Interesting Loophole When Booking AA Award Flights With Avios

One of my favorite uses of British Airways Avios is for shorthaul flights that would otherwise be disproportionately expensive – which includes flights within the United States on American Airlines. I recently came across an interesting loophole that offers a lower award cost for flights that have the same flight number, but stop over in a city along the way.

As I previously wrote about, the award cost for American Airlines domestic shorthaul flights increased from 4,500 Avios to 7,500 Avios on February 2nd. Since British Airways’ award chart is distance based, your award ticket price is priced out per segment. That means that if your itinerary has a stop along the way, you would be charged for 2 award tickets – or at least that is what we are led to believe.

While researching some flight options for an award consulting client the other day, I noticed that a certain flight was pricing out considerably lower than it should have been. I was looking at flights from Reno (RNO) to Des Moines (DSM). There is obviously no direct AA flight on this route, which means a stop along the way at an AA hub. Given DSM’s location, I figured either Phoenix (PHX) or Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) were the best options to keep the cost low.

Map 1

Map 2

I opted to try Phoenix first. Since there would be a connection, RNO-PHX should price out at 7,500 Avios, which it did.

BA 3

And PHX-DSM should price out at 7,500 Avios, which it did.

BA 4

For good measure I always do a direct search from my origin to my ultimate destination just to see if anything else pops up. In this case, there was a “direct” option that came up.

BA 1

The direct option was pricing out at 10,000 Avios total rather than 15,000 Avios like it should have! And sure enough, it was the same flights I was looking at originally that if booked separately would have cost 15,000 Avios.

BA 2

In digging a little deeper, I noticed that the flight number for the RNO-PHX and PHX-DSM flights was the same – AA896. It appears that the British Airways search tool only charges you for one award flight at the total distance of the trip – as opposed to by segment with a minimum cost of 7,500 Avios per segment!

Now, is this super helpful for most flights? No, not at all. But if you happen to be searching a route where there is an AA flight operating under the same flight number the entire route, you could definitely save yourself some Avios!

So how do you figure out if there is an AA flight operating under the same flight number for your particular route? It’s actually pretty easy. Head over to www.seatguru.com.

SG 1

Then you will want to click on “I don’t know my flight number” under the ‘Flight #’ and date.

SG 2

From there, you will want to enter the airline (entering “AA” will pull up American Airlines), the date you are looking to travel and your route (in our example, Reno (RNO) to Des Moines (DSM)). Then simply click “Find Seat Map”.

SG 3

That will pull up a list of flight options which looks like this:

SG 4

From there you simply want to look for a combination of flights that offer the same flight number on your route.

SG 5

Now this system is far from foolproof as SeatGuru does not pull all of the available routing options. But it should be good enough to give you an idea of if there is a pair of flights that offer the same flight number.

Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, this will not apply to a large majority of flights that people are searching for, but it is something that is worth knowing and remembering for when you do your British Airways Avios award searches. After all, for every mile or point you save, you are that much closer to your next awesome vacation!

Has anyone else found any interesting loopholes in the British Airways Avios award ticket system?

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