Today: How to book British Airways First Class using points & miles?
British Airways is one of the last remaining airlines offering a First Class product on most of its longhaul routes. However, it’s First Class product is not really en par with that offered by competitor airlines, such as Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and Etihad Airways. That’s mainly because the carrier’s First Class hard product lacks exclusivity and feels more like a Business Class product (with up to 14 First Class seats cramped into one cabin and arranged in a herringbone layout). Over recent years, the airline has tried to up its game by introducing new First Class touches such as better catering (still no caviar service though) and luxurious bedding. But all in all, British Airways First Class still feels like the world’s best Business Class product (with a First Class price tag).
You can read my British Airways First Class trip reports here:
- Review: British Airways B787 First Class from London to Muscat
- Review: British Airways A380 Johannesburg to London
- Review: British Airways B777 London to Johannesburg
While the cost of a First Class ticket with British Airways is often cheaper compared to its competitors (but still astronomically expensive), you can also use miles and points to book an award seat (almost for free) in the airline’s sought-after premium cabin. The good news is that British Airways makes a lot of award space available in its First Class cabin (at least two per flight). In this article, I’ll explain the best strategies to book an British Airways First Class award ticket with miles & points (share you own strategies & tips in the comments below):
- Use miles via British Airways’ frequent flyer program Executive Club
- Upgrade from Business to First Class via Executive Club
- Use miles via the frequent flyer program of Oneworld airlines
- Convert Marriott Bonvoy points into frequent flyer miles
- Convert credit card points into frequent flyer miles
USE MILES VIA BRITISH AIRWAYS’ FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM EXECUTIVE CLUB
Launched in 1995, the frequent flyer program of British Airways is called the Executive Club. In 2011, following its merger with Iberia, the flag carrier of the United Kingdom and the founding member of the Oneworld global airline alliance introduced dramatic changes to its Executive Club program, creating a distinct reward currency, called Avios. Avios is a coalition program, offering members of the frequent flyer programs of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Meridiana thousands of ways to earn and redeem Avios for flights, hotels, and even travel experiences.
One of the easiest ways to book British Airways First Class award tickets is via Executive Club using Avios. British Airways flight redemptions are individually priced based on the distance between origin and destination and what class of service you want to fly. This means that each leg of your reward itinerary is calculated separately (award prices will be added together), with no layovers, stopovers, or open jaws included. For example, if your trip from Cape Town to New York includes a layover in London, the cost of your journey will be the sum total of the two individual legs (Cape Town to London + London to New York). Executive Club doesn’t publish a detailed rewards chart but you can work out the cost for a reward flights using the Executive Club online calculator. You can search for availability and proceed with booking an award ticket using the Executive Club online search engine.
British Airways redemptions using Avios can still be very expensive though: not only do the mileage prices add up for each flight segment, but heavy taxes and fees (including fuel surcharges) add up as well. For example, these surcharges are now around $1,000 USD one-way for British Airways Business and First Class flights from the US. Multi-segment flights booked with Avios are even more expensive, so British Airways Avios are best used for direct flights or single connections. There are a few ways to reduce the amount of Avios you need for a First Class reward flight:
- For reward flights with British Airways, you will pay either a peak or off-peak Avios amount, depending on the date of your flight. Two thirds of the year is off-peak. When booking reward flights, you can choose all peak dates, all off-peak dates, or a mixture of the two. The taxes, fees and carrier charges you pay are the same for both peak and off-peak dates, but you’ll need a lower amount of Avios for off-peak dates.
- If you don’t have enough Avios for your chosen reward flight, or would like to save some for your next reward, you can reduce the Avios cost by paying an additional cash amount. The fewer Avios used, the more you make up in money. You’ll be presented with a range of these Avios & Money payment options at the checkout process when booking a reward flight.
British Airways awards can be booked online following the steps outlined below:
- Go to the British Airways website
- Log in to your account (in the upper right corner)
- Select Book a flight with Avios from the top menu
- Choose Book with Avios
- Enter your origin and destination airports, dates, and select First Flass
- Click on Get Flights
- Select the available First Class flight you want
UPGRADE FROM BUSINESS TO FIRST CLASS VIA EXECUTIVE CLUB
Another great way (and IMHO, the best way) to use your Avios is to spend them on upgrades. Only cash bookings on flights operated by British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines can be upgraded with Avios, either at the time of booking or later on depending on availability. Always keep in mind that upgrades can only be applied to the next higher cabin of service: Economy to Premium Economy, Premium Economy to Business, and Business to First Class (but not Economy to Business when the plane features a Premium Economy cabin). In general, the lowest priced Economy Class fares cannot be upgraded.
The Avios amount required for an upgrade is based on the Avios costs for reward flights in the cabins you are upgrading from, and will depend on whether your flight is scheduled on a peak or off-peak date. The formula is: Avios for the cabin you wish to upgrade to – Avios for the cabin you make your booking in = Avios required to upgrade one way. For example, if you want to fly with British Airways in First Class from London to New York, you can book a Business ticket, and then login to “Manage My Booking” on BA.com, select your flight and choose to ”Upgrade this flight with Avios”. If there is reward availability, British Airways will tell you how much it will cost. In this example, an off-peak reward flight in First Class costs 75,000 Avios; an off-peak reward flight in Club World costs 50,000 Avios. Therefore the cost to upgrade this flight using Avios is 75,000-50,000 = 25,000 Avios.
There are several ways to check upgrade availability:
- If you have an existing booking: log in to Manage My Booking, select your flight and choose “Upgrade this flight with Avios” to see if your flight can be upgraded
- If you’re just making plans: use the ‘book and upgrade’ form to search for specific flights and dates to see if you can upgrade as you book or use the reward availability tools to search for inspiration and availability
If you booked your ticket through a travel agent, you will need to check with them to see if your booking can be upgraded with Avios.
USE MILES VIA THE FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM OF ONEWORLD AIRLINES
British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance, my favorite airline alliance of the three major alliances (the other two being SkyTeam and Star Alliance). Oneworld is a collection of some of the most prestigious flagship airlines in the world that offer overall the best service and Business/First Class products in the skies:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Fiji Airways (Oneworld Connect)
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- S7 Airlines
Since British airways is a member of Oneworld, you can use frequent flyer miles from any of the Oneworld carriers listed above to book reward flights. The number of miles you need will vary from airline to airline and from the route you want to fly, so make sure to park your miles with the right frequent flyer program. Some examples:
- A First Class British Airways ticket between Europe and the USA will cost only 65,000 Japan Airlines miles, compared to 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles or 85,000 American Airlines miles.
- A first Class British Airways ticket between the Middle East and the USA will cost only 80,000 Alaska Airlines miles, compared to 115,000 American Airlines miles.
CONVERT MARRIOTT BONVOY POINTS INTO FREQUENT FLYER MILES
Marriott’s loyalty program – called Marriott Bonvoy – offers its members the possibility to earn points and exchange them for valuable rewards when they stay at one of Marriott’s 30 different hotel brands across 6800+ locations in more than 150 countries
CONVERT CREDIT CARD POINTS INTO FREQUENT FLYER MILES
You can boost your frequent account with one of the Onweorld Airlines with your credit card spendings as most frequent flyer programs are 1:1 transfer partner with the top travel credit card rewards programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou. So even if you do not fly British Airways or accrue miles with its frequent-flier program, you can simply set up an Executive Account mileage account (or a frequent flyer account with any other Oneworld airline) and transfer points from any of those three programs to it to book awards.