British Airways London to LA – How I Booked & How Much I Paid

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As soon as Christmas was over Joanna, MJ and I headed back across the Atlantic to get some much-needed LA sunshine and to escape the European winter. We ended up flying with British Airways and booking the Andaz West Hollywood and, because I think it could be useful to others planning trips, I thought I’d share the details of why we booked what we did, how we went about booking and how much it all cost.

I’m splitting this information over two posts (one for the flights and one for the hotel) and today I’ll take a look at the British Airways flights we booked to and from Los Angeles.

The Considerations

I had reserved our accommodation at the Andaz West Hollywood as early as February last year (a whole nine months before our trip) and that meant that I had a good amount of time to search for some decent fares.

There were three of us flying on this trip (one of whom was a child) so my priorities when looking for flights for this trip were different to my priorities when flying solo.

Ideally I wanted to:

  • Keep costs as low as possible
  • Fly back (overnight) in a lie-flat seat
  • Avoid having to position to Europe

I’m not totally against positioning to Europe when Joanna and I have MJ with us (we’ll be doing exactly that in a few weeks) but, with a child in tow, the ex-Europe fare has to be pretty special for me to consider it.

As much as I dislike British Airways there are times when I have to be pragmatic and admit that they are the best option of the ones available to me – this was one of those times.

the inside of an airplaneBritish Airways Business Class/Club World

If I wanted us to have lie-flat seats for the overnight return leg of our journey one of three things would have to happen:

  1. We pay for Business Class
  2. We book through American Airlines and hope that upgrades are released (I could use miles & cash or Systemwide upgrades)
  3. We book British Airways Premium Economy and upgrade using Avios

Option (1) was a non-starter as three Business Class fares to LA were always going to cost quite a bit (even over the holiday period where you can snap up a bargain or two).

Option (2) was viable but relied on American Airlines opening up transatlantic award space – that’s not happening very often anymore and I didn’t fancy our chances of getting all 3 of us upgraded.

Option (3) was the most likely to succeed. In order to upgrade using Avios there simply has to be Business Class award availability on the flight in question….and BA always has lots of Business Class award availability during the holidays.

Finding The Fare & The Flights

Around June last year I spotted a reasonable Premium Economy roundtrip fare out of Dusseldorf but, at €820 (~$918), it wasn’t cheap enough for me to consider it:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

What this fare did, however, was prompt me to look for Premium Economy fares out of London (just to see if anything looked interesting).

Here’s what I could see for the outbound….

a screenshot of a flight operator

…and here’s what I could see for the inbound:

a screenshot of a flight operator

Two things leapt out at me from those numbers:

  1. Paying a £315 premium (each) to sit in British Airways Premium Economy on the daytime outbound flight seemed like a colossal waste of money.
  2. Paying a £140 premium (each) to book into British Airways Premium Economy and so give ourselves the chance of upgrading into Business Class (Club World) was a no-brainer.

There were two more things to consider at this point – Business Class award availability on the return flights and the aircraft that British Airways was offering.

All three British Airways flights on our chosen return date showed Business Class award availability in abundance:

a screenshot of a flight

This meant that I was free to select our flights based on price, convenience and aircraft type.

Outbound flight:

  • I dismissed the early flight as it was £100 (~$140) more expensive than the other two British Airways flights
  • I dismissed the American Airlines flights because they were ridiculously priced
  • I chose the later of the two remaining British Airways flights because it offered an Airbus A380 and, thanks to some research on Flyertalk, I knew that the A380 Economy Class cabin is more comfortable than the 787-9 Economy Class cabin (which was the other option).

Inbound flight:

  • I dismissed the earliest flight because I wanted a little more time in LA
  • I chose the 18:00 flight because it offered the 787-9 Dreamliner. The Dreamliner’s Business Class cabin is reputedly nicer than the Business Class cabin on the A380 (our other option) and I had never flown in the British Airways 787-9 so it would make for a good review.

I was happy enough to book us into Economy Class on the outbound flight because my oneworld status allows me to reserve exit row seats at the time of booking and, because I had checked through ExpertFlyer earlier, I knew that all the exit row seats were available before I booked.

a screenshot of a computer gameExpertFlyer showing that the exit row seats on the BA A380 were all available

I went ahead and booked the flights – Economy Class on the outbound and Premium Economy on the inbound for a total of £1,690.41 (~$2,366) broken down like this:

a screenshot of a screen

The British Airways website then decided to do it’s usual trick of not working so I couldn’t upgrade with Avios online…I had to call in.

a screenshot of a chatWhat followed, as I tried to get us all upgraded and tried to get our seats allocated, was nothing short of a farce. I wrote about this in detail at the time and, in a nutshell, it involved BA employees lying and demonstrating staggering levels of incompetence.

I’m not going to go into it all again so all you need to know is that we paid 25,000 Avios each to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class and we were charged £150 (~$210) in extra British Airways surcharges.

The total cost for the flights was £1,840.41 (~$2,575) or approximately £613 ($858) per person + 75,000 Avios.

Bottom Line

The fare we paid wasn’t exactly a bargain but it was a price we were happy to pay. $858 is less than is often quoted for a roundtrip Economy Class fare between London and LA, the flights didn’t require us to position into Europe, and we had lie-flat seats on the return leg – essentially we booked what we set out to book.

Our issues with British Airways didn’t actually end with the upgrade and seat selection debacle but I’ll tell you about the latest BA screw up when I come to reviewing the flights in the coming days.

On the way are a review of the British Airways A380 Economy Class experience on a daytime flight and the British Airways 787-9 Business Class (Club World) experience on an overnight flight…so stay tuned.


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