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.


Verdict

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. 

 

 

 

4 thoughts

  1. Thank you Tricks of the Trade for this very helpful advice. Following it to the letter, I was able to snag 241 (Using BA Amex voucher) Avios seats online at midnight T-355 for outbound LHR-MIA in Feb 2020. Additionally at T-355 on my return date,I called the USA office, which was helpfully answered by someone in the UK (as a global airline,why don’t they just open up for everyone?) Anyway this very helpful person on the line was able to switch out of the USA system and access my booking in the UK system and add two return seats in Clubworld (First not available on Avios at T-355) to my existing 241 booking. Further joy, when the booking appeared online I was able to secure club seats in the bubble of the 747, and happily coughed up the fee for the privilege. I also confirmed with the First Concierge service that the seat booking fee is refundable on the off chance two seats in First become available to Avios on that flight or another the same day we want to travel and I’m lucky enough to secure them.
    I have logged my return date with BA redemption Finder so hopefully will get an alert if in fact they do become available….it would be the icing on the cake, not that I’m greedy!
    Does anyone know how likely it is for 2 First seats to become available to avios on the MIA-LHR route in the time between T-355 and departure?

    1. Hi Mike,

      Well played! And the 747 Upper Deck to boot 🙂 In terms of First availability, you may find MIA a tougher route in that it’s quite a premium-heavy leisure route and BA (expecting to sell F seats for cash) are often reluctant to release many Avios seats in First. That’s not to say it won’t happen though and setting a Reward Flight Finder alert is definitely a good way of staying on top of things if it does open up.

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