British Airways Doubles Its Commitment For Available Award Seats

Along with one of the devaluations of British Airways Executive Club in the last decade, BA made a commitment to award seat availability on every flight. In practice that meant they’d load award space when flights first become bookable.

Many flights offer more than the minimum promised award space, but this was a way of knowing that with enough planning it would be possible to use British Airways Avios – and since these are saver award seats, it’s equally possible to use miles on partner airline currencies like American AAdvantage, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, etc.

BA announced that they are doubling their committed minimum award seat availability for coach and business class, and introducing minimum availability for premium economy. This is effective immediately for travel July 28, 2021 onward.

Cabin Change Current guaranteed reward seat availability per flight (flights pre 28 July) New guaranteed reward seat availability per flight (flights 28 July onwards)
Euro Traveller (short-haul economy) Doubling 4 8
Club Europe (short-haul business class) Doubling 2 4
World Traveller (long-haul economy) Doubling 4 8
World Traveller Plus (long-haul premium economy) New guaranteed availability 0 2
Club World (long-haul business class) Doubling 2 4

You don’t actually want to redeem for long haul economy travel, aside from its relative discomfort. That’s because British Airways adds fuel surcharges to award redemption, meaning that you’re paying the bulk of the cost of a coach ticket in cash still even when you’re using your miles.

Overall this move is great PR and helpful for planning purposes. It costs BA relatively little. International travel remains significantly depressed, and UK travel more so than US travel. There’s likely to be plenty of unsold seat inventory on BA for some time. Declaring that those seats will be available to customers spending miles simply describes the business reality.

As with most things in the airline industry, things are guaranteed until they aren’t. When United Airlines rolled out its award chart devaluation coming out of bankruptcy in the spring of 2006 they announced guaranteed award availability on every flight also. That quietly disappeared. You should read this as BA’s current practice rather than any warranty of future behavior.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. With the “fuel” YQ charges they could just offer award seats on any aircraft with any carrier. They could just about use the YQ to purchase the economy-level tickets at air carrier rates and then just take your Avios in trade.

  2. I’m with DaninMCI. I don’t care how many “award” seats they offer, since I don’t fly on “award” seats with hefty co-pay ripoffs.

  3. Let’s use a figure of a nice round average of 100 long haul economy seats per plane. If they allow 8 Avios seats per plane, the announcement should have read “British Airways announces they will bar their loyal frequent flyer customers from using Avios on 92 percent of economy seats.”

  4. Piling on with the other comments.
    A typical off peak round trip in business class DFW to LHR is 125k miles and nearly $1,800 in fees.
    That compares to $2,000 plus 50k miles to upgrade a paid coach ticket on AA. So I’m spending 75k miles to save $200 or .3 cents a mile in value. No thank you.

  5. BA is not offering any first class award seats to and from London from MIA way out into the future and very few if any from NYC airports. Next April/May – zilch. Boston seems to be getting better BA Avios treatment for First seats. Equipment has first class seating available for sale even though reduced number of First Class seats but no Avios offered. Vast departure from past..

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