The net result was to make the scheme more lucrative for purchasers of premium tickets and less lucrative for buyers of cheaper tickets, as well as making it harder for every member to earn enough points for premium class tickets. I wrote more about the changes here.
When you first logged in to the new On Business website, you would have been faced with a page which asked for your VAT number, if it was not already in your profile. You could skip past this if you didn’t have a VAT number to hand.
Over the last few days, the reason for this has become apparent.
British Airways is no longer awarding On Business points to entities which do not have a VAT number.
Flight bookings made before May 27th are still OK but new bookings will not receive any points.
It is important to note that this requirement does not appear anywhere in the On Business terms and conditions or on its website.
It was brought to my attention by a priest and HFP reader who runs a religious charity. His role involves extensive travel and the charity earns and redeems On Business points to keep down its flight costs.
Charities do not register for VAT unless they have retail operations, in which case the retail arm is ring-fenced and has a separate VAT registration. This charity is now de-facto barred from On Business.
Many small businesses may not have a VAT number if they do not have the circa £80,000 turnover required to make it a legal requirement. You might argue that, under the new On Business earning structure, such companies are wasting their time with the programme anyway as they will never earn enough for a reward – but that should be up to the company.
There is a published register of VAT numbers, so making one up in order to get On Business off your back is unfortunately not an option.
British Airways is, of course, entitled to set whatever rules it likes for On Business membership. Changing the rules in secret, however, is just stupid. At the very least, this change should have been prominently announced as part of the upgrade and non-VAT entities given a grace period in which to obtain registration or spend their points before their account was closed.