Old Dec 31, 18, 5:59 pm
Moderator: British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Airlines, Airport Lounges
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: London, UK
Posts: 19,291

01 Introduction and overview

So you’ve collected a mountain of Avios Points, how do you spend them?

Well, being an airline, flights would be the logical thing, but you can also spend them on hotel stays or for car rentals or alternatively transfer them to another member if you wish.

Availability varies considerably and it can be a challenge pairing available seats with specific routes on specific dates. Even if you book 11 months in advance, you will often find that certain days of the week are permanently blocked for reward flights. In practice though reward seats often open up closer to the date of travel.

We strongly recommend redeeming for Club or First seats as this is by far the best way to get the best value for your miles. You should also ensure that you get a BA affiliated credit card as many card issuers will award you with a companion voucher after you crossed a certain sped threshold.

When spending Avios for flights, there are several options and we’ll cover each of those in turn.

It is worth beginning with a cautionary note. BAEC redemption tickets are calculated as a sum of the individual flights contained in your itinerary. So instead of the normal method of categorising destinations into geographical zones or bands, BAEC has adopted a tariff based on individual flight distances, where each zone is calculated relative to the real distance of each flight. Some may find it bewildering that a network carrier replaced what was an easily understood and widely accepted system of calculation with such a complicated one but BA makes the rules and the purpose of this thread is to help you understand them and maximise the value of your Avios points.

02 Redemption types

Executive Club members can now spend their Avios on a variety of puchases:

  • Standard flight redemptions
  • Multi-partner flight redemptions
  • Reward Flight Saver
  • Upgrade using Avios
  • Hotel redemptions
  • Car rental redemptions
  • Part payment on BA flights via ba.com
  • In-flight food and beverages (Euro Traveller)
  • Advanced seat allocations on BA flights
  • Excess baggage charges on BA flights

All flight redemptions are flexible, subject to availability, are valid for 12 months from the date of ticketing, and are pulled from specific inventory:

  • X class*: Economy
  • P class: Premium economy
  • U class: Business
  • Z class: First

* When X class seats have been depleted, Gold members are given access to V class inventory

With all redemptions tickets, you will be charged all applicable taxes. fees, and surcharges in addition to the Avios points used to fund the ticket. These extras do add up to a significant sum. When estimating the cash extras, the general rule of thumb is your Avios points are used in place of the equivalent net fare, and so the airport fees, government taxes, fuel surcharges are all assessed as extras and must be paid in cash when you book your redemption.
For example, it now costs over 650 in taxes/fees/charges to redeem Avios for a Club World round trip from London to New York, or over US$1,420 for a Club World round trip from New York to London.
The ITA Matrix Airfare Search (Matrix - ITA Software by Google) is an excellent online tool for estimating the amount of taxes, fees, and surcharges that apply to your chosen routing.

03 Travel planning

We'll begin with a few headline points covering the basics:

  • Redemption inventory usually opens up 355 days prior to departure. Officially, bookings can be made up to 24 hours before departure but in practice redemptions can be made very late in the game now - up to an hour before departure at LHR and often sub 30 minutes at smaller outstations. On routes where old fashioned paper tickets are still required (are there any left?), the latest you can book your redemption ticket is 10 days before departure.

    Note, Japanese domestic only redemptions on Japan Airlines cannot be booked more than two months in advance. When booking a domestic return, this applies to the date of the inbound flight.

  • Tickets can be issued to any name you request but you, the BAEC member retain control of the booking and must pay all the taxes, fees, and surcharges assessed against the ticket. So if you have booked a ticket for someone other than yourself to travel and that person wishes to make a change to the booking, you’ll need to contact your local BAEC service centre to request the change. In many cases, the change can be done online.

    Members belonging to a Household Account (HHA) may only use book redemptions for themselves and other members in their HHA.

  • Infants (aged less than 2 years) can travel with you, priced at 10% of the adult rate. In this case, the infant isn’t given a seat. If you need a seat for your infant, you can book one but at the full adult redemption rate. Children aged 2 and over are charged the full redemption rate (they do get a seat though!).

    Note, when travelling on LAN, infants are priced at the full redemption rate, and have their own seat.

  • Stop-overs are permitted and there is no charge for this

  • Tickets can be booked as either a one-way, an open jaw and/or a return. Presently, open jaw tickets (eg, where the inbound arrival city differs from the outbound departure city, or where the outbound departure city differs from the inbound arrival city) can only be booked via your local service centre. Since there is no online functionality, unless you are a Gold card holder, you should expect to be charged a booking fee for an open jaw redemption.

  • Redemption bookings are subject to availability and cannot be waitlisted.

  • Redemption tickets are subject to IATA fare construction rules. These rules only ever come into the equation with complex multi-sector bookings.

  • All redemption tickets are valid for 12 months so the final ticketed sector must be completed within 12 months of the ticket issue date.

Once you’ve figured out where you’re travelling to, who to take along with you, and when to go, the next task is to find available seats. Flexibility is the key. If you find seats on the flights you want on your first attempt, you are very fortunate. Pat yourself on your back. Usually, this part of the planning process involves a little lateral thinking and often quite a lot of time researching. What we know is BA will offer at least four economy class redemption seats on each flight plus two in Club. These stay "alive" and available until at least 40 days before travel unless snaffled up. Other seats can be added at any point (including First) and the best time to check for fresh availability is 00:30 UK time.

Having the right tools at your disposal is essential. BA.com is good at displaying flight availability but it is not quite perfect. Luckily, there are many other online tools that reach the parts BA.com cannot reach. BA.com struggles with multi sector requests. The easy way around this is to search flights individually and tick off your flights in turn. Searching for partner flights on ba.com can be patchy.

Tim Roger's excellent BA Redemption Finder is an invaluable resource which many members here use as their "go-to" tool for finding BA flight availability

  • For American airline flights, go the AA.com to search for availability. Remember though, only MilesAAver seats can be booked with Avios. You can still check availability on ba.com but the BAEC tool isn't very good with connections, particularly in the USA, so it may be required to search leg by leg and then call up to combine the desired flight itinerary into a single booking.

  • For oneworld carriers, we recommend Awardnexus. It is very clever, it’s free and is an incredible time saver.

  • For oneworld carriers including BA and its non-oneworld airline partners, we recommend Expert Flyer. It is a subscription service and as an online tool it offers universal functionality. It works, and what's more shows 6 days of up availability in one easy query. Expert Flyer is especially good for finding Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines seats.

  • Finally, and probably most important of all is BA.com’s award calculator. This will help you cut through the complexity determining individual sector distances. Without this information, you are not able to assess the exact number of Avios Points you need to book your flights. Karl L Swartz’s Great Circle Mapper tool is a great alternative and is particularly useful for calculated multiple sectors distances at one go.

Once you have constructed your itinerary, the next step is to contact your local service centre to place the booking. If your booking is relatively straight forward, book it online. This will save you the offline booking fee (15/€15/US$25). Gold card holders are exempt from the booking fee.

04 Ticket changes and cancellations

Redemption tickets are flexible and can be changed, subject to permitted rules. Generally speaking, standard redemption bookings including those booked with companion and/or Gold Upgrade for Two (GUF2) vouchers and oneworld partner bookings can be changed as follows:
Time and date: Yes
Class of travel: Yes
Routing: Yes, provided the change to the destination costs the same amount of Avios.
Note, any adjustments to taxes, fees, and charges originally paid at the time of booking will be collected (or refunded) when a change to the booking is made.

Changes are permitted up to 24 hours prior to the departure of the first flight sector on your ticket. There is a change fee (35.00/€42.50/US$55.00) plus an additional offline fee (15.00/€15.00/US$25.00) which applies when the change is made via your local BAEC service centre

Cancellations are also permitted. So long as you cancel your ticket no later than 24 hours prior to the departure of the first flight sector on your ticket, you will receive a full refund of Avios Points as well as the taxes, fees, and surcharges paid minus a nominal redeposit fee (35.00/€42.50/US$55.00). The additional offline fee also applies to redeposits.
Do you have to pay the 35 (or whatever) and then get a refund of the cash you originally paid?

The answer is that if the cash that you originally paid is less than the applicable cancellation fee, you simply forfeit the amount paid. You do not have to pay anything extra.
For the complete fee table, see BA Executive Club Service Fees. Note, there are no change fees for Gold Guest List and Premier card holders, who can do the changes online too for free in some cases, in other cases they need to call the relevant service centre/desk

Introduction | Standard reward flights | Multi-Partner reward flights | Reward Flight Saver | Avios & Money | Upgrading using Avios | Avios part payment | Using your companion vouchers | Additional Gold benefits | Hotel and car rental redemptions

Last edited by Prospero; Jun 2, 19 at 1:04 am
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