If you are an existing member, you will have been emailed your new membership number along with a request to reset your password. Old membership numbers will continue to work until the end of 2015.
In some ways the changes are very similar to what happened to the Avios programme:
Redemptions in Eurotraveller / World Traveller have become proportionately cheaper
Redemptions in premium cabins have become proportionately more expensive
The main twist is:
The programme has gone 100% revenue based. The points you earn are now based ENTIRELY on the amount you spend. For the purchaser of cheap economy flights, every redemption will be harder to earn in the future.
There is also another unwelcome twist:
Redemption availability, for economy and World Traveller Plus tickets, has been reduced sharply. In some cases it is worse than Avios availability.
This is how the scheme now works:
Three membership tiers have been introduced, based on £ spend. A base level member earns 1 point per £1. Spend over £30,000 and you move to tier 2, earning 1.25 points per £1. Spend over £300,000 and you move to tier 3, earning 1.5 points per £1.
‘Hand baggage only’ flights do NOT earn points.
Taxes, fees and surcharges other than fuel surcharges do NOT earn points. You will therefore earn fewer points than the headline price of your ticket suggests.
Your spend to date has been backdated to the start of 2015. This is meant to include spending with American Airlines and Iberia – it is not clear how successful BA has been in picking this up for flights earlier in the year.
You can also continue to earn extra On Business points by using the British Airways American Express Corporate Card or Corporate Plus Card to book flights.
Points now expire after two full calendar years. This is poorer than the old scheme where points only expired after three full calendar years.
There is some good news which will benefit every member:
Points can be earned and redeemed on Iberia and American Airlines flights. This is a change from the previous position.
You can agree to waive your right to earn points fin return 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 may be a better deal for most people.
However, note that if only one flight in your itinerary is discounted, you will not earn On Business points for ANY part of it.
Almost all tickets can now be upgraded with points. Far more classes of economy tickets are now eligible for upgrading. The cheapest Club World seats will also be upgradeable.
Upgrades look like good value at first glance. They start at 5,000 points long-haul for World Traveller to World Traveller Plus, from 10,500 for World Traveller Plus to Club World and from 7,000 points for Club World to First. These are one-way prices.
These prices are so generous that someone who travels on fully flexible Club World tickets for a Tier 3 company will earn almost enough for a one-way upgrade to First for every return trip they take. I’m not sure this is sustainable.
Upgrades can ONLY be processed at the time of booking. You cannot upgrade an existing booking.
How has the ‘earn to burn’ ratio changed?
BA decided to double the existing points balance of every member. My first response when a programme does something like this is that it is trying to hide the extent of a devaluation. If it is difficult to compare the ‘before’ and ‘after’ position you had, you might not realise what exactly happened.
Previously, a Club World return flight required roughly 300% of the On Business points required for a World Traveller flight. That has changed to roughly six times.
Effectively, 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.
The unexpected change is the additional tightening of the seats available for redemption. Two years ago, On Business was hugely generous. You could pretty much get a seat on any flight, even at short notice. About a year ago this was tightened up a little, but availability was still substantially better than you found for Avios redemptions. I always held onto my OB points for occasions when I absolutely had to travel on a certain date but there were no Avios seats on offer.
Evidence over the last week is that availability has tightened even further.
Economy redemptions now book into V booking class and not B as previously. World Traveller Plus redemptions now book into T instead of E. This will make it very difficult to get availability at short notice. There are examples at Flyertalk of availability now being worse than Avios availability for short notice bookings – which, of course, are the sort that small businesses tend to book.
There is no change to Club World and First availability.
What impact will this have?
It is difficult to know what impact the changes to On Business will have. As with the April changes to main Avios scheme, they seem poorly thought through.
The small business, spending only a limited amount on European flights throughout the year, is being told that it is not wanted. Coupled with the cut to Avios earning, owner-managers are more likely to seek out easyJet and other options. They may want to take a look at PartnerPlusBenefit, the Star Alliance small business programme.
Larger companies are flying British Airways anyway. This is unlikely to change their behaviour and most big companies wouldn’t care if British Airways scrapped the scheme entirely. It was only ever smaller companies who got any real value from it by being able to take the odd free flight or upgrade, and they have effectively been disenfranchised.
To learn more, log in to the On Business section on ba.com. You can also sign up via that page. Whilst the scheme is now heavily diluted, you have nothing to lose by signing up if your own your own business even if you do nothing more than take the 5% flight discount available.