5 tips for redeeming Avios for flights

redeeming Avios for flights

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Redeeming your Avios for flights should be simple, but that is not always the case. Here are some tips to help you get the flights you want.

Be aware of route and aircraft changes

redeeming avios for flights

All airlines including BA, constantly change destinations, aircraft types and frequencies. This usually means extra Avios availability being released. If you subscribe to this blog, you will find out pretty quickly if there are major changes. It may still be worth subscribing to one of the route change websites. Obviously by the time you read about a change on a blog, everyone else is now trying to get Avios seats. If you subscribe to a route change website, you will know as soon as the change is filed. When the tickets first go on sale there will always be at least 2 Club seats available on Avios and potentially some First seats too (but not guaranteed). I use routesonline.com and get daily emails of all route changes.

Time your booking and be persistent!

Cape town Avios club seats

Cape Town waterfront and Table mountain

Reward flights first open up at midnight (1am BST)  355 days before departure. At this point at least 2 Club seats should be available on Avios. The seats are not always immediately available on ba.com and are not loaded until 00.15-00.30. By this time, the chances are the seats may have gone.

More seats can be added at any point (including First) and the best time to check for new availability is 00:30 UK time. You will need to do this every day unless you use a specialist website. You can pay for Expert Flyer where you can set an alert for reward seats becoming available. I talked about Expert Flyer here.  A more simple and free option is baredemptionfinder.com. You can set up alerts to be emailed to you for free on flights in any specific class over a range of dates. The free service will only check for new redemption seats every 24 hours but there is also a paid service for £3 a month which searches every hour. For last minute bookings, officially they can be made up to 24 hours before departure, but in practice, redemptions can be made up to an hour before departure at Heathrow.

If you are trying to get availability for a popular route such as Cape Town, Australia or Mauritius you should call as soon as redemptions open at midnight UK time (1am during British Summer Time).  You will need to call a non UK BA office as the UK one will be closed. The telephone numbers for BA call centres are here. You should call on the day that the outbound opens and book a one way ticket. Then at D-355 for the inbound, do the same again. Obviously if you book the outbound, then there is no guarantee you will get the inbound. However Avios flights can be cancelled up to 24 hours prior, albeit for a £35 fee.

Use your miles wisely

BA 1 Club World

Think about how you are using your miles to get the best value. For example, I rarely bother to book a return First class flight. Most long haul return flights are overnight so you don’t really get the benefit, unless it is a really long flight. The chances are you will want to eat as quickly as possible and go to sleep. Most of the First class lounges outside the UK (apart from the Concorde room at JFK) are not worth the extra Avios either. They are usually pretty much the same as the Club lounge, but with Champagne if you are lucky. Therefore, I normally book outbound in First and return in Club which saves Avios and is easier to get too.

One of the best value redemptions for Club World is the BA 1 JFK to New York, in terms of the unique all business class product. You can read my review here. This all business class flight is now available for the World Traveller Plus Avios if you have a Lloyds Avios upgrade voucher. Even at the normal prices, it is well worth trying for, if you are planning a New York trip.


Consider using your Avios on other airlines or routes

Qatar airways business class suite

Qatar Q suites due to be launched this year in business class

On busy routes you will need to be creative and look at other routing options rather than flying direct.  This map on oneworld is a useful tool to find nearby airports that perhaps a oneworld partner flies to, if not BA. I often use miles to go to Las Vegas but fly to Los Angeles, San Francisco or even Houston. I then buy a cheap cash ticket to get me to Las Vegas. Yes, it costs a bit more but still a lot less than paying for a business class flight. If you book your connection on AA then at least you earn miles and tier points! Don’t forget to look at nearby countries too. It can be a pain with immigration, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a redemption. Why not make it part of your trip? China is usually a good one to look at for Asian destinations.

Unless you need to use a voucher, BA may not be the best use of your Avios. Although other airlines can be more expensive as they are charged at peak prices, often the taxes are much less such as with  Aer Lingus. In other cases, the product may be superior such as Qatar. On Iberia they may cost less Avios as the off peak dates are different to BA. It also means that there may be more availability, if you think outside the box. I talked about how to redeem on other airlines in this article.

If you can’t find a return flight for a destination consider an ‘open-jaw flight’. This is when you fly to one airport and return from a different one.

Tips for using BA Amex companion and Lloyds Vouchers

BA Amex

You will probably want to book a return journey with a BA Amex voucher. The seats will not be available for the return at D-355. There are ways round this depending on how you are paying for your flights.  If you are using a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher, you should buy the outbound flights at D-355 and then as soon as the inbound flight is available, telephone British Airways for them to add the flight to the booking. This will cost you £35 but at least you got the flights.

Open jaws are allowed with the 2-4-1 voucher but can only be done by calling BA Executive Club. The open-jaw must have the distance between your arriving and departing airport as shorter than either of the flights to or from London. For example LFR-SFO, LAX-LHR would be acceptable as the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco is clearly shorter than the 2 transatlantic flights.

The free BA Amex card voucher has an expiry for 1 year and the Premium Plus version has 2 years. This means that the voucher has to be booked and the outbound leg flown within that period. Cancelling the booking more than 24 hours before the flight means you can get the voucher back into your BA account and the Avios refunded. This means it is worth booking something when it comes up, even if it is not ideal as you can always cancel and rebook if something better comes along.

If you can’t get both ways in the same class, mixed class bookings are allowed, but both people must fly in the same class. These can be booked on ba.com. Domestic connections before a long haul flight are free in terms of Avios if you include them on the same ticket.

Lloyds Avios cardLloyds avios card upgrade voucher rules

You must book the flights within 1 year, you do not have to have flown them by that date. This in effect, gives you nearly a 2 year window. You can use it to upgrade either a new or existing Avios booking by one class except from Club to First. Therefore you only need to earn the Avios for the class below to book initially if you are likely to earn one before your flight. You could then try to upgrade later. Obviously this will depend on the availability of the seats at the time.

Cancelling your booking means that you lose the voucher, even though you would get the Avios back. However, you can change the booking for a £35 fee, which is probably a better option. This includes dates. You may be able to change the destination if it is in the same Avios zone as the other destination.

Since the closure of Avios.com, you now need to book these flights by phone.





35 Comments on "5 tips for redeeming Avios for flights"

  1. Great Post! I just have a question. Is it that the reward flight are available first through Avios.com as supposed to BA’s site? Or is it that you must call BA at midnight to get flights as BA wont upload to their site until 15 -30 minutes later?

    • Thanks Art. You would phone BA for rewards showing on ba.com and to redeem Avios held in a BA Executive Club account. In theory, it should be the same as what is on avios.com. If you only have an Avios account, you could still do this by opening a BA Executive account and then using ‘combine my avios’ to transfer them across from your avios.com account which is free and instant. You can book with avios.com but they don’t have any offices open during the night if you needed to do it by phone.

  2. Great article but it seems BA offices are no longer open at night. It seems you can only call up to 8pm?

    • Hi Vicki. You have to call a foreign office like India that is open. It doesn’t need to be a U.K. one.

  3. Hi Michele, thanks for the tips. I have been trying to work out how to use Expertflyer as suggested but when setting up a seat alert how do I know which seats to select; is it just when any previously unavailable seat becomes bookable again? In that case do I select all the business class seats if I am looking for a business class upgrade on BA for example and wait until one may become available? Thanks.

    • There is a good help guide here. https://www.expertflyer.com/user-guide.pdf It will alert you when seats in the redemption fare class become available. BA release extra seats all the time depending on how full the flights are. This will help alert you when they get released. Certain features such as specific day. These are the fare classes you need to search for British Airways First Class Award — “Z” class
      British Airways Business Class Award — “U” class
      British Airways Premium Economy Award — “P” class
      British Airways Economy Award — “X” class

  4. Christine Kislingbury | 30 May 2018 at 12:08 pm |

    Was lucky enough to travel on BA1 LCY-JFK in March this year using Avios points, wow, what an amazing experience! There were only 12 passengers on our flight and it was like being on a private jet. It is the very best way to travel to NYC.

    • It never seems to be full which is a great experience though I do wonder how long they can afford to keep it going!

  5. Can you book the return flight online whenever it is available at D-355 using Avios(obviously x 2) and then call up BA to get them to link it to your 241 voucher so getting half your Avios refunded?

    • I know someone who has been doing this successfully but it doesn’t actually state that anywhere on BA.com so you couldn’t rely on it but given that it is changeable you should be OK.

  6. Paul Butler | 3 June 2018 at 4:15 am |

    Great post, really useful. We have a Avios+AMEX First class flight booked LHR-ORD this summer (booked approx D-355), and unfortunately, BA swapped planes for the return. We have specifically booked the A380 return, now it is a 747. The call center were as helpful as they could, but the later in the day A380 had no availability for redemption. They have added a note to their system to grab a pair of 380 seats, if they come available, but I don’t hold out much hope.

    So, I have just registered with ‘BA redemption Finder’, as this looks like a really good option, as you recommended. I ever paid the 3 pounds for the hourly option. I will post back the results


    • Thanks Paul. It’s really annoying when you get aircraft swaps. You were lucky BA were so helpful as many airlines don’t care in this situation. I’ll keep my fingers crossed more seats become available for you!

  7. Very informative article. Even for a U.S. resident the information is extremely helpful.

    I have booked an outbound travel together ticket SJC-CDG and am waiting for a return flight to become available LHR-SFO. I want a specific flight, in first class, unfortunately on a Friday. Nothing came up on D-355.

    Which tracking website would you recommend? The Elite Membership on baredemptionfinder.com says it will give hourly updates. I cannot find any info on how often Expert Flyer updates. Also, I would like to track multiple days, since I am willing to change my outbound flight if available,

    I would appreciate your thoughts. Also,any opinion on the best time to call to make changes?


    • Thanks Dan. The simplest and cheapest is baredemptionfinder. You can set it to search for multiple dates as you can set to and from dates. It will do it free every 24 hours although if you want F you are better to pay the fee for hourly searches. Expert flyer costs more and although it has more functions it is more complicated to use. Award Nexus is in the middle in terms of costs and simpleness.

  8. Hi Michele,

    Thanks for the article this is a great help. We are just looking to book our 2nd Avios redemption (with 2 241 vouchers) for LGW to either MCO or TPA next year. The difficulty we have is that next year will be in school holidays and we will require 4 seats (only needed 2 last year out of school holidays). I have a few questions if that’s OK?

    Which BA office do you tend to ring to make the booking at 1am?
    Will they charge you the taxes in British Pounds or in the local currency?
    When adding the return flight on will we be charged the £35pp amendment fee?
    We have been tracking the releases using BAREDEMPTIONFINDER, it looks as though only 2 are being released for our dates. What do you suggest is the best strategy where you need 4? I was thinking booking 2 Bus and 2 Econ and then upgrade the Econ if more are released?
    Can I book the outbound flight (one-way) online with the voucher to save ringing up the foreign office twice?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Chris,
      The US office is usually able to assist at this time but as you note you may not see 4 seats. BA only guarentee 2.
      Booking online and then calling to add the return is the best way and they will waive the £35 fee as it was impossible to book the return when you did the outbound!
      Hope that helps.
      You should be able to pay in local currency fine.

  9. Hi there, This article is really helpful so thank you for this!
    I have a Companion voucher and have managed to book outgoing business class flights to Mauritius. I am keen to get the return flights when they are released and will ensure I can call at midnight on the day…are you saying I should call the Indian centre and will they be able to understand me, take the booking and add it to my existing one? many thanks Rob

  10. Hi, Just subscribed to your site….great content…thanks. I am thinking of using a reward flight saver to Italy next September…2 people going….however, one person does have commitments that may stop them going…would I be best to make 2 separate bookings incase one has to cancel?….. I noted their £35 cancellation fee…Unsure whether 2 bookings would be better. I also noted your article on using less Avios and more cash option…thank you

    • It depends. If either of you have status then it is better to book together for free seat assignments. Otherwise it doesn’t really matter. You should be able to pay the change fee and just cancel one person off it but it would probably need a phone call. If you were on separate bookings you should be able to just cancel on line which would be better.

  11. Hi, I’ve read elsewhere that you can no longer call non UK centres for the return flight, is that correct?


    • You should be able to. Some people have experienced issues a while ago but I have not heard any stories recently. The only issue may be if they work out the taxes correctly.

  12. I’ve just got my first 2-4-1 companion voucher which is exciting and am looking to use it to get to Cape Town for next Christmas.
    Am thinking that I’m happy to fly to either Cape Town or Jo’burg first (and if needed get the 2 hour internal flight) as this will give me more chance of getting on a flight.
    Just so that I am clear on this, at D-355 I will be able to book the outbound flights only, and then D-355 on the date that we want to come back we book the return flights and then use the voucher. Is this correct?

    • You can use the voucher at D-355 for the outbound. Then ring BA to add the inbound when that is D-355. That’s the simplest way to do it.

  13. Can Economy Basic SH fares be upgraded to CE or is it only possible on Economy Plus tickets? Looking to book some cheap (fare bucket HBO) tickets and then upgrade but I don’t want to buy the wrong ones!

  14. Can I upgrade short haul HBO fares with Avios (if they’re not Q, O or G fares) or do I have to buy Economy Plus tickets and then upgrade them? Would there be any extra costs/surcharges apart from the extra APD?

    • You can buy HBO but then you would have to pay the difference to economy plus to upgrade anyway. Just the extra APD and as I said any difference would have to be paid anyway.

  15. Can I upgrade SH HBO fares (not Q, O or G) to CE with Avios or do I need to buy Economy Plus to be able to upgrade? Assuming it’s possible, will there be any extra surcharges apart from the extra APD?

  16. Thanks for the reply… my apologies for the multiple posts!

  17. Hi Michele,

    I’ve been following your advice to previous commenters with great interest and really appreciate the service you offer. Now I’m in a position to proceed with booking some tickets so I’d just like to ask you to clarify the following:

    If I want to use a 2-for-1 BA voucher for a return trip, I understand that you would advise me to use the voucher when booking online for two seats on the outward trip and then to call BA at the time of booking the return leg and ask them to associate that with the previous booking in order to take advantage of the voucher for the entire return journey.

    My question is… is it possible to also book the return leg online and then call BA so they can associate it with the outward leg and refund half the Avios I will have used for that return leg OR is it essential to do the booking of the return leg via telephone?

    • Hi Stephen. In the past BA were happy to do this but I have heard recently that they have been refusing to refund the extra Avios/ charges in some cases. No idea why but I would not risk it with a busy route.

  18. Hi Michele
    Great info here from you. Thanks.

    Can you advise on the best way to book a long haul return leg with a domestic connection. I understand the bit about booking the outbound first then calling the call centre at D-355 however at that point only the 1st leg of the return will be available not the onward domestic connection. Do I need to book the 1st return leg to London tyen call again 24hrs later to add the domestic connection?

    thanks for any advice

    • It depends on what you are trying to book. If it’s something that’s popular then yes I would book the first leg of the return as soon as it’s released. You can then add the domestic afterwards.

      • Michele thanks for the quick reply. Looking to book either MCO or MIA so fairly popular

        • Yes I would definitely phone up for the return to LHR as soon as it opens. They shouldn’t charge you for adding the domestic. I would ask about the domestic in case they can do that at the same time since it’s a connection it may work.

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