With the clocks going back an hour (for those of us in the UK) this weekend, I thought it was an opportune time to run this piece. Many of you are familiar with the basics of booking Avios tickets and when they are released, yet it always surprises me how often one particular detail catches people out.
When do British Airways release Avios seats?
Here’s what we know for certain:
British Airways releases Avios seats 355 days in advance.
They officially commit to making four seats in economy and two business class seats available for Avios redemption on every flight. This applies to both short-haul and long-haul flights.
To be clear – this isn’t a fixed number. There will often be many more seats released at 355 days out. There may also be Avios availability in premium economy and first class but BA offers no guarantees in terms of those cabins.
Seats are released every night at midnight GMT and are bookable either online or via a BA call centre.
In my experience, the GMT part is what catches some people out. For the last six months, Avios seats have been released at 1am British Summer Time. Instead, people hear that ‘Avios seats are released at midnight’ but aren’t aware that this does vary through the year.
How to book Avios seats when they are released?
Plan in advance. Firstly, make sure you work out the dates on which your desired flights are being released.
Tip: I use this website as a lazy way of making my ‘T-355’ calculations.
If you’re attempting to snag seats to a popular destination, you need to decide between trying to grab the seats yourself online or whether it’s worth calling BA instead. If online is the way you want to go, I’d recommend a trial run a few days before to ensure you’re confident about completing the online booking process quickly enough to avoid losing out to others trying to do the same thing.
Note: The UK call centre is closed at midnight GMT, so you’ll need to have some other numbers to hand. The US and Japan offices are usually good bets (although the Japan office is closed on weekends).
You find contact details for various BA offices on this page.
What if you can’t plan trips 355 days in advance?
It all depends on where you want to go and when.
If you’re looking to book business class flights to the likes of Cape Town, Mauritius, Maldives, Sydney etc – especially during school holidays, you should try and book as soon as flights are released as those flights are highly sought after.
But if you’re flying outside peak periods and are traveling to a destination like New York where BA has multiple flights per day, you should be able to use your Avios even if you don’t book 355 days out.
Do BA release more Avios seats closer to departure?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this. On some routes, BA may reliably release extra Avios seats x amount of days before departure. On others, BA will reckon they have a good chance of selling more cash tickets in that cabin and will resist releasing additional Avios availability.
What you can do check flight loads and how many seats are still for sale using tools such as ExpertFlyer. This can give you an indication of the likelihood of further Avios seats becoming available.
Get email alerts when (more) Avios seats become available
Say you manage to grab a couple of Avios seats, but would ideally like to upgrade to a higher cabin should reward seats become available. You could check the BA website daily for changes, but there’s really no need to go to all that effort.
I’ve written before about two excellent services that will do those checks for you – and even email you to let you know that space has become available.
- BA Redemption Finder is free to use and will check your desired flight(s) daily for changes. Alternatively, there is a £3-per-month premium service that will check for changes hourly.
- ExpertFlyer offers a Basic ($4.99 per month) and a Premium ($9.99 each month) service. These will also monitor and alert you to Avios availability changes.
I reviewed both BA Redemption Finder and ExpertFlyer in greater detail in this article.
I’ll add this article to the Essential Reading section at the top of the site for easy reference.
Don’t forget that from Saturday, the shift to Daylight Saving Time means Avios seats will be available from midnight UK time once more. Call in at 1am and you may well find that the seats you were after have already gone.
Have you booked Avios tickets 355 days in advance? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below.