Old Aug 4, 07, 4:26 am
  #14  
Shuttle-Bored
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,910
Spending Miles

So you’ve got a great wodge of miles, how do you spend them?

Well, being an airline, flights would be the logical thing, but you can donate them to Unicef’s Change for Good programme, among other things.

Award tickets and MFU’s (Miles for Upgrade) on BA book into one of four fare buckets, X for Economy, P for WT+, U for Club, and Z for First. The amount of seats left in each bucket is only viewable to BA. It isn’t made public on GDS’s such as Amadeus and Sabre – you cannot search for them on ‘availability tools’ (like ExpertFlyer or KVS). To check availability, you can either call them and ask (they’re usually very obliging), or just check yourself on ba.com – this shows the same availability as BA can see themselves.

Availability varies considerably. To destinations such as the US and Canada, where there a lots of flights, you can generally get awards in all cabins on roughly the dates and flights you want. Unfortunately, especially to popular places, such as the Caribbean, India, South Africa, and South America availability is rubbish, or even non-existent – even more so for premium cabins. Even if you book 11 months in advance, you will often find that certain days of the week are permanently blocked for reward flights.

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 AmEx if you are UK based to benefit from the ‘2 for 1’ voucher each year.

If you only have a modest number of miles, the best value redemption is probably a 25,000 mile MFU from World Traveller Plus to Club World to North America (or another equivalent ‘zone’ at that redemption rate).

When spending miles for flights, there are several options.

Part Cash, Part Miles (PCPM)

Firstly, part cash, part miles. This isn’t actually a very good deal normally, as you can only do it for Economy tickets. It reduces the number of miles you need for an award by 25%. For example, if you need 12,000 miles for an award, this will reduce it to 9,000. PCPM are best avoided, except on the most expensive of shorthaul routes (e.g. DME – Moscow).

Miles Only Awards

Secondly, you can spend miles for “free” flights! BA break up the world into different zones. The cost depends on what zone you’re travelling to and from. To work out how many miles a flight will cost, go here:

http://www.britishairways.com/travel...r/public/en_gb

or this link will give you the table, and you can work it out for yourself:

http://www.britishairways.com/travel...e/public/en_gb

This will give you the “base mileage” i.e. the amount of miles needed for an Economy class award. If you want to travel in a premium cabin, simply multiply the “base mileage” by the following amounts:

Economy 1x
Traveller Plus 1.5x
Club 2x
First 3x

You can book award travel up to 24 hours before departure. Once booked, miles-only award tickets are flexible (i.e. to cancel/change) up to 24 hours before departure too. After departure they are totally non-changeable. Now this is a really silly rule, and it would be great if BA was to change it, but so far it hasn’t. The easiest way to avoid it is to book two one-way awards, unless you have an AmEx voucher to use.

The ability to change the dates or fully cancel your seat are, in the view of most people here, the ONLY acceptable reasons for using BA Miles to book a short-haul flight in Europe! In 2004 and 2005, BA ran ‘50% off sales’ for redemptions on its European routes which reduced the number of miles for a certain period. At these levels, they are worth considering - though this is the exception rather than then norm. Although it should be noted that if you are relatively 'miles rich' and 'time poor', you may find yourself with an AmEx 2-for-1 voucher which is about to expire...in which case, one of the longer Club Europe redemption for a long weekend somewhere nice may be better than letting it lapse totally!

Changes that require a re-issue of the ticket (changing destination, changing class, cancellations), cost £30 per person. Date-only changes (which only require a revalidation) are free.

Note that these “free” tickets will still be subject to departure taxes and surcharges, etc. so don’t be surprised to see your “free” First ticket still costs you GBP250 or so along with the miles. Yes, this is disappointing…but compared to the market value of the seat, still a very good deal (hence our advice to look to redeem for Club or First tickets only).

Miles For Upgrades (MFU)

A third way to spend miles for flights is to pay and upgrade (note this is different to PCPM in that you pay the entire base fare, then apply miles and it can be used in any class). This is usually referred to as a MFU (miles for upgrade). This can be an extremely good deal. Generally the best option will be to upgrade from WT+ to Club, but we’ll explain the process for any fare.

MFU’s can be from Economy to WT+; from WT+ to Club; and from Club to First.

You can only upgrade from Economy to WT+ if your ticket is a Y B H fare. You CANNOT upgrade from a cheapy economy fare to WT+, although you can upgrade from a cheap WT+ fare to Club World. Note that as confirmed by Lyndsay the ‘special’ fare sale seats – if you booked your WT+ (T class) or Club World (I class) fare under a special offer (normally indicated by a big red ‘D’ for Discount throughout Fare Explorer) – are eligible for MFU.

With complex bookings the eligible fare requirement applies to all sectors used to construct the underlying through ticket - Something to watch out for when purchasing long haul tickets originating from UK regional airports.

Another extremely important caveat is that you can only upgrade a ticket that has been purchased directly from BA. This applies to ba.com or over the ‘phone. If you are in North America, you can upgrade a ticket, but it must have been purchased from a “BA Preferred Travel Agent”. One North American Preferred Selling Agent (who so far will remain anonymous) confirms that currently (and valid for at least all of 2007), a PSA is always (subject to availability) able to upgrade ex-North American full J (J1US, J1CA, etc.) fares in to A class for the outbound leg (only). This is similar to the 'Buy J, fly F one way' promos BA often run but apparently a little known fact/permanent offer. You would, however, need to find yourself a PSA to take advantage of it…

Another improvement (since June 2007) is that one-way MFUs are now possible at any time for half the miles ^ (For posterity, previously you could only do this if only one segment had availability for the upgrade and the other didn’t – this could often require some lengthy discussion and quoting ‘AskBA 1056’ to the agent!)

The good thing about MFU’s is that you’ll earn Tier Points and miles for the fare you PURCHASED i.e. the paid fare you are upgrading from. This is about the only visible ‘difference’ in treatment between an MFU (or, in terms of entitlements rather than ‘earning’ anything, a full award ticket too) vs. a fully paid ticket for that class – you are entitled to all the benefits of a normal fare-paying passenger in the upgraded cabin (e.g. lounge access, relevant check-in desks, Spa treatments, etc. as applicable).

You can only upgrade one class at a time. The cost in miles for an MFU is the base (i.e. pure economy reward) mileage multiplied by a certain amount:

Euro Traveller to Club Europe x1.0
World Traveller to World Traveller Plus x0.5
World Traveller Plus to Club World x0.5
Club World to First x1.0

So for example, let’s say you want to book a flight from London to San Francisco, moving from World Traveller Plus to Club World. The basic fare is (say) £650 including taxes. Upgrading from World Traveller Plus to Club World will cost you 0.5 x the economy award seat mileage (so 0.5 x 50,000 = 25,000 miles). So for £650 + 25,000 miles, you get a seat in Club instead of World Traveller Plus.

When it comes to changing MFU’s it can get complicated. If you MFU from a restricted ticket, then those restrictions still apply. If you MFU from a full fare, unrestricted ticket, the base flexibility remains BUT to retain the MFU you must find award availability on the flight you change to. After departure, you will lose the miles (like for a normal award) if you make changes.

The Shareholders discount cannot be combined with an MFU and the MFU may be revoked/denied if you try it.

MFU’s can be extremely problematic when it comes to actually getting credit for the fare you paid – many here regard BA’s back-end systems as a disgrace in this respect! MFU’s are an oddity, as the system needs to track two fare classes, the one you paid for, and the one you booked into. The problem is, the fare class you book into, is the same as for award tickets. So the system can incorrectly log it as an award ticket, and it comes up on the statement as earning no points or miles.

For example, a normal MFU from WT+ to Club, should appear on your statement as J/T (i.e. you sat in J but paid for T). Most of the time, it comes up as J/U instead. To correct this, you need to speak to someone at the service centre. This can take anywhere from two weeks to months to credit. Some people have had tens of phone calls, and numerous faxes before it was sorted. What’s crazy is that it actually takes about five minutes for them to do. If you don’t get anywhere, a PM to the ever-helpful BA Executive Club will usually help ^ Luckily, however, in recent months BA has managed to dramatically increase the number of MFU’s which post correctly.

Additionally, seats must be available in the cabin you want to upgrade from (i.e. if WT+ is sold out and Club has award seats, you still won’t be able to make the booking), as well as the cabin you want to upgrade in to.

Gold (High Value) Upgrades for Two

At 2500 and again at 3500 Tier Points a (non-EU) Gold member earns one of these (so-called GUF2) upgrade vouchers (and if they hit 4500 Tier Points, they receive a ‘Silver Partner Card’ which can be given to anyone they nominate). For EU Gold members the threshold for the first voucher is 2000 Tier Points. There is no second voucher or Silver Partner Card as far as we know.

These are a nice perk, allowing the upgrade of the member and one person to the next cabin for a return trip on any BA flight number including franchise flights but excluding code-shares. Unlike an MFU, a Gold upgrade can be used on any revenue ticket (even deep discounted Y). Pre 1st July 2003, the upgrade booked into revenue fare classes (i.e. T, I, A) making them extremely easy to use. Post 1st July 2003, award-booking classes are used, with a consequent lack of availability. If you redeem your GUF2 on a booking made with BA, this is still the case. However, if you are booking through a Travel Agent they will still be able to use the easier-to-find revenue buckets (they do not have access to the award redemption buckets). You can find BA’s instructions to travel agents by clicking here.

Note: You can also use it for just one person if you really wish to. An ex-EU Club World ticket is typically seen as a very good value GUF2 redemption. A GUF2 applies to all legs on all flights and doesn’t have to start in your home country (e.g. you could in theory do something like JFK-LHR-SIN-SYD-BKK-LHR-JFK from paid CW to First if you wished!).

Expiry of BA Miles

BA Miles will expire if there is no activity on your account for 36 months (three years). If you're getting close to the end of three years, there are a lot of things you can do to extend the life of your account. You can buy miles, donate them to charity, order flowers, stay in a hotel, rent a car, or even take a flight! Anything that appears as an item on your statement will mean the account is active for another 36 months.

As noted in the other section, for Household Accounts, each account needs activity to keep its own miles alive (unless there’s at least one status member in the account). The easiest way to ensure this is a redemption (where miles are taken pro-rata from each account), or buying the minimum miles for EACH account – just buying miles for one account will NOT keep the whole household account active. However, as mentioned above, if one member of the Household Account is EC silver or higher, miles for other members of the Household will never expire, subject to status being maintained.

Partner Awards

You can also redeem miles on oneworld partners. You can even now do this online ^ First of all you need to search for the route you require as usual. After the search has been run (even if it turns up no results) you will be offered the option to search partners instead. This sounds cumbersome but works well enough and is designed this way to ensure BA options are exhausted first. To coincide with this genuine enhancement, Partner Awards have now got more flexible (they used to be totally non changeable, non refundable):

1. You can now change the date and time on partner bookings free of charge up to 24 hours before outbound departure
2. But you cannot change the route, i.e. you cannot change NYC-LAX with AA to NYC-SFO with AA
3. And you cannot change the airline, i.e. you cannot change from LHR-NRT with JL to LHR-NRT with BA
4. As will all redemptions (BA or partner) you cannot change the point of origin
5, You can now can cancel all partner redemption bookings and receive a full refund of your BA Miles, provided you cancel 24 hours in advance.

This link is a table on the BA website showing the mileage requirements:

http://www.britishairways.com/travel...e/public/en_gb

If you really have loads and loads of miles, you can redeem them for a oneworld award. This is an award based on the number of miles flown. The table that illustrates the number of miles needed is here:

http://www.britishairways.com/travel...o/public/en_gb

As with all awards, if you want to travel in business class, you need to multiply the miles you need by 2x, and if you want to travel in first, by 3x.

If you are looking to mix awards, here are some useful links. For redeeming on BA + one partner, see:

https://www.britishairways.com/trave...club/_gf/en_gb

For redeeming on one partner airline only:

https://www.britishairways.com/trave...club/_gf/en_gb

And finally the table for redeeming on two or more partner airlines:

https://www.britishairways.com/trave...club/_gf/en_gb

Spending Miles for Children and Infants

Infants (less than 2 years of age) travelling with a Member on a flight Award will travel for ten percent of the Mileage required for the Member's flight Award if they do not have their own seat. Children (2 years of age or older) and infants who require their own seat will be "charged" the full Mileage for the relevant destination. This also applies for MFU's too i.e. a MFU for an infant will only cost 10% of the miles.

Last edited by Shuttle-Bored; Jun 3, 08 at 4:53 am Reason: June 08 Update
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