How to redeem Avios for First Class flights with British Airways
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Yesterday we published our Avios redemption ‘price list’ – basically, a list of British Airways destinations with the maximum number of Avios needed for a flight.
We did not include First Class Avios redemptions in that article because of the different way that Avios redemptions in British Airways First are now priced. In some cases you need fewer Avios than in Business, albeit with far higher taxes.
Instead, we have put together this article which looks exclusively at how to book British Airways First Class flights with Avios.
Where does British Airways fly its First Class cabin?
The number of British Airways routes with a First Class cabin has shrunk in recent years.
Most notably, BA retired its entire Boeing 747 fleet in 2020. These aircraft had big 14-seat First Class cabins which meant that it was easy for the airline to offer redemptions. The 747 fleet has been replaced by aircraft with either no First Class seats or just eight, cutting capacity significantly.
Your best chance of getting a First Class redemption is on an A380 route, where you will still find a 14 seat cabin.
At the time of writing, we believe that British Airways flies First to the following destinations on some or all flights:
- Hong Kong
- Los Angeles
- Male (Maldives)
- Mexico City
- New York
- San Francisco
- San Jose (California)
- Washington DC
Finding British Airways First redemption availability
Unfortunately, British Airways doesn’t make it easy to redeem Avios for First Class seats.
Unlike in economy, premium economy and Club (business class), British Airways does not guarantee any First Class reward availability on any of its flights.
That means you are at the mercy of BA’s pricing algorithm to determine when, and where, it wants to release seats in First.
One of the easiest ways to see where you can get first class availability is by using a third party tool such as SeatSpy. SeatSpy lets you view Avios availability by route and cabin 355 days in advance, which is when British Airways starts selling tickets. That said, you are more likely to see First Class opening up in the months leading up to departure than 355 days out.
You can also use the ‘Where can I go?’ function on SeatSpy to see all First Class availability across BA’s entire network for particular dates.
A New York example ….
New York has more First Class seats available than any other British Airways route with multiple daily flights. At the time of writing, SeatSpy shows that availability for TWO First Class seats outbound, on any of the daily flights to either New York or Newark, looks like this:
- February: 7 days of the remaining 16 days
- March: 3 days
- April: 3 days
- May: 2 days
- June: Nothing
- July: 1 day
- August: 1 day
- September: Nothing
- October: Nothing
- November: Nothing
- December: 3 days
British Airways First Class Avios pricing by route
Another oddity in the system is First Class reward pricing.
British Airways has now rolled out Reward Flight Saver pricing across all other cabins on short and long haul routes, but First remains the exception.
That means that taxes and fees can vary and are not fixed, unlike with RFS pricing.
At the time of writing, you should expect to pay £800-£900 per person RETURN in taxes and charges on top of the Avios listed below.
We’ve compiled the table below for all routes currently having First Class. Remember that this is one-way pricing so needs to be doubled for a return flight.
|One-way prices||First (off-peak)||First (peak)|
|San Jose (CA)||85,000||100,000|
Can I use my Amex companion voucher or Barclays Upgrade Voucher?
You CAN use American Express 2-4-1 companion vouchers in First Class.
You CANNOT use your Barclays Upgrade Voucher to book First Class. You can only use a Barclays voucher to fly in Club World / Club Europe or World Traveller Plus.
What can you expect flying British Airways First?
Whilst flying BA First isn’t as luxurious as on some other airlines, it does offer a number of benefits over what you’d get flying BA Club World (business class).
For a start, you get to use dedicated First check-in and baggage drop counters. In Heathrow Terminal 5, these form part of the First Wing, an exclusive, fast-track check-in and security lane that whisks you straight into the British Airways lounges.
You’ll also have access to BA’s top-tier lounges, including the Concorde Room at Heathrow. This lounge is reserved for those flying in First or those with BA Gold Guest List status and features a la carte dining, (fairly) premium champagnes and a calm, relaxing environment.
Onboard, you’ll enjoy a much smaller and more intimate cabin of between 8 and 14 seats (versus 97 Club World seats on its A380!) with dedicated cabin crew.
(‘Dedicated’ means that on your particular flight they will only be working in the First cabin. Unfortunately BA does not have dedicated cabin crew who are specifically trained for First and who only work in that cabin.)
The British Airways First Class seat is wider and more spacious than Club Suite, and the latest version, introduced in 2020, features a door (review here) – see the photo above.
You will receive Temperley London pyjamas and amenity kits with skincare products from Elemis.
When it comes to food and drink, you’ll be able to dine on demand at any time. The meal service includes a round of canapés, starters, soup, main course, dessert and cheese and biscuits.
Passengers in First also get free on-board wifi.
Whilst British Airways has down-sized its First Class cabins, snagging a First Class Avios redemption is by no means impossible.
You will, however, need to be flexible on destination and dates. If you read HfP regularly, we often run articles when a large amount of First Class seating suddenly opens up on a particular route.
You can read more about British Airways First in our guide here.
Our ‘price list’ for Avios redemptions in Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class is here.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (March 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April 2023 and you will be entered into a free draw to win ONE MILLION AVIOS! Full details are on the application forms here (free) and here (paid). This competition is exclusive to Head for Points readers. T&C apply.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review
Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.
American Express Business Platinum
Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
60,000 points sign-up bonus (to 30th March) and free for a year Read our full review
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.