Your Avios 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, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got an actual seat on a plane. 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. 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. The only catch to this is if you’re using a British Airways Amex or Chase 2 for 1 voucher, where you must fly on actual British Airways flights. With this huge network of airlines with which you can redeem your Avios Points, you can use them in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. Short flights in these regions start at just 4,500 Avios points one way, and can be a great way to save on flights while abroad.
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. There’s no guarantee for first class and most other airlines have no such guarantee. Whatever airline you’re searching on, available seats using Avios Points generally works like a reverse bell curve. The moment the flight is available for sale, there are usually seats, then they disappear for a long time, and then in the weeks and days before a flight, some reappear if any seats are left. 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.
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. 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.
Where To Search For Seats Using Avios
You can find availability using Avios for all the airlines mentioned above at British Airways. Login to your Executive Club account, click “Executive Club”, then “Spending Avios” and then “Book A Rewards Flight”. 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 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. 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. The first: BA Redemption Finder. This free tool allows you to set alerts and receive an email if any seats open up on British Airways flight only. The second and 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.