By Julian, author of Devil’s Advocate…
Greg has written before about the incredible value in British Airways awards, including them as one of his Big Wins. If you’re redeeming for short, direct flights, there aren’t too many better values than using British Airways Avios thanks to their distance-based redemption chart.
An added benefit of using Avios is the ability to book a number of oneworld partner awards online, including flights on American Airlines. If you’re like me, it’s a major perk to be able to avoid dealing with any sort of airline customer service agents, and British Airways agents in particular don’t have the best of reputations.
But on occasion, ba.com poses a bit of a challenge when trying to search for availability. Namely, it tends to only show the first 5-10 results. This can be a huge problem when you see availability exists on your partner airline but can’t get to it on ba.com.
Let’s say I’m looking for an evening flight from New York to Miami on American. That’s a route that would cost 12,500 miles one way using American miles but only 7,500 Avios. So we’d like to use Avios if at all possible.
First we search aa.com to see what flights have Saver availability. This is the key. If it has Saver availability on American, it’s bookable using Avios, regardless of what ba.com tells us.
That 7:30pm flight from Newark is perfect for our needs, so we head on over to ba.com to perform the same search. But lo and behold…
British Airways shows the same early inventory we saw on aa.com but nothing beyond the 1:55pm departure, and there’s no second page to these results. It capped out after roughly 10 flights. Booooo.
But here’s the good news. There’s two ways to solve this problem.
Solution #1 — Get specific about your airports
In this example, we started by searching for flights from New York to Miami and got results from all three New York airports. While that’s helpful in finding availability on aa.com, it causes trouble on ba.com because there are too many flights for the website to handle.
But now that we know we’re looking for a flight from Newark, we can cut down on these results by specifying Newark as our departing airport instead of New York generally.
By eliminating the flights from Kennedy and LaGuardia, we refine our results, and voila!
There it is. The 7:30pm flight (noted as 19:30 on ba.com) is available and costs exactly 7,500 Avios, just as we’re expecting. From here we can ticket as usual. #winning!
Undoubtedly you can already see this first solution is a bit limited. There are times we still won’t get all the results even when we restrict our airports, and in many cities there’s only one airport in the first place. So in those cases, it’s time for…
Solution #2 — Run the phone agent gauntlet
The phone agents can see all the available American space. But it means you’ll have to call in and face “The Beast.” That’s right, it’s time to… (grimace)… call British Airways.
Before you undertake this harrowing journey, you’ll need to prepare. Set aside at least 60 minutes worth of water and provisions. Put your affairs in order. Kiss your loved ones goodbye and remind them that while the going will be dangerous, the rewards at the end will be great.
Then call (800) 452-1201 between 7:30am and 10pm Eastern time and be prepared to wait. A lot. Your best bet is to put the call on speakerphone and proceed to some other task that is appropriately accompanied by endless hold music. Dancing is not recommended as overexhaustion is highly probable.
When a British Airways agent finally answers, stay polite even in the likely event that they are not. Explain that you are attempting to book a partner flight with Avios and give them the exact flight info, including flight numbers. If they ask you why you have flight numbers, you can tell them that you previously asked about this particular flight and wrote down the info. They should be able to find the space and book it for you.
Note that there is technically a $25 phone fee for booking the flight this way. However, in my experience I have had success in getting the agents to waive it by honestly telling them I attempted to book it online but could not get the flight. That may or may not work, but if you don’t want to run the phone gauntlet again, you’ll probably have to go with whatever decision the agent comes up with.
So if you’re booking partner flights with Avios and don’t see the flight you want online, don’t give up hope. Try one of these two solutions instead and get ready for the quest of a lifetime (or perhaps one that takes a lifetime).
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