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.
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!
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.