Booking Reward Seats
British Airways Reward Flight Saver seats can represent incredibly good value. This is particularly true during periods with high demand (like school holidays) because there isn’t a massive difference between peak and off peak reward redemptions. For example economy reward saver seats to ‘zone one’ European destinations, including places like Milan, Paris, Barcelona, cost 4,000 Avios + £17.50 taxes and fees off-peak, and 4,500 Avios + £17.50 peak. Potentially, if you have the points, this creates some opportunities where very high demand flights selling for £100’s can be booked for effectively £60-ish (using a 1p Avios point value). The only problem is that these seats are very limited, so if you’re looking to get them during a very busy period then, as I found out, you might find you face stiff competition!
How Many Reward Saver Seats are Available and When Can you Book Them?
British Airways release a minimum of 4 economy and 2 business class reward saver seats on each flight. They do this exactly 355 days in advance, with the flights becoming available at midnight. As soon as you refresh the page at 12:00 on the dot, the date becomes available to select and the reward saver availability shows.
It’s possible, but not guaranteed, that they may release more than these 6 seats, and that more reward saver seats might become available at a later date. You’d imagine this is less likely on dates where there is already high demand though. A useful tool for keeping an eye on any new availability is Reward Flight Finder.
I’ve been planning a ski trip to Kitzbuhel, Austria and loaded my BA Executive Club account with enough points (transferred from Amex at 1:1) for 5 return flights in the February 2020 half term week. Perhaps a bit naively, I assumed that if I was ready to pounce at midnight I’d have no issue bagging 5 seats for flights from London to Innsbruck. My only requirement was that the two flights needed to be spaced by at least five days, so in theory I had 3 potential dates at each end of that week I could try for, as well as two flight options (Gatwick or Heathrow).
For the flights to Innsbruck, it took the full 3 attempts, and led to plenty of frustration! When I tried for the Saturday and Sunday outward flights, in the 60 seconds I took to enter my information the seats were booked – each time giving a message to say that my transaction couldn’t be processed because seats were no longer available. On day three, with auto-fill on and my card details saved, I finally won the race and secured 5 seats from Gatwick. The four economy seats at 4,500 Avios and one in business for 9,000 Avios.
For the flights back, I encountered the same issue. Another two attempts meant it had now taken 5 nights of waiting up until midnight and I only had the outward flight. On one occasion it looked like my payment was going through, only to end up with an error message again. Once the Saturday return flights to Innsbruck had disappeared in seconds again, I decided to broaden my search and at 12:05 I secured seats to return from Salzburg, rather than Innsbruck, to Gatwick. A bit of research suggested this was a slightly longer transfer, but still very workable.
The next morning the flights to Innsbruck were available at €457 per person and the return leg from Salburg at €670. This means to purchase the return flight with money, rather than Avios, would have cost €1127 or £967 per person – presumably because February Half term is the peak ski holiday week, and this is a popular destination, so demand is very high on those dates. A return economy reward saver flight at 9,000 Avios plus £35 taxes and fees, means a ridiculous Avios point value of 10p per point. Multiply that by five seats and it’s obvious why I wasn’t the only one trying to book these the second they became available. In theory, using the 20,000 American Express Gold Card bonus would get £2000 worth of flights if used in this situation – equivalent to a 100% reward on the spend target! (although of course there’s the question of whether you’d value the seats that highly – at that price I would’ve looked at other options instead).
Tips for Grabbing High Demand Reward Saver Seats:
– If you really need a specific flight, log into your BA Executive account 355 days in advance at midnight and book as soon as the flights appear.
– Turn on auto fill, and save your card to your BA account, to speed up the booking process.
– Use Reward Flight Finder to keep an eye on any new reward saver availability.
– If you only need one or two seats, in my experience it seemed business class seats were easier to book.