The debacle that is Avios, and a few gems it offers


When British Airways and Iberia announced a couple months back that they were integrating their loyalty programs under the Avios moniker there were a whole bunch of folks (mostly based in the USA) who were pretty upset at the potential issues it could raise. At that time I took a somewhat measured approach, suggesting that there are a few areas in which folks might see benefits, mostly for those in the UK or Europe. Now that the details are out and we can look at the numbers I’m still not certain, but the program mostly seems to be a debacle unless you live in the UK or Spain and only fly on simple trips.

You didn’t want to connect, did you?

The single-partner award chart isn’t nearly as bad as previously expected, with a catch. Awards on a single partner now do not permit connections. If you require a connection for your itinerary then you redeem an award for each flight. That means JFK-EZE on AA would be one price (25K one way in coach) but connecting via Miami would add 7,500 to that total; connecting via Dallas is 10,000 more. So if you can position yourself to get to a hub gateway (or if you are lucky enough to actually live in one) then the numbers can be quite reasonable still. I queried ~150 city pairs on routes operated by wide-body aircraft by Cathay Pacific, Qantas and LAN and found a few routes where the numbers aren’t completely awful. But that assumes you’re at the gateway and want to go to the hub. A pretty significant catch to be sure.

Also on the connection front, it appears that folks based in Europe are going to feel the pinch of award prices rising. A trip from Istanbul to Paris sees a 4,500 point surcharge over a trip from Istanbul to London. Not all that surprising considering the rate on London-Paris is 4,500. In other words, even if you stay on BA metal for the journey you get hit with a connection penalty. This applies to flights originating in the USA as well, and the up-charge might be even more than you’d expect (ORD-LHR is 20,000; ORD-CDG is 25,000 while MIA-LHR and MIA-CDG are both 25,000). In other words, the award charts are very inconsistent and nearly impossible to decipher with any reasonable sense of reason.

Multi-partner Awards

The multi-partner award chart is unchanged and is shown below. With this scheme you are permitted up to 8 segments on an award, including an open jaw stopovers so long as the stopover is on the direct point of travel. That basically means only at hubs, which is also not particularly great, but also not atypical.

Avios costs for multi-carrier reward flights
Miles in your journey Avios needed for an economy flight
0-1,500 30,000
1,501-4-000 35,000
4,001-9,000 60,000
9,000-10,000 70,000
10,001-14,000 90,000
14,001-20,000 100,000
20,001-25,000 120,000
25,001-35,000 140,000
35,001-50,000 160,000

Business class reward flights: x2
First class reward flights: x3

 

Some "gems"

So, what are these "gems" I referenced in the thread title? There are a couple to talk about.

If you’re looking for flights operated by international configured aircraft and hoping for a bargain there are a few routes that come up as quite reasonably priced. Some have gone down from the prior charts, though, again, no connections are permitted any more so there’s that problem. Still, take a look at some of these routes with the decent redemption pricing (o/w, economy):

AMM DTW 30000
AMM JFK 30000
AMM ORD 30000
AMM YUL 30000
AMS HKG 30000
BOG MIA 10000
CCS MIA 10000
CDG HKG 30000
CUN MIA 4500
CUN SCL 20000
FCO HKG 30000
FRA HKG 30000
HEL SIN 30000
HKG PVG 7500
HKG HND 10000
HKG ICN 10000
HKG KIX 10000
HKG NGO 10000
HKG LHR 30000
HKG MXP 30000
HKG YVR 30000
HKG JFK 35000
ICN TPE 7500
JFK LIM 20000
KIX TPE 7500
LIM SCL 10000
MAD SCL 30000
MIA PUJ 7500
PUJ SCL 20000

 

Comparing those numbers to other carriers I’ve compiled data on suggests that the program isn’t a complete fiasco, so long as you can avoid that pesky connection problem.

Also, it is possible to redeem 10% of the regular Avios award price for an infant in lap which is a nice feature and most certainly not one that most programs offer. But that’s a pretty small consolation.

Upgrade or downgrade?

In the end, I believe that the overall changes to the program are quite negative for most customers. Yes, there are a few bright spots where award costs have gone down and those should be celebrated, but for most customers the connection penalty will be a rather steep price to pay to make the Avios retain value. That said, if you live in a hub or in a spoke with good frequencies there is the slight chance that the program can be made to work for you.

I’m quite happy that I’m not sitting on a pile of Avios right now, even being in NYC where I have the advantage of many non-stop options. If it comes to that I’ll just move some Membership Rewards points over and leverage the program that way.

Check out some other views on the changes from these noted loyalty bloggers:

 

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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, and LinkedIn.

10 Comments

  1. I think you nailed it Seth! I am glad I used most of my Adios points to take that trip to SA on LAN that was on my bucket list for so long. I have just 80k left over and they may come into play with a short East coast family trip on short notice when Southwest does not come through:-) Living in DTW the connection issue with Adios is a killer! And the way they handled the whole change over is a case study of how NOT to do this, from a corporate/loyalty point of view!

  2. In some respects, the new program is actually better than the old Executive Club. Redemptions from the East Coast to London have actually gone down in price (though one still has to pay hefty surcharges), as has the number of miles required to upgrade on BA flights, which was generally a pretty good way to use BA miles before and is even more attractive now. Short-haul single-segment flights are also a real bargain at present (though I don’t expect that to last).

    There are other changes which aren’t bad either from the point of view of people who actually fly BA (tier points behave differently, and the new Bronze level isn’t nothing), though for North American arbitrageurs who don’t fly BA and don’t live in hub cities it’s not a great program in which to park credit card miles anymore.

  3. You are all killing me with all the whining!! BA miles are now my favorite miles behind SPG for hotel redemption!!

    1. Thanks for that one, JohnnieD, though I wonder what the YQ will tack on to that. I haven’t run all the AA options yet (there are way more than from the other carriers and I’m a combination of a bit lazy and trying to get the posts out promptly) but I’m not surprised there are a few gems from them, too. Still, the main issue of the ridiculous connection penalty remains. That’s going to hurt a LOT of folks who aren’t in a major hub.

  4. Looking forward to redeeming ORD-AMM at lower rates than what it used to cost under the old ExecutiveClub. I think the new program is overall a net negative, but there are some hidden gems that make SPG->Avios transfers worthwhile.

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