunately this improvement is all cosmetic and did not make more partners searchable or bookable online.
What about the Qantas search tool, is that still useful for finding oneworld space?
Qantas’ tool is less valuable given these recent changes to BA.com. Scott wrote a fantastic post on when it is appropriate to search American’s website, Qantas’ website, or BA.com. Make sure to check out Free First Class Next Month: Using qantas.com to Redeem American Airlines Miles.
I have been shying away from using Qantas in favor of British Airways search tool for multiple reasons:
- Qantas’s tool doesn’t recognize all cities. Amman isn’t a city in the drop-down search box, so good luck trying to find Royal Jordanian space.
- Qantas partners with non-oneworld member Emirates and displays Emirates award availability on certain routes. This space isn’t bookable with Avios or AAdvantage miles, only Qantas miles. You may search New York to Hong Kong on Qantas and see calendar dates with availability. When you click through, it will show routing via Dubai on Emirates.
- Qantas gives its own members better access to award space on Qantas-operated flights. If you want to book an Avios ticket on Qantas, use BA.com.
The British Airways Avios booking tool on BA.com used to be a clunky mess. They added weekly calendar searches back in December and eliminated some wasted clicks. This latest improvement displays up to three cabin classes of award availability along with a few minor bells and whistles.
Increased functionality should always be celebrated when it comes to searching online for award space. Some airlines (looking at you Delta) still haven’t grasped that concept.
For step-by-step instructions on searching ba.com, see today’s beginners’ post on the subject.