Managing British Airways Award Bookings to Get All of Your Benefits

As a flyer based in Washington DC, about 15 minutes at most from National airport (really, most of the time 20 minutes door-to-gate with PreCheck) I’m actually benefiting from the US Airways-American Airlines merger quite a bit. First, I’m an American Executive Platinum. But second now that US Airways has entered oneworld I can use British Airways Avios to redeem for all of the short haul flights on US Airways and it’s really cheap.

Flights under 650 miles are just 4500 British Airways points each way. And I find availability on these flights is really quite good. Plus US Airways is by far the largest airline at Washington National. So lots of options.

That’s why I’m flying so much econoimy recently. It’s too cheap not to.

One quirk about US Airways, though — it’s almost impossible to get a telephone agent to change your frequent flyer number on an award booking made through BA.

(American Airlines agents are much more willing to help, but I genuinely hate the phone. I talk to agents enough as it is, and don’t want to call if I can handle things self-service online.)

So I want to walk through how to get benefits like seat assignments, free checked bags, and priority boarding if you have status on US Airways or American but book at ticket with British Airways Avios.

Now one nice thing about BA frequent flyer reservations is that I find they’ll automatically assign seats that may otherwise cost money to get assigned, premium seats in coach that US Airways charges for (even for elites, and even though the seats aren’t ‘better’ in the sense of having extra legroom).

Still, I want my American Executive Platinum number in the reservation. I can do it at time of check-in online at the US Airways website. Or I can just go to the Finnar website. Finnair is a oneworld member and they let you pull up reservations and change details like your preferred account number, so it’s quite handy.

Go to Finnair’s website. You may be asked to select your country and language before proceeding.

Once on the home page you’ll want to choose “Manage My Booking.”

Clicking that will expand the box and let you enter your last name and confirmation number. Enter the information from your British Airways booking.

For US domestic flights you’ll get a warning you have to update advance passenger information. Finnair assumes a purely domestic flight is a flight to the U.S. Don’t worry about that. Choose ‘update your details.’

That’s where you enter the frequent flyer number of your choice.

At that point it even immediately recognizes your free baggage allowance if you have elite status.

To check in, or see details of your trip on the US Airways website, you can go to the US Airways home page and select ‘Your Trip’ and enter your British Airways e-ticket number (no dashes, just numbers) off of your BA confirmation and date of travel.

That will pull up you reservation, which will also list your US Airways confirmation number.

You can now select or change seats if you wish on the US site.

Now, if your reservation is made with British Airways points for travel on American Airlines you will want to find your American Airlines record locator. (You can’t use your BA ticket number on the American site to pull up your booking.)

Go to and in the top right there’s a box to enter your British Airways confirmation number and last name. That should pull up your reservation. When your reservation comes up, click “PDF” and you’ll get a pdf file of your booking which will include your Ameircan Airlines record locator number. You can then use that to pull up your reservation on the home page and select seats there.

I’ve known this for quite awhile, having used BA Avios to book American Airlines flights for quite some time. I don’t know where I first learned it, but Googling around I see that the Dan’s Deals blog wrote this up about 15 months ago.

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. For paid AA trips, what can you do if you want the Citibank AA cardholder benefits (free bag, priority access) but want to earn Avios or Alaska miles? Can you just flash the citi card at check-in or do you need to enter your AA number at booking and change it later (at counter? at gate?)

  2. Gary, good to know. With status on AA would a traveler be on the US upgrade list when traveling on Avios Award? Thanks

  3. Alright — enough with the US Airways Avios posts: I don’t need more competition for these short haul award seats. 🙂

    I maintain that, if you live in an AA/US hub city, Avios is the best frequent flyer program for “real people.” Everyone should get that BA credit card. Of course, this is unlikely to happen because it wouldn’t be intuitive to “the masses.”

    BTW, I currently don’t have any US/AA status, but I’ve cobbled together a strategy that works pretty well. First, I got a US Barclays card that gives me Zone 2 boarding. Honestly, Zone 2 is good enough, as it enables you to get your carry-on stowed pretty easily. I also got that Citi executive Visa card that comes with the 100K bonus and Admirals Club membership. Between Zone 2 and lounge access, flying US as a nobody” is almost as good as flying UA with my 1K status. And it’s much cheaper for short haul travel with Avios.

  4. @Bill in DC – not technically eligible for upgrades on awards, no, although some people have succeeded asking US where most processes are manual rather than automatic.

  5. Gary,

    I think there is enough posts about this. You are just going to get american’s attention and short haul awards will be done soon before you know.

  6. Unfortunately the coach award availability out of DCA on US is usually quite bad. Tons of F space, but 27000 avios RT for an RJ trip defeats the purpose.

  7. Hi, Gary. I’ve got a USAir flight booked with Avios points coming up. I called USAir and they changed my Avios number to my USAir number. I have the USAir credit card with free baggage benefit. Do you think I’ll get the free baggage benefit even though I booked with Avios? Thanks!

  8. Gary, I found another trick to be very useful.

    When you are in the BA booking process, you are asked to provide the travelers name and info. Your Avios number is automatically filled in, but you can remove it. By doing so, you are leaving no frequent flier number attached to the res.

    Once booked, you can log into your AA account, and goto My Trips. You can pull up the res with the date and flight number. Now you will be able to add your AA number to the res, and you are done.

    Normally, you Avios number would be there and it would be greyed out so that you cannot change it. By removing it at the initial time of booking, you allow yourself to add you Aadvantage number through AA.

  9. @Elena. That was my experience too. I flew DCA to LGA last week on US Airways Shuttle using Avios. I called US Airways and the agent changed FF# right away. As for the free baggage, my boarding pass had “Card holder” listed on my boarding pass and i did check one bag free of charge. I do have US Airways credit card. You may need to add your credit card to your profile at US Airways.

    @CW. I do not know what route are you looking at but i had booked 5 RT tickets on the DCA-LGA shuttle about a month ago and there were at least 7 seats available on every flight from 6am to 9pm.

  10. I was just looking at booking a trip from LAX to Hawaii using Avios. My wife is Alaska GOLD MVP so we were wondering if there was a way to attach her info to our tickets in hopes of getting upgraded. Anyone had experience with this?

  11. @Takhliq – should have specified that I’m looking from a leisure perspective; mostly weekend trips with flexibility to go to pretty much any oddball place. I understand that the shuttle does have availability.

  12. Great post, but a little confused…. why is it important to have your AMEX Plat reflected?


  13. Please ignore my question…. seem to recall RTFQ (read the f#@#@#ing / full question) from flight school. and ignored it.

    mea culpa!

  14. Gary, thanks for the great post. I’ve got an Avios ticket coming up DCA/PIT on US. My question for you is this-how can I add my TSA precheck info to my reservation to hopefully my status will come up on my US Air boarding pass?

  15. On check my trip u don’t have to click on the PDF. U just click on view details.

  16. Just back from Hawaii where I used BA miles for Alaska Air flights. I was amazed at the availability on AK and only 25K from CA rt. Couldn’t get free bags, no way, no how on AK though. $25 each.

    Haven’t tried US short-hops from DCA yet through BA.

  17. @Gary — Just so you know, this doesn’t always work. I went through the same process just last week, but my BA number was greyed out on the Finnair website and not changeable.

    @Gabe — This doesn’t always work, either. During the same booking process I spoke of above to @Gary, I did remove my Avios number (as I’ve been doing for many years), but it still popped up on my US booking and was unchangeable on the Finnair website.

    I don’t know why either of the above happened, but I’m absolutely certain I did things the way I was supposed to and it didn’t work.

    At the end, though, I just called US and they changed it without batting an eye.

  18. Does this pass along the tsa pre trusted traveler number from your AA profile as well?

  19. Updated 3 different BA on AA bookings via Finnair tonight and got no free bags confirmed though I am an AA Gold member. :/

  20. Does not work on Finnair. It will pull up the booking but goes to a generic error message when trying to change passenger info.

  21. I also had some problems with Finnair, so I went through the various oneworld carriers trying to see what I can and can’t edit.

    I was able to edit my frequent flyer info via a few members’ sites, including Qantas.

    The only thing I can’t seem to do online via any of the other OW members is add my Known Traveler Number. Guess I’ll be calling US to do that.

  22. We book my AA tickets using Avios on my wife’s BA account and vice-versa so the frequent flyer number is blank. I have tried the Finnair trick in the past and never got it to work. About 1 in 4 times the BA folks on the phone will manually put in your number – just depends on who you get. The BA site will offer you a chance to put in your OW number, but then it still doesn’t show. Generally getting your AA booking reference as explained above & doing on the AA site works. As a last resort, check in at the counter (not curb) and show your AA elite card.

    BTW LAN has been more than happy to put in the AA number on my Avios bookings and recognizes my AA status.

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