Updates to the British Airways program coming soon


British Airways has announced a number of changes to their loyalty scheme this week. While some of the reactions have been overwhelmingly negative, I see things slightly differently. Yes, there are some changes that will devalue the points for some members. But there are other changes that are surprisingly positive. Going forward, the program is skewing heavily in favor of members residing in the UK or Europe at the expense of members pretty much everywhere else.

So what are the big changes?

For starters, the points now have a new name: Avios. Not points, not miles, but Avios. Yeah, that’s stupid, but in the grand scheme of things doesn’t really matter.

More significantly, the single partner award chart is going away. This chart represents the most valuable awards for folks outside of the UK and Europe so it is understandable that it will be a tremendous downgrade for those customers. In many cases it appears that award costs are increasing by 2-3x assuming they keep the existing for BA/multi-partner awards. That hurts. I’ve previously suggested that the single partner awards between North and South America or North America and SE Asia are a great deal, particularly with the lack of YQ fuel surcharges on those carriers. Seeing that award increase from 80K in business class to 180K sucks pretty badly.

So that’s the bad news. But what about the good news? If you live in the UK and outside of London there is one rather significant benefit coming. Onward flights between London and the Regional airports will no longer carry a surcharge for redemptions. That’s a rather nice bit of relief for those members.

Additionally, if you are traveling within Europe the fees for redemptions are mostly going down. With the variety of taxes and fuel surcharges the airlines charge in Europe it is not uncommon for award prices to be comparable to revenue ticker prices. The new scheme will fix those costs at £27 for a return trip. That’s a pretty good deal.

Also, with the exception of Tel Aviv, most destinations in the Europe/Mediterranean region are staying level or decreasing in redemption costs. Again, a move that is heavily favored towards the folks in Europe, but it is a positive change.

Finally, there are some other bits like points expiry extending to 36 months after the last activity rather than 24 months as currently.

Overall, the impact of these changes would seem to depend on where you’re living. If you live in the United States and are sitting on a large stash of BA points, now is a pretty good time to look at unloading them, Maybe the Brits have finally decided to get their payback for that little Revolutionary War thing.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

17 Comments

  1. Tatl traffic to lhr from JFK is going DOWN 20% for all cabins! That is great news.

    These changes are bad for someone looking to fly yyz-hkg on BA points, but pretty good for many (most?) people.

    1. I know why they had to pick a name that means nothing. Especially as it also applies to the non-airline shopping program that they also run it makes sense. Still silly to me.

      As for just how many people win or lose, I will take the stand that more win. Perhaps fewer in the USA, but more overall.

  2. Thanks for taking a more balanced view of things in your posts. A number of posters are focused on what certainly must be a small percentage of ba’s overall redemptions.

    Re Avios, as BA is really BA+IB, they needed to pick a word that was pronounceable in both home countries – and offensive in hopefully no countries. Branding is getting tougher and tougher!

  3. I’ll probably count myself as a loser on this one. Living in Boston with 120k-ish BA miles from the Chase BA card and an MR transfer w/bonus. May need to quickly plan an AA trip to LatAm.

    1. I’d definitely cash out in our situation, Dave. Consider LAN for South America, too. You’d have to get down to NYC on your own but the product is supposed to be pretty solid and they include Easter Island as part of their regular South America awards. Add on a stopover in SCL and you can have quite a nice trip.

  4. It sounds like the new chart will be distance based instead of region based for single airline redemptions. Until we see what the distance numbers are going to be for US-Asia/South America, I am not going to get too excited.

  5. Seth – saying that awards are going up to 2x – 3x is unfair given at this point we have not seen the chart. Let’s at least wait and see how it comes out.

    1. Fair point, Phil, and I thought I originally wrote it a bit more cautious than I actually had so I’ve added a few words to couch my phrasing a bit better.

      But unless they significantly change the zone/distance-based charts from what currently exists for multi-partner awards it isn’t pretty. JFK-SCL is 80K on a single partner or 180K on multi-partner based on the distance covered. That is a pretty significant increase and there is no indication that they’re going to make that band substantially cheaper. JFK-SYD would go from 160K to 200K and JFK-HKG would go from 100K to 200K.

      The single partner award chart is a pot of gold in their program for a number of regions. Losing it and switching to miles-based is likely going to hurt a lot of folks. But those are also mostly the folks in the USA who are not the target market that BA is going after. Not too much harm in marginalizing them. Especially with the ATI that allows full accrual on AA for those customers it doesn’t make a ton of sense for BA to be going after that market segment.

      Yes, it sucks if you’ve been hoarding BA points. But that’s just a good example of why hoarding is bad, not of why airlines are evil or stupid.

    2. I think the 24 months might have been limited to the AirMiles scheme rather than BAEC. I suppose that’s just another way things are getting better for the Brits.

  6. Well most people knew that giving that 100% accrual all fares on AA and BA flights was going to cause some changes somewhere.

    If the milage based changes are as bad as you suspect, then the value of MR point keeps going down.

    1. For at least the next 10 weeks you can still redeem them at the current rates, Matt. We do not know the full details of the new partner charts but it could get ugly. Hopefully they’ll get some more specifics out soon.

  7. “points expiry extending to 36 months after the last activity rather than 24 months as currently.”

    Actually it’s currently 36 months, and has been so for awhile.

    https://www.britishairways.com/travel/ecterms/execclub/_gf/en_us

    “. If a Member has not earned or redeemed Mileage or purchased or transferred Mileage in accordance with the appropriate Conditions of Use for 36 consecutive months, all Mileage that has accrued to that date will expire.”

  8. For me, it’s all about “don’t P*ss in my ear and tell me it’s raining”.

    Just like the Zimbabwe bank printing money causes bread ot cost astronomically more, the same thing goes for airline miles. Astronomical amount of mile printing going on.

    Raise the redemption rates? Fine, just give me some notice.

    Tell me it’s a good thing and release information selectively, well, that’s not good if you know of bad stuff but aren’t telling me. And waiting a couple months to tell us (per the BA rep’s response to the points guy) is BS.

  9. What Barry said.

    Guess Chase might see quite a few people drop their BA cards going forward. I know my household will cancel two (too bad we just paid the increased annual fee upon renewal).

    Time to go flight shopping.

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