The West Coast Flight That Has Plenty of First Class Award Space to Europe Using American or British Airways Miles

British Airways dropped first class from a handful of routes, but they’ve changed their mind and first is coming back. And that creates an opportunity for award travel.

Here’s what prompted my realizing it: MileCards wrote that British Airways award availability was wide open in first class for next summer between Los Angeles and London and Seattle and London.

That seemed strange to me, it certainly hadn’t been my experience. And I search for a lot of awards.

West Coast – Europe non-stop premium cabin awards are tough to get, even on British Airways which has a ton of premium cabin seats and which adds fuel surcharges onto awards.

Perhaps it just happened and there was a huge short term opportunity to grab a couple of first class awards?

So I went about searching myself for these non-stop West Coast – London flights, looking for two passengers in first class, and I came up empty.

Here’s what I found for July, 2 passengers in first class, flying Los Angeles – London non-stop.

Literally nothing.

I then searched the non-stops Seattle – London, and came up with nothing for two passengers in first class as well.

Then I went back to the MileCards post and realized that blog was using as well to show award availability… and their screen shots included the search box details, which indicated that the filter for non-stops wasn’t set.

On the Los Angeles route there’s availability in first class because American has a hub there which can get passengers to other British Airways international gateways, e.g. flying Los Angeles – Atlanta (American domestic first class) – London.

And on the Seattle route there’s availability every day because:

  • American and Alaska are partners, and Alaska offers good availability Seattle-Vancouver
  • Vancouver – London has first class seats pretty much every day available.

Here’s July for Vancouver – London first class for two awards:

And here’s what it looks like as we scroll into August:

British Airways stopped selling first class on the Vancouver – London route. And indeed there’s only business class for sale… until March 29. That’s when there’s paid first class inventory available again.

The seat map loaded for the flight shows a first class cabin again as well.

It seems that the Boeing 747s that still had old first class and were selling without first — Vancouver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Cape Town — will all get converted and offer BA’s New First. Vancouver converts in March, and the other three convert in October 2015. A smattering of dates have opened up on those routes for November as well.

Routing up to Vancouver lets you get the long haul West Coast – London in first. Or connecting to other British Airways gateways on the East Coast works as well.

Sadly availability on the Los Angeles and San Francisco flights remain non-existent.

But if the Vancouver flight can work for you… it could be well worth it.

  • American and Alaska offer connecting flights you can include in your award.
  • Fuel surcharges will be a stopper for many, but framed as a discounted non-mileage earning paid coach ticket with a triple upgrade to first using miles it may well make great sense.

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. I was able to secure 2 First seat using AA miles from
    SFO-DFW-LHR for July 4, 2015. I monitored
    almost every day until a pair of seats opened up from
    SFO-LHR on BA 284, and was able to make the change without a fee.
    Unfortunately, traveling home on July 19, not so lucky…have to transit ATL. Any idea if ATL 777 flights have the new First, and if not, is any compensation due?

  2. I’m a little confused. Is it only Vancouver flights that have award availibility? Or Las Vegas and Phoenix as well?

  3. Is first class worth the additional miles over business class? I know more space and better meals on first but are BA business class seats not lie flat?

    For TATL out of SFO, I get routing through PHX for the PHX-LHR nonstop.

    But $1040-something in fees to book a business class ticket with AA miles.

    I think I checked only April/May though.

    I heard IB may be better for some European destinations than BA but you can’t search for IB and it sounds like people prefer BA even with the surcharges and fees on awards?

  4. Gary … YVR – LHR won’t work with the Chase travel together because BA Chase Companion Voucher is available for travel from USA only.

    And contrary to popular belief … Canada is not just another state 🙂

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