British AirwaysSouthwest

Always Double Check The British Airways Award Engine

Earlier this week my Friend asked if I would be interested in going down to Florida next Tuesday.

Given that it isn’t exactly Summer yet in Chicago, I was more than willing to escape to some warm weather.

As usual, the first thing I did was to look for Award Flights. Since it is less than 21 days to Departure, Award Tickets on American Airlines and United were out of the question because of their RIDICULOUS $75 Close-in Ticketing Fee.

That basically left me with either Southwest or British Airways.

Given that Southwest is my favorite Domestic Airline since they let you cancel tickets for free, I decided to check them first.

Southwest Award Tickets are based on the actual cost of the corresponding Revenue Ticket. While that sounds bad for Consumers, it is actually pretty great for short flights and in the past I have found some amazing steals.

Unfortunately in this case, the exact opposite happened. The cheapest flight going down to Fort Myers was 21,900 Points!

The flight back to Chicago was much more reasonable with the cheapest flight costing only 7,260 Points!

All in, a Roundtrip Flight on Southwest would have been around 29,000 Points.

Since Domestic Awards on United or American typically cost a flat 25,000 Miles, Southwest charging an extra 4,000 Points isn’t a huge deal.

However given that my Cousin and I both traveled to Austin for 30,000 Points total, 29,000 Points for 1 person on Southwest does seem expensive…

Since the Flight down to Fort Myers was going to cost 21,000 Points on Southwest, I figured that I might as well search British Airways and see if there was anything available.

At a minimum, I’d happily pay 25,000 Avios for a One Way Business Class Award down to Florida instead of spending 21,000 Points to fly Economy on Southwest.

Since Southwest and British Airways both allow for One Way Awards, I could fly British Airways in Economy or Business Class down to Florida and then do a Southwest One Way for 7,000 Points back to Chicago.

I headed over to BritishAirways.com to search and first looked up a Roundtrip Award to Fort Myers.

Surprisingly there was no availability for either days…

I am not sure why I did this since the British Airways Search Engine was clearly showing no availability in either direction, but I decided to search for the Flights as One Ways.

From no availability 2 seconds earlier, MAGICALLY 3 different flight options appeared…

I don’t know if this a widespread glitch or not but it is kind of frustrating because if I hadn’t have searched for the flights as a One Way, I would have just assumed that there were no Awards available when clearly there were!

While I was extremely happy to find an Award, the silver lining is that since British Airways Awards are distance based, the Flight down to Florida on American Airlines using British Airways Points was only 7,500 Avios!

Not only is that 3x less than the 21,000 Point Southwest Ticket down to Florida, but had I booked the same exact seat on the same exact flight using American Airline Miles, it would have cost me 12,500 AA Miles + $77.50!!

It is for this exact reason that if you don’t have a British Airways Credit Card, you should really think about getting one!

Although British Airways Avios are fairly useless for traveling abroad, they are absolutely spectacular for Domestic Flights on American Airlines!

Not only are British Airway Awards on American Airlines substantially cheaper BUT you also avoid the non-sense $75 Close-in Ticketing Fee that American Airlines charges!

Recap

Of the many things I have learned over the past few years dealing with Frequent Flyer Miles, one is that Airline Award Engines are pretty goofy. The second is that it is always good to have your Miles in multiple programs.

If I only had United or American Miles, I would have been stuck paying 25,000 Miles + $75 in fees to get down to Florida.

However since I have Miles & Points in Southwest, British Airways, US Airways, Delta, United, and American Airlines, I have extreme flexibility in booking Awards!

In this specific example, by doing 2 One Ways on Southwest and British Airways, I was able to avoid United & American’s non-sense $75 fee and get a Roundtrip Ticket for only 14,000 Points instead of 25,000 Miles on UA or AA!

As for the British Airways Award Engine, I have no idea what caused it to only show the Awards flights when I searched for One Ways or if this is a widespread issue.

The only advice I have is that if you are searching British Airways and you are finding no availability, try searching only as One Ways and see what happens!

-Parag

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2 Comments

  • Love this — super helpful. I've been using Avios for all sorts of travel recently, and it's great to see your process and the specifics of how you compare your different options, using different awards miles from your stash. Unfortunately, being in Seattle, I'm often using Alaska Airlines, and they don't show up on the British Airways website, so I have to call in each time (for free), and get help with my booking.

  • Frequent Flyer University says:

    @Laila – Glad to be of assistance!

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