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A couple of days ago, in a bored moment, I tweeted that I was “patiently waiting (and watching the clock count down) so that I [could] snag two Avios rewards when British Airways releases them in 14 mins“.
Since then I’ve had a few emails asking how I knew when BA would be releasing reward flight inventory so I thought I’d give a brief explanation here.
With a lot of airlines there often seems to be no rhyme or reason to when reward seats are released and that can be very frustrating. It’s true to say that sometimes we can find patterns that often hold true (Cathay likes to release a few reward seats early and then often doesn’t release many more until a couple of weeks before departure) but in a lot of cases there’s absolutely no way of knowing when (or if) reward seats will be released…like with American Airlines for example.
With British Airways things are a little different.
At the beginning of 2015 BA announced a number of big changes to its Executive Club and, for most of us, the changes were pretty bad. Off-peak and Peak seasons were introduced, the number of Avios earned on flights were reduced for most travelers and the number of Avios needed for reward bookings shot up. It wasn’t a happy time for BA loyalists.
One good thing did come out of the crushing devaluations and that was a promise that British Airways made – going forward the airline would guarantee that it would release a minimum of two Club World/Club Europe seats and four World Traveller/Euro Traveller reward seats on all British Airways operated flights offered for sale on ba.com.
In addition to this the airline also confirmed that these seats would be released 355 days before departure.
More specifically, these reward seats are released at 1:00am (UK time) when the UK is on British Summer Time (between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October) and at midnight (UK time) the rest of the year when the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time.
Here, for example, is a screenshot I took yesterday which shows reward flight availability on the London – Budapest route for 25 August 2019 (355 days out):
In my recent experiences British Airways has been very good at making sure that these award seats are available on ba.com as soon as the clock strikes midnight (or 1am) but I’m told that this isn’t always the case – sometimes there’s a delay before the reward seats appear online so it may be prudent to call BA just to be extra sure (make sure you call an office in a part of the world where it’s still business hours).
Note: While BA is committed to releasing 4 Economy Class and 2 Business Class reward seats on every flight this doesn’t mean that this is all you can expect the airline to release….or that the airline only releases reward seats 355 days out.
BA can (and will) release more award seats whenever its booking algorithms indicate that flight loads are looking light and this can happen at any point during the year.
If reward seats aren’t available for the flights you’re looking at it means that the ones released 355 days out have been snapped up, but you should check back regularly to see if the airline has released any more.
For anyone wondering how I got on with the reward seat search I tweeted about here’s how things panned out:
I snagged the reward seats just seconds after the clock passed 1am in the UK (5pm here on the West Coast) and saved myself a good chunk of change.
Roundtrip fares for the dates I want to travel are running at ~$510 but I’ve booked the same flights for the same dates for 20,000 Avios and $54.69 in taxes and fees.
As the dates I’m traveling are at the height of peak season the fares are unlikely to go down (at least not by much) so my reward booking has seen me save ~$455.
This means that I’m getting ~2.27 cents of value out of each Avios.
I consider that a very good redemption indeed and, to cap it off, my reward flight comes with a full checked baggage allowance while the fare I was comparing it to was a hand baggage only fare. That’s a check mark in the win column as far as I’m concerned 🙂