How Do Flights on American Airlines Work When You’ve Redeemed British Airways Points?

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Reader Robert N asks,

I’m curious as to how booking American/US Airways short haul award trips with British Airways Avios works come check in time? Once booking through, do we get a AA/US record locator? Or is there another method for checking into an airport (such as Washington Reagan) where there is no BA desk?

Short Distance Rewards are Great With the British Airways Program

Flights of 650 miles or less cost just 4500 British Airways points each way in economy, and you can redeem for partner airlines like American, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines. Flights up to 1150 miles are just 7500 points each way in economy. And business class is double that.

For instance:

    DC-Chicago on American and DC-New York LaGuardia on the US Airways Shuttle represent great deals at 9000 miles roundtrip. New York – Toronto at 9000 points each way for business class (free checked bags) is a great deal, too.

These awards are why I’m flying domestic economy more.. and loving it.

How to Get British Airways Points

British Airways points can be earned effectively by US frequent flyers since they come easily from a variety of sources.

  • Transfer points you earn with Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to British Airways. The card has a 40,000 point signup bonus offer and earns double points on travel and dining. It has a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95.

  • Transfer points you earn with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express to British Airways.

  • Transfer points you earn with the Platinum Card from American Express to British Airways (although effective October 1 it will take 5 Amex points to get 4 British Airways points.. the transfer ratio will no longer be 1-to-1.)

How You Check In for an American/US Airways/Alaska Airlines Flight Booked with British Airways Points

Here are some basic things to know that will help you not just with check in but also securing the best possible seat assignment for your flight:

  • You always check in with the airline you’re flying. So a British Airways desk isn’t needed.

  • You can use the Finnair or Royal Jordanian websites to change your frequent flyer number if you’re an elite and want elite seating and other privileges like free checked bags (and don’t have status with British Airways that would provide those benefits)

  • You can get your American or US Airways confirmation number by calling British Airways and asking them, or by calling the airline you’re flying and giving them your name and flight details. Then you can check in online.

  • You can check in at the desk or at the kiosk without the record locator — your ID suffices.

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. If you go through the seat selection tool on the BA site after your award flight is booked, the “you’re leaving ba” screen displays your BA reservation number and the AA or US or partner airline flight number as well.

  2. If you book an AA flight using BA Avios, can you still get free checked bags if you have the AA credit card?

  3. Your AA/US PNR is also available at–use your BA PNR to pull up the flight, and your other PNR(s) will be in the flight details.

  4. Even easier than using Finnair or other OW airline websites – delete your BAEC number when making a BA Avios booking. Then go to, login with your AAdvantage account, go to “My Trips” and search for reservations. Enter your info and voila, you’ll pull it up and you can add your AAdvantage number to get your TTN in for pre-check.

  5. What happens if I miss an AA flight booked with BA Avios due to something like a “flat tire” on the way to the airport? Will AA rebook me or ???

  6. One other thing to know is that avios tickets on AA have “priority” status for some reason so that if you leave the FF number alone you get priority security and priority boarding.

  7. For AA, does there have to be available Saaver space to book, or can you book using Avios into a different bucket?

  8. Thanks Gary for the the use of the Finnair web site.
    Every time , in the past,I had to call AA for them to manualy replace the BA EC # with my
    AAdvantage #.,as I couldn’t do it online.

    Another thing re the Avios.BA often ,gives you the option of paying with more $ and less Avios..
    For example here is an award I have booked yesterday. : YUL-ORD ow. on OCT. 16.( going to
    the Chicago Seminar)
    Price is 7500 Avios + CAD$60.05. The additional options go from 6000 Av.+CAD$85.05 down
    to 2500 Av.+CAD$ 125.05.
    I have chosen the last option as I’m buying the 5000 Avios for CAD$65.00. (CAD cents 1.3
    per Avios). This is approx. US cent 1.
    Michael in YUL

  9. Is First Class on a 2 cabin flight (BussinessFirst) counted as 2x or 3x? Something like OAK > SEA on AS?

  10. If I do not have elite status, but flying American with Avios, can I get my first bag free with my AAdvantage mastercard? Would I charge fees with the AAdvantage card through

  11. Be aware that once an award is booked on a partner all changes must be done by BA not the metal you are flying on and BA has change fees that they collect for ANY change of ticket even same day travel. It’s better to rebook what you need and then cancel the previous reservation 24 hrs before the original flight in the hopes there was a schedule change that would eliminate the redeposit fees. BA is not good if there is the possibility you will need to change your tickets. If in doubt book using a carrier with a better change policy (all US carriers) as these fees often exceed the value of the short haul miles saved.

  12. What is the Best way to EARN Avios points without a BA Visa card, rather than to transfer from another program or get a BA CC?

  13. Also better to book two one way tix instead of r/t. Gives you flexibility to cancel return portion and rebook without any fees if you cancel up to 24 hours in advance. I’ve used this when flight availability opened up after trip started.

  14. @Michael, it will counted as 4x on a 2 class plane where domestic flights are in 1st class. In international fights like JFK-YYZ, where it is listed as “business”, it will be 3x.
    That’s because first class is 4x and BA systems see American flights as first class even though it is 2 class plane.

  15. Huh?! I’m lost…. What ff number am I changing and why? When I transfer miles to BA, how do I book flights? Through BA?

  16. You do indeed get free checked bages if you have th AA credit card. You have to change your ff # to your AA #. You can use Finnair but I have also used Air Berlin and Royal Jordanian when the Finnair website didn’t cooperate. Just did this with positioning flights on US to BOS. Make sure your AA # is on the reservation not your old US #.

  17. So, if I book PHL to AUA (1,920 mi) on AA thru BA it will cost me 20K avios round trip in economy? Is this correct?

  18. Gary70,
    You are correct if you fly DIRECT PHL-AUA and AUA-PHL.
    But if you have to connect ( for example :PHL-MIA and MIA-AUA) than BA calculates the
    miles seperatly for each segment .

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