Advanced tips on how to spend British Airways Avios...
Avios seats first become available 355 days before departure. There are typically at least 2 Business Class Avios seats on each flight. On popular routes such as Maldives, Mauritius, Cape Town, Australia, people book very early, especially because you don't lose anything if you cancel flights, bar a £35 admin fee per person (see below).
If demand for paid seats on a flight is low, more Avios seats are often made available. If people cancel their Avios seats, they typically get put back into the pot, so you might get lucky if you keep checking.
This year I wanted to go to Iceland over Christmas and to Maldives in March. For both trips I checked availability every day for at least two weeks and suddenly seats became available, which I booked immediately.
You can cancel a flight you have booked using Avios up to 24 hours before you fly. You will be charged an admin fee of £35 per person, but you get your Avios refunded to your BA Executive account and you get your taxes back.
Normally it is incredibly expensive to book one-way flights on British Airways, but with Avios it's not as you only pay the taxes - this can come in very handy on certain routes.
For example, Avios seats on return flights to Male, Maldives, typically book up a year in Advance. The exception to this is the outbound flights at the end of March. As British Airways only fly in peak season and stop flying form the end of March until October, the last few outbound flights of the season are normally very quiet, as you can only stay a few days if you want to catch the last British Airways return flight home. This means that you will rarely find a paying customer on these flights, as it's expensive to pay for a one-way flight and no one will book a return flight to a destination that far to only stay for a couple of nights.
This means that you can often find Avios availability on these flights and British Airways often release additional Avios seats near to the departure date. You can then book your return flight with a different airline, where you can book one-way flight at a reasonable price.
Return trip from different locations
You can book a flight into one airport and back from another airport, and still use your companion voucher to do so. For example you could fly form London to Singapore, and return form Hong Kong to London. This would count as one return trip and you would only need to use one companion voucher. You will need to phone British Airways to get this booked (doing so once you have already checked to confirm they have availability).
Return trip in different classes
You can book different classes of travel for each leg of the journey (i.e. outbound in First Class and return in Business Class). This is a great way to make your Avios go further and to try out different products.
Type of plane
The Avios you need for flight are the same no matter the type of aircraft you fly on.
It sounds super-geeky, but a flight in Business Class on a brand new A380 (right photo below) is a far superior product that that a flight in Business Class on an old 777 (left photo below) - far superior!
Information should be provided before you book as to which type of aircraft you will be on - if you can, go for an A380 or a Dreamliner.
If you use Avios to book Business Class or First Class travel, you will get access to airport lounges. Some airports have far better lounges which means you get more for your Avios, so it is worth checking what lounges are available before booking.
British Airways premium lounge (which you get access to if you are flying First Class) is known as the Concord room, of which there are two, one in London Heathrow Terminal 5 and the other in JFK New York. In the Concord room you can have a three course table service meal before you fly, limitless vintage champagne and much more.