The British Airways ‘On Business’ programme explained (Part 1, 2016 edition)

Some of you will never have come across On Business which is British Airways ‘other’ loyalty programme. Instead of rewarding flyers, it rewards the companies that book their travel. (And if you have your own business, you can be a ‘company’ as well as a traveller, and so double dip.)

The programme is explained at this website.  It is fundamentally the same as Avios in structure. You earn On Business points for every flight your company books. They can then be redeemed for flights or for upgrades.

Note – as this is a key question that always comes up – you CAN collect both Avios and On Business points for the same flight.

On Business was restructured, mainly for the worse, during 2015.  For simplicity, this article just covers the situation as it is now.  If you want to know what changed, you can read my older articles on OB here.

The sign-up page is here.  If you are signing up, you will qualify for a special sign-up bonus of triple points for your first six one-way flights within 12 months of joining.  If you say on your application form that you were referred by member OB10171896 then I receive a small referral points bonus – thank you!

On Business

Signing up

You must run a genuine business in order to sign up for On Business.  You cannot pretend to have a company, as you must provide the name of your company and its VAT registration number when you sign-up.  The requirement to provide a VAT number means that the smallest businesses will no longer qualify to join.  There is a published register of VAT numbers so it is not possible to make one up.

In theory, you can only earn On Business points when you travel on business for your company. However, you will not get any attention if the occasional block of flights to Orlando for a group with the same surname goes through!

Earning points

Points earning in On Business is 100% revenue based.  The more you spend, the more points you earn.  It is that simple.

The programme has three tiers which you move through based on your annual spending:

On1 – up to £29,999 spend – 1 point per £1

On2 – £30,000 to £299,999 spend – 1.25 points per £1

On3 – £300,000+ spent – 1.5 points per £1

Qualifying spend comprises flights taken on British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines.  Points are based on the ticket price excluding taxes, charges and fees – but including fuel surcharges.

You receive points irrespective of how you book.  You are not penalised for using Expedia or any other third party agent or booking site.

You will not, however, receive any points if you book a flight as part of a package with inclusive hotel or car hire.  Holders of the old BMI credit card will also not receive any points if they book via their exclusive 10% discount link.

As soon as you hit the threshold for the next tier, you are moved up.  You retain that tier for the rest of the current calendar year and all of the following year.

You can occasionally agree to waive your points for a cash discount.  A saving of ‘5% or more’ on the ticket price will be available on ‘selected flights’ if you choose not to earn points on your booking.  This is a better deal for most people but your chances of flying on a route offering a discount are slim.

Earning analysis

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this earning structure does not support SMEs.  Setting the threshold for On2 at £30,000 of annual spend – a huge sum even for most businesses turning over £1m – sends out a message that your company is not really wanted.  By insisting that new members of On Business be VAT registered it has set a de facto minimum turnover of £90,000 simply for joining the scheme.

Added to the BAEC changes in 2015 – which halved tier point and quartered Avios earning on discounted short-haul flights – there is little incentive for SMEs to be swayed by benefits if your only work travel is inside Europe on cheap tickets.

On Business points have a ‘hard’ expiry date of 2 years from the December after you earn them.  This cannot be extended – you must spend them within 2 years.

The expiry rules create a ‘minimum spend’ threshold on your membership.  You would need to spend £1,100 every two years in order to book the very cheapest reward – a one-way flight between London and Manchester in Economy – before your points expired.

On Business reviewed

Spending points

The 2015 changes massively increased the number of points required for premium class travel.  You used to need roughly 3x the points of an Economy ticket to fly in Business.  This is now roughly 5-6x.

Most small companies can now forget about redeeming for long-haul premium classes.  You would need to spend roughly £40,000 to earn one Club World return to the Middle East.

Before we look at the numbers, you should note a few things:

You can only redeem on BA, American Airlines and Iberia.  You do not have access to full oneworld reward inventory.

Reward availability is substantially better than when using Avios. This, for me, is the main benefit of On Business and I NEVER spend them if Avios seats are available – they are too valuable.

There is no ‘Reward Flight Saver’ option with On Business.  This is not a major problem, however, as ever since British Airways removed fuel surcharges on short haul tickets the actual taxes due are rarely substantially higher than the ‘Reward Flight Saver’ cap.

You cannot redeem flights until two different travellers have collected points on your account. This is presumably to stop ‘one man bands’ joining up.  You can easily get around this by crediting a flight from a friend or family member to your account.

There is no published spending chart.  You need to plug routes manually into the widget on the On Business home page in order to get pricing examples.

Here are a few examples.  These are all return flights but one-way bookings are also allowed:

Hamburg – 2,200 points Euro Traveller return; 10,400 points Club Europe return

New York – 9,000 points World Traveller return; 48,000 points Club World return

Tokyo – 10,000 points World Traveller return; 58,000 points Club World return

Note the astonishing gap between Economy and Business pricing, especially for Hamburg.

Roughly … and this is very rough … I work on the basis that 1 On Business point has the same burning power as 4 Avios when used for Economy flights and 2 Avios when used for Club World flights.

Click here for Part 2 of this article which looks at the value of using your On Business points for upgrades and how to boost your points with credit cards.

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  1. I had a family member travel POS-MIA on AA then MIA-LHR on BA. The BA website would only allow me to add his BA reference number and hence didn’t get points for his POS-MIA leg. I didn’t chase it much coz I don’t have a vat not number. ….but they still awarded the points.

  2. Interesting, I really wish I’d known about this before.

    Is it possible to claim for flights already flown?

  3. I can never get On Business points when I book a combined flight and car-hire.
    A sensible thing to do for your own business as it’s usually cheaper, but I presume it is classed as a leisure flight so doesn’t count.

    • Raffles says:

      Correct. Should have mentioned that as it is another new ‘feature’.

      • I too got caught out with this. I credited 5 club world returns to the US to my On Business account and they all credited as 0 points. I spent 30 mins on the phone to the helpline giving them a list of 20 ticket numbers after the advisor told me I should have got the points. When nothing happened after a couple of weeks I called again, only to be told this time that bookings combined with a car or hotel do not qualify for points. Very frustrating! I always have to hire a car for my US business trips so the whole thing is a waste of time for me as you save so much booking the car hire together with the flights.

      • Simon Nicholson says:

        This rule amazes me. I can understand not crediting for third party booking companies but you would think they would want to encouraged BA organised packages to include car or hotel. We have lost loads of points on this before we noticed. I have recently complained to On Business (with no reply) and now use HERTZ instead of AVIS for my car ( so I get the On business points and IHG pints) so BA and its partners have lost out.

  4. I’ve just cancelled an economy avois booking to bgi on New Year’s Eve and re-booked into premium using 11,000 on business points. Their expiry…. 31st December!

  5. Very interesting! So does this work (if you are a VAT registered limited company) if you book travel through a client? eg if you use their corporate booking agent and they pay the bills?

  6. @alastairtravel says:

    There are additional benefits if you book long haul On Business fares through selected management travel companies.
    You can get between 5% and 10% off the fare AND the ticket becomes fully refundable and changeable. If you take this option though you do not accrue On Business points (but still get Avios).
    For example on current sales book R class to to NYC/AUS/BOS/SEA/YYC/BLR/BOM/DEL/DXB/HKG/JNB/PVG/SYD you get 10% off the price and fully flexi ticket.
    There fares are available to all On Business members except those in very large companies that already have a corporate deal with BA .

  7. My understanding is that small businesses with a turnover of under £90k are free to voluntarily register for VAT (and may be incentivised to do so by the flat rate scheme). They could definitely register for On Business. Whether they’d substantially benefit, however…

    • That’s true, but whether flat rate works for you depends on the nature of your inputs and outputs and your margins. Definitely not worth it just for joining OB!

  8. As a VAT registered small business ever since the revenue earning structure this program gives little benefits. The balances were multiplied when it was introduced which was helpful.

    I find the posting of points for eligible flights to be a real lottery which I cannot seem to workout. Despite calls to On Business I am none the wiser…

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s to see how I can best make use of my meagre 4200 points before some expire.

  9. Rob, you’ve missed the key new element of OB – the totally random number generator that is responsible for points! Flights of similar headline cost can get vastly different points as you don’t realise when booking the way they vary the underlying fare element, longhaul flights with connections have also been decimated for earning with some only earning tens of points despite being in business.

    The administration is hopeless as is the IT, with there still being major issue with AA tickets. Redemption costs have rocketed and it’s basically an almost totally useless scheme now!

  10. Michael L says:

    I have recently cancelled two OB bookings and as the OB website was not responding the cancellations did not go through. As it was at night there was no phone number to call and cancel.
    Trying to get the OB points re-credited to my account has been a major, major hassle. Has anyone else out there had a similar experience? (If so, I am extremely sympathetic to your plight). Any ideas for a quick resolution?


  1. […] – that can be very valuable I did an overview of the scheme and how I value the rewards here –…ss-reviewed-2/ – fundamentally you are looking at 1 OB point being worth 2-4 Avios. That means 2p-4p of value per […]