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Undisclosed Changes to British Airways Avios Partner Awards Ricky April 29, 2019

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.

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16 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Jules

    Just booked several Qatar Biz flights from DOH to FRA in Qsuites with minimal taxes/fees for only 37.5k Avios each. I consider this to be a real sweet spot in program. Until BA confirms the upcoming changes, everything is speculation and the changes could be a lot worse than expected. Also, with Qatar constantly threatening to leave OneWorld, I figured it’s probably an ideal time to make a redemption.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      You know what, that’s an awesome sweet spot that I haven’t really considered before. Nice one!

      1. Avatar
        Jules

        I also recommend having a look at short-haul Qatar Biz flights. At 20-37.5k, I think they offer a great value and are good way to burn those BA Avios (as of today, you can book out to April 19, 2020). To be honest, I’m finding less and less value with Avios in general, with the exception of Iberia Biz flights between the East Coast and MAD.

        1. Avatar
          Jules

          Correction: I also recommend having a look at OTHER short-haul Qatar Biz flights.

  2. Avatar
    CSP

    Some other travel blogs such as VFTW and OMAAT have posted potential category changes (cats 1-3 I think). The only one I remember is cat 1 where the 4500 short haul avios would move to 6000.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Thanks for the heads-up. I’ve added a quick update to the article, with a more complete analysis to come once it’s official.

  3. Avatar
    Denbigh Patton

    UK APD: How does buying a 4500-Avios ticket departing London "sidestep" UK APD? Also, another question, Ricky: you refer to APD as "in/out" of UK. How does APD apply on a flight that terminates in UK?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      If you fly out of a city like Zurich or Dublin instead and book a ticket from London with Avios to fill the gap, it works out to be significantly cheaper than paying the expensive APD on a long-haul flight out of London.

      "in/out" is an oversight on my part. Definitely just "out". Will correct.

  4. Avatar
    Harry A.

    Is it still good to apply for this card before May 30th? It would be my 2nd.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Which card are you referring to? You’d want to either ensure you’re able to receive the points before May 30 to make your booking, or be comfortable with the fact that the Avios prices for your desired redemption might change after that date.

      1. Avatar
        Harry A.

        …it’s the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite card.

  5. Avatar
    Nomadic_on_Points

    on top of dynamic award pricing and once in a lifetime signup bonuses, looks like this game is going downhill fast…..better rethink your 10 year plan and get that corporate job back Ricky, cause this ride is coming to an end….

    1. Avatar
      Jay

      … still plenty of lucrative opportunities around. Just because they are not blogged about doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Ride will be going strong for a while yet.

    2. Avatar
      Ricky

      Just called my old boss. I’ll start tomorrow morning.

      Seriously, those who’ve been here a long time know that the game gets pronounced dead almost every single year. Devaluations take their toll but there are always good opportunities that remain.

      Do appreciate you looking out for me though.

  6. Avatar
    Mitch

    And May 30 is exactly the day I’ve been waiting for to make a big year-out redemption. Grand. The game continues…

Ricky

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