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How to redeem Avios for First Class flights with British Airways

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HfP publishes an Avios redemption ‘price list’ – basically, a list of British Airways destinations with the maximum number of Avios needed for a flight.

We do not include First Class Avios redemptions on that list because of the different way that Avios redemptions in British Airways First are priced.

At present, although this will soon change, Reward Flight Saver does not exist for First Class redemptions. The downside of this is that the taxes and charges sum is far higher. The upside is that in some cases you need fewer Avios than in Business Class.

We have put together this article which looks at how to book British Airways First Class flights with Avios.

How to redeem Avios for First Class flights with British Airways

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, British Airways retired its entire Boeing 747 fleet in 2020 during the pandemic. These aircraft had big 14-seat First Class cabins which meant that it was easy for the airline to offer Avios 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 The 747 fleet has been replaced by aircraft with either no First Class seats or just eight, cutting capacity significantly.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. Time may be running out here too, as the A380 fleet is due to be refurbished next year and the First Class cabin may be shrunk.

At the time of writing, we believe that British Airways currently flies First to the following destinations on some or all flights in summer 2024:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Atlanta
  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
  • Beijing
  • Bermuda
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Dallas Fort Worth
  • Doha
  • Dubai
  • Hong Kong
  • Houston
  • Johannesburg
  • Kuwait
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Mexico City
  • Miami
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Riyadh
  • San Francisco
  • Santiago
  • Seattle
  • Shanghai
  • Singapore
  • Sydney
  • Tokyo
  • Washington DC
How to redeem Avios for First Class flights with British Airways

How to find 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 its flights.

This means that you are at the mercy of BA’s pricing algorithm to determine if, 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:

  • May 2024: 1 day
  • June 2024: nothing
  • July 2024: 1 day
  • August 2024: 1 day
  • September 2024: nothing
  • October 2024: nothing
  • November 2024: nothing
  • December 2024: nothing
  • January 2025: 11 days
  • February 2025: 5 days
  • March 2025: 13 days
  • April 2025: 6 days
How to redeem Avios for First Class flights with British Airways

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 for now.

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 £700 to £900 per person RETURN in taxes and charges on top of the Avios listed below.

We’ve compiled the table below for all routes which we believe currently have First Class. Remember that this is one-way pricing so needs to be doubled for a return flight.

One-way pricesFirst (off-peak)First (peak)
Abu Dhabi68,00080,000
Atlanta85,000100,000
Bahrain68,00080,000
Barbados85,000100,000
Beijing85,000100,000
Bermuda68,00080,000
Boston68,00080,000
Chicago68,00080,000
Cincinnati68,00080,000
Dallas85,000100,000
Doha68,00080,000
Dubai68,00080,000
Hong Kong102,000120,000
Houston85,000100,000
Johannesburg85,000100,000
Kuwait42,50050,000
Los Angeles85,000100,000
Male85,000100,000
Mexico City85,000100,000
Miami85,000100,000
New York68,00080,000
Philadelphia68,00080,000
Portland85,000100,000
Riyadh68,00080,000
San Francisco85,000100,000
Santiago119,000147,500
Seattle85,000100,000
Shanghai102,000120,000
Singapore119,000147,500
Sydney170,000200,000
Tokyo102,000120,000
Washington DC68,00080,000

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.

How to redeem Avios for First Class flights with British Airways

What can you expect flying British Airways First?

Whilst flying British Airways 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 Terminal 5 and the First Dining Room in Terminal 3. These lounges are reserved for those flying in First or those with BA Gold Guest List status and feature 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.

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. We are expecting an entirely new First Class seat to be installed on the refurbished A380 fleet next year.

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.

Seat selection is free for all passengers in First, although the first row is held back for Gold card holders (and only Gold card holders – your partner on the same booking needs to sit elsewhere!).

Conclusion

Whilst British Airways has downsized 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

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (July 2024)

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.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £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

30,000 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 £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

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

40,000 bonus points AND (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel 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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus 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.

Comments (76)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Martin Limbach says:

    My wife and I originally booked AMEX2 for one flights in Club world from LHR to LAX. As you suggested, seats by notified me 10 days ago, of availability in first. Although we had to change to the earlier flight, we were able to book the two seats, for a reduction of 5000 Avios per person and a surcharge of £400 per person. I considered this to be excellent value and look forward to our experience, never expecting to find an available availability again.

  • Amy C says:

    I’m sure there’s a F cabin to Jo’berg?

  • Clive Watts says:

    London-Johannesburg also has First Calls seats on A380 aircraft.

  • Mark says:

    BA fly the A380 to JNB which does not appear on the list above

  • radiata says:

    Johannesburg JNB

  • Mouse says:

    One out of the two daily Heathrow to Cape Town flights in winter has First too (the one daily in summer does not).

  • Jonathan says:

    BA’s First class customers are the only ones who can reserve their seats free of charge at any time, and this for all that book this cabin, and not just for those with status

    • Paul says:

      But not 1AK. Those still Gold card only and with just 8 seats in a cabin is a RPITA reducing seat availability by 25%

      • jj says:

        And making it impossible for a non-gold to book two adjacent window seats – a real pain for couples that weighs heavily against First, unfortunately.

    • Harry T says:

      BA treating it’s best customers well is only annoying if you aren’t a very good customer of BA.

    • Travel Strong says:

      Pretty sure a fully flex ticket also includes it for free

  • Corpt says:

    Is there a suggestion that Reward Flight Saver will soon be brought in for First? Any further info?

    • Rob says:

      It’s not a suggestion. I’m telling you.

      • LittleNick says:

        Expect the points requirement to increase significantly

      • Jake says:

        Thanks. Will the same “options” remain if you want to pay more “taxes” and less avios?

        • G says:

          Yes but RFS is constructed (at least for Club World) that the max avios tends to be the best option for long haul. Short haul, the mid range (£35-£70 mark) often tends to be the best value.

          Move to RFS First is best for the avios rich and erm cash slightly less rich.

          • G says:

            Lets use Atlanta as an example, off peak pricing using a 241. Atlanta is the best destination (imho) for F availability after New York on BA’s network.

            LHR – ATL (one way, per person, no amex)
            30000 + £150 – economy
            47500 + £165 – WTP
            95,000 + £225 – Club World
            85,000 + £550.14 – First

            I think a “devaluation” of making first 120,000 (or possibly even higher) and £350 per person for this sort of routing is what RFS First will being (35,000 avios to save £200 in cash).

          • Rob says:

            However, as per the introduction of RFS to Club, you would expect the ‘old’ price of 85k + £550 to remain as an option.

            If you have a 241 and you have a huge pile of Avios then RFS works out well. No-one will lose because you can still select the original option. Barclaycard upgrade voucher holders would be stuffed, but it won’t matter here because they can’t be used in F anyway.

          • Dom says:

            It isn’t always the case that max avios is the best option for club world (even with a 241).
            Maybe this varies by route, my standard redemption is Tokyo and for that the third option works out cheapest using a 1p avios valuation even with a 241.
            My last two have been off peak both directions and for that the max avios is:
            200000 + £850
            Best value is 150000 + £700
            Even using a 241 you would be spending an extra 50000 avios to save £300 which is not good value to me.

          • Dom says:

            Fat fingers in my earlier post, I should have said 200000 avios and £550 for the max avios to Tokyo, not £850!

      • G says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong rob, but were the original RFS prices for long haul retained when they introduced it?

        So we could reasonably expect something like (using my atlanta example)
        150,000 – £250
        135,000 – £300
        115,000 – £350
        85,000 – £550
        70,000 – £47284957327

        • G says:

          And I fall squarely within the “annual usage of 241 long haul as a couple” lot. Our avios income is relative (to H4P folks) at about 50,000 a year each, excluding signup bonuses.

          We get an annual barclays voucher each (premier / credit card) but struggle to use for long haul, so we often use it for mid haul Club Europe flights to the canaries/greek islands/morocco etc, which can be good savings in of themselves in peak summer periods or for winter sun.

          • lumma says:

            As you need to use the £1 fee option to use the Barclays voucher for CE, and the Avios required for that are roughly the same as the Avios required for a CE ticket at the £50, you’re not getting much value from your upgrade voucher and would be better off just taking the 7k option?

        • Rob says:

          Yes, but they have moved a little since.

      • Corpt says:

        When do we expect an announcement?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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