British Airways has announced changes to how you earn and burn Avios effective 28 April 2015 and let’s not kid ourselves — this is a massive devaluation. Our one reprieve is that short-haul economy class redemptions will not go up in price…in most circumstances. Read on to find about the changes.
Changes on the Redemption Side
British Airways last updated its award chart in 2011 (remember that day?) and has offered a distance-based award chart with short-haul flights generally being a far more attractive redemption option than multi-segment longhaul flights. That proposition does not change, it just gets more expensive.
New Award Chart with Peak and Off-Peak Awards
British Airways currently prices awards on a per-segment basis based on nine different zones. You won’t see first class below, but just triple “blue” [economy] class.
BA’s current award chart will change on 28 April 2015
BA is introducing a new two-tiered award chart for flights on its own metal and on Iberia, now offering peak and off-peak awards:
How does that play out?
Between US West Coast and London:
- Current award chart: 50,000 Avios one-way in business class and 75,000 Avios one-way in first class
- New award chart off-peak: 62,500 Avios one-way in business class and 85,000 Avios one-way in first class
- New award chart peak: 75,000 Avios one-way in business class and 100,000 Avios one-way in first class
Between US East Coast and London:
- Current award chart: 40,000 Avios one-way in business class and 60,000 Avios one-way in first class
- New award chart off-peak: 50,000 Avios one-way in business class and 68,000 Avios one-way in first class
- New award chart peak: 60,000 Avios one-way in business class and 80,000 Avios one-way in first class
Note non-peak economy awards represent a slight drop in price and peak economy awards cost the same as awards do today, but once past Zone 3 (flights more than 2,000 miles), the price of business tickets dramatically goes up. Even in Zone 1, first class tickets will now be higher.
This implicates U.S. based travelers on American, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines — all valuable Avios redemption partners. For competitive reasons, AA/US/AS code all domestic flights as “first class” even when there is only two cabins of service — that means a transcon ticket from Los Angeles to Philadelphia in “first class” on US Airways will rise to 50,000 miles one-way. That is double the price of using AA miles for the same trip.
Most of the Year is “Off-Peak”
BA has published a calendar highlighting which days will be considered “peak” and which days “off-peak”. Surprisingly, 2/3 of the year will be non-peak. Click through on the image below for a closer look. The black dots indicate non-peak days.
Partner Flights at “Peak” Levels
All partner flights will be priced at “peak” levels no matter the time of year.
Dramatically Increased Cost for Longhaul Business and First Class Awards
If you have started crunching numbers based on the new chart above, you can see that the new scheme is particularly egregious for those traveling in premium cabins on longer flights.
For example, say I want to fly from Chicago to Hong Kong one-way on the following flight:
Right now business class is 70K Avios:
First class is 105K Avios:
Staring on 28 April, that same flight in business class will be 105K Avios and first class will be 140K Avios.
As an aside, the same flight would be 67.5K AA miles in first class or 55K in business class, though I anticipate an AA award chart devaluation is also imminent.
One more example is the popular Boston – Dublin round-trip on Aer Lingus for 50K miles in business class. That is gone on 28 April when the price rises to 37.5K miles each way, a 50% increase.
Note that Aer Lingus currently is not offering any longhaul business class award space through December, but that space comes and goes — we saw a dump of space last week (only to see it vanish after two days) and hopefully we will see more openings before late April.
No More Free Transfers in the United Kingdom
BA makes one exception to its per-segment pricing: UK connections are free on all awards, a policy choice of “fairness” for those who live outside of London. That changes on 28 April. From the horse’s mouth:
To bring the UK in line with the rest of the world, you will now be charged for any UK domestic connecting flights to and from the rest of Europe.
For example, when booking a reward flight from Manchester to Paris – which requires a connection in London – you are currently charged only for the London to Paris flights. From 28 April, you will be charged for the full journey, including the Manchester to London flights.
This calculates as follows (based on peak period pricing):
- current price – 9,000 Avios plus £35 Reward Flight Saver fee or taxes, fees and carrier charges
- new price – 18,000 Avios plus £70 Reward Flight Saver fee or taxes, fees and carrier charges
This change does not apply to UK Domestic connecting flights onto long haul flights, which will remain free of charge. For example, if you are flying to Manchester from Miami via London the Manchester to London flight is included in the reward price (50,000 Avios plus taxes, fees and carrier charges), which is the same as today.
This option will be missed very much — stopovers were permitted in London which made for an easy way to enjoy a holiday in both London and Edinburgh or a strategic way to save hundreds of dollars on a trans-Atlantic ticket. By adding a free connection to Belfast in Northern Ireland, you could travel south to Dublin to enjoy much lower transatlantic departure taxes from the Republic of Ireland.
Guaranteed Award Space on Every Flight
For those flush with miles, BA did throw a bone in promising to make at least two business class and four economy class seats available on every flight when the calendar opens 355 days before departure.
BA is already pretty good about doing this already, but I won’t disparage this new policy. No pledge to release of first class seats, but what this means is that if you have Avios and are willing to sit obsessively on your computer as award space is loaded (or pay an expert to do it for you), chances are you will get the seat you want.
Will oneworld Partners Have Access to Peak Space?
BA is one of the few carriers who does not make additional award space available to its own members at a higher price. With the introduction of peak and off-peak awards, this may change — it would not surprise me if BA only allowed its own members to book peak space, just as AA, DL, and UA do, meaning oneworld partners will have access only to non-peak space.
Changes on the Earning Side
I do not find British Airways a particularly attractive loyalty program to credit flights to, but the divide between rich and poor will grow substantially on 28 April as full-fare premium tickets earn more miles and deeply-discounted economy class tickets earn dramatically less.
New Earnings Chart Rewards Pricey Tickets and Punishes Bargain Flyers
Look at the huge drop in earnings for all but the most flexible economy class tickets —
The minimum Avios awarded per-segment is also changing:
The re-alignment matches what Lufthansa Miles and More and Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Europe’s other two dominant loyalty programs, have done, but it certainly waters down the incentive to be loyal when earnings are cut by 75% on cheap tickets — nothing like flying 36 flights before earnings enough miles for a one-way economy class flight under 600 miles…
Silver Elite Bonus Slashed
Currently Executive Club Silver members receive a 100% bonus on miles earned through flying. Starting on 28 April, that bonus will be halved to 50%, meaning even if a Silver member buys a pricey business class ticket, she may be earning less than before.
A318 Club World London City Service Downgraded to “Business Class”
The London City to New York JFK route uses A318 aircraft and former Concorde flight numbers. The aircraft contains only 32 lie-flat beds. Although these were business class seats and service mimicked business class rather than first class, BA awarded first class credit on this flight. No more on 28 April, when that flight will be treated as business class for earnings purposes.
I will unpack these changes more in the days ahead, but this is terrible day in a terrible era of airline loyalty. Start booking your BA award trips now and remember that miles and points are the ultimate depreciating asset. My current Executive Club balance is about 100,000 and I have no plans to increase it, even with a 40% transfer bonus from American Express going on through Saturday.