British Midland’s (bmi) Diamond Club award program boasts on its home page, "Free airmiles. Free flights." After forking out over £1,100 (~$1,800) in taxes and surcharges for two business class tickets, I think it is an insult and a lie to call award redemptions on bmi free.
Every carrier levies some sort of tax on award tickets. Some levy more than others. Bmi levies a lot more. I was booking a ticket for a client ex-LHR to a warm destination south of the equator and put together a nice itinerary on South African Airways and Turkish Airlines. Both of those carriers levy high fuel surcharges on top of their base fares and a bmi award ticket doesn’t cover those fees. To make matters worse, taxes out of the United Kingdom are already obscenely high.
This is certainly not the first time I have seen surcharges this high on a bmi award, but it makes me angry every time I see it. Sure, BD has a generous award chart right now–but not that generous. When you factor in the added cost of fuel surcharges to the ticket, you are essentially paying for an economy class ticket if you want to use your miles to book a business or first class award.
If bmi would make it clear that award flights are not really free, I’d still be ticked off but at least I would not be able to charge trickery.
And that’s not the only problem–the Diamond Club call center is in India and while at least United’s Indian Call Center features polite and courteous employees, I ran into three rude Diamond Club employees over the weekend. They were short with me and impatient when I specified the specific routing I wanted and they couldn’t pull it up using a simple search. Two of the agents simply claimed the availability was not there and refused to investigate further. To complicate matters, every time I called the connection was terrible, so bad at one point that I had to hang up and call again. With no toll-free number outside the UK, the call cost me 7¢/minute, even on Skype.
After dealing with the bmi this weekend I really question how I am going to spend the large collection of miles I have collected the last few years in the Diamond Club program. Bmi ought to allow passengers to pay for the taxes with their miles as well. Their current policy just irritates me. Both LOT and SAS recently eliminated fuel surcharges on award travel and it is time for bmi to follow. But bmi is not about to kill this cash cow. I know other carriers, like big brother British Airways, also levy high fuel surcharges, but there is just something about forking out almost $1,000 for an AWARD ticket that rubs me the wrong way.
Thanks for listening to my rant.
As a word of advice, if you are redeeming award miles on bmi, try to book flights that have no fuel surcharges or at least a low one. This is not always possible, but it is worth the extra effort to check.