British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Avios Devaluations Over the Years
British Airways Executive Club has made several devaluations to its Avios loyalty program over the past decade, much to the chagrin of frequent flyers. While devaluations are common among airline programs as the costs of rewards increase, the frequency and scale of changes by British Airways have been frustrating for members.
One of the first major devaluations occurred in 2009, when British Airways increased the number of Avios required for many short-haul economy and business class redemptions. Flights under 650 miles in economy class went from 4,500 Avios to 7,500 Avios one-way. Business class redemptions on flights under 650 miles jumped from 9,000 Avios to 15,000 Avios.
In 2011, British Airways adopted variable pricing for award tickets on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights. This change meant Avios costs fluctuated based on factors like demand. Prices were often much higher, especially for premium cabin redemptions.
The next big blow came in 2015 when British Airways switched to a distance-based award chart. Short-haul economy flights under 650 miles increased to 9,000 Avios each way. Long-haul economy class awards became priced by distance, making popular routes like London to the U.S. East Coast jump from 50,000 to 60,000 Avios round-trip.
Business class saw even larger relative increases in 2015. Short-haul intra-Europe business class tickets went from 15,000 to 18,000 Avios under the new award chart. Transatlantic business class awards from 50,000 to 150,000 Avios depending on distance.
In April 2019, British Airways made off-peak and peak pricing permanent on most routes. Off-peak awards cost fewer Avios, while peak season dates are more expensive. Even off-peak prices represented devaluations on many routes compared to old pricing.
The most recent devaluation occurred in November 2021 for travel beginning in 2022. British Airways increased Avios costs in economy, premium economy, and business class across short, medium, and long-haul partner awards. The changes represented increases ranging from 7-60% depending on the itinerary.
What else is in this post?
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Avios Devaluations Over the Years
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - New Restrictions on Partner Award Availability
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Less Value for Your Avios
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Why British Airways is Making These Changes
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Alternatives to Booking with Avios
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Sweet Spots Still Available
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Tips to Maximize Avios
- British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - The Future of the British Airways Executive Club
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - New Restrictions on Partner Award Availability
British Airways' latest round of changes focuses on partner award availability. Starting in 2022, Executive Club is limiting access to reward seats on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and other oneworld alliance partners. These restrictions significantly reduce the value of Avios for booking flights on BA's partners.
Previously, Executive Club members could redeem Avios for any unsold seat on American Airlines-operated flights. This open availability made it easy to plan dream trips using Avios. American's extensive route network, especially in the western hemisphere, paired well with British Airways' strong presence in Europe and Asia.
However, this has changed. British Airways now blocks partner business class award space on most American Airlines long-haul flights. American's new Flagship Business Class on popular routes like New York to London is completely unavailable for Avios redemptions. Even on other aircraft, partner business class space is scarce under the new policy.
Alaska Airlines went from having decent last-seat availability to almost zero First Class seats accessible through Avios. The routes where Alaska's First Class makes sense, like the West Coast to Hawaii, are now off limits. With other Alaska flights, only economy seats can be booked with Avios.
Award availability used to be one of the most celebrated aspects of the Executive Club program. However, these recent partner restrictions make Avios significantly less useful for premium cabin redemptions. It dilutes the value of accrued Avios balances when fewer quality seats are bookable through the program.
Redeeming Avios requires effort - through spending on British Airways credit cards or flying on the airline and its partners. Limiting partner awards means diluting the reward for all that effort. member whose loyalty led them to earn hundreds of thousands of Avios now has fewer options to redeem them for aspirational, luxurious experiences.
Frustrated loyalty program members haveexpressed their disappointment online in blogs and forums. They had come to rely on British Airways' partners to access routes not served by BA itself. Now they are questioning why they should continue crediting flights to Executive Club when the key redeeming benefit has been gutted.
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Less Value for Your Avios
The diminished access to partner business class award seats significantly reduces the value of Avios. British Airways customers have collected Avios balances for years, often through lucrative credit card welcome bonuses. They trusted that Executive Club would honor the outsized value of Avios for premium cabin redemptions on partners like American Airlines. Now, those assumptions have proven false.
Supply of valuable redemption seats is vanishing while Avios balances remain. This imbalance means each individual Avios is worth less. Customers who signed up for Executive Club when transatlantic business class could be booked for just 50,000 Avios roundtrip now face rates of 150,000 Avios or more in peak season. That's a harsh devaluation for loyalty program members who played by the rules.
Award travel blogs denounce these changes as detrimental to customers. In one post, "British Airways Partner Award Devaluation - Why I'm Sad To Leave Executive Club," the author details closing his Avios-earning credit cards after a decade as a loyal member. He had enthusiastically promoted British Airways but acknowledges "the rewards don't justify the effort anymore."
Others feel similarly slighted after planning to redeem hundreds of thousands of Avios on aspirational trips that are now unavailable. One member considered booking Etihad First Class Apartments to Australia using Avios transferred from American Express Membership Rewards. However, British Airways removed Etihad award space so this dream redemption vanished overnight.
Executive Club's partners bolstered the value of Avios by expanding route options. American Airlines provided extensive coverage of North, Central, and South America. Alaska opened up direct West Coast to Hawaii flights. Now, desirability of these previously coveted routes no longer offsets BA's taxes and fees.
Even budget-conscious Avios collectors lose out from the devaluation. One family hoped to fly together affordably by redeeming Avios for American economy awards. Now they are priced out as off-peak economy rates are eliminated on popular routes. Cash prices are too expensive, so they'll stay home instead.
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Why British Airways is Making These Changes
Why is British Airways clamping down on partner awards and devaluing Avios? The airline is struggling financially and looking to cut costs. By restricting partner awards, British Airways limits redemption liability. This reduces expenses by decreasing the number of seats that must be set aside for loyalty members.
At the same time, British Airways likely wants to encourage redemptions on its own flights rather than partners. Funneling demand towards British Airways helps their bottom line. Even though they must still provide the seat, booking their own flights generates ancillary revenue like baggage fees. Rerouting travelers away from partners may also strengthen British Airways' negotiating position for future alliance agreements.
Industry experts note the trend of loyalty programs pivoting from aspirational, generosity-based systems towards revenue-driven models with carefully calibrated award charts. As one blogger put it, "Airlines have come to see frequent flyer programs as profit centers rather than marketing investments." British Airways seems fully onboard with this philosophy based on the recent changes.
Customers perceive these shifts as dismaying bait-and-switch tactics. British Airways marketed generous partner awards for years to attract new elite members. Now, with customers invested, the airline is devaluing those very same benefits. This damages brand trust. As one Executive Club member described it, "Earning Avios through credit cards and flying felt like an honest value exchange. Now I regret those choices since British Airways didn't uphold their end of the bargain."
Other passengers highlight the paradoxical nature of capacity controls. Airlines justify restricting partner awards due to limited space. Yet they still sell seats for cash that could have been reward bookings. A travelers' forum debated this controversial practice. Some argued airlines should prioritize filling seats over guarding availability. Others sided with British Airways, reasoning that loyalty programs supplement ticket revenue but cannot undermine it.
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Alternatives to Booking with Avios
Frustrated by British Airways’ partner award restrictions, many Executive Club members are looking at alternatives for booking premium cabin flights. While Avios still works for some itineraries, limitations on access to quality seats on partners compel travelers to get creative. By understanding all options, you can maximize your chances of booking the flights you want.
Transferable points currencies offer one workaround. Programs like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Capital One Miles allow transfers to airline partners. Carefully selecting which points to use opens up redemptions canceled by the latest Avios devaluation.
For example, a saver business class award from New York to London that vanished from Avios is bookable through Amex points transferred to Virgin Atlantic. You’ll still cover taxes and fees, but the 75,000 mile redemption beats 200,000+ Avios for a BA business class seat.
Another tactic is booking flights departing Europe using programs like United MileagePlus and Air France/KLM Flying Blue. Although British Airways gutted America-to-Europe premium cabin awards, options still exist in the other direction.
MileagePlus opens up Lufthansa’s industry-leading first class product out of Frankfurt on the A380. Flying Blue offers quick hops from Paris or Amsterdam to European hot spots like Athens, Lisbon, and Barcelona in style.
Cash fares also compete with formerly lucrative Avios redemptions. The growth of ultra low-cost carriers makes this possible. Norwegian Air and Level provide barebones transatlantic economy seating far cheaper than British Airways’ steep fuel surcharges and taxes.
You won’t get free drinks or seat assignments, but base fares under $100 each way are hard to beat. For business class, look to La Compagnie and other niche airlines offering affordable seats, albeit on older aircraft.
Finally, don’t forget creative award chart sweet spots still offered by hotel and credit card programs. Hilton Honors provides outstanding value redeeming points for luxury properties in Europe. And with Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve points, you can book travel via the portal at solid rates.
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Sweet Spots Still Available
While British Airways tightened the nosebag on some beloved Avios sweet spots, treasures still await those willing to hunt. By charting courses along the road less traveled, Avios accumulators can experience the splendor of business class for reduced rates. You must exhibit flexibility and understand advanced techniques, but the journey will prove worthwhile.
Alaska Airlines presents one remaining opportunity. Their intra-California first class routes ring up at just 12,500 Avios one-way when booking Qatar award space on Alaska metal. For a quick San Diego weekend escape or last-minute Sacramento trip, easily attainable First Class makes the short hops heavenly.
Certain oddball routes the Avios zones forgot offer upside too. Try Manchester to Las Vegas direct in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 40,000 Avios, enjoying fully flat beds on the 10-hour journey. Or tap Iberia for access to its impressive new business class from Madrid to Guatemala City at a reasonable 50,000 Avios.
Do not overlook niche carriers unencumbered by British Airways’ constraints. Air Italy (Meridiana) provides an affordable Business Class experience from Milan to New York for under $2,000 round-trip. Their friendly, authentic service enhances the journey.
While BA clamped down on short-haul economy awards, redeeming 9,000 Avios within Europe offers better value than cash prices. Outsmart fuel surcharges by sticking to airlines like Air Malta and Vueling on routes not served by BA metal.
Finally, oneworld alliance airlines beyond AA and Alaska retain solid Avios rates. Finnair opens up the Nordic zone with deals like Helsinki to Hong Kong for just 60,000 miles in business class. Iberia still grants access to delicious biz fares from Madrid to Quito or Lima for 51,000 Avios.
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - Tips to Maximize Avios
Despite British Airways’ concerted efforts to restrict premium redemptions, determined Avios accumulators can still eke out formidable value. By putting in work, you gain access to the glittering awards that motivate miles-and-points hobbyists. Follow these tips to maximize your Avios balance:
- Take advantage of transfer bonuses - Credit card rewards programs periodically offer incentives for transferring points to airline partners. Watch for promotions where you get 25-50% more Avios by moving Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards to Executive Club. Time these bonuses with an award booking to stretch your balance even further.
- Leverage household accounts - Call British Airways to combine Avios across family members into a Household Account. This allows you to redeem from one shared pool instead of individual balances. Make sure to transfer points from all linked credit cards into the Household pot.
- Book multi-carrier awards - String together flights on oneworld partners. For example, start in Europe on British Airways, connect through the Middle East on Qatar Airways, then reach Southeast Asia on Cathay Pacific. This maximizes routing possibilities and avoids excessive surcharges.
- Seek guidance from Avios gurus - Well-connected frequent flyer insiders share invaluable tricks for hunting award availability. Read blogs like "Head for Points" and follow Avios experts on social media to learn newly unearthed sweet spots. Their wisdom cuts years off the points-and-miles learning curve.
- Waitlist sold-out flights - On the very day of travel, plum business class seats sometimes open up as elite members upgrade their economy tickets. Request a waitlist by calling British Airways as you never know when space might materialize.
- Fly from smaller airports - Look for routes from Manchester, Birmingham or Edinburgh rather than London Heathrow. Lower demand results in better award availability. Connecting within Europe to reach these airports costs fewer Avios than transferring through London.
- Be flexible with dates and cabins - Searching multiple dates increases chances of finding open seats. Consider nearby airports too. If no business class exists, determine whether premium economy provides enough comfort to redeem Avios.
- Minimize fuel surcharges - British Airways' taxes and fees erode redemption savings, especially on longer flights. Where possible, book partners like Iberia or Aer Lingus operating the same route for lower surcharges.
- Upgrade with Avios - Using Avios to upgrade paid economy tickets to business class represents a better value than redeeming for business outright. Upgrades start at just 25,000 Avios each way, depending on route and fare class.
British Airways Clamps Down on Partner Award Bookings - - The Future of the British Airways Executive Club
The future direction of the British Airways Executive Club frequent flyer program raises serious questions. As covered in this article, British Airways has chipped away at the outsized value of Avios that once formed the loyalty program's foundation. Partnership award restrictions, surcharging, and devaluations have diminished – but not yet eliminated – the advantage of banking Avios.
Where is British Airways steering Executive Club next? The decisions made today set the course for years to come. Members who continue accruing Avios do so in hopes of redeeming for aspirational premium cabin journeys. If British Airways keeps cutting award availability, however, what goal are customers working towards?
At present, the trajectory points towards Executive Club becoming revenue-focused rather than rewarding loyalty. Some industry experts even warn of potential mileage based revenue systems down the road. Delta SkyMiles and Dynamic Award Pricing offer previews of this possible future.
Under such frameworks, point costs float based on demand. Last-seat availability vaporizes. Members must pay higher rates at peak times versus off-peak. Sound familiar? British Airways actually pioneered variable pricing with the 2015 shift to dynamic Avios award charts.
How would fully dynamic systems impact customers? Consumers feel betrayed when airlines swing the pendulum too far towards income over reciprocity. Yet executives obsess over metrics like loyalty program "redemption cost per mile" as key profit drivers.
Mileage bloggers rage against uncapped award pricing. In their view, unchecked revenue motives erode the social contract whereby loyalty earns privileges. If points required becomes so fluid as to be unpredictable, confidence in the program implodes.
Of course, British Airways must balance customer satisfaction with profit realities. The airline likely covets Qantas' model. Australia's flag carrier excels at calibrating points inflation and aspirational redemptions to achieve this equilibrium.
Perhaps British Airways simply intends to re-base instead of fully devalue. The airline may shift partner rewards from outsize luxury to reasonable premium. If Avios evolve to deliver consistently moderate aspirational value, member angst would ease.