First Hand Experience Using Avios for American Airlines Flights

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Until this week, it had been a little while since I personally flew on an American Airlines flight that was booked using British Airways Avios.  I have heard plenty of anecdotal and second-hand information about how the process worked (and have booked plenty for family members), but none of that is exactly the same as doing it yourself.  If you are brand new to the concept of booking flights on British Airways’ partner American Airlines using Avios, then I recommend starting with this post for the basics.

Getting Avios:

I racked up a ton of Avios on previous transfer bonuses from Amex Membership Rewards to British Airways and from getting co-branded British Airways card from Chase.  I got it when the sign-up bonus was 100k (which is no longer available).  Hopefully we will see transfer bonuses and/or the 100k offer again one day, but if you want some Avios now the easiest way is to  apply for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card.  Right now there is a $0 introductory annual fee the first year ($95 thereafter), and most importantly it awards 50,000 bonus Avios after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  I could book 6 one-way trips from Houston to Chicago for 50k points and still have a few points leftover.

Searching for AA availability using Avios:

In case you don’t have time for reading the linked post above on actually using Avios, the short version is that British Airways Avios availability for American flights should match up with the MileSAAver availability that American displays on their own website.  This does not mean that all options on AA can be booked on BA since, for example, Hawaiian partners with AA but not BA.  The British Airways computer system is not always 100% cooperative, so the easiest way to check for Avios availability for an American Airlines flight is via the American Airlines website.  Search for a reward flight there just as you would if you were planning to use American Airlines miles.  Once you find American operated flights at the MilesSAAver level you can head to the British Airways site and theoretically book using Avios.  There are some glitches sometimes in the process, so read the above linked post for tips.  In my case the availability lined up perfectly with what American was displaying.

Since I booked my flight they have also improved the functionality of the BA site to display both economy and first class seats at the same time.  A first class seat would cost 3x what a coach seat costs, so I didn’t want that option, but it is handy to have it all displayed on one screen.

Avios Availability Mommy Points

Example of BA booking with economy and first options displayed

Booking my ticket on Avios:

I followed the process outlined above and found availability on an American Airlines flight that was operating non-stop from Houston to Chicago.  The tickets were selling for something crazy like $400+ each, but they were just 7,500 Avios each.  It was basically a killer summer-time travel deal.  Even though I wasn’t 100% sure of my plans when I booked, I wasn’t stressed since one of the “hidden” potential perks of bookings using Avios is virtually free cancellations.  I would have just lost the $2.50 in taxes for each ticket if I had to cancel and redeposit the miles more than 24 hours before the flight.  You can read about that and other hidden benefits here.

Adding Your AAdvantage Number to the Booking to Use AA Benefits:

I don’t have any status with American, so didn’t bother with this step, but if you have some elite status or other benefits with American, you will want to do as Points Summary recommends and erase your BA number and add your AA number at the time of booking.  It can be done later, but it will take an agent’s help to get it done after the booking is made.

Selecting my American Airlines seats:

Once you book your ticket, I highly recommend being proactive to select your American Airlines seats, and this is exactly what we did.  After I booked, I went to checkmytrip.com to get my AA confirmation number using my BA confirmation number that was provided when I finished the booking process.  I then took my AA confirmation number to American’s website and selected two seats together without an additional charge.  I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be proactive about this step if you want seats together with your traveling companion(s)!

Enjoy Priority AAccess:

Another “hidden” perk of using Avios to fly American is that you get to enjoy Priority AAccess on your American flights.  This means that you get to use the Priority/Elite security screening lane and you get early boarding.  The elite security line can save you a massive amount of time at some airports and early boarding can help ensure you find a spot to place your carry-on bag.  It may also help you wiggle your way to a better seat at the airport, as it did for Milevalue.

Our tickets indeed gave us Priority AAccess as it was printed on our boarding passes.  This meant we breezed through the security line and were able to board pretty early on in the boarding process…all just for booking with Avios!

Overall Impressions:

The process of booking with British Airways for an American flight was really pretty simple, as was the process of actually flying the ticket.  I don’t fly on American very often, but the service was just fine.  The plane was a regional jet, so pretty tight quarters, but we made it with just a slight delay and at a heck of a bargain considering the going cost of airfare for my dates of travel.

Avios aren’t great for all situations, but they can be insanely useful when redeemed for short flights on partners Alaska or American Airlines, and my experience was certainly positive enough that I would do it again!

What have your recent experiences been like when redeeming Avios for American flights?

 

Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a card using one of my affiliate links.   As always, thanks for your support!

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  1. My wife and son have received invitations for 100,000 amex business platinum sign up bonuses approximatley every 30 days for at least the last six months. The terms vary slightly from month to month but are generally $450 fee, not waived, $2,000 – 3,000 spend within 3 months. The current offer came this week and is 2,000 spend in 3 months.

    As we live in the Chicago area there are tons of AA nonstop flights. However, if your travel days are not flexible, using avios from ORD is hit or miss. Sometimes I can only get one way of a round trip, sometimes neither way. However, my 100K plus the initial spend (mine was 10,000 in 3 months) sign up bonus turned into 140,000 Avios. I have saved over 1,200 in airfare, and received 400 in travel credits, plus tons of lounge access. All for a 450 fee. I still have 112,000 Avios and 7,000 Amex points left.

  2. Word of warning.

    Always make sure that you get a ticket number before the flight.

    It is very frequently the case that BA is not ticketing Avios bookings for US flights because the field data for the US Government’s (In)Secure Flight nonsense has not being completed. This means a call to BA will often be need so that BA can enter in the passengers’ sex and birthdate. Thereafter the ticket is issued.

    I have booked well over a hundred BA point bookings online for AA flights in recent months — thank you 4,500 mile bookings and massively easy ways for us to rack up a huge number of BA points — and a huge proportion require manual intervention before the ticket is issued.

    Plenty of people are showing up at airports without tickets because they assume payment being made and a confirmation email is a sign they are good to go. They aren’t good to go until ticketed, and to get ticketed for AA flights requires the (In)Secure Flight fields to be filled in by BA.

  3. Pardon a few typos in the above post.

    By the way, a frequent upside of using BA Avios bookings for AA flights: Priority Access and free checked baggage allowance for non-elite status customers in Y.

  4. @MP. Thanks again for posting more info on using Avios on AA as this is one possible venture for us in the future.

    Clarification on what you status on this posting: “This does not mean that all options on AA can be booked on BA since, for example, Hawaiian partners with AA but not BA. – See more at: http://mommypoints.boardingarea.com/#sthash.irjmtBAE.dpuf

    On another posting (a month ago?), I believe on AA partners (like Alaska, and I assume the same goes for HA), you mentioned using Avios was possible, but needed a call to AA themselves. Would you please clarify whether Avios can or cannot be used on AA partners (like Alaska and HA).

    Thanks alot : )

    • Winger, it all depends who is a BA partner. In the case you mention, Alaska is but Hawaiian is not. You can book Alaska though it will require a call to BA to book. You can’t do Hawaiian even with a call as they are not a BA partner. Hope that helps!

  5. I believe the bug with BA bookings and birthday is fixed. I booked a flight last night and it showed up on AA as ticketed. Last week when I booked a different flight, I had to call BA to get birthday added.

  6. Definitely get your AA number added to the ticket if you are AA Elite. I’m a million miler and was told my multiple agents on BNA-DFW that I had to pay for bags, even a manager. I showed them my 1M card, Citi AA card (which also has this benefit), etc..etc… and they were being ridiculous about it. I was NOT going to pay for a bag, so kept fighting them on this. Eventually manager finally switched the number to AA and it worked.
    ~
    Save yourself the hassle and switch it!

  7. Paul,

    It has been inconsistent for some time, but even as of bookings on Tuesday of this week I had to call in. If it is now permanently fixed since then, great news.

    John,

    Beyond that which you mentioned, shopping-related promos (with or mostly without BA/Chase credit cards) and some conversion schemes have worked well for us; BA has also been very generous with some of us in throwing miles our way as a goodwill gesture for various service failures of theirs.

  8. David, wish they would send me a 100k offer! I agree it is hit or miss, but if you have some flexibility and/or some advance notice it can be pretty decent availability in general. Enjoy your Avios!
    GUWonder, yuck! That has never happened with the ones I booked, but I’ve only booked a dozen or so, not over a hundred. Thanks for the warning!
    John, I have also done some shopping promos, but most of mine have been either via the BA card or during a transfer bonus from MR.
    Curtis, indeed. Glad it worked for you in the end!

  9. You do not need an agent to change your FF# after booking. Just go to the Finnair.com website, and use the “My Booking” button. Input your booking # and last name, and you’re able to go in and change the FF program number.

  10. It’s pretty misleading to state that the one way ticket is $400 when you could buy a roundtrip for under $200 and not have to leave at 6am!

  11. Any idea when we may be able to use AVIOS to book on US AIR flights that will combine with AA ? There are current USA AIR flights and routes from my home city I would love to be able to use BA AVIOS points on. Currently have very limited options with AA from my home city

  12. We successfully flew HNL-LAX on AA using BA Avios. We changed to our AA# on finnair.com as stated above as I had read about it on FT. We got all you mentioned above: Free checked bags, priority access and priority boarding. Our family of four would not have been able to take this trip to Hawaii this summer if it wasn’t for all I learned from you and others on how to use Avios to travel for so few miles from West Coast to Hawaii. I am sooo grateful! I transferred my AmEx MRs to BA to get the Avios in the first place. I had just successfully booked all of this when the recent 75K offer came out — I was one desperate woman to try and get approved for that offer so that we could turn around and do it all again! LOL! I can’t tell you how happy I am that we have these points in our pocket to head back to Hawaii next summer also. THANK YOU!!!!!

  13. BA is a Chase card so best used for bank account opening deposit funding (also affectionately known as “bank recapitalization”) —

    “besides the credit card and actually flying, what are the massively easy ways to rack up BA points?”

  14. If you lose the taxes when you cancel a BA award, does this also apply on a FC TA award with a BA companion pass? And does that apply to the fuel surcharges as well? If so, that could mean losing over $2000 for a couple on a cancelled R/T award.

    By the way, I loved the video the other day. I think one of the keys to a good video tour is having that rum punch in hand while filming. 🙂

  15. Jonathan/Cogswell,that was not my date, that was just a screen shot I took yesterday to show the display of coach and first at the same time. My date has passed (was Sunday night) and was indeed $400 each way. I could send you my receipt for the return flight I bought, but that seems a little excessive. 😉

    If the ticket were $200-ish RT you can bet I would have just bought it, but sadly it was nowhere close to that for close-in summer travel. Sorry the screen shot was confusing – it was “for display purposes only”. 😉

  16. Robert, the formal policy is a $40 fee, so if the fess you are paying are over that, I’m pretty sure I would just go the traditional route and pay the $40. Glad to hear you liked the video. That is a new world for us, and the “rum punches” sure did help. 😉

  17. Jonathan, always good to know what the return is that you are getting for points. In this case I came out way ahead. 😉

  18. Avios can be extremely valuable for locations where the fares never go on sale. I currently live near Killeen, Texas, and GRK-DFW fares tend to be high, even though it’s a relatively short flight.

  19. @ Jonathan – While I see your point, sometimes you aren’t looking for a RT, like for my HNL-LAX flight in OCT. I just need OW and prices are outrageous, so Avios is a good alternative

  20. Aarash, if you need a one way, it sometimes makes sense to book a round trip (or open jaw with a cheap return fare) and not use the return. Just don’t tell the AA revenue police. 🙁

    • MM, just the normal $2.50 for domestic flights. Just don’t use them to fly AA to Europe or similar. Just them to fly AA in US, Canada, Caribbean, etc. and you are golden.

  21. A great value for Avios is from Miami to Puerto Rico. Since this flight is considered business class, it is only double points for business class instead of triple, so it is only 15,000 points each way for business class or 7,500 points each way for coach. Also, the past couple of times I’ve flown this route on the 757, it has been in the new business class seats.

  22. How soon did you go to checkmytrip to get your AA Reference number? I’m on there now, and I have an e-ticket number, and BA Ref #, but no AA ref #. I went to checkmytrip immediately after completing the reservation on ba.com.
    Thanks!!

  23. Nevermind. Either it just showed up or I missed it the first (second, third. etc. ) time. For anyone reading this thread with the same problem, it is under “view details” within the section on each flight. 🙂

  24. Quick question – I’ve booked many economy tickets directly off BA website for flying on AA and it priced miles correctly. Yesterday I was searching for AA first saver, found it on AA.com for 50K miles RT. But BA.com is showing the exact same flight but pricing it at 100K for RT. (SEA-LGA). Any ideas? calling BA would take care of it?

    • Jay, BA and AA price awards totally differently. Sometimes BA will be less and sometimes AA will be less. In this case, BA is much more due to two reasons. 1. They are distance based, so since SEA – LGA is a pretty long distance it is going to be in a higher price bracket. Also, they charge 3x for 1st over economy (business in a 3 cabin plane would be 2x). So you are being hit for the longer flight, then charged 3x for wanting it in first.

  25. Thank you, that makes sense. I guess only flights from LAX to NY area are 3 cabin in AA or maybe from SFO too. (for west coast). Oh well.. just need to burn UA or Alaska miles then.

  26. I have an upcoming trip on AA purchased with Avios miles. I don’t have status with either AA or BA so was going to leave the BA frequent flyer number on it so I’d get Priority Access (which is still better than the Priority Boarding I’d get via my AA credit card). But I just got Global Entry so really want to take advantage of TSA Pre-Check and wondering if I’d be able to do that if my mobile boarding pass is thru the BA app. I did go into the rez and enter my KTN, but the rez doesn’t show up in my AA app and I know it won’t unless I change the ff #. Anyone have experience with this? If I use the BA app for my mobile boarding pass, will my TSA pre-check show up? Or do I need to use the AA app? I know there could be worse problems than having to decide between Priority Access and TSA Pre-Check.

  27. @girlycheckin
    This is probably too late for your upcoming flight, but you will be using the AA mobile app for your flight regardless of which FF# you put in. You should use Check My Trip to find your AA booking number. BA will not issue tickets through its app for AA flight numbers, even if you booked with Avios. So you should have PreCheck if you enter your known traveller number on your AA booking.

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