If you are still crediting your British Airways economy tickets to British Airways Executive Club, it may be time – for some people – for a rethink.
The Avios changes at the end of April were pretty brutal if you fly on discounted British Airways economy tickets. For tickets booked after that date (earlier bookings are protected) you now earn the following:
On the cheapest tickets, the earning rate was slashed by 75% and you now earn just 25% of miles flown.
I expected all of the BA partner airlines to follow. Most have. American Airlines, however, has not. This is the current earnings rate if you credit British Airways flights to the AAdvantage scheme – you still earn at least one mile per mile flown:
Let’s summarise what these two tables mean:
You will earn 400% more miles crediting Q, O and G economy tickets to American
You will earn 200% more miles crediting K, L, M, N, S and V economy tickets to American
You will earn 10% more miles crediting E, T and W World Traveller Plus tickets to American
Since this is the frequent flyer game, nothing is quite that simple. Let’s imagine that I was about to fly to Los Angeles on British Airways with a cheap economy ticket. I could earn either:
2,722 Avios points return, or
10,884 American Airlines miles return
But …. you also need to consider some other factors:
If you have British Airways status you would also get a class of service bonus based on the full mileage. A Bronze gets 25% (2,722 Avios), a Silver gets 50% (5,544 Avios) and a Gold gets 100% (10,884 Avios). Bronze and Silver would still earn more Avios in American though!
You won’t earn any BA tier points if you credit to American. That said, a cheap return to LA is only 40 tier points anyway ….
You would earn American Airlines status points – but you would need to look more closely at the American scheme to see if it was worth building status with them.
If you go for it, you then find yourself with a pile of American Airlines miles.
The good news is that you can redeem AA miles for hotels. The value jumps around a bit but 0.5p per mile seems acheivable. This means, from your LA flight above, you would be choosing between (10,884 AA miles @ 0.5p) £50 of free hotel room or 2,722 Avios. AA wins.
Flight redemptions are trickier. In Europe you will be paying full taxes and charges instead of the £35 Reward Flight Saver fee. As BA has now removed fuel surcharges from short haul flights, this has less of an impact than it did.
AA also treats Europe as one zone. 10,000 miles gets you from London to Paris but it also gets you from London to Athens.
There are some excellent long-haul deals with AA. Using AA miles to fly BA to Dubai, for example, costs 60,000 AA miles in Club World. With Avios you are now paying 100,000 Avios off-peak or 120,000 peak. AA is also a partner with Etihad so you have another redemption route to the Middle East on top of Qatar, BA and Qantas.
AA does not charge fuel surcharges on anyone except British Airways. This means that using their miles for redemptions on oneworld partners will often be cheaper than using Avios. Flying to the US using American Airlines will not incur any fuel surcharges.
All of this assumes that you will earn enough AA miles for a redemption. American is not a Tesco partner, an Amex Membership Rewards partner or a Heathrow Rewards partner. There is a UK credit card which is currently offering 15,000 miles as a sign-up bonus.
And there is another snag ….
There is a widely accepted view in the market that the American Airlines scheme is due for a big devaluation soon. It is far too generous compared to what Delta and United currently offer. The reason it has not changed is that the merger of AA and US Airways was a bigger priority over the last couple of years.
Change is likely to be coming. Even if it doesn’t arrive for a while, AA could still change their earnings rate on British Airways flights overnight.
What should you do?
If you are only taking a few BA short haul flights, I would stick with Avios and keep it simple. If you have BA status or want to earn it, stick with Avios.
On the other hand, if you have a few long haul discount economy BA flights coming up, you might want to think about the AA route. First, make sure you have a plan in mind for how you would use the miles and how you would top up your account if necessary.