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Tips for using FF miles on BA--business class

Tips for using FF miles on BA--business class

May 28th, 2009, 12:08 PM
  #1  
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Tips for using FF miles on BA--business class

Hello--I am starting to plan a trip to Italy for next summer as a graduation present for our 2 daughters (we would go too, of course!) We would be going late June 2010. I have used my Alaska Airlines miles before to get business class tickets to Italy on BA, but I understand from reading here that it is much more difficult now than it was in 2003. So can you help me with what I need to know and do to enhance my chances? (This would again be using Alaska miles on BA.)

For example, I have heard of the 330-day rule. But how does it work? If I call to book my outbound flight 330 days in advance, can I also book the return, which would be more than 330 days out? Or do I wait until 330 days before the desired date of our return flight and book both?

Any times better than others to call? For the fights, are any days of the week easier to book than others? We have some flexibility as to dates, but I would like to complete the 2-week trip by July 10 if possible.

Can we fly open jaws?

And does anyone know if the surcharge that BA charges on FF tickets (something like $300, according to the Alaska mileage plan page) has decreased demand for these seats? That might be a good thing. . . .

Finally, since I only have enough miles for 3 business-class seats, we will be paying for one. Is there a "best" time to book this---is there a pattern to the fluctuation in price for these seats? Would I be risking not getting a seat on the same flights as the FF tickets if I waited some months to book the paid seat? I am thinking it wouldn't need to be booked 11 months in advance like the FF seats, but maybe I'm wrong?

Any other suggestions? I appreciate any and all. Thanks!
enzian is offline  
May 29th, 2009, 08:37 AM
  #2  
 
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When I tried to use my 100,000 miles for a Business Class seat, the cost was around $700. They reduced (I think) some charges and the last time I checked it was down to $500.

Trying to get all of you to Italy could be tuff on the same flight. Getting to London will be easier. BA has cut back on flights to Europe from London since the budget airlines have almost taken over. Start checking in September. And if you can fly out of different airports, that will help.

Would you consider putting the girls in Economy Plus? if you had to?
wally34949 is offline  
May 29th, 2009, 09:57 AM
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BA has cut back on flights to Europe from London since the budget airlines have almost taken over.

If cutting back means 9 dailies from LHR/LGW to major Italian cities then I would love to have seen their daily schedule in the past. What did they do? Fly 20 dailies to all the major Italian cities? Do tell.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
May 29th, 2009, 10:06 AM
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OP,

I booked BA business/first class flights, using AA miles no more than 2-4 months ahead and never had a problem. Occasional 1 day date change was necessary but that was the extend of the difficulty of obtaining BA miles seat.

Obviously you may need to be more flexible since you're trying to get 3 tickets together. There is no 1 rule that will guarantee the availability, 330 days out or 60 days out. Many times the 60 days out reservation offers much more availability since the airlines release more award tickets when they realize they can't sell them.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
May 29th, 2009, 11:43 AM
  #5  
 
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You can sign up for the Qantas FF plan online - no charge, and use their search engine for available BA seats. In my experience the award inventory available to Qantas FFers is also available to American or Alaska FFers.

Note however that Alaska "charges" more miles for business class tickets on BA than they do with other partners, 125,000 for BA v. 100K for American, Delta, Air France, etc. That, plus the fuel surcharge mentioned above, is a real disincentive as far as I'm concerned (and you also can't pre-select seats on BA using award tickets unless you have high status on a Oneworld airline - which Alaska isn't.)
Gardyloo is online now  
May 29th, 2009, 11:45 AM
  #6  
 
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Meant to add, you also can't use multiple partners on Alaska award tickets, so if you decide to use another carrier, either you'll need to find award seats straight to your Italian destination (in the case of American either Rome or Milan) or else pay for the last hop with money.
Gardyloo is online now  
May 30th, 2009, 12:19 PM
  #7  
 
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As much as I like BA business seats over AA for sleeping, I think your best bet would be using AA this time:
1 You would only need 100,000 points for J award (instead of 125,000 for BA
2 With the new AA one way award policy you can get your outbound tickets 330 days out (your best chance to get 4 award tickets) and later get your one way return when the date is "bookable". You can do open jaw as well.
3 You can even fly business to Europe (as that is an overnight flight and you want to sleep) and economy back as it is a day time flight (if you are short of miles)
4 If you go with BA, you can book Business one way and Eco+ on return (probably still more miles than AA business RT).
Where are you flying from/to?
Paulchili is offline  
May 30th, 2009, 12:30 PM
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I would also strongly urge you not to follow AAFrequentFlyer's approach to try to get your tickets 2-4 months before the trip - it's not going to happen for 4 business class award tickets, unless you believe in miracles (or economy is even worse than it is today).
I would not risk my vacation plans on either of those hopes - JMO.
Please let us know what you were able to do.
Paulchili is offline  
May 30th, 2009, 06:33 PM
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They may want you to fly back to London on the night before the flight, (hotel is on you) and then catch the next morning flight. That is what happened when I wanted to fly from CDG back to the U.S. Fly the evening before up to London, Hotel at my cost, and then fly back to the U.S. Also, I couldn't get the midday flight from London to BCN, and had to wait around until 5:00 p.m. to fly to Spain. In short, Morning and mid-day flights were harder to get within Europe.
wally34949 is offline  
May 31st, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Hi--thanks for all your comments. This really helps. To clarify---we will be flying from Seattle, so the direct SEA to Heathrow is most attractive to us. The timing (an overnight flight) works out really well. We don't like to us American for this reason--the change in the US before we get to Europe. I don't mind using the extra miles to do this.

If we can fly open jaws, I would prefer to fly into Zürich (I know not Italy, but that way we get a few days in Switzerland at the start of the trip) and out of Milan. If not, we would probably fly in and out of Milan. I need to check the schedules for the flights (realizing they can change, but it is helpful to know what they are now). On previous trips, flights to/from Zurich went from Heathrow, while most flights to Italy required a transfer to Gatwick---not fun after the overnight flight from the US. Maybe that has changed since the new Terminal 5 was opened.

In the past, we have spent a couple of nights in London on the return, so the early departure from our continental airport was avoided. Given the expense now, I'm not sure we would do that. So again, I need to check the flight times. I know an early am departure from Zürich is easy, but I'm not sure about Milan.

wally---I don't think putting the girls in Economy Plus while we enjoy Business Class would be an option.

If the business class seats get too complicated or the cost of the one "paid" seat plus surcharges adds up, we would consider other options---what would you suggest? Economy Plus on BA? We could also fly direct from Seattle on Lufthansa, Air France, and maybe SAS (they are cutting back routes). Those would have to be "paid seats". NW is not an option as one daughter had a horrible experience with them and will not fly NW, ever. (Or are my Alaska miles also good on Air France? I am not up to date on that. What is Business Class like on Air France?)

Gardyloo---thanks for the tip about the Quantas booking site. I'll join and have a look!
enzian is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 04:00 PM
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I usually use miles to upgrade to Club (Business) on BA and usually fly from Seattle. Typically I have no problems getting the flights I want, unless they're blocked for some reason. Upgrade to Club costs 25,000 miles plus the cost of a seat in World Traveler Plus.

Rather than purchasing a full-fare seat in Club, I suggest you join the BA Executive Club and also get a Chase credit card that earns BA miles. http://www.britishairways.com/travel/home/public/en_us Use the credit card for everything you can over the next few months to build up miles. You can also earn 20,000 miles after your first use of the card. If you don't have enough miles for an upgrade, you can purchase additional miles - up to 19,000 miles for about $550. You can also purchase miles for others if you want. Even if you have to purchase some miles, your upgrade will cost you less than half what purchasing a Club ticket would.

You can also have a Household account, and pool your miles with others in your same household.
julia1 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 04:39 PM
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Enzian, SAS is ending its SEA-CPH service in July; Icelandic is starting SEA-KEF-XXX a week before SAS bugs out anyway. Note Icelandic has pretty cheap fares to continental Europe and they allow a free stopover in Iceland coming or going. SAS hasn't been a partner with Alaska for (I'm guessing) 7 or 8 years.

Yes, you can use Alaska miles on Air France. Northwest is being digested by Delta at the moment, so by the time you're traveling NW won't be an option any more. Delta's business product isn't all that bad, and assuming they'll inherit NW's SEA-AMS route, that might be an excellent alternative for you; even stopping over in A'dam is not a bad thing.

Frankly I think getting 4 award biz seats on the same flights are going to be a hassle in any scenario. If it were me I'd be looking at possible 2+2 scenarios, which could provide you with more flexibility.

Also, when looking at BA flights, do NOT forget possibly using Vancouver as your gateway. With 2x daily SEA-LHR flights in the summer and 2x YVR-LHR flights most days, there are a lot of BA seats daily from this neck of the woods. Alaska will happily Horizon you to YVR for the BA flights.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 04:39 PM
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PS there's no U in Qantas.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 04:42 PM
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But can I use Alaska miles to upgrade on British?

Or are you suggesting I join the BA plan just to get the fourth seat, rather than paying full business class fare? Then I would only need to earn 25,000 miles--that might be a great option.

Thanks for the suggestion.
enzian is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 04:53 PM
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But can I use Alaska miles to upgrade on British?

Negatory.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 06:18 PM
  #16  
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OK, maybe I should go for the 2+2 idea, maybe with Julia1's idea?

Julia1, with the upgrade from EconomyPlus, can do do the upgrade when you purchase the tickets? Or do you purchase the ticket and then upgrade later? I don't want to risk ending up with 2 seats in EP with no upgrade.
enzian is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:02 PM
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enzian,
julia 1's suggestion of opening a BA card (Visa for example - check out BA web site)) and earning 20,000 BA is a good one. They are essentially free miles that you can use for upgrade on one of your tickets.
Julia, I am intrigued about your suggestion of pooling miles in the Household account. Does that account have to be set up separately and miles transferred into it? We have 2 accounts with some miles in both - they would be more useful in 1 account.
Paulchili is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:08 PM
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PS
As per Gardyloo's suggestion, if you fly out through Vancouver you can use your miles as an AA award (on BA flight) - I believe; thus reducing the amount needed for a business award to 100,000 from 125,000.
Gardyloo - is this correct?
Paulchili is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:43 PM
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Sadly, no - Enzian wants to use Alaska miles. If AA miles were available, then yes, taking the YVR flights is fine - I do this with some regularity.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2009, 09:02 PM
  #20  
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So is there any downside to just trying for the 3 business-class seats when they open up in July? I have the Alaska miles for that now. If I don't get them, what have I lost? I can then try a different strategy---like booking the four seats in Economy Plus as soon as I see a reasonable price, and then working on BA miles for the upgrades.

Does the BA card offer double miles for ticket purchases like my Alaska card does? That would help things along a bit.
enzian is offline  

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