Italian airline Meridiana launches an Avios scheme – what does it mean for you?

Meridiana is an airline you may or may not have heard of.  It is the second largest Italian owned airline and runs a mix of short haul and long haul routes.  British Airways used to codeshare with them on Meridiana’s Gatwick to Florence service.  Today Meridiana runs three Italian routes out of Gatwick.

And then this appeared on their website ….

Meridiana Club

Meridiana has relaunched its Hi-Fly frequent flyer programme as Meridiana Club.

And the currency for that programme is Avios points.

This is a very interesting development for the Avios programme.  British Airways has persuaded a third party airline, totally independent of International Airlines Group, to use Avios as its loyalty currency. 

As far as you are concerned, these are the important points:

Effective immediately, you can redeem your Avios points for Meridiana flights. 

At present this can only be done on the telephone via BA Executive Club but online redemptions will be added later this year.

You cannot – for now – earn Avios when flying on Meridiana.  This will change later in 2014.

You CANNOT use ‘Combine My Avios’ to move Avios to or from Meridiana Club.

Let’s take a step back and look at what is happening here.

Meridiana’s frequent flyers will now be earning Avios points when they fly.

Existing Hi-Fly points have been converted to Avios as the rate of 2:1

As well as redeeming on Meridiana, they will also be able to redeem on BA and Iberia via their service centre.

They will NOT get access to oneworld partner airlines such as airberlin.

Later in 2014 Meridiana members will also be able to earn Meridiana Club Avios by flying BA or Iberia (but not other oneworld airlines)

There is no mention of whether or not Meridiana Club members will be able to use ‘Combine My Avios’ to move Avios to or from BA.  I doubt this will happen.

Meridiana

The press release makes it clear that Meridiana Club members will only be able to earn and burn on BA and Iberia, not the whole of oneworld.  If it became part of ‘Combine My Avios’ then Meridiana would effectively have snuck into oneworld by the back door, since members could credit oneworld flights to BA and then move the Avios across.

The inability to use ‘Combine My Avios’ means that I will NOT be posting about easy ways to earn Avios in Meridiana Club as there is no way of moving these across to BA.

You can learn more in the press release here.

Tomorrow, I will run a separate post on Meridiana’s route network and possible redemption opportunities for UK Avios collectors.  They fly to The Maldives for a start …..

(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

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Comments

  1. “There is no mention of whether or not Meridiana Club members will be able to use ‘Combine My Avios’ to move Avios to or from BA. I doubt this will happen.”

    I fully expect it will happen – otherwise they are not really the same Avios currency are they!

    We have already seen that different Avios using schemes (quite rightly) do not need to have the same rules and rates, etc (consider IB moving away from RFS, etc). In fact, I would argue it would result in less public confusion if the different schemes made their differences clearer – just using the common currency.

    If Combine My Avios does not appear (and I fully expect it will), then you might as well call Avios a new brand name word for miles – and why licence a brand name unless they can be moved/combined, it would only result in public confusion for zero gain.

    I could readily believe there may be some strings when it comes to combining, and I’m not totally familiar with all the legal reasons why Italian loyalty schemes always have defined end dates (when they get replaced with a new scheme) and what implications this may have, but I’m very confident it will come to some extent.

    • They are already not the same. If you look at the redemption chart, you have the same 9 zones. The distances appear different though – Milan to Maldives should be 50k but they have it at 30k due to the difficulty of earning Meridiana Avios.

      • One of two possible messages to take from that, the first is for Meridiana Club members – a reminder that award charts may be subject to change, the second is that perhaps we should not be shouting too loudly about some things that may be possible until they fully stabilize the scheme, one such thing being that Milan/Rome-Maldives being under 5,000 miles distance, compared with 5000+ distance from London, and what this means for redemption opportunities in the future if you fly Meridiana metal.

        If they can not be spent at the same rate AND can not be combined in the same account, then they are really NOT a common currency. Unless the idea is to licence the word Avios to be a global equivalent to the word ‘dollar’ the same word used for very different currencies. But why would an airline licence such a word on its own, the moment someone can’t do something with your ‘dollar’ or get the same value from it compared to a bigger (e.g. US) dollar you have bad PR, and a worthless ‘Zimbabwean dollar’, and end user confusion.

        • Perhaps access to BA and IB award inventory was enough? IAG may also be providing all the IT infrastructure. It is a bit weird though!

          There are issues I agree. Avis says ‘rent and earn Avios’ but your Meridiana member doesn’t realise they can’t credit to them. Although of course this already happens with IB and BA having different partners – the difference being that CMA lets you get around this.

          You already have for eg Adria using Miles & More despite not being LH owned but that is fully integrated.

          • Access to BA and IB inventory is a huge carrot I agree, and I fully expect IAG is providing most of the IT infrastructure, there is also the steer of IAG customers towards flying Meridiana as an incentive – due to reciprocal earning.

            But none of that would require Meridiana Club to name its rewards currency Avios points though.

            I asked yesterday via social media to AviosUK and they said Combine My Avios with Meridiana Club was not ready yet – but you can never tell how informed a social media response is (and I do not attach much to that particular response). The whole thing from the original press release to delivery has hints of being done quickly.

            Your point about the ‘earn Avios’ confusion is a VERY valid one, hence why I’ve always felt it outright daft they called the scheme found at Avios.com just ‘Avios’. (I said this on FT on day one of the name being unveiled).

            At the time they launched Avios ZA they started to backtrack by calling the scheme found at Avios.com the ‘Avios travel rewards programme’ – which trips off the tongue nicely.. then falls flat on its face.
            http://www.ukpoints.com/2013/09/08/finally-addressing-avios-branding-mess-introducing-avios-south-africa/

            All the Italian market needs now is a mass market ‘Avios.com’ scheme to complete the set – and part of me thinks some of the Avios brand people would love that, given the presence of the Aeroplan owned http://www.nectar.it scheme (only other market I’m aware of for the Nectar brand).

            Personally, I’d make Avios.com just the currency portal for transfers and plugging the schemes that use Avios points, but that would require some ‘exclusivity’ drops for credit card partners with the airlines, etc.

          • If Avios partnerships were universal it would make more sense. Would allow Meridiana access to the hotel relationships for eg which they are too small to negotiate alone. But so far it doesn’t.

          • (Can’t nest the replies any more)

            Universal partnerships idea is a good one. Could hoover up loads of smaller loyalty schemes with offers of access to such (plus a hosted loyalty infrastructure).

            Even if you stripped avios.com of having its own programmes itself, taking them back operating entities, the central portal could also be the crediting conduit to your choice of Avios using programme.

  2. squills says:

    Worth a google 😉

    Willie Walsh, chief executive officer, IAG, said: “The partnership with Meridiana is a strategic milestone for IAG. It progresses our vision to expand the Avios currency globally across numerous airline frequent flyer programmes. Importantly, the deal brings together Avios’ currency programmes in Italy – British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus and now Meridiana Club – enabling Avios to penetrate the market further, attracting new partnerships and driving more revenue for the airlines.”

  3. Erico1875 says:

    They only fly a few long haul routes, Maldives and JFK being the obvious ones. So from the uk, there may not be too many opportunities.
    You can buy status in their club however, €300 for Silver, €500 for Gold.

  4. squills says:

    and this is the Meridiana CEO saying that there might be a formal partnership with IAG in future:

    (ANSA) – ROMA, 15 APR – Meridiana ha annunciato un accordo per una partnership commerciale con British Airways e Iberia, attraverso il sistema Avios, una sorta di moneta virtuale che permette di accumulare punti utilizzabili anche con le altre due compagnie per i membri del nuovo programma Meridiana Club, che verrà lanciato il 16 maggio, con oltre nuove 220 destinazioni nel mondo. Per l’ad Roberto Scaramella, una volta completato il risanamento, “nei prossimi anni si potrà guardare a possibili partnership”.

    • squills says:

      but in this interview Scaramella says there are as yet no concrete plans to partner with IAG:

      Una partnership di respiro internazionale, che non sembra tuttavia portare nell’immediato a sinergie ben più profonde. “In questo accordo di natura commerciale non c’è ancora nulla di segnato per il futuro. Non è un segreto – chiarisce Scaramella – che dopo il risanamento siamo intenzionati a guardare a una partnership forte ma – conclude – non è questo il momento”.

  5. Is this the beginning of the possibility of Avios being spun off as a separate entity a la Aeroplan style?

    • Possibly, but I think we are a long way from that. People will be looking at Miles & More first, because LH is also going down that route.

      It would be astounding if Miles & More could be sold. I priced up a 1 hour German domestic flight this week. Cash price was £171 (which in itself was scary but LH has a monopoly on the route). Mileage cost was 25,000 miles + £166 tax, for economy. That valued 25,000 miles at £5. Alternatively, LH would generously wipe the tax if I agreed to pay a whopping 43,000 miles for my 1 hour domestic economy return flight.

      Miles & More is pretty good for business class availability, but if you want your programme to appeal to the wider public you need to offer good deals on short haul which is what the majority want.

  6. Alex Fisher says:

    I’m flying to Cagliari in July – currently booked on BA CE MAN-LHR-LIN for 18k avios roundtrip, 50 GBP and connection on Alitalia LIN-CAG. Gave BAEC a call to price up Meridiana’s LGW-CAG service – they had availability for 30k avios roundtrip but wanted 191 GBP in tax which seemed rather hefty. Given that I’d have to make it down to LGW night before I decided to stick with my original plans.

    • I have looked into this. It is weird.

      LGW-CAG, booked on the Meridiana website, shows taxes of £36. There is even a breakdown of how they get to this and it includes APD, the Passenger Service Charge at Gatwick and similar charges on the way back.

      LGW-CAG, booked on Expedia, shows taxes of £186 – I genuinely have no idea how they can get to this number since the flight would cost less than this out of season!

      If you then look at the same flight as a BA codeshare, the taxes drop to £80.

      • Alex Fisher says:

        Thanks for looking. It’s very odd. Might try again in a week or so and see if it’s still the same price.