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British Airways Avios: Another Sneaky Devaluation on Partner Awards

British Airways Avios. What’s even the point anymore?

It’s incredibly disheartening when a loyalty program’s members put in the time and energy to earn points with the program, only for the program to implement overnight devaluations with no notice and seemingly no rhyme or reason. Yet, Avios has done exactly that for the second time in five months. 

Back in March, the Avios program had subtly devalued short-haul awards on their own British Airways flights. Now, it has once again increased the number of Avios required to book select short-haul awards – this time on two very popular Oneworld partner airlines, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Let’s survey the damage, and then we’ll assess what this means for Avios collectors who might’ve been hoping to book short-haul awards around East and South East Asia.  

Cathay Pacific: Devaluation of Up to 52%

Prior to this change, the following award chart had governed all Avios redemptions on Oneworld partner airlines, including Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. 

The changes we’re seeing to award redemptions on these two airlines all fall within the first three distance zones: Zone 1 (1–650 miles), Zone 2 (651–1,150 miles), and Zone 3 (1,151–2,000 miles). 

We conducted searches for three Cathay Pacific routes that fall into Zones 1, 2, and 3 respectively: Hong Kong–Taipei, Hong Kong–Cebu, and Hong Kong–Phuket.

In Zone 1, economy class redemptions have increased from 6,000 Avios to 7,500 Avios (a 25% increase)…

…while business class redemptions have increased from 12,500 Avios to 16,000 Avios (a 28% increase).

In Zone 2, economy class redemptions have increased from 9,000 Avios to 10,000 Avios (an 11% increase)…

…while business class redemptions have increased from 16,500 Avios to 25,000 Avios (a 52% increase). 

In Zone 3, economy class redemptions have remained the same as before at 11,000 Avios…

…while business class redemptions have increased from 22,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios (a 14% increase).

Furthermore, on routes that offer it, Zone 3 premium economy redemptions have increased from 16,500 Avios to 18,000 Avios (a 9% increase).

There are no changes to redemptions that fall into Zone 4 or beyond. 

Japan Airlines: Devaluation of Up to 45%

Similarly, on Japan Airlines, we conducted searches for three routes that fall into Zones 1, 2, and 3 respectively: Tokyo–Fukuoka, Fukuoka–Sapporo, and Tokyo–Hong Kong.

In Zone 1, economy class redemptions have increased from 6,000 Avios to 7,500 Avios (a 25% increase)…

…while business class redemptions have remained the same as before at 12,500 Avios.

In Zone 2, economy class redemptions have increased from 9,000 Avios to 10,000 Avios (an 11% increase)…

…while business class redemptions have increased from 16,500 Avios to 24,000 Avios (a 45% increase). 

In Zone 3, economy class redemptions have remained the same as before at 11,000 Avios…

…while business class redemptions have increased from 22,000 Avios to 24,000 Avios (a 9% increase).

Furthermore, on routes that offer it, Zone 3 premium economy redemptions have remained the same as before at 16,500 Avios.

There are no changes to redemptions that fall into Zone 4 or beyond. 

Summary of Avios Changes

Looking at the results, we can summarize the devaluations as follows:

  • Economy class redemptions in Zones 1 and 2 were uniformly devalued across both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, seeing increases of 25% and 11% respectively.
  • Business class awards in Zone 2 were hardest-hit between both airlines, suffering increases of 52% and 45% respectively.
  • Cathay Pacific awards were devalued more than Japan Airlines, witnessing an average increase of 23.2% across six individual price points, compared to JAL’s 22.5% increase across four individual price points.

Now, what could possibly be the motivation for British Airways to implement this seemingly arbitrary set of increases across two specific Oneworld airline partners? 

Best I can tell, it appears that these short-haul price adjustments are intended to align the Avios award chart with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Japan Airlines Mileage Bank’s own award charts for redeeming miles on their own flights.

Indeed, here’s the Asia Miles award chart, where we can see the same new Avios price points – 7,500 miles for the shortest short-haul flights, 18,000 miles for intra-Asia premium economy, etc. – showing up:

And here’s a few screenshots of the JAL Mileage Bank award chart, where we can see some of the new Avios requirements – 10,000 miles for short-haul economy, 24,000 miles for short-haul business, etc. – showing up:

This strikes me as the most likely explanation for why Cathay Pacific and JAL Avios awards were both devalued at the same time, but with tiny differences in their new redemption amounts. 

Yet Another Overnight Devaluation to Avios

Following that logic, I suppose it’s possible that this devaluation was brought on by Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines themselves. 

For whatever reason, the two airlines may not have liked the fact that their short-haul awards were bookable at cheaper price points via Avios than with their own loyalty programs, and may have pressured British Airways to bring the charts into alignment.

Still, the decision on how this change was implemented and communicated still lies with British Airways. The fact that they’ve decided to change things up overnight and with absolutely no communication, leaving members to figure out the extent of the devaluations for themselves, speaks volumes about the program.

With this being the second surprise devaluation in 2021, it’s clear that the folks running the Avios program do not place any value on trust and transparency among the program’s members.

No doubt, there continues to be good value in redeeming Avios for certain routes. Short-haul redemptions on airlines other than Cathay Pacific and JAL remain unchanged for now, and you can still extract great value compared to the cash fares. 

Even the devalued Cathay and JAL price points can still be a good deal compared to paying cash, especially in business class (although Aeroplan short-haul redemptions on, say, ANA, Shenzhen Airlines, or indeed Cathay Pacific themselves on certain routes just got a fair bit more attractive in comparison). 

There’s still value in redeeming Avios, but there’s plenty of risk in holding Avios too.

However, in case 2021’s first no-notice Avios devaluation didn’t make things clear, the second such devaluation should very much drive home the message: whether you’re interested in short-haul Oneworld redemptions or luxurious multi-carrier awards, always earn and burn when it comes to this program.

Avoid racking up a large Avios balance and letting them sit there without firm redemption plans in place, because the rules of the game can and will change at a moment’s notice and with zero communication.

Conclusion

British Airways Avios has implemented a series of changes to the short-haul pricing structure of partner awards on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Business class redemptions in the range of 651–1,150 miles are among the hardest-hit price points, and there are also significant impacts to several other distance ranges and classes of service across the two premium Asian airlines.

While the change is likely aimed at aligning the price points with Cathay and JAL’s own award programs, the manner of the change continues to erode our faith in the Avios program.

I’d only recommend racking up Avios if you have firm uses in mind, and if you’ve built up a large stash of Avios, I’d certainly recommend burning through them on high-value flights before thinking about accumulating any more.

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9 Comments
  1. Raul

    Looks like qatar and jal redemption have also gone up significantly

  2. Jo Layh YLW

    Ricky, I’m hoping to use 140,000 Avios to book YVR – NRT HND- KIX – PEK JL J, PVG – KUL – MNL MH J (<10,000 MILES) – is that still going to be possible on the multi-carrier chart? Also, does flying into NRT and out of HND count as an open jaw? I was assuming not for this to work.

  3. Adele

    I feel much better all of a sudden to have burned my HSBC points for “cash” recently, instead of transferring to Avios, even with the transfer bonus. At least Aeroplan allows free cancellations, with Avios, I’d have to book something I’m fairly certain will work out – and for long term long haul travel, especially to Asia, it’s just not something I can commit to.

  4. litokid

    Oh damnit, and I was precisely waiting to book a Zone 3 business flight on Cathay. Figured I’d wait a bit since they aren’t doing free cancellation and bam.

    Ricky, has there been any changes to First Class redemptions? Though perhaps those are only available on longer flights anyway.

  5. Al

    Hey Lawrence I just did the same thing with my 115000 hsbc. I felt pretty good scoring tons of points. Now not so much. I ve bonvoyed and now Avoised. Just waiting to be aeroplaned next? Lol

  6. Lawrence Yu

    Hi, I recently converted 115000 hsbc points to 64,400 avios points.

    What would be the best way of using up these avios points? We were thinking of doing some Asia flights, but that doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore. We live in Vancouver.

    1. Ricky YVR

      It’s still not going to be a terrible idea to book intra-Asia. If you can get round-trip business class flights in the region for two, I’d say that’s still a decent use of 115,000 HSBC Rewards points / a presumably First Year Free welcome bonus. It just isn’t as good value as before.

      You can also stop hop around Asia on Malaysian Airlines, or hop around other regions of the world on other Oneworld partners, while paying the old prices.

  7. Chico

    This is the same crappy loyalty plan that often charges almost the same amount in supplementary costs to buy a ticket to Europe with Avios as the cost would be paying cash. The same plan that cleverly hides award fares on its partner Aer Lingus making it so very difficult to try to book with Avios on that carrier. Aeroplan is looking better and better.

  8. Mitch

    “ I’d certainly recommend burning through them on high-value flights”

    Yes well some of us have certainly tried but have been thwarted multiple times thanks to ‘rona, and the confidence to plan yet another “aspirational” voyage in some theoretically available F product to an overwater hut still isn’t there.

Ricky Zhang

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