Where Should You Credit British Airways Business Class Fares?

Filed Under: Advice, British Airways

Yesterday was a very exciting day in our corner of the internet, with the fantastic (and less-expensive than expected) business class fares to Europe. I booked a trip in January, Ben booked something for Thanksgiving, and based on the comments it sounds like many of you were able to take advantage as well.

Several people have asked where they should credit these fares. The answer varies a bit based on whether or not you have elite status, so I figured I’d go through what I consider to be the best options.

To keep things simple, let’s just assume that everyone is flying between London and Los Angeles. That’s about 11,000 flown miles round-trip, so it will keep our math nice and easy.


All of these fares booked into “I” class from what I’ve seen, which is the fare bucket British Airways uses for discounted business class. If for whatever reason you have segments that aren’t in I, you might need to adjust your math accordingly.

Alaska Mileage Plan

We’re starting with Alaska because 1) I like the alphabet and 2) their system is the most straightforward.

For these fares, you’d earn the following miles if you choose to credit to Alaska:

Earnings Rates For I ClassBonusesTotal Miles
All MembersActual flight miles (11,000)50% class of service bonus16,500
Elite MembersActual flight miles (11,000)50% class of service bonus
• MVP earns additional 50%
• MVP Gold earns additional 100%
• Gold 75k earns additional 125%
MVP: 23,000
MVP Gold: 26,500
Gold 75k: 31,250

Elite Bonus Flight Miles do not apply towards future elite status qualification, so regardless of your status you’d earn 16,500 miles towards elite status with Alaska.

Alaska sells miles at a significant discount several times a year, and are transfer partners with Starwood Preferred Guest. These aren’t the easiest miles to accrue, but they have a very lucrative award chart, so this is a decent option if you’re looking at aspirational awards.

American AAdvantage

I will be crediting my fare to American, and given the various bonuses going on this is probably the best option for most of us.

Now, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the latter is going to be relevant for most of us. The terms state:

The promotion is valid for travel on all American and US Airways marketed and operated flights (including codeshare flights between the two carriers), and American and US Airways marketed flights that are operated by partners, including British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Japan Airlines, and Qantas

I’m pretty sure most of us booked through British Airways, in which case our flights might be operated by American, but were certainly marketed by British Airways. So unless you issued your ticket on American stock (which I know some people did in hopes of applying systemwide upgrades), this particular bonus is not as relevant.

The transatlantic promo is definitely still in play though, and leads to some delightful earnings rates:

Earnings Rates For I ClassBonusesTotal Miles
All MembersActual flight miles (11,000)• 25% class of service bonus
• 25,000 transatlantic bonus
Elite MembersActual flight miles (11,000)25% class of service bonus
25,000 transatlantic bonus
• Gold: 25% Elite bonus
• Platinum: 100% Elite bonus
• Executive Platinum: 100% Elite bonus
Gold: 41,500
Platinum: 49,750
Executive Platinum: 49,750

American has a bifurcated system for earning elite status. If you qualify on miles, you’ll earn 100% of the base miles on this fare, so ~11,000 elite-qualifying miles. If you qualify on points, you’ll earn 1.50 EQP per flown mile, so ~16,500 elite-qualifying points.

Given the transatlantic bonus, this is a great option for most people. Having ~40,000 AAdvantage miles in your account gives you a ton of redemption choices. That’s enough for a roundtrip domestic flight in economy (though please don’t do that), and puts you well on your way to a business class award between the US and Europe or Asia.

For those outside of the US, 40,000 miles is more than enough for a one-way trip between other regions — flights between Europe and the Middle East are only 30,000 miles in business, or 40,000 in first, for example.

Keep in mind as well that American often sells miles at a reasonable rate, and is transfer parters of Starwood Preferred Guest. Combined with their various co-branded credit cards, it’s pretty easy to accrue more miles for an award.

British Airways Executive Club

If you are looking to redeem miles for short-haul economy flights, British Airways Avios are incredibly valuable, and this could be a good place to credit your miles. British Airways is offering a similar bonus on transatlantic travel, so the miles add up quickly here as well:

Earnings Rates For I ClassBonusesTotal Miles
All Members150% of miles flown • 25,000 transatlantic bonus41,500
Elite Members150% of miles flown 25,000 transatlantic bonus
• Bronze: 25% Elite bonus
• Silver: 50% Elite bonus
• Gold: 100% Elite bonus
Bronze: 44,250
SIlver: 47,000
Gold: 52,500

I’m not a British Airways elite, and find their tier points system a little confusing. I’m sure it makes great sense to those of you who credit to BA normally, but for everyone else there’s a calculator that will tell you how many Avios and tier points you’ll earn for your flight. Our example flights between Los Angeles and London should give ~280 tier points for the roundtrip.

Bronze status is granted after 300 tier points, so if you plan on flying British Airways in future, and would value the elite status, this is a good starting point.

British Airways is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards in most countries, along with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. They also allow household accounts, so if you’re not a frequent traveler or have booked family trips, this could be a good place to credit miles.

Keep in mind, however, that outside of short-haul economy flights British Airways awards can be very expensive. The combination of the distance-based program and high fuel surcharges mean premium cabin travel is not very reasonable using Avios. It can, however, be a good deal for upgrades!

Speaking of upgrades

There have been quite a few questions about this as well, so it’s worth adding a side note.

If your tickets were issued by British Airways (and if you used the AARP discount, they were), then:

  • You can use Avios to upgrade to first on British Airways if space is available
  • You can also use Avios to upgrade to first on American
  • You cannot use American miles to upgrade
  • You cannot apply American systemwide upgrades, even if you’re flying AA

Basically, whichever airline is “marketing” (selling) the flights controls everything to do with the ticket. So if you want to upgrade to first all the British Airways rules and rates apply.

Bottom line

This is a fun fare, and I’m excited that so many of you have been able to take advantage of it!

In most cases, American is going to be your best bet for accruing miles, though both Alaska and British Airways might make sense depending on your situation. Regardless, the earning potential is fantastic, and the miles earned on this trip should put you well on your way to another adventure!

What about you? Where are you planning on crediting your flights?

  1. this fare made my month, i can’t thank you guys enough for the heads up. def crediting to AA and easily requalifying for plat this way. i was beginning to look at segment runs for the first couple of weeks of december, so this takes a load off.

  2. I believe you have the class of service bonus for AA incorrect. It is 50% for all business fares since January.

  3. Ba avios can be used to fly airberlin cheaply as they have high taxes like the ba fares. It’s just £3 to fly nyc to Berlin and about £63 on the way back. 40,000 avios in economy or 120,000 in business. Also if you credit to Iberia plus you can fly to Madrid from the east coast for only 34,000 avios each way in business on an off peak day with low taxes.

    You can also fly aer lingus to Dublin with lower surcharges. Boston to Dublin actually creeps into a lower distance bracket. You have to call British airways to book this however.

  4. You forgot the current 2015 AA promo for extra miles.
    AA segments would earn an extra 250-1000/500-3500 miles.

  5. thanks for this post Tiffany. I totally would have missed the TATL promo that they’re running if it wasn’t for this post, so thank you!

  6. @ Tiffany — OMG, I am such an idiot! I booked our trip 1/28-2/1, so no 25k bonuses for us! Perhaps we will get lucky and AA will credit 12,500 miles for each direction, and we will at least get half of the bonus. Do you know how these have been posting?

  7. a silly question, perhaps. but does the class of service bonus count toward status? I am flying IAD-LHR-IAD, and I’m trying to figure out how many qualifying miles i’ll get.

  8. Note that both of the AA transatlantic mileage bonuses are only valid on flights through the end of 2015. Hopefully they’ll have some new promos after the new year!

  9. I’ve never booked on the BA site before.

    Having Status and all my miles on AA, am I able to book on BA (and using the AARP Discount) but still earn AA miles (and EQM) for my AAdvantage Account?

    Is there anything special I need to do?

  10. Question for you folks. I purchased the biz flight using the AARP discount and got $1,210 RT. I was given an option to use Avios under the 2.5X promo lowering this down to something like $500 and 30K avios. I was tempted to do that… but I’m an AA Exec Plat and wanted the status miles for my 2016 requalification.

    If I had used the 30K Avios to lower the price… would I have been able to put my AA number on the reservation for AA redeemable and AA Status miles/points…. or would I have been locked into crediting the flight only to BA Avios?


  11. booked one via AA on BA 380, just having a hassle trying to select seat at moment.
    If can, will likely book another before end of day.

  12. The 30,000 Avios ($767) discount is no longer applicable. The most I can get discounted is $75. Deal is dead?

  13. Hi Tiffany,

    I have a question for you… I am an EXP and already qualified for next year. I have 4 SWU that expire this Feb and 8 more that expire Feb 2017. I booked a May trip on one of the above fares with American via LAX and I knew the First Class upgrade was available so I had the agent ticket it with the upgrade already. I am looking at my account and I do not see any SWU deducted yet.

    Is this normal? Do they deduct after I fly? This is my first year as EXP but if i remember correctly from my last time I used one, once the upgrade was clear they deducted it right away from the account.

    Do you know what normal procedure is?



  14. Oooh, thanks for today’s and yesterday’s posts on this great deal!

    Ended up booking ORD-LHR-OSL and CPH-LHR-ORD for mid-May 2016 for $1605 after the AARP discount. My partner just signed up for the Copenhagen Marathon earlier this week, so this deal came just in time. He’ll definitely feel better flying business after a marathon. Because I can’t take advantage of the Transatlantic bonus given the dates and because I want to start earning Avios for short-haul flights, I plan to credit to BA. Only problem now is that my elite status is with AA, and the BA site won’t let me select seats for free. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  15. Booked 5 return trips, 19 legs with all but 2 on BA metal, applied AARP and 30k Avios – will credit to AA 😀
    What a deal! Planing to upgrade the AA legs to First.

  16. Tiffany you are wonderful!!
    But I’m sure you already know that 🙂

    Love the super clear explanation of every relevant detail in your posts.. The ‘thought process’ is like you anticipate every doubt I have while reading, and the answer comes immediately!.

  17. There is still sale space out there, just this morning we got a paid of SFO-LHR biz class for R/T for $4K.
    SFO-JFK-LHR (AA, including the trans-con biz on A321, the 777 to LHR)
    LHR-SFO (BA A380)

    Pretty good deal!

  18. @Tiffany I think its for segments operated OR marketed (operated by partner).
    “Just purchase and fly on a First or Business Class ticket on American Airlines, US Airways or eligible partner flights marketed by American or US Airways* to earn the additional AAdvantage® bonus miles.”

  19. @ Jake — It depends on the airline. Go through the post again using 7350 as the base miles and that should give you a pretty good idea.

  20. @ Alan D — You would have. Basically BA is giving you the opportunity to redeem partial Avios at a fixed rate to reduce the out-of-pocket cost. I don’t think it’s a particularly good deal, but others have been really excited about it.

  21. @ SJT — Hmmm, I feel like they generally pull when the upgrade clears? But maybe that’s because mine always clear late? Maybe someone else will chime in who has done this more recently.

  22. @ Reyes — You can put your AA number in for now, select seats, then change to your BA number at check-in.

  23. @ Lack — Maybe. But I flew two AA F segments this weekend that were marketed by BA, and didn’t get the bonus. 🙁

  24. I have a trip booked for March, AA from ORD to LHR and BA return. I’m not sure what I have to do to make sure both flights are credited to my AAdvantage account. Can anyone help me out?

  25. Hii Tiffany,

    Thanks for replying. That’s what my friend who is a long time EXP said as well. But he says normally it can take 24 hrs to reflect the change. But it has been more than 24 hours. So not sure what’s up. Maybe you could ask Ben? C upgrades usually happen closer to departure but F upgrades you can find those quite easy in advance. My Last upgrade PVG to DFW once upgrade cleared they deducted it. But nothing yet for this one. Also I guess what I was super curious to know is if they pull the first upgrades with earlier expiration (although technically they wouldn’t be valid as it is past departure). Anyone knows what the process is? As I still then need to use another round trip somewhere before February then lol. Don’t wanna waste the certificates.

  26. @pavel
    i think you mentioned finding tickets JFK-LHR over xmas for $1172 – may i ask if the dates were widely available and/if they required a 7 day or stay or something similar? booked JFK-LHR over the xmas holidays for the new $2015ish fares and kicking myself as i had seen tiffany’s post early in the AM but hadn’t thought of booking a trip until i noticed xmas is on friday this year (late last night)

    thank you so much tiffany for the heads up and all the other great tips!

  27. @ Ric — Just put your AA number in the reservation, either now or when you check in, and you’ll be just fine!

  28. I was looking at the British Air sale and also logged on to the AA website. I was looking for a round trip flight to Dublin from Seattle on British Air and was trying to find a redemption for my BA miles without much luck. I was happy to find that AA had very good business class fares from Seattle to Dublin with options to transfer at ORD, JFK, or PHL. The transfer at ORD offered the best mix of layovers for me. With AA, I don’t have to fly through LHR, which was a nuisance on my last trip. Flying into Dublin is breeze compared to flying through LHR. Plus, Dublin has preclearance on the way back, at least when I flew though Atlanta.

    I use Alaska Air as my preferred mileage program and applied BA miles to my Alaska mileage program the last trip. I can apply my miles for the Dublin trip next year to my Alaska mileage plan.

    I was very happy to find the business class ticket at the fare they were offering. I have flown Premium Economy twice this year to LHR and did a stopover in London on the first trip and a transfer at LHR on the last trip. The complexity of the process of transfer at LHR is annoying. I was transferring to a flight to Dublin and I had to go through immigration at LHR even though I was not going to the UK. That and the photo and the security and lines made planned two and a half hour time between flights a bit challenging.

    Anyway, I will be looking at flying American on overseas flights, as well as Cathay Pacific for Asia, Qantas for Australia, and maybe British Air again.

    I was once a Delta regular until March of 2014 when they changed their relationship with Alaska Air frequent flyer program. I will not be considering Delta again due to the lack of amenities offered. I would not consider their mileage program.

    Within the U.S. I would not fly United and would not fly United overseas. I am reluctant to fly carriers which partner with them because I cannot accumulate mileage that I can use.

    What you are writing about on this site reflects my experiences and thinking about a good mileage program.

  29. @Tiffany – guess I should have been specific. You and I both know all business fares get 50% bonus on AA metal. Some of us got DFW-MAD non-stop to price out at $1000 before using Avios to get it below $262. It’s old AA seating but for that price and the miles earned I’ll live.

  30. @V The dates I booked were 12/25 – 12/31, not sure about minimum stay requirements. Gets in around 7pm to London so I use ‘xmas’ here loosely. Priced out to $1172 after applying the AARP discount.

    I will say availability was wide open yesterday afternoon, so you may be still be able to find a suitable flight earlier than that.

  31. @pavel
    thank you so much for your quick and helpful reply. i’m still debating whether to keep the tickets i booked (at the new price) – i think i’m paying $400 more a ticket and we have to drive from BOS-JFK (r/t). i have a little more time to think it over before my free cancellation period ends. thanks again! 🙂

  32. While booking early this evening, I completely forgot to put my AAdvantage #. By default it set to my Avios FF #. Is there any ways to change it without calling BA customer service which I know I’ll have to wait for a long time?
    I logged into my avios account and went to manage booking option. I can’t seem to find a way to switch the FF#.

  33. @Tiara – the usual method. Finnair.com, manage my booking, plug in your BA PNR. Then you can update your details, including switching your FF #.

  34. @Alan D – Like Tiffany said, using avios to bring down the cost wasn’t that a great a value (it was about 2.5 cents per avios.) I had a much better redemption value (about 4 cents) last month during BA’s 40% off award flights promotion even after paying over $200 in taxes. I think all the excitement over the AARP+avios fares was in seeing ticket prices under $300 in business. However, that was for a limited number of flights to Spain. Unless you have no use at all for your avios, you didn’t miss out on anything.

  35. “You can also use Avios to upgrade to first on American”

    How can you do this considering the tickets were booked in I (or am I missing something)?

    Per BA:

    “Fare classes eligible for Avios upgrade
    Travel class On British Airways On Iberia and American Airlines
    Business J, C, D, R, I J, C, D”

  36. To get the 25,000 mile bonus, did we need to register BEFORE BOOKING, or we can still register now (prior to travel)? In the past, this was one of the differences between BA and AA, do you know if that is still the case now?

  37. I booked a business class fare through BA.com to LHR and they are all BA flights with an American codeshare. Should there be AA locators for these flights? I called AA and they thought I was crazy. Most the scenarios I’ve read about finding the AA locator involve flights that were booked through BA but were actually American flights.

  38. I’m flying one of these in December. I figured I would credit to AA (non-elite) vs AS where I’m MVPGold75, Now with the AA devaluations I’m questioning whether AA is the way to go. Now of course, the next AS devaluation could be around the corner. It is very unlikely that I’m going to be able spend these miles before the AA deval takes place in the spring. I’m starting to think now that it is probably a better idea to credit these to AS even though the mileage earning would be less than on AA (7000ish miles using your example) …. as the miles would be more valuable and easier to use on AS?

  39. @Tiffany,
    I am trying to decide where to credit my British Airways flights (ORD-JFK-BCN-CLT-ORD, all fare class I). I should add that all segments are marketed by BA, operated by AA. I was tempted to credit them to AS to get ~30K miles since I am Gold 75K.
    However, on the partner page for BA, seems like you will accrue Alaska miles only on flights marketed AND operated by BA.
    So I guess my flights are not eligible to accrue any AS miles?

  40. @ Skor — I think flights do indeed have to be marketed and operated by a single carrier in order for Alaska to credit them. Pretty sure, at least, but you could call the 75k desk and confirm.

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