As reported by AwardWallet, the UK’s flag carrier quietly increased the number of Avios required on routes with two of its partner airlines.
British Airways Devalues American Airlines and Alaska Airlines Awards
The award ticket price increase was introduced without any announcement from British Airways. The increase is not a flat-rate jump, but rather, routes have increased anywhere from 10–32% in terms of the number of Avios needed to book.
Redeeming flights on Alaska Airlines and American Airlines has historically been based upon a fairly consistent partner award chart.
With this round of devaluation, however, the cost of many routes have jumped, with some increasing as much as 32%.
For example, prior to the devaluation, a one-way economy flight on Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Anchorage would’ve cost 11,000 Avios, plus taxes and fees.
Today, with the devaluation in effect, the same Seattle to Anchorage flight now costs 14,500 Avios, representing nearly a 32% increase.
We can also see the devaluation of the Alaska Airlines route from Seattle to Honolulu.
Previously, you could expect to spend 13,000 Avios plus taxes on fees to book a one-way economy fare on this route. Now, with the devaluation, the same redemption costs 16,000 Avios, or a 23% increase.
American Airlines award flights follow the same trend.
Short-haul flights within North America used to cost 7,500 Avios for a one-way ticket. With the new increases, a flight from Toronto to New York City now costs 8,250 Avios.
This new price represents a 10% increase to the number of Avios needed to redeem for this route.
Additionally, in the past you could fly one-way in economy on American Airlines from Dallas–Fort Worth to Los Angeles for 11,000 Avios, plus taxes and fees. Today, that same route clocks in at 14,500 Avios.
Similar to the Alaska Airlines Seattle to Anchorage route, this is a 32% increase in cost.
Comparing Avios Short-Haul Pricing with Other Programs
Aeroplan is the most popular airline loyalty program in Canada, and its points are fairly easy to earn.
Comparatively, Alaska Airlines miles are more difficult to earn for those in Canada, and the airline’s routes to Canada are quite limited. Still, Alaska Mileage Plan is a great program to redeem flights with.
Aeroplan imposes dynamic pricing on Air Canada-operated flights. However, partner flights, including those operated by United Airlines, are uniformly priced based on distance, so we’ll use United flights for comparison.
You can expect to pay the following number of Aeroplan points to book a one-way economy award flight on United:
- Seattle to Anchorage: 22,500 Aeroplan points
- Seattle to Honolulu: 22,500 Aeroplan points
- Dallas–Fort Worth to Los Angeles: 12,500 Aeroplan points
- Toronto to New York: 6,000 Aeroplan points
Simply put, for short US flights, Aeroplan redemptions cost less than Avios, but with longer domestic routes, Avios redemptions still cost significantly less, despite the devaluation.
Meanwhile, Alaska Mileage Plan prices its redemptions also based upon two North American award charts: one for its own flights, and one for all its partners. Like Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines flights are priced variably, while partner airline flights are priced uniformly.
Here’s the award chart for Alaska Airlines-operated flights:
On the other hand, here’s the award chart for flights on its partners:
While a new pricing structure will take in effect for all award flights in March 2024, the following number of miles are required to book a one-way economy award ticket for now:
- Seattle to Anchorage: from 9,000 Alaska miles
- Seattle to Honolulu: from 12,500 Alaska miles
- Dallas–Fort Worth to Los Angeles: 12,500 Alaska miles (on American Airlines)
- Toronto to New York City: 7,500 Alaska miles (on American Airlines)
Assuming you find flights on the lower end of the redemption pricing range, we can see that booking US domestic flights generally cost less with Alaska Mileage Plan. However, keep in mind that Alaska miles are harder to accrue in Canada these days, especially with the phasing-out of MBNA Alaska Mileage Plan cards.
Despite being a loyalty program based in the UK, British Airways Avios are much easier to accumulate, with RBC Avion and American Express Membership Rewards being transfer partners with the program. RBC also issues the RBC® British Airways Visa Infinite†.
As mentioned, RBC Avion is one of the main credit card transfer partners of British Airways Executive Club, so let’s also take a look at how Avion’s flat-rate travel redemption chart stacks up to Avios redemption after this devaluation.
The RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule allows Avion members to use their points for flat-rate redemptions in six categories, up to a maximum base fare.
To book the same routes we mentioned above using the flat-rate program, you would need the following quantity of Avion points:
- Seattle to Anchorage: 45,000 Avion points
- Seattle to Honolulu: 45,000 Avion points
- Dallas–Fort Worth to Los Angeles: 35,000 Avion points
- Toronto to New York City: 15,000 Avion points
Given that Avion points can transferred to British Airways Executive Club at a rate of 1 Avion point = 1 Avios, this is an easy comparison to make.
We can easily see that even with the devaluation, you’re still better off transferring your RBC Avion points to British Airways Executive Club, and redeeming those points for the above, than to redeem using RBC’s Air Travel Redemption Schedule.
British Airways’s Poor Habit of Subtle Devaluations
Obviously, no devaluation is ever good news, but the fact that there was no notice given for this devaluation is particularly concerning.
The increases to the cost of award redemptions are notable and affect two popular partner airlines among North American travellers.
This is also not the first time that British Airways Avios has snuck in a devaluation. While less impactful, back in 2021, the airline loyalty program increased the cost of British Airways flights of up to 2,000 miles in distance by 750 Avios points.
Another unannounced devaluation in the same year increased the cost of shorter Cathay Pacific and JAL flights by upwards of 40%.
This lack of transparency around redemption costs certainly erodes customers’ faith in the program. It also leaves the door open for British Airways Avios to introduce further devaluations down the line, making the value of future redemptions less certain.
This is far from the first unannounced devaluation from British Airways, and as before, Avios members are left unsure as to whether to expect further price increases in the near future.
If you have a number of Avios points in your account, now may be a good time to lock in redemptions at the current rates, before the program makes another unannounced move.