This week marked the return of eager Britons being able to travel to the US, perhaps heading to the heat of Miami or buzz of New York.
Plenty will have seen the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic plane take-off simultaneously to the Big Apple from Heathrow to mark the occasion and it may have them dreaming of a trip to the States soon too.
Many may have also built up vast Avios pots to use towards flights, given pandemic led spending and a lack of travel adventures to use the points on.
While they can be easy enough to earn, it can be difficult to navigate the British Airways website to find availability – and that’s where Reward Flight Finder steps in.
Many BA customers have saved up Avios points over the pandemic when travel was banned
The website and app constantly tracks BA seat availability and alerts members when these special seats are released, potentially saving them time and money, as well as the scramble to secure them.
This will be helpful for the many Avios customers that have points they haven’t yet been able to spend due to the pandemic halting travel.
Now countries are beginning to open up again, it is giving wannabe travellers the opportunity to utilise points.
To help these holidaymakers, we reveal how Reward Flight Finder works, how much it costs and top tips to secure the best seats.
Why would Avios users need Reward Flight Finder?
BA issues millions of Avios each year and whilst it is easy to collect, it can be harder to use them to secure the almost free reward seats – especially to popular destinations like Cape Town, Barbados, Miami, Sydney, the Maldives and Dubai.
BA has no alert system and it is impossible to search the BA website for many destinations and different dates at the same time as customers have to search each destination and each date separately.
If seats are not available, customers will have to repeat the exercise several times, often with no success, which can be both time-consuming and frustrating.
By comparison, on one single page, for a full year ahead, Reward Flight Finder shows all available dates, the number of reward seats available on each day in every cabin class, the number of Avios needed and whether the date is peak or off peak.
Reward Flight Finder will help customers find the best seats for Avios customers on BA flights
How does it work?
BA releases reward seats anytime, day or night, guaranteeing that two Business class and four Economy seats are released when the flight first comes into the booking system.
More seats are released closer to the departure date depending on how the flight is selling.
Reward Flight Finder tracks these flights and gives its users the chance to snap them up straight away.
It offers three different levels of membership – which we explain in the box below.
The site does not guarantee that Avios collectors will find the reward seats but says the chances of doing so are vastly increased as it constantly searches for seats and will notify customers of the availability.
I’ve used it for a while
By deputy editor Lee Boyce
I came across the website a year ago. I’ve amassed a large pot of Avios over the last few years and I find the British Airways dedicated part of the website for spending them testy, to say the least.
I use Reward Flight Finder as a guide to availability of seats and how many points needed, and then input them in the BA website with great accuracy.
I have only used the free service, but it does also offer a silver service for £2.99 per month.
This promises hourly alert frequencies of availability to beat the seat competition, along with a ‘Where Can I Go’ map search tool, that could be a great add-on for those willing to go anywhere and maximise their points, especially with overseas travel back on the cards.
It also has a gold service at £4.99 per month which offers instant alert frequency of seats and allows 20 active alerts on the go for destinations at once – compared to two with the free service, and five with the silver service.
This currently has a free 14 day trial.
Two Reward Flight Finder customers got Business tickets to Cape Town with their Avios
Top tips for finding best seats
Reward Flight Finder has offered its top tips for finding the best seats.
1. Map view: Those who are a silver or gold member will be able to access the map view which allows people to see all available destinations in one place.
This works for people who don’t know where they want to go as they can enter their departure point, the number of seats, the cabin classes and their outbound and return date ranges.
Map pins for each available destination will pop up and clicking on a pin reveals the available dates and cabin classes.
If users do know where they want to go, they can put in their departure and destination points and do a quick search to see all available dates, the number of reward seats available on each day in every cabin class, and the number of Avios needed, for a year ahead.
If the preferred date and cabin class is available, customers are advised to book directly with the airline as soon as possible.
If the preferred date and cabin class are not available, customers can set up an alert and wait to be notified by text or email.
2. Create alerts as early as possible: There is no harm in setting them up many months in advance. BA releases seats 355 days before departure date.
3. Choose several possible destinations if that suits you: Set up several alerts and choose wide date ranges for both departure and return.
4. The moment you are notified of availability, book directly with BA: Do not delay. Seats disappear quickly. Even if you are unsure, best to book the seats, and if you have to cancel the tickets you get all your Avios and taxes paid refunded in full, less a £35 per person charge.
Simple: You put in your departure airport, where you want to fly to and the website shows you reward seat availability for each month
‘We are not rich, but can afford to fly Business Class every year’
Two Avios customers, called Carla and Pete*, each joined the British Airways’ loyalty scheme in 2020 and have since merged their accounts.
Since then, they have accumulated 125,000 Avios in just one year after aiming to collect as many as possible.
The couple, who are both teachers, plan one long-haul trip each year, usually to the US or Asia, for at least five weeks and whilst they usually fly in economy, they can now travel in first or business class, thanks to their Avios points.
In order to save, the two first applied for the £195 (now £250) BA Premium Plus American Express card, earning large sign-up and referral bonuses.
After three months, Carla cancelled her Amex and got a pro rata refund on her annual fee but still retained the bonuses she had earned whilst Pete got Carla a supplementary card on his account earning another bonus.
They then used Pete’s Amex card to pay for all personal expenses which included insurance, mobile phones, gym memberships, AA breakdown, Sky TV, broadband, theatre tickets and all everyday shopping through the BA shopping portal.
They also paid for large purchases made by trusted friends and family who then repaid them as well as switching from Tesco to Sainsburys where they collected Nectar points, converting them to Avios.
Every month they fully paid off the Amex balance and spent £10,000 within 12 months to get a companion voucher which gives customers two tickets for the price of one.
The couple joined Reward Flight Finder in August 2021 and have recently booked Cape Town for next March in business class.
Pete said: ‘We are over the moon, having secured these business class seats. No way would we have done it without Reward Flight Finder as Cape Town is very popular, and we just don’t have the patience to check BA several times per day.
‘Setting alerts just makes it so easy. From now on we will aim to earn a companion voucher every year and fly business too. No more economy for us.’
The key to this is paying off the balance as you go along, or face eye-watering APR on offer from this type of reward cards.
* – not real names
Are there thousands of Avios collectors with big unused balances?
It is thought there are lots of Avios points collectors with large, unused balances, thanks to the pandemic.
Douglas Rose, chief executive at Reward Flight Finder, said: ‘We don’t have exact figures but the huge increase in online shopping during the pandemic coupled with far fewer opportunities to use Avios for flights, hotels and car hire due to the lockdowns is likely to mean that large Avios balances exist.
‘In 2019, less than 75 per cent of Avios issued in that year were redeemed. The redemption figures in 2020 must be much lower.
‘As BA extended the expiry dates of most existing companion vouchers three times, a lot of people will have several companion vouchers to use and possibly future travel vouchers as well.
‘The latter were issued when BA cancelled flights and people chose a voucher instead of a full refund as the vouchers had a much longer maturity than the original companion voucher.
‘If the number of alerts being set up is an indication, then we have seen a huge increase in people setting up alerts in the last month, especially for long-haul destinations that need at least 100,000 Avios for a return business class ticket.’
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