How To Use The British Airways Award Search Tool

Filed Under: Awards, British Airways

British Airways’ award search page used to be the place to go when searching for award space on oneworld airlines. Now that American lets you book most partner awards online, the BA search tool isn’t as vital as it once was. Despite this, the tool can still come in handy.

If you’re transferring points to a frequent flyer program to book an award ticket, it’s always smart to reconfirm the availability first. The BA search tool is very handy for this. It’s good for not only confirming space on British Airways, but for most of their partners as well.

If you’re searching for award space more than 330 days before departure, you’ll want to use the BA tool to search for availability. British Airways will display award space up to 355 days before departure.

Using the BA award search tool can feel clunky at first. After a few searches you’ll quickly get the hang of using it. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Step 1: Sign up for a British Airways Executive Club account

You’ll need to have a British Airways Executive Club account to search with the BA tool. Signing up for an account is free. You don’t need any Avios in the account, either. You can register for an account here.

BA’s website can feel like a maze, so it helps to keep the BA search page bookmarked. That way you can avoid navigating through the website every time you need to perform a search. Here’s the search page for the BA tool.

The page where you’ll start your search

Step 2: Know what to search for

The trickiest part about searching with the BA tool can be knowing what exactly to search for. Depending on the carriers involved, you’ll either want to search segment by segment or from origin to destination.

Airlines often make more award seats available for connecting itineraries than they do for nonstop flights. This is what’s called “married segment logic.” It’s a way for airlines to control inventory and revenue.

Let’s say you find four seats in business class with Cathay Pacific from Boston to Hong Kong to Singapore. That same Hong Kong to Singapore segment might show zero award seats if you try to book it on its own. That’s married segment logic at work.

There are four seats in business class from Boston to Singapore via Hong Kong

There isn’t any award space for Hong Kong to Singapore booked on its own

If you’re traveling on Cathay Pacific, you’ll usually want to search from origin to destination. For BA’s other partners, you’ll want to search for award space segment by segment. That will give you an accurate number of award seats for each flight.

Some tips and pitfalls with the BA tool

  • The BA tool won’t show all available connections. It helps to start by looking for space between a oneworld hub and a specific city, and putting your award together from there.
  • Searches with BA won’t always show the best routing options, either. The tool tends to prioritize routings via London on BA metal. A search for New York to Tokyo might show space via London with BA instead of via Boston or Chicago with American and Japan Airlines.
  • For cities with multiple major airports (New York, London, Tokyo, etc.), be sure to use the airport code for the metropolitan area instead of a specific airport. Using a specific airport code like NRT will only display results to or from Tokyo Narita. If you instead use TYO, you’ll get results from both Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda.
  • British Airways doesn’t display award space for Aer Lingus or Alaska Airlines online. If you want to book a flight with either of those carriers, you’ll have to call BA to book over the phone.
  • There are some “point of sale” restrictions with some of their partners. My British Airways account is registered in Spain, and for some reason JAL and LATAM availability is different than it is for accounts registered in the US. If you’re using Avios to book that’s easy to get around — just change the account address. If you’re using partner miles, like Alaska or American miles, the availability may not always line up.

Step 3: Execute your award flight search

You’ll want to enter your origin, destination, date of travel, and desired class of service. BA will only display award space for three cabins at a time (either economy, premium economy, and business or premium economy, business, and first).

If you’re searching for premium cabin space, you’ll want to always search for a first class award. That way space in first, business, and premium economy is displayed.

It makes things easier to search for award space one direction at a time. 😉 I usually check the “One way only” box, even if I’m going to book round trip flights. That keeps results more organized.

The site will ask if you want a stopover in London or another oneworld hub before displaying any results. Unless you’re actually using Avios to book an itinerary with a stopover, select “No, I want to continue without stopovers,” and continue onwards to the results page.

Unless you’re using Avios to book an award with a stopover, always select “No” here

Step 4: Read your results

The results page will be organized into a week long calendar, with the date that you’ve searched for at the center of the calendar. You’ll see nonstop flights displayed first, organized by departure time, then followed by connecting options.

This is what the BA award results page will usually looks like, with connecting options displayed below 

BA may display more seats than actually available on routings with connections. This used to be a big problem, but they seem to have fixed it. The error is less common these days. Whenever possible, you’ll want to confirm the number of seats on each segment for itineraries with connections, as long as you think married segment logic isn’t a factor.

One other thing you’ll want to check when looking at an itinerary with a connection: the cabin for each individual segment. When you select the routing, you’ll see the cabin displayed under each individual segment.

Be sure to double check the cabins for connecting itineraries 

If you want to change your search, you can click the “Change” link on the results page. This will let you edit the origin, destination, dates, and class of service. If you need to change the number of passengers you’ll need to start again from the main search page.

Step 5: If you’re looking for space on BA, use the BA app!

BA has a useful feature on their mobile app where you can search a particular cabin and route for an entire year at a time. This is useful for anyone with a lot of date flexibility that wants to fly a particular route on British Airways. It’s important to note that this feature only works for flights on BA metal. You can’t use it when searching for partner flights.

Using the app

  • When you open the BA app you’ll want to login to your Executive Club account
  • Click the menu button in the top right corner for iPhone or the top left corner for Android, and select “Reward flights”

Tap the “Rewards flight” tab to search for award seats

  • You’ll see two ways to find reward flights, tap the “Go” button on the top option called “Reward Flight Finder”
  • You’ll want to enter your origin and destination, keeping in mind you can only search for direct flights
  • When you tap on the dates, select “Anytime” for your departure, and either “One way” or “Anytime” for the return

Enter your search parameters here

  • You’ll then want to select the number of passengers and the desired cabin
  • Tap the “Find flights” button
  • The first date with award availability will be highlighted with a tall blue icon that says available; if you scroll towards the right, all days with award space for the number of passengers in that particular cabin will have the same blue “available” icon

All of the dates with the blue “available” bar have award space

Step 6: Select the flights to price them (if you’re using Avios)

If you’re using Avios to pay for your itinerary, you’ll want to select the flight you’d like to book. The number of Avios and the taxes, fees, and surcharges will be displayed below. Remember that this price only matters when you’re booking flights through British Airways Executive Club! The number of miles and taxes, fees, and surcharges will differ depending on what program you ultimately book with.

Bottom line

The BA tool remains useful for confirming oneworld segments, and searching for award space more than 330 days before departure. Even though American makes it easier to book partner flights online nowadays, the BA tool still comes in handy.

  1. Suggestion, to add more clicks and comments, retitle this as, “How to Use the British Airways Search Tool When Wearing a Mask.”

    It’s a great post and will be an excellent long term tutorial. Thanks, Jordan.

  2. @ Lucky….For clarity is it better to have account address in Spain for availability on LATAM, etc.?

  3. Hi Jordan. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. Can we have an introduction?

  4. This is a brilliant explanation of why Avios are a useless “incentive” for people like me, whose employers pay for lots of J class trips: I have a huge number of Avios, and I’m just not interested in spending the time required jumping through this ridiculous number of hoops in order to spend them.

    So, my take is that points are great for avgeeks who have lots of spare time and want to game the system to get something for nothing.

    Points are of little value to those of us who can direct hard cash to the airline when we choose our work flights, but are time poor (or just not enthusiastic about playing the points and miles game).

    Something trivial went wrong on my last BA flight: the CSD was hugely apologetic, and also offered to transfer 40,000 Avios to my account. I declined: the Avios have no value to me, I’m already sitting on a million that I’ll never use. Why would I want more?

    Anyway, thanks for the detailed “how-to” guide.

  5. except the nice paul – that didnt happen did it? No CSD has authority to transfer that many avios – let along for something “trivial”

    And surely by reading this site you are automatically an av geek. No?

  6. @gibooo
    Yes, it happened. It’s appeared on my Avios statement as “Avios Adjustment – Service Recovery”. So it appears CSDs do have that authority. (And yes, I gave in when he kept asking if “I was sure” I didn’t want the Avios. He seemed a bit hurt!).

    In case you were wondering, the trivial thing (EZE-LHR) was my seat wouldn’t recline to a flat bed. So they let me have the empty seat next to me to sleep in.

    I’m mainly here for Ben’s reviews. Though can’t help myself reading other stuff…

  7. @gibooo yes a CSD can offer avios for an onboard failure.They have guielines on what they can offer to a passenger there and then depending on the issue and the cabin.

    40k sounds about right for a broken lay flat seat. If Paul calls that a trivial issue then that’s up to him. That BA permits them to offer 40k avios shows they think it is serious .

    I’ve read esewhere that CSDs do have to account for their awards to make sure they aren’t over awarding (or just giving them to their mates) and the exasperation some of them feel when reported issues still aren’t fixed. I remember one said that he awarded avios on an outbound and a return flight they operated a couple of days later for an issue with the same seat that could have been fixed when the plane was back at LHR. Checking the maintenance log the same fault had been reported numerous times.

    @Paul – Is it really than much of a hardship to do a quick search for reward seats? It’s only marginally longer to do a reward seat search than a revenue flight. If you are only booking revenue flights then perhaps use some of your avios to reduce the cost as per the offers in the booking engine?

    Of course the main problem with BA long haul rewards are the usurious ‘carrier imposed surcharges’ they charge.

  8. @ChrisC
    It just all seems so painful.

    In contrast, back in March it turned out a colleague and I were on the same KLM flight to AMS, but he was in Y. I just showed my Flying Pesos account on my phone at the check-in desk, and they immediately deducted points to pay for an instant upgrade for him. For me, points that can do things like that have a value.

    By contrast, Avios seem so clunky — on the occasions I’ve tried to redeem them I’ve got to the end of the process only to be told “no award availability” or some other unhelpful road block. I’ve given up with them.

  9. Avios is great as there are a lot of F tickets on BA metal if you can book way in advance. Surcharge is ridiculous of course but there isn’t really much option to fly from US to Europe nonstop in F using miles.

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