How-to: Book US Airways Flights With British Airways Avios
Starting on March 31, 2014, US Airways officially joined the Oneworld Alliance as part of its merger with American Airlines. The biggest news and best part about this change is that you can now use British Airways Avios to book award flights on US Airways.
British Airways/Iberia Avios miles are [glossy term=”distance based awards”]: on the surface, it seems like you’re getting a bad deal on award redemptions. But, as with anything involving miles, it opens up possibilities to find great values on non-stop short distance flights.
Here’s the British Airways Avios award chart:
Benefits of Booking US Airways Flights With British Airways Avios
- Avios can often save you miles when booking– although it can make some awards cost more.
- You can do a “cash and points” option when booking Avios awards which will allow you to purchase Avios at a rate of appx 2 cents/mile at the time of booking. This can help you if you’re short on miles.
- Booking with Avios can help you avoid the US Airways “quick ticketing fee” of $75 when booking within 21 days of travel: “Making a reservation for travel less than 21 days from today will cost an additional $75 per ticket unless you’re logged in as a Dividend Miles member with Gold, Platinum or Chairman’s Preferred status.”
- You can also avoid the $25 US Airways “award processing fee.”
How to Book
- Go to USAirways.com: The British Airways award search feature is a pain to use; you’re much better off searching for the available seats on US Airways first and then keying in exactly what you want (and have already proven to be available) on the British Airways site.
- Select “Calendar – My travel dates are flexible”: Fill out the search form, making sure to select the calendar view at the bottom. This will help you hone in on available travel dates.
- Calendar View: The calendar view will allow you to see available dates. You will only be able to book awards at the “Low” level–“Medium” level awards will not be visible on British Airways for booking with Avios.
- (Optional) Switch to non-stop: Since Avios are distance based and will charge you per segment, I like to search for non-stop flights only. This requires knowing the US Airways hubs a little better, but will help you in the long run. For example, even by looking at the above calendar, it might have some flights that are from Charleston-CHS to Washington-DCA with a connection in Charlotte-CLT. While this is typically fine for traditional US Airways redemptions, it will make the award cost 2x the British Airways Avios points because you will be charged 4,500 Avios for the CHS-CLT segment and then 4,500 Avios CLT-DCA segment, each way.
- Select your flights and write down dates, times and flight numbers: Now we have a very concise list of all of the non-stop flights from CHS-DCA. Sounds like I’ll have 3 options: at 7:42am, 11:16am or 1:40pm. Also, any flights in the “First Low” column are bookable with Avios.
Here are my choices for the return flight:
- Head to BritishAirways.com: With a list of available flights, dates and times that are priced at the “Low” award level, it’s time to login to the BA website and begin searching. BritishAirways.com –> Executive Club –> Spending Avios:
Spending Avios –> Book flights with Avios
- Search for your flights: This brings you to the British Airways award search. Now, enter the exact cities and dates that you found on USAirways.com:
- Pick your flights: If you did a good job on picking the flights (properly picked only flights available at the “Low” award price), then you should see exactly the same thing. If you don’t see the flights you want, there could be a system error or someone could have booked the flight in the last few minutes. If you’re positive that your flight is available on the US Airways website at the “Low” award level, you can call the British Airways Executive Club and attempt to book over the phone. Here is what I am seeing after my search:
Success! My flights are available for the CHS-DCA leg.
And for the DCA-CHS leg! Now, I simply select the flight I want and review the pricing.
- Review pricing: After searching gcmap.com, I find that Charleston-CHS to Washington-DCA is 444 miles:
A quick reference of the British Airways Avios award chart tells me that a 444 mile flight falls into “Zone 1” and should price in at 4,500 Avios each way, per person:
Sure enough, it prices correctly at 4,500 Avios + $2.50 in taxes each way:
- Cash and Points Redemption? This next screen basically gives you the option of doing a “Cash and Points” style redemption by essentially purchasing Avios. For a 9,000 Avios award booking, BA will let you purchase up to 4,000 Avios. They will charge you an extra $80 for 4,000 Avios = essentially purchasing them for 2 cents/point. This actually isn’t a horrible proposition. I have never used the option but keep in mind that it’s an option in the future if you’re ever short on Avios.
- Pay and ticket: The next few screens are just passenger info and payment screens. When you’re finished, you will see your 6 character booking code– this is British Airways specific. Be on the look out for your confirmation email– this has the 13-digit eticket number that is to pull up your reservation on USAirways.com:
- Pick seats on USAirways.com: Head back to USAirways.com –> Travel Tools –> Manage Flights
- Input Ticket Number and travel date: Do not include the dash! Only the 13-digit Ticket Number. Ex: 1008500009836
Success! It found my reservation. Note: You might have to wait a few minutes to an hour for the BA system to sync with the USAirways system before your flight can be found.
- Pick seat and done!:
BOTTOM LINE: Being able to book US Airways flights with British Airways Avios has opened up some great possibilities. While some routes will cost you more miles/points, many routes are cheaper and you can avoid the US Airways Award booking fee of $25 and “quick ticketing fee” of $75 when traveling within 21 days of booking.