People have different opinions when it comes to booking award tickets with frequent flyer miles. I, for one, love booking award tickets and enjoy the challenge that comes with doing so. Booking award tickets are like puzzles to me and I love solving them. Other people hate booking award tickets, consider them too much of a hassle, or even go so far as to believing their frequent flyer miles are completely worthless. I’ve decided to put a guide together for those of you who fall in between – people who want to book award tickets themselves but feel like they need some pointers. This guide will assume some basic knowledge, namely, that you know how to log in to your frequent flyer account and check your mileage balance. Other than that, the guide is here to help you through the process – hope you find it useful! Feel free to refer to the index at the bottom of the page for other entries.
In my last entry in this series I talked about how to search for Oneworld award space on aa.com. Unfortunately, the American Airlines website doesn’t show all of its partners’ award space. I use ba.com for any searches not involving American, Air Berlin, British Airways, Finnair, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, or US Airways. The aa.com search engine is superior, so if you’re looking for British Airways space it’s actually better to look there. One of the quirks of award booking.
Searching for Oneworld award space on ba.com is pretty straightforward, it’s just clunky. For starters, you need a British Airways account so if you don’t have one sign up here. After logging in, you want to navigate the menus from Executive Club => Spending Avios => Book Flights with Avios.
After that, input your origin and destination, and search! Personally, I almost always restrict my searches to one ways to make things easier for myself. If the engine asks you whether you want to book a stopover just say no.
The results you get are annoying because you have to click every time you want to look for space on a different day, but at the very least they are pretty accurate.
I’m sure I’m not blowing anyone’s mind for how to search for award space here, but here are some things I’ve learned that you may or may not know – I find them pretty useful.
1. I almost always search for one adult ONLY
Why? If you take a look at the image above, that was a search for one adult. British Airways has a nice feature of telling you exactly how many seats are still available – even if there are more than you asked for. But if I had searched for three seats in this particular search, it would have just come up “Not Available”.
Obviously this is useless if you are searching for three people, but say you wanted to fly a family of four and didn’t mind splitting into First and Business. If you see 2 seats available in each class, you know you can fly your family – something you wouldn’t have known if you had searched for four people. It’d be even easier than solving the Wolf and Ferry puzzle!
2. You rarely see itineraries longer than two legs
You may have been wondering why I always search one ways. The reality is British Airways rarely (if ever, I can’t remember an instance) displays itineraries longer than two legs. But three leg itineraries are legal in almost every circumstance so you’re losing out if you just limit yourself to what British Airways shows you.
British Airways also will often not show you mixed cabin itineraries – so if you have a transatlantic leg in business and can connect to a short one hour intra Europe leg in economy you won’t see it on British Airways’ website.
Searching for your award segment by segment using one way searches solves this problem. It makes an already tedious search engine even more difficult but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. If you don’t have the time to search yourself you can always hire someone to do it for you (or me!).
3. It’s generally best to search for first class
When you search for first class, the British Airways website will generally show you availability in all classes below that. So I start my searches with first class. Of course, this backfires sometimes, for some reason there are times when the website won’t show economy as available when it actually is if you start by searching for first. So if I’m searching specifically for economy I’ll just search for that. Like I said, the British Airways website isn’t ideal – but I find searching for first class limits headaches more often than not in my personal searches.
4. When changing dates, the calendar is wonky
If you’ve started a search and want to change dates, when you click on the pop up calendar, the date will type in as the European system instead of the American one (i.e., DD/MM/YY). This will cause the British Airways website to search for space on the wrong date or more often than not, a date that doesn’t exist. To circumvent this I just type in the date myself. It’s just a little thing that can save you some time if you’re using the website heavily for searches.
Hopefully this post has helped make the British Airways award search tool a little less painful. Remember, I’d recommend only using the website for partners American doesn’t cover. No need to bang your head against a wall when AA has a perfectly good search engine – if they picked up all Oneworld carriers I’d just say goodbye to ba.com forever. I’ll update this with any more tips I think of if necessary. In the meantime, happy booking and as always feel free to shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment if you have a question, I’m happy to help! And remember, just because you’re searching for award space on ba.com doesn’t mean you need to book it there.