If you have ever sat in your overseas hotel room watching BBC World News, you might have seen Fast Track, their travel programme. This weeks edition included a six-minute piece on frequent flyer award availability.
You can watch the video here:
(Video deleted by the BBC)
There are three specific cases mentioned. One was a British Airways member trying to get to Cyprus and Sydney. The second is weirder example from a Singapore Airlines Krisflyer member, who ends up paying more in taxes (and to buy some additional miles) than a cash ticket would have cost.
In general, I have sympathy with people who struggle to redeem their miles. Since my kids started school, and my ability to go away when we want has disappeared, I have even more sympathy.
However, it can be done – we have 4 Club World seats down to Dubai over Christmas (which may be cancelled, unfortunately) and four over October half-term. In October, though, we are travelling down via Abu Dhabi – not a massive inconvenience, but still an inconvenience. Coming back – although I am hoping for late availability to open up on a direct route – we are ticketed on Royal Jordanian (an Avios partner) to Amman and then Club World Amman to Heathrow.
I was also able to snag an airberlin business class ticket from New York to Germany for next week when I needed one, when I had absolutely no flexibility on dates.
The reality, of course, is that BA could open up every seat on certain flights for Avios availability at the start of the school holidays and would still not be able to meet demand ….
I have slightly less sympathy with the guy in this programme, though. A BA Gold holder, for example, can always fall back on ‘guaranteed Avios availability’. I admit that it is poor value, at 200% of the normal Avios points and with no 2-4-1 vouchers allowed, but it is an option. Cyprus in peak Summer season is also a route where you would expect to struggle to find seats.
(It would have been more interesting if he’d been wanting to fly to the US and the BBC had shown the vast gaps in Avios availability over the next few months.)
I WOULD have sympathy for him if he had followed Simon Calders advice, though! Because it is NOT possible to buy the cheapest possible Economy ticket on BA and upgrade it. Economy tickets must be semi-flexible or flexible before they can be upgraded, and these are substantially more expensive than non-refundable tickets. (World Traveller Plus and Club World tickets CAN be upgraded if they are non-refundable, though.) And, of course, availability for seat upgrades comes from the same ‘box’ as normal Avios seats, so if you can’t do one then you can’t do the other.
This story does remind you of one key point, though. A loyalty programme which frustrates the majority of its (casual) customers is far worse than having no loyalty scheme at all. And, whilst it is easy to criticise the man in this clip for not putting in the time to learn how to exploit Avios properly, in a perfect world he wouldn’t need to. (If he’d asked me, I would have routed him on Royal Jordanian via Amman!)