At the time, a lot of people felt deflated by the product. BA had been making noises for a long time about allowing Avios points to be used for revenue fares, but the actual implementation was a damp squib.
It turned out that you could only redeem for short-haul and you could only save £30 maximum.
Over the last three years, BA has been constantly fiddling with the scheme. The maximum discount was increased to £50, but only on some short-haul routes. We then had a number of limited time promotions when BA increased either the number of Avios you could redeem or the value you got per point.
British Airways now seems to have made some firm changes on short haul, and they are very interesting. Take a look at the ‘part pay with Avios’ website here. I’m not sure when this pricing came in but I hadn’t seen it before yesterday.
Here are the key points as I see them:
For Club Europe, you can now redeem 15,000 Avios for a discount of £100. I had no problem getting a £218 Club Europe return to Bordeaux to reduce to £118 per person.
For Euro Traveller, you can redeem 7,500 Avios for a discount of £50. On ‘longer routes’ you can redeem 15,000 Avios for a discount of £100.
Because you are buying a cash ticket, albeit at a discount, you will still receive the usual Avios and tier points. You do not receive On Business points if you use this scheme.
The other key rules presumably remain unchanged:
You cannot part-pay Air Passenger Duty or any equivalent foreign tax. What this means, in practice, is that the maximum discount offered will be reduced if the fare is too low to not cover the taxes.
Only BA operated flights are valid, not codeshares (so, for example, only BA flights to Madrid can be discounted, not the ones flown by Iberia with a BA flight number)
Any itinerary with a non-BA flight on it will not be offered ‘Part-Pay With Avios’ even if it also contains a UK or short-haul flight
You can only book at ba.com or via the BA call centre
It cannot be combined with promotional discount codes or ‘flight plus car’ / ‘flight plus hotel’ packages
It CAN be combined with Hotlines and presumably the MBNA Diamond Club credit card 10% discount
It works OK on the ‘hand baggage only’ fares
If you are in a Household Account, you will be allowed to use Avios to part-pay flights for people who are outside the Household Account
The Avios are deducted from the account of the person making the booking, even if the other passengers have their own BA or avios.com accounts
What do I think?
Slowly but surely, BA is moving towards what I was hoping they would do from the start – give you the ability to pay for your flight entirely in Avios if you wish.
The price of 0.67p per Avios is probably acceptable in return for losing restrictions on availability.
The idea remains a clever marketing move on BA’s part. On many routes, a member could use Avios to bring down the cost of a short-haul flight to less than the cash cost of easyJet or a similar low cost carrier.
It also removes the common complaint of ‘I can’t use my Avios because there is no availability’.
My one worry, however, is that we are seeing ‘revenue-based redemptions’ on short-haul introduced via the back door. From this new position – where you can offset at least 50% of the cost of many European flights – it would not be a massive move to say:
you can now redeem Avios for the entire cost of short haul flights, less taxes (full taxes, not £35 RFS), at 0.67p per point
it will no longer be possible to redeem Avios for short haul flights based on the standard redemption table
You would no longer be able to complain about availability. The impact, though, would be that the net cost of most BA short haul redemptions would roughly double based on my calculations. Let’s see what happens.
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