This is the first in a new series where I take a common question I get from my travel coaching members and answer it with an explanatory how-to video. Also, I included a transcript below if you’d prefer to read instead of watch.
Video: How to Book American Airlines, US Airways and Alaska Airlines flights with British Airways Miles
I talk a lot about how much value you can get using British Airways miles in the US on American Airlines, US Airways and Alaska Airlines, so there are naturally a lot of questions on the exact process to do this.
This video walks you through exactly how I would go about searching for and booking a flight on American Airlines, US Airways or Alaska Airlines (see Note below on booking Alaska Airlines) using British Airways Avios often for only 9,000 or 15,000 Avios points for a round-trip flight.
I know how complicated this can seem when you first learn about it, but the payoff is huge for this travel rewards ‘sweet spot,’ so here’s the video walking you through exactly how to do this:
Hi, this is Brad Barrett from RichmondSavers.com. This is the first of a new feature that I am doing where we take questions from the audience and record an explanatory video and talk through the concepts you can actually see it in real life.
I know a lot of this with travel rewards can be kind of overwhelming and when you hear about all the random details, but I am going to try to break it down as simply as possible.
So today’s video, this is going to be about how you book American Airlines flights and US Airways flights and actually Alaska Airlines as well using British Airways miles. Now, I have talked a lot about this on the site how you can get just an incredible amount of value by actually using British Airways miles within the US and the Americas.
It sounds a little odd at first glance but just really quickly it is when you have miles, the mile currency that you have, in this case British Airways, that’s the award chart that you use. So the British Airways award chart is actually based on distance, so actual geographic distance. There are some sweet spots if you can find the right areas that fit into the chart.
The other interesting thing is that British Airways miles are very, very easy to come by. So, you can get them from the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers, Amex Membership Rewards transfers, they really are quite easy to come by. So this is really a very important lesson now for sure.
The first thing that we need to know is how to find out what those award charts look like? We’ll actually go to RichmondSavers.com/British and this will show you, I have this little chart here okay. The ones that we want to focus on are these top two. So if you can find these are one way flights (one way in distance).
So, if you can find a flight that’s under 650 miles one way (in distance), it only costs 4,500 miles to fly that one way flight, so only 9,000 miles round trip. That’s compared to 25,000 miles if you had let’s say American Airlines miles. So you’re going to be flying on an American Airlines airplane just like normal.
If you had American miles, it would be 25,000 but just by virtue of knowing this one little trick it’s only going to cost you 9,000 Avios. So, another sweet spot here is between 651 and 1,151 is only 7,500 Avios. So 15,000 Avios round trip is dramatically better than the 25,000 American miles.
And there are other instances where you can save even more than that. We actually went to Bermuda if you see our article over here. We went to Bermuda last year and it fit into the sweet spot. We were flying from New York and only cost 15,000 British Airways miles round trip instead of the full 35,000 it would have cost if we had American miles, so a big savings. That’s just to give you a sense of what the chart looks like. So really the two best sweet spots are these first two categories here.
So, how do you figure out if you have any flights at your airport that would fly on American, US Air or Alaska Airlines? Those are all partners of British Airways. So the easiest way is to actually go to the Wikipedia page for your local airport. I just called up the Richmond Airport Wiki and I’ll click here and then every one of these airport Wikipedia page list has the airlines and destinations. Now Richmond is kind of an outpost, we don’t have that many flights, but many airports certainly if you live near a hub for any of these airlines, Miami, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Dallas, a number of other ones, you can find hundreds of flights. So this can be really remarkable for you.
But we’ll just take a quick look at American (American Eagle counts), so we have Dallas, Chicago, Miami, New York, all the hubs here and then US Air flies to Charlotte and Philly.
In this instance what appeals to me… so now you have to figure out before I get into what appeals to me which is actually the New York flight because we have family there. But what you need to figure out is the actual distance.
So what we do is and I am sorry to have so many steps here, this is just really trying to explain it as fully as possible. So, there is a nice website called the Great Circle Mapper. It’s just gcmap.com or you can just Google, “Great Circle Mapper.”
What it does is, it allows you to put in the airports that you’re going from and to and it shows you the distance in miles. So, let’s just for argument sake we’ll do Richmond and I just know these codes but you can find them on the Wikipedia page as well.
We’ll do Richmond to LaGuardia, we’ll do Richmond to Dallas, and Richmond to Miami. How about one more, we will do Charlotte too. So, if you’re just doing one, you don’t have to put the commas in or anything like that, but we’ll just hit search and we’ll scroll down here. Now it gives you the amounts here, the actual distance. So we are looking for under 650.
So to LaGuardia is only 292, so that fits into that 4,500 Avios one way. Charlotte’s only 257, so that’s in there. Miami, it looks like is in the next tier, because that was from 651 to 1150. So that would be 7,500 miles one way.
And unfortunately, it looks like DFW does not fit in there. It is just over. So this is an instance where if this was 10 miles shorter in actual distance, it would have cost fewer (Avios) miles to fly. It’s a case where you win some, you lose some in this instance. Whereas we get amazing deals to Charlotte, LaGuardia and a pretty good one to Miami. Dallas just is right outside there.
Anyway, we know now that a flight to New York from Richmond instead of costing 25,000 American miles will cost only 9,000 British Airways miles because again it fits into that lowest category.
How do you find availability? Now, the easiest way is to actually go to American Airlines’ website. That is just AA.com. Couldn’t be easier to find. So, you go to aa.com.
The reason why you go to American Airlines’ site is it’s a lot more user friendly than British Air, so we actually just look for the availability here at American’s website. We’re not booking it here, we’re just trying to find the availability. You can technically do this at British Airways but it’s just a lot less user friendly. So you really want to try, try to go aa.com. From their main home page, you just scroll down a little ways, and you have the regular search box. Most important, we click Redeem Miles.
Then we’ll do from Richmond to LaGuardia and I was saying before, we’re actually from.. I know we’re the RichmondSavers.com, but we are from New York, so we fly up there pretty often to see family. So this is really a huge savings for us. So, Richmond to LaGuardia and let’s say we’re going during my kids spring break so we’ll say, I don’t know, April 16th to April 20th.
Let’s see what availability there is, I’ll just do one traveler for now but you can always drop down. Certainly if you’re doing more than that you would want to search here. But if you wouldn’t want to find availability, get all excited about it and see that it’s only one seat. But just for purposes of this video we’ll do that.
So, click search. Then it just has to think for a little bit. One important thing to know is that the distance chart is based really on direct flights. So it’s segment-by-segment is the way that it prices out. I always want to look for non-stop flights only. That way I am certain that I am getting what I am looking for. Click non-stop.
You always want the economy MileSAAver ticket. That’s the key here. If it’s not, if it’s economy anytime or business first anytime, you’ll not be able to use your British Airways miles. So it needs to be the MileSAAver. It could be business or first if you wanted to pay more but it has to be MileSAAver.
So, you see here, this is 12,500 miles for one way which is the 25,000 miles round trip like we mentioned before for the full round-trip using American Airlines miles, but again this is just to find the availability.
So, you see there’s availability 29 of the 30 days in April on this route and like we said, it’s only 9,000 British Air miles. So this can really, really be wonderful, we can go essentially anytime we want. I’ll click “continue” here and we’ll just confirm the flight and I’ll just show you how to look for this.
This is the departure, the 16th. You can cycle through the days here plus or minus but this is the flight. Actually this is the code, it’s US, this is actually US Airways flight operated by US Airways.
I guess they switched, they used to be American not all that long ago, it would say AA here. So, we’re looking for AA, US or AS would be Alaska Airlines. If you find a direct flight on one of those three codes here on aa.com, you know you can use your British Airways miles to book that and often at significant discounts.
I’ll just do this for fun, I’ll just click on it and then to find your return flight, actually click on this box here. And same deal, it looks like there are a number of flights, at least four that day that I can use my British Airways miles.
The final step is actually booking this. Now, again at aa.com this was just an intermediate step to find the availability. So, we’ll go over to British Airways here and we’ll go book with Avios and you’ll go… so this is when you log-in to your British Airways account, you just scroll down to the left. You click that drop down, book with Avios, we’ll do from Richmond to LaGuardia.
I guess I already plugged this in, the April 16th and April 20th, economy. It will just think for a minute here. Alright, so this is the outbound flight. Now, US Air, this is great, these are the exact ones we saw. It actually tells you how many reward seats are left. Wow, there are 6, 4, 2, 6 so there’s a lot of availability here and I just for argument sake, we’ll click this one and then here, yeah there’s four different flights as well.
This is a very easy flight to use our Avios on, so I’ll click here. It should tell me that it is 9,000 Avios plus $11 (for the round-trip).
As we hoped this fits in perfectly to that zone one sweet spot, it’ll only cost me 9,000 Avios points plus $11, that’s unavoidable taxes and fees. Not too bad to fly a route that usually costs about $400 for only $11.
Yeah, this is just a really great example of how you can save a whole lot of money and points just knowing the sweet spot of using the British Airways points on American Airlines, US Air and Alaska Airlines. Alright, thanks for watching, bye.
Note on Booking Alaska Airlines flights with Avios: Please note that to book Alaska Airlines flights using Avios you will follow the exact same method to locate the MileSAAver flights on AA.com. However, once you find that availability you will have to CALL the BA Executive Club number to actually make your reservations with Avios on Alaska Airlines.
The phone number to call is: 800-452-1201
Before you call, you should note the flight number, date and time and give that to the BA agent. Alaska Airlines flight numbers will appear as “AS” followed by the number.
You should also request that they waive the $25 phone booking fee since you were unable to book online.
Richmond Savers has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Richmond Savers and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.