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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