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Award Redemption Are British Airways Avios generally useless? Should I be earning AA miles instead?

Discussion in 'questions. answers. conversations.' started by CLH, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. CLH

    CLH New Member

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    Hello,

    I have been reading this blog for the past few months and finding some great tips. It has really encouraged me to take advantage of credit card strategies to earn more points and miles, which has increased my FICO score as well (I didn't realize before that having more cards would help so much).

    Now I am writing out of frustration as I have failed to find a way to use my BA miles once again. The last time I was able to book a reward flight on BA was 2010 (first class LHR-SIN and paid over GBP 1000 per ticket in fuel surcharges). Since then, every time I have tried to book rewards flights, the system has shown no availability - this is regardless of whether I choose to book last minute, a few weeks or months in advance or an entire year in advance. Everything I've read says how valuable BA points are for short-haul travel but even then I've only seen availability for LON to Europe.

    I was hoping to use these to book business class tickets for my sister & soon-to-be brother-in-law for their honeymoon to Hawaii. There is plenty of availability on American, but the BA site shows none. I called BA and they said they are only given very limited access to a few reward seats on American. What is the point of the Oneworld alliance if I can't use BA miles to book on American? Should I be earning American miles instead? I foolishly just signed up for the BA Visa on the 100k promotion as well, so soon I'll have another 100k of miles I cannot use.

    What am I doing wrong here? Any advice is much appreciated.

    P.S. Now doubly frustrated as I have approximately 200,000 Membership Rewards points, plus 200,000 BA Avios and about 50,000 Chase UR points. Not enough MR points to buy first class on any other airline. My only option appears to be using 160k Membership Rewards points to book sister & BIL in economy on Delta. Just really bummed because I thought I had a lot of miles and I would be able to give them first class tix.
     
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  2. MidSouth Skier

    MidSouth Skier Well-Known Member

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    @CLH - welcome! It IS frustrating when you can't do what you'd hoped to do with your points & miles.

    First question - how far in advance are you booking? Do you mind sharing dates and your departure airport?

    Second - are you searching segment-by-segment or just from A-C when the flight is actually A-B-C? Sometimes the BA website can't piece together the best flights if they don't involve routing via London.
     
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  3. CLH

    CLH New Member

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    @MidSouthSkier - thank you for your speedy reply! I am trying to book DFW-LIH for next summer - exact dates July 20-30 (or 18-28 or 19-29). BA website ALWAYS tells me there is no availability for any dates around what I have selected (not just for this proposed trip but every time I search). I actually called BA directly because I thought there was a glitch in the system and surely there must be some availability somehow somewhere. But they said, nope, the website is correct and there is no availability because they can only access a couple of AA reward seats and the only way to get those seats is to watch BA.com constantly and book as soon as I see them appear. This just made me wonder about the potential to use Avios on any partner airline. I have NEVER been able to do it over the past 10+ years of BA travel. My previous rewards trips using BA miles has always been on BA-operated flights. So now I am wondering about my entire strategy and if I should switch airline loyalty to AA instead of BA. Is it easier to use AA to purchase BA instead of the other way around?

    I checked other airlines and found availability on United/American/Delta/Virgin, but I could see no way to piece together a first/biz class honeymoon trip for my sister & her fiancé. I have pretty much resigned myself to getting the Delta economy seats for them, but thought I might check here to see if there's something I'm overlooking. I feel like I must be doing something wrong in not being able to use 450k+ points to buy 2 tickets.
     
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  4. markreinoso

    markreinoso Member

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    I used to hate Avios, but now I love them. I use them almost exclusively for domestic short haul routes. I fly regularly from phx to SEA or PDX for 15k RT, even last minute. I love it.



    Lots of times you have to call up, sometimes the website gets wonky. Plus they dont advertise Alaska fares, you have to call up for that.
     
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  5. markreinoso

    markreinoso Member

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    you could always try an award booking service...those guys are geniuses....they figure out things that I could never even think of
     
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  6. MidSouth Skier

    MidSouth Skier Well-Known Member

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    The availability I'm seeing on the AA site includes flights on Alaska and Alaska is not a partner of BA. Even then I'm only seeing saver-level awards on Tuesdays and on a couple of Thursdays for the return flight.

    Have you tried looking at United availability? You could transfer MRs/URs to Singapore Airlines and use those on UA flights. I believe that what we call "first class" is coded as business class on Star Alliance flights and I think that means it's only 40K round-trip per person, if I'm reading the chart correctly.

    With that said, like @markreinoso said, this might be a prime example of the time to use an award booking service like Points Pros as they can set alerts and basically do the shopping for you.
     
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  7. CLH

    CLH New Member

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    Thank you @MidSouthSkier ! I saw previous United availability but didn't think I had a way to get enough United Miles. I will try to transfer to Singapore Air and see if I can use those miles for United flights. Great suggestion - I would never have come up with that myself. If this doesn't work, I'll take yours and @markreinoso 's suggestion to use a service for this.
     
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  8. MidSouth Skier

    MidSouth Skier Well-Known Member

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    Make sure I'm right about how many miles it will take BEFORE you transfer your points! (I was at work and doing this on the side so it's possible I didn't read the chart correctly.)
     
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  9. Gaurav

    Gaurav Well-Known Member

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    Good advice here but just want to add clarification on something, Alaska is a BA partner so if you see saver availability on Alaska you should be able to use Avios towards it.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
    No Name, MidSouth Skier and Tiffany like this.
  10. Tiffany

    Tiffany One Mile At A Time

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    Flights to Hawaii are really tough in summer, so that's the first challenge. However, you can absolutely use the AA site to search for space -- any saver availability, on American or Alaska, will be available to BA as well if you call.

    However, the recommendation to use Singapore miles is a good one, as you'll pay far too many Avios if you're redeeming for "First" class domestically. Aeroplan is also a good choice. Definitely don't redeem all those miles for Delta economy! You'd be better off buying a ticket in that case.
     
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  11. MidSouth Skier

    MidSouth Skier Well-Known Member

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  12. CLH

    CLH New Member

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    Hi - thanks everyone for the tips. I checked the United site and there were award flights available, but when I called Singapore, I encountered the same problem - they can't get any of those seats as United is holding them for their own members. This is the same thing BA told me when I called them - even though American has tons of availability, I cannot use my Avios to book on American because BA cannot access those seats. I assume that I would have the same issue trying to use Avios for Alaska flights. Singapore told me there was no more availability for any partner airlines on United flights 5 days before/after my selected dates - the only availability is for United MileagePlus members only.

    This is why I am wondering what the point of partnerships/alliances is - I have tons of points but cannot use any of them to book flights on partner airlines.

    I don't want to waste 180k MR points on booking Delta economy but it appears to be my only option.
     
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  13. No Name

    No Name Well-Known Member

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    @CLH

    Was it saver level space that you found on United? Since in general partners only have access to saver level space.
     
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  14. MidSouth Skier

    MidSouth Skier Well-Known Member

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    And if you have one of the United credit cards, were you logged in when you found the space? If so you may be seeing space that's only available to UA cardholders.

    Does the couple have their heart set on Hawaii or might they consider somewhere else? As Tiffany mentioned in her blog post, they picked one of the most difficult places to get with miles during the summer.
     
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  15. Gaurav

    Gaurav Well-Known Member

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    And at 180k, I would seriously look at a cash ticket or get an Alaska Air credit card and get the second ticket for 99+taxes.
     
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  16. CLH

    CLH New Member

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    Oh my goodness, I just got the daily email update from the blog and saw your post @Tiffany ! Thank you so much for all of that very detailed info - must be the nicest thing anyone has done for me online. I am going to look at some of the options you suggest (unfortunately their hearts are set on Hawaii) and see if I can piece together something other than economy. Just wanted to say that I saw your post and THANK YOU!
     
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  17. Gaurav

    Gaurav Well-Known Member

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    @CLH Trust us that we totally get your frustration--everyone here enjoys using miles and points to travel but it is also important to be realistic about what miles can do for you. They are a discounted currency issued by airlines to hopefully engender loyalty and give you access to seats that airlines would not normally sell. The space they provide is usually greatest when used on the issuing company and more restricted on partners. Space becomes even tighter during peak travel periods. So the "point" is that miles can be used to great effectiveness in some cases and are very hard to use in others. Just because hammers can't be used for surgeries doesn't mean that they are useless and have no point... that is not what hammers are designed for.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
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  18. Kiwi Ian

    Kiwi Ian Member

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    @Tiffany is the best! I recently booked a trip from east coast U.S. to New Zealand using mostly award miles, and would never have gotten it done without help from her plus @Gaurav and @MidSouth Skier. She spent a lot of time looking up flight suggestions and giving me recommendations which have gotten me business class flights most of the way for a family of three for (literally) a tenth of the cost of what I'd have had to spend to buy the tickets.
     
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  19. CLH

    CLH New Member

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    Just wanted to say thanks everyone for the suggestions - I have been unable to access the forum till just now (kept getting an error) but wrote this comment on Tiffany's wonderfully helpful post.

    Hi there - thank you to Tiffany for this wonderfully comprehensive post, and to everyone for chiming in with suggestions. I have gone through and checked each one but unfortunately I believe Tiffany is right that paying for a ticket is going to be a better value. I cannot find anyway to use my MR rewards (200k) or Avios (200k) to end up with 2 first class tickets from DFW-LIH.

    Because their hearts are set on Hawaii, choosing Bali or Greece will not work (though I'd personally agree to change the destination too!). So I think the best I can do is to offer them the Virgin America flights from SFO-OGG or HNL in first class. Or economy all the way on Delta for miles and pay cash to upgrade them to Comfort plus. I realize that is not a good use of miles but paying cash for the 2 economy tickets would cost around $2500-$3000, so using the 160-180k MR points to save them the money is worth it to me. Now that I am following this blog and using the credit card strategies, I think I'll earn back the points and miles soon enough.

    I have definitely learned a lot through this exercise, and I am hoping that following examples here will help me spend those BA miles in a useful way eventually.

    Thanks everyone!

    P.S. I am having similar problems accessing the forum - I keep getting the same message: "An unexpected database error occurred. Please try again later."
     
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  20. Gaurav

    Gaurav Well-Known Member

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    @CLH If you are buying cash tickets, consider getting an Arrival+ and Alaska card. The Alaska will provide you with a companion ticket for $99+taxes and the Arrival+ will help defray the total cost by $400. That might change the math for you in terms of using your valuable MR points.
     
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