Your Avios rewards points search is over, at least for information.
You’ve got the Avios, you’ve maybe even got the British Airways 2 for 1 Companion voucher from Chase or Amex, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got an actual seat on a plane. Often, that’s the hardest part.
Finding availability using British Airways Avios Points can be a doddle, or a nightmare, depending on where you look, when you look and how crafty you are with seeing when availability changes. Here’s the ultimate guide to finding seats using Avios, including a few very handy tricks of the trade…
You can use Avios, the points currency of both British Airways and Iberia, for flights on both airlines, and also on their partners. This includes airlines like: American, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Qantas, Qatar and more, all of which are ways you can spend Avios for flights.
The only catch to this is if you’re using a British Airways Amex or Chase 2 for 1 voucher earned from credit card rewards, you must fly on actual British Airways flights, not any operated or codeshared by others. With this huge network of airlines with which you can redeem your Avios, you can redeem your British Airways Avios points on flights in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.
Short flights in these regions start at just 7,500 Avios points one way, and can be a great way to save on flights that can be frustratingly expensive with cash, particularly the shortest ones! In other words, Avios can be great for pesky last minute flights, or expensive routes.
Some airlines, such as British Airways, guarantee at least two seats in business class, premium economy and economy will be made available on each and every flight. At this time, there’s no guarantee for first class availability using Avios on British Airways flights, and most other airlines have no such guarantee either.
When’s the best time to find Avios seat availability for flights?
Available seats using Avios Points generally works like a reverse bell curve. Just think of a bell upside down. The moment a British Airways flight is available for sale, there are usually seats at least two up for grabs where you can use Avios in each cabin except first. They typically go fast, to people like yourself who have done their homework.
But once those initial seats using Avios go, they often disappear for a long time, and then in the coming months, weeks and days before a flight, they reappear, if any seats are left. Basically, airlines want to fill the plane, so as dates start approaching, they are more likely to release seats on the flight using Avios.
Basically, don’t look once and give up if you don’t find any on your first pass – that’s the biggest mistake. Seats come and go all the time, so setting free alerts or checking back can be crucial to success with your Avios. Fortunately, there are now sites which let you do exactly that, and easily.
If you’re flying on actual British Airways or Iberia flights, you’ll enjoy peak and off peak calendars. Those dates can be found here, and they determine how many Avios you’ll need for your flights. Obviously, peak British Airways dates will require more Avios.
You’ll pay fewer points in all cabins on off peak dates when using Avios points on these airlines, such as 68,000 points for a first class ticket from London to New York, versus the standard 80,000. On all other airlines you’ll always pay the peak rate.
You really don’t need to worry about this on other airlines, because the price you see on British Airways is the price you get – and there’s no better or worse time if you’re booking a flight on one of these other airlines, like Qatar Airways, using your Avios.
Where To Search For Seats Using Avios
There are a variety of ways to search for Avios availability in any cabin, on any route and any plane, and for whatever reason, British Airways is typically the worst way to search!
The very best ways to search for the flights you desire and dates you desire is with Seat Spy, or Reward Flight Finder. You can even set alerts to let you know when and if availability for your points changes. Yes, using SeatSpy, you can search once, set an alert, and the brilliant app will notify you if any seats come back around. The apps offer free and paid options, so you can decide what’s right for you.
Both offer free tools which will show you an entire calendar year of availability using Avios in any cabin, with just one search, unlike BA’s website which only shows you a week of dates at a time, or a few at best. It can take absolutely forever searching for Avios seat availability on British Airways, so save yourself the hassle.
You can’t book seats using Avios or companion vouchers directly from these websites, but they save time in finding what you need, so that you can then go and book quickly on British Airways website, or over the phone with BA too.
You can find availability using your Avios for all the airlines mentioned above at British Airways website, by logging into your Executive Club account, clicking “Executive Club” in the top right corner, logging in, and then clicking “Book” and then “Book A Flight With Avios”. Here’s a shortcut.
Seats on other airlines will appear directly below the search results for British Airways own flights, so be sure to scroll down the page. Classic mistake – most people forget to scroll to the bottom of the page and miss tons of opportunity. Direct flights will appear before other options.
Certain destinations are always en vogue, and always nearly impossible to book using Avios, if you don’t think outside the box. If your home base is London, it can be worth searching from Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam and other nearby cities for long haul flights, and simply booking separate tickets to get to one of these cities.
For example, Helsinki often offers fantastic points availability using your Avios from your Executive Club on Japan Airlines and Finnair. It can be worth booking a cheap flight, or using points to book separate flights to a city like this to take advantage of open availability.
In entirely made up statistics, 90% of people who can’t find the seats they’re looking for simply haven’t set up seat alerts. Some people are just better at maximizing their British Airways Executive Club accounts than others! Someone who searches at noon on November 1st could forever miss out on seats released later that day or the next morning.
Rather than spend the entire working day refreshing availability, the best thing to do is set seat alerts, and there are two ways to do this. Once again, Redemption Finder and Seat Spy. These free tool allows you to set alerts and receive an email if any seats open up on British Airways flight only.
The other, slightly more robust tool: ExpertFlyer. This is a paid tool, but searches for seats more often and allows you to search on British Airways and also on partner airlines like Cathay, Qantas, American and so forth. You can set as many alerts as you like, for as many dates as you can swing and you’ll get emailed if your dream seats become available. That’s clutch!
One underrated benefit of using points is that change fees are minimal, especially compared to change fees associated with cash tickets. For this reason, it’s great to pinch seats as they come along, even if you can’t get two in the same cabin initially.
For example, if two people are hoping to fly to Tokyo and only one first class and one business class seat are made available, it can be worth booking the two. This gets both passengers on the same flight and for around $35, you’ll be able to move the other passenger up or down to the desired cabin if availability changes.
In these situations something is better than nothing, so it’s better to take what’s available and improve rather than wait for a perfect score. If nothing ever opens, you can always cancel.
You can upgrade flights booked directly with British Airways using Avios. Key word: booked with British Airways. If for example you book British Airways flights through American Airlines, you won’t be able to upgrade the flight using Avios Points.
Upgrades using Avios generally only make sense from Premium Economy to Club World, or Club World to First. This is due to minimal extra taxes and fees. Upgrades from economy to premium using Avios generally incur steep cash fees on the side, which takes away a lot of value. Upgrading Premium Economy to Business Class is one of the best ways to use Avios.
Earning More Avios
There’s at least 23 easy ways to earn Avios, many of which don’t even involve flying. Without a doubt, the fastest is via a lucrative welcome bonus from a rewards credit card. British Airways partners with Chase and American Express in the USA, and Amex in the UK to provide credit cards which can yield hundreds of thousands of points. Here are the best current offers for US cards…