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British Airways Avios Devaluation – The Good and The Bad

British Airways announced a list of changes to the Executive Club program that were so extensive, they needed a separate page to explain them all. Starting April 28, 2015, British Airways will incorporate off-peak pricing into its award chart, increase the number of Avios required for premium awards, and decrease the number of Avios most travelers will earn. It’s not as bad as you might think, despite this colorful mark-up of their new award chart that I’ve put together to highlight the changes:

New British Airways Avios Award Chart (effective April 28, 2015)

New British Airways Avios Award Chart (effective April 28, 2015)

Red indicates an increase in redemption levels, blue indicates a decrease compared to current redemption levels, and any untouched areas are just that – clear of any changes.

If you need more convincing that this devaluation isn’t entirely terrible, below is a summary of the good and bad aspects of the upcoming Avios changes:

Reduced Cabin Bonuses

The Good

Those of you who regularly fly British Airways (sarcasm intended) will appreciate that the mileage accrual rate will increase for travel in First and Business class. Avios earnings on Premium Economy flights will increase on W fares (from 125% to 150%), while earnings for passengers traveling on E and T fares will decrease from 125% to 100%. 

The Bad

Economy passengers will be hit hardest, with earnings on Q, O, and G awards dropping from 100% to 25%. So starting April 28, passengers buying low bucket fares will have to fly four times as much to earn the same number of Avios as before.

There are also decreases to the minimum Avios earned per flight for Economy and Premium Economy passengers. The exception of course, is for passengers who are traveling on full-fare tickets – their earnings either remain unchanged or increase slightly. Minimum earnings for Business and First Class passengers will largely increase or remain the same.

Reduced Bonus for Silver Members

The Bad

Silver members of the British Airways Executive Club will see their elite bonuses cut in half. Starting April 28, members will earn a 50% bonus on revenue flights rather than the current 100%.

The Good

This won’t matter to most of you, who either don’t fly with British Airways enough to care or generally credit your miles to American Airlines anyway.

Off-Peak Awards and Increased Redemption Levels

The Good

The good news is that all economy off-peak award will require fewer miles than the current award chart, while peak economy awards will remain the same. As you can see from the highlighted chart, most Premium Economy redemption levels are going down at the off-peak level (with the exception of Zone 4) and Peak award levels remain the same in Zone 1-3. 

Business Class awards in zones 1-3 either go down (for off-peak awards) or stay the same (for peak awards). Really, the only zones where redemption rates increase are zones 4-9. Which brings us to…

The Bad 

All partner flights are fall under Peak redemption levels and you have to check the visually off-putting chart to find out which dates count as off-peak. Both off-peak and peak Business class awards in zones 4 – 9 will require more points. First class award redemptions are going up all around, though the change isn’t quite as drastic for off-peak awards.

Really, the inclusion of off-peak awards helps cushion the hit to premium award redemptions. Yes, redemption levels are still going up, but at least off-peak awards offer slightly lower redemption rates if your travel dates are flexible.

Overall, I’m not devastated by these changes. First off, British Airways’ short-haul partner redemption rates will remain unaffected. That’s what most of us are using them for anyway. Flying on Cathay Pacific’s 5th freedom route between Vancouver and New York in First Class will now set you back 12,500 more Avios each way, but really, who needs a flatbed seat on a 5 hour flight? As Louis CK so eloquently put it, the flight is so short all you have to do is watch an Adam Sandler movie, use the bathroom, and you’re home

As for long-haul redemption rates, those weren’t very competitive to begin with because either there were fuel surcharges involved (i.e. SFO – LHR in Business Class for 100,000 Avios and $1,000+) or because booking the same flights through American AAdvantage or Alaska MileagePlan was (and continues to be) cheaper.

For example, I’ve got a multi-segment trip to Asia booked for July. The San Francisco – Singapore segment in Cathay Pacific Business Class set me back just 55,000 AAdvantage miles per person. The same award would have required 90,000 Avios. The same award with a one-way stopover costs just 50,000 Alaska miles. So this devaluation, while not ideal, isn’t a great tragedy since long-haul flights are often cheaper (in terms of cash and miles required) when booked through another rewards program anyway.

As I mentioned in this month’s To Do list, Amex Membership Rewards is offering a 40% bonus on transfers to British Airways Avios through January 31. So if you’re like me and will continue to make use of short-haul redemptions, this bonus is still a good incentive for transferring your Membership Rewards points to British Airways Avios.

This probably isn’t the most popular take on this devaluation, but it’s based on my personal mile earning and redemption strategy. Yours may well differ.

What do you think of this latest devaluation? Does it affect your point earning and redemption habits at all? 

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Ariana Arghandewal

2 Comments

  1. The devaluation is a bit of a bummer to me as I wanted to save up my avios for a business fare ticket to fly to Asia from Vancouver next year. Now it seems like I need way more avios to get that round trip business fare ticket.

    • If you can focus on AAdvantage miles, it will actually be cheaper than using Avios. Of course, I know nothing of Canada’s credit card sign-up bonuses, so I don’t know if AA miles are harder to come by.

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