American Airlines Avios British Airways Using Miles

Using British Airways Avios to book American Airlines tickets

Sometimes British Airways Avios are your best American option
Sometimes British Airways Avios are your best American option

A friend asked me if I could do a post on using British Airways Avios for flying on American Airlines flights. It may seem counterintuitive, but there are times when you want to use one type of airline mile to fly on one of its alliance partners. In this case, British Airways and American are Oneworld partners, and you can save some miles by using BA Avios in the right instances. Here’s how:

Part I: Determining when to use Avios for American Airlines flights

The key to using Avios is to use them at the right times. There are two factors that make this tricky. The first is that British Airways charges fuel surcharges on a lot of their flights, making award redemptions lose a lot less valuable (because you still have to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket. The second is that Avios are distance based – so the amount of Avios needed to redeem an award ticket depend on the amount of miles you are traveling. You also need to add up the distances of every leg you use so it’s best to look for nonstop flights.

Avoiding fuel surcharges is easy: British Airways will not charge fuel surcharges on domestic American Airlines flights. So you want to redeem your Avios for domestic AA flights. To determine whether it is worth it to redeem Avios over AA miles (assuming you have a choice), you need to determine the distance you will travel on your trip. Peak American Airlines redemptions will run you 25,000 AA miles for a domestic roundtrip within the continental U.S., and 45,000 AA miles to go to Hawaii. So if your cost in Avios is less than those two numbers then Avios are a better deal.

To determine the distance of your flight, just load up gcmap.com. For example, to fly from LAX to LIH (Kauai in Hawaii), the distance for the flight one way is 2615 miles.

Just type in the airport codes separated by a dash to determine distance (gcmap.com)
Just type in the airport codes separated by a dash to determine distance (gcmap.com)

You then compare it to the Avios distance based chart below:

Avios distance based award chart
Avios distance based award chart

As you can see, a one way trip of 2615 miles costs 12,500 Avios in economy. That means the round trip to Hawaii would cost 25,000 Avios, which is 20,000 miles cheaper than it’d be if you used AA miles on the same flights! This represents great value and is a clear example of when you should use Avios. Unfortunately, first class would cost 75,000 Avios (British Airways takes the economy cost and multiples by 2 for business and by 3 for first). This does not represent a better value than AA miles, since on AA it would cost 75,000 AA miles in first, so it’s a push. This is unfortunate because flying to Hawaii is domestic first, which airlines generally tend to treat the same as business class, but British Airways is still considering it first. Still, since it’s a push you’re not losing value by redeeming for first to Hawaii using Avios; one could argue you are still coming out ahead since Avios are generally considered less valuable than AA miles.

Part II: Searching for Award Availability and Booking

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, it’s time to search for award availability. I actually recommend you go to AA’s website first even though you are ultimately going to redeem through britishairways.com. That’s because AA will show you a month’s worth of availability while British Airways only shows a week at a time. The nice thing is, you don’t even need to log in, just input your cities and dates on AA’s main page and check the “redeem miles” box.

AA will show you a calendar of availability
AA will show you a calendar of availability

You want to be looking for “MileSAAver” space, which just means click the box on the far left. October is actually off-peak time, so travel to Hawaii is a little cheaper using AA miles (35K roundtrip), but still more expensive than using Avios. Anyway, as you can see, there is no availability on the date I put in (Oct 8), but there is from 10/27 to 10/31 (I guess nobody goes to Hawaii for Halloween?). The return calendar, which I haven’t reproduced, said there is space from 11/2 to 11/7 coming home. Once you’ve chosen your dates, it’s time to load up the British Airways website to book your flights.

This part is pretty straightforward. Go to britishairways.com and then log in. Then go to “Spending Avios” under the “Executive Club” tab.

Click on "Spending Avios"
Click on “Spending Avios”

Then, click on “Book flights with Avios” and input the dates you found from aa.com, your class of service, and number of passengers. I searched an outbound of 10/27 and a return of 11/3 and got this:

Click on “Spending Avios”

Then, click on “Book flights with Avios” and input the dates you found from aa.com, your class of service, and number of passengers. I searched an outbound of 10/27 and a return of 11/3 and got this:

LAX-LIH outbound

LAX-LIH return

 

After you click through, you get to the cost page which looks like this:

LA to Kauai for 25,000 Avios  and $5.00 per person round trip!
LA to Kauai for 25,000 Avios and $5.00 per person round trip!

As you can see, the final cost is 25,000 Avios and $5.00 per person round trip. Compare this to the 35,000 AA miles you’d have to pay off-peak (like the dates I’ve chosen), or the 45,000 AA miles you’d have to pay on peak! After this page you just input your traveler information and credit card and then you’re good to go! British Airways will give you a confirmation code. After you get an e-ticket it’s a good idea to call American to confirm your flights and choose seats as well – sometimes there are mix-ups between partners though that’s rare with BA and AA.

Part III: Good Redemptions using Avios on American Airlines

I’ve already highlighted what I think is the best redemption using Avios – flying to Hawaii from the west coast on American. This basically works from any west coast city American flies to Hawaii – just input your airport code into wikipedia, click “Airlines and Destinations”, and see which airports American flies to in Hawaii from your home airport. Remember, you are looking for direct flights because every segment is going to add to your total distance (and Avios cost). You might be able to sneak in a hop to LAX from SFO or something like that, but make sure you use gcmap to calculate the total mileage (britishairways.com will do that for you too). Make sure you do all your calculations to make sure you are getting the best deal.

The other great redemption using Avios on AA is short hops on the east coast. If I wanted to fly from Boston to JFK, it’d cost me a couple hundred dollars for a revenue ticket, or the same 25,000 AA miles it’d cost me to fly all the way to LA! But if I throw BOS-JFK into gcmap.com:

Boston to JFK is only 187 miles each way
Boston to JFK is only 187 miles each way

Looking at the Avios distance chart, this will cost me 4500 Avios each way or 9000 Avios round trip. That’s a steal! Even if I found a cheap round trip flight for $150, I’d still be getting 1.67 cents per Avios. This can really help if you need a last minute flight for an emergency. And of course this doesn’t only work on the East Coast, you can do West Coast hops as well, again, use gcmap.com to determine your total distance.

Part IV: Earning Avios

In case you don’t have any Avios, they are actually pretty easy to earn so I’ll just touch on it shortly here. You could apply for Chase’s British Airways Visa – that will earn you 50,000 Avios (trip for two to Hawaii from the West Coast!) Currently they are waiving the annual fee for the first year.

You can also transfer to Avios from both the Membership Rewards program (AMEX Green, Gold, or Platinum) or the Ultimate Rewards program (Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Cards). That means if you have high balances in either program and need to top off your Avios balance, that’s always an option.

Final Thoughts

Avios can represent a great value and belong in any serious points enthusiasts portfolio. Even if you just have one redemption in mind, it is worth checking out your options with Avios because you might be able to get great value out of it. For example, I could apply for the Citi AA Visa right now and earn 40,000 AA miles which wouldn’t even get one person to Hawaii and back, or I could apply for the British Airways Visa and get 50,000 Avios which could get two people to Hawaii and back on the same flights. Hope this helps and happy travels!

 

Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Using British Airways Avios to book American Airlines tickets

    1. Hi-

      I think it depends on a lot of things. SPG points are generally considered more valuable than Avios, but value is also in the eye of the beholder. I definitely think AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are more ideal transfer partners, but if I had a ton of SPG points I would definitely consider that option as well.

  1. Hi…I have a question for you. I’ve been searching in the November and December time frame for flights from LAX to LIH as well as OGG. On AA web site there is a lot of availability for milesaver flights for several dates in those months but then when I log in to BA to search those same dates it doesn’t bring up any availability. Has something changed with the ability to book AA flights using British Avios? Thanks.

    1. Hi-

      I did a quick search. It looks like all the space on aa.com is Alaska Airlines space. Alaska is a partner of AA but not British Airways which is why you don’t see the space. So I think if you find an AA flight on AA, it should still show on britishairways.com. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Incidentally, if you have AA miles their off-peak award prices are a great value too.

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