Undisclosed Changes to British Airways Avios Partner Awards

Update: According to Seat31B, British Airways phone agents can already see the new Avios pricing. While the information isn’t official, it seems that the devaluation won’t be particularly hard-hitting, with the Zone 1 (0–650 miles) economy class price rising from 4,500 Avios to 6,000 Avios and the Zone 2 (651–1,150 miles) economy class price rising from 7,500 Avios to 9,000 Avios.


Earlier today, I received an email from British Airways Avios, letting me know they’ll be changing the Avios prices for reward flights on some of their partner airlines as of May 30, 2019. The email also states that any bookings completed by May 30 will still be subject to the existing changes, and that the new prices will only kick in after that date. 

 
 

Oh no – whenever I read something like that, it’s almost certain that award prices will be going up. After all, if the changes were positive, why would they need to provide advance notice?

Naturally, the next question is to ask how bad the changes are going to be. Thankfully British Airways included a helpful “Find Out More” button in the email, so let’s click on that, right?


British Airways Is Keeping Mum 

Not really. The button leads you to a page on the British Airways Avios website that’s decidedly not helpful. 

We know that British Airways will be changing the Avios prices on award redemptions on a majority of their partner airlines, with the exceptions being their fellow airlines within the International Airline Group conglomerate (Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Vueling) and award flights on British Airways themselves. 

Upgrades on American Airlines flights will also be changing in price. And these changes will all kick in on May 30.

But what are the changes exactly? British Airways isn’t telling us. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to believe the consumer-unfriendly practices that the airlines and loyalty programs choose to adopt, and this is one of those instances that just make me shake my head in disbelief. 

The changes could be anything. British Airways could be abandoning the distance-based model for partner redemptions, or they could be moving towards a dynamic pricing model, or they could simply be raising the mileage requirements by a certain amount, or they could make targeted changes to get rid of certain sweet spots that exist at the moment (similar to when they excluded North American redemptions from the “Zone 1” distance band of flights under 650 miles). 

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen, but this vague statement from British Airways doesn’t give me any confidence in the future of the loyalty program. I personally don’t think all the value will be gutted from Avios, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the existing sweet spots were to disappear. 

In some ways, I guess we should be happy we received any sort of notice at all, because given British Airways’s reputation among airlines as one that’s particularly anti-consumer, I wouldn’t have put it past them to spring these changes on us – whatever they are – overnight!


Book Your Avios Sweet Spots Now

If you were planning to make any British Airways Avios bookings, I’d recommend firming up those plans and taking action before May 30, because there’s no saying whether the Avios price you’ll pay will be higher or lower after that date (and it seems overwhelming likely that it’ll be higher).

As a reminder, some of the best Avios sweet spots on the airlines that will be affected might include:

  • Seattle or Bellingham to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines for 12,500 Avios one-way in economy class

  • Flying from Miami to the Caribbean on American Airlines for 7,500 Avios one-way in economy class

  • Vancouver to Tokyo on Japan Airlines for 25,000 Avios one-way in economy class

  • Vancouver to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific for 30,000 Avios one-way in economy class

  • Hopping around various parts of the world on Oneworld partners for as little as 4,500 Avios one-way in economy class, or 9,000 Avios one-way in business class

That last category of sweet spots is what I tend to use most of my Avios for. Any time you find yourself visiting a place that’s served by a Oneworld airline, you have the opportunity to use Avios to book a short side-trip at a very good value. 

For example, you could redeem a minimal amount of Avios to hop all over Japan on Japan Airlines, South America on LATAM, Australia on Qantas, Hong Kong & China on Cathay Pacific, or the Middle East on Royal Jordanian. 

Fifth freedom flights on Oneworld are another excellent use of Avios, like redeeming 9,000 Avios to fly Cathay Pacific business class from Dubai to Bahrain, or 15,000 Avios to fly LATAM business class from Frankfurt to Madrid. 

If you have any such redemptions planned, you should definitely pull the trigger before May 30, because whatever changes are coming to the program on that date are not likely to be positive.

In the meantime, at least we can take some solace in the fact that certain sweet spots on British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Vueling (ha, good one) will remain in place. These include:

  • Toronto to Dublin on Aer Lingus for as little as 13,000 Avios one-way in economy class or 50,000 Avios one-way in business class, on off-peak dates

  • East Coast USA to Madrid on Iberia for 20,000 Avios one-way in economy class

  • Flying between London and Continental Europe on British Airways for as little as 4,500 Avios one-way (a great way to sidestep the hefty UK APD charged on award redemptions out of London)


Conclusion

Devaluations are a part of the game, and it looks very likely that British Airways Avios will be implementing one at the end of May. The deliberately vague statement that’s been sent out to members today does very little to assure us about the future of the program, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. If you have plans to use your Avios on one of the affected partner airlines, now’s the time to make a play for those sweet spots before they potentially disappear.