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!
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!
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.
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.
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.