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Avios Search Trick / Last Minute Booking

FTU Seattle

For those of you going to FTU Seattle next weekend, I’m happy to announce that I will be there pitching my new startup during the Launchpoint competition (more on that next week). So if you see me around at FTU, feel free to say hi!

Since my cousin lives in Seattle, I was originally planning on going out there tomorrow with the idea that we would rent a car this weekend and go down to Portland since both of us have never been.

Change Of Plans

Unfortunately that Portland plan ended up falling through so I was trying to see if there was anything else I could do this weekend.

Coincidentally earlier this week, my girlfriend decided she was going to NYC this weekend. I haven’t been to the Big Apple in a while and it is my Niece’s birthday on Saturday so I decided to tag along.

Due to some procrastination on my end, it wasn’t until this afternoon that I finally tried to book a ticket to NYC…

Normally this isn’t a huge issue because there are 3 airports in NYC and 2 in Chicago (3 if you count MKE) so there are a ton of flights back and forth. However searching with Avios, this upcoming Saturday only had First availability for 22,500 points one way…

"No Economy!
“No Economy!

I next checked Southwest but from my experiences, the cheap “wanna get away” fares typically either sell out or are sky high if your departure is less than 10 days out. In this case, the cheapest flight was 19,274 points!

"A Little Too Expensive"
“A Little Too Expensive”

I was willing to shell out the $75 close-in ticketing fee on AA or United if they got me to NYC on Saturday, so I went and checked AA.com and lo and behold there were Economy saver flights to NYC!


I didn’t understand why Avios wasn’t showing these Economy flights and then realized that it was perhaps because they weren’t non-stop flights.? I’m not sure though because Avios definitely does show connections on longer flights that are cross country…

Since there weren’t any non-stop flights on AA, I figured if I could book the same AA 1-connection flights with Avios I might as well try and save $75 in close-in ticketing fees.

Avios Search Trick

So while Avios was showing no Economy flights from ORD-NYC, when I simply searched for the above AA flights like ORD-CMH and then CMH-LGA, I was able to book the flights with Avios for 4,500 points each leg.

While ORD-NYC direct would be 7,500 points, in this case I am happy to pay the extra 1,500 points to get to NYC.

"Would You Look At That!"
“Would You Look At That!”

New York – Baltimore

To get to Baltimore, we ended up just buying a MegaBus ticket for $30 one way.

While I’d certainly rather fly, these buses are nice in that they leave from downtown (so no need to trek out to the airport) and you have to get there only 30 minutes before departure since there isn’t any security.

If you factor it all together, taking the bus is probably easier and quicker than flying.

Baltimore – Seattle

To get from Baltimore to Seattle next week, I ran another Avios search.

One thing that really annoys me is that British Airways thinks Baltimore falls under Washington D.C…

There is no way to specifically search for BWI, instead it automatically defaults to WAS and shows you all Washington D.C airports!

That isn’t really useful since DCA & IAD are over 1 hour away from downtown Baltimore and BWI is 16 mins…

Regardless Avios wasn’t showing any available flights out of BWI (Washington D.C).

"See How It Says Washington D.C"
“See How It Says Washington D.C”

I quickly cross-checked AA.com just to be sure and to my surprise, there were tons of flights out of DCA.

"AA To The Rescue!"
“AA To The Rescue!”

Out of curiosity, I ran DCA – SEA search on Avios again (not BWI or WAS) and now those AA flights came up for 14,500 Avios…


Basically, it seems that even if British Airways is defaulting to the citysearch (like Washington D.C or New York) instead of a specific airport (BWI), it won’t always show you all the results for the city.

In this case, although British Airways thinks BWI is in Washington D.C, it didn’t show all the Washington D.C flights. However when I explicitly searched for DCA, it showed all the flights I found on AA. Same thing when I explicitly searched for IAD.

Bottom line is to always cross check the Avios engine with AA (or Qantas or ExpertFlyer) because BA might not be showing you all the results.

Anyways, I ran a BWI-SEA search on Southwest since BWI use to be a hub for Airtran before they merged with Southwest.

To my surprise, there was a BWI-MKE-SEA flight for 10,028 points!

"Talk About A Deal"
“Talk About A Deal”

People love to hate on Southwest but I’m not aware of any other airline that lets you book a fully cancelable ticket 5 days out with no close-in ticketing fees for 10,028 points and you can check 2 bags for free if you want…

Oh and if my girlfriend was coming with me to Seattle, because I  have a companion pass, we could both fly to Seattle for 10,028 points total (5,014 points each)!

Seattle – Chicago

I had my original Southwest ticket but since it was fully cancelable, I decided to quickly check and see if there were any better options.

On Avios, there was a much better SEA-ORD flight for 10,000 Avios so I went ahead and booked that too!


All in all, with only 2 days notice I was able to cancel all my other previous Southwest tickets, re-book ORD-NYC, BWI-SEA, SEA-ORD all in for 29,028 points! Because I used Southwest and Avios points, I was also able to avoid paying any close-in ticketing fees or cancellation fees!

The 3 main points I hope everyone takes away from this are:

1. Miles & points can save you serious money!

If I had to book this ticket out of pocket, the cheapest I could find on Kayak was $743 which isn’t terrible. However thanks to 30,000 miles & points, I only had to spend around $10 in taxes.

"Actually Not Terrible"
“Actually Not Terrible”

2. If you don’t have set plans, book with either Avios or Southwest because they are cancelable (for the most part).

Thanks to booking with BA and Southwest, I avoided all change and cancellation fees. If these flights were originally booked with United, US Airways, Delta, or American, it would have cost me $150 to make the changes / cancellations and another $75 for close in ticketing. No thanks!

2. The British Airways Avios engine isn’t 100% accurate so always double check with AA

As I showed, the British Airways award engine is goofy and doesn’t always show everything that is available. I suggest either using Expert Flyer, Qantas, or if you are lazy just use AA. At a minimum, you will see all the connecting flights that BA might not be showing you.


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  1. why did you choose megabus instead of boltbus? the later has better seats, is on time more often, and better wifi, in my opinion.

  2. How is ORD-LGA 9,000 avios unless you connect? It’s 650 miles, so it should be 7500 avios for a direct flight.

    1. Sorry it didn’t accept my symbols; it’s greater than 650 miles and less than 1150 miles, so it should be 7500 avios.

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