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More evidence of British Airways prioritising Avios bookings for downgrades?

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A month ago I ran this article speculating that BA has begun to target Avios ticket holders for downgrades.

This would be economically rational.  Under EU regulations, a downgraded passenger is automatically due a 75% refund on that leg of their ticket.  For a cash passenger, that is expensive.

For an Avios passenger, it is not expensive to downgrade.  All the airline has to do is refund a few points.

British Airways BA 777X 777 9X

For an Avios passenger travelling on a 2-4-1 voucher, the downgrade is free to BA.  It has been telling some passengers that as their ticket cost zero Avios, the refund is 75% of zero which is, erm, zero.

After my original article there was some debate about whether this is actually happening.  Some BA staff told me that it isn’t easy to tell whether a passenger is on a 2-4-1 ticket or not, although it is easy to spot those on redemptions on the manifest.  Some agents have implied that it is functionality in FLY, the new check-in and passenger management system, which now allows this policy to be implemented.

It is worth noting that the person involved in my original article issued a Small Claims Court against British Airways after being refused any compensation.  As per this page of Flyertalk, it appears that BA chose not to fight the case and settled for the unspecified amount the passenger demanded.

In the last couple of weeks, two more readers have contacted me with linked stories.

The key one came yesterday from a reader.  I always weigh up news I receive by email from readers to see how truthful and verifiable it seems, but this is one I trust implicitly – the person involved is a regular commentator and has even written a guest article for the site in the past.

If you read the comments on HfP yesterday, you would have seen his regular updates as the situation developed.

This is what he said to me by email:

“At Edinburgh to start our trip to Gatwick and then what was meant to be Club World BAPP 241 reward seats to Male.  At checking in for EDI-LGW we have been told we have been downgraded, either both to World Traveller Plus or just me with my wife staying in CW.  We have been told that BA has oversold the flight and it’s because we are on reward tickets that we have been selected to be downgraded.”

Here is another email I received two weeks ago:

“I have read your article re 2-4-1 downgrades and it almost exactly mirrors our experience.  The Duty Manager was adamant her instructions were to target Redemption ticket holders first.  Given that our seats were showing as still allocated to us that morning (albeit not available to be printed due to “system error” at the hotel), it appears BA have chosen to sell more CW seats on the day . . . knowing they had a supply of 2-4-1 pax ready to be downgraded

It is a largely win-win situation for BA . . .  if there are any no-shows, no skin off their noses, but hey, why not sell an equivalent number of CW seats to exactly match the number of 2-4-1 holders on every flight!  Cheap trick but as I learned in over twenty years with them, the internal “bar” is set at the greediest money-earning opportunity.”

The reader above is not one I have met but I have no reason doubt the accuracy of what he sent me.  He had even paid to reserve specific Club World seats but even that did not protect him from being downgraded.

To clarify, there is no specific proof that this is going on.  No BA employee has yet sent me a copy of the relevant memo or email.

Do let me know if you are also impacted by this and have been told that the staff that you have been downgraded specifically because you are on an Avios ticket.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2024)

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points 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.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

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.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (357)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • vol says:

    These revelations certainly make the Amex BA cards less attractive as their selling point at the end of your £10k or £20k spend is the 2-4-1 voucher.

    Potential applicants need to be informed of this from the outset at application stage

    If these are not being honoured, I hope Amex will also hold BA to account – or maybe they have built this into their Ts & Cs already

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    I thought the over riding rule on who gets downgraded is status. I’m curious at what level ‘Anon’ is at? Did they query whether no status or below their status passengers had been targeted first? I was once bumped out of my seat in Row 1 of a CE flight from Istanbul to Heathrow, and at that time was Gold. Piecing together the story of how this came about was a complex BA misdirection exercise! Which this story by Anon reminds me of. This seat change happened the day before. Gold line told me ‘operational’ by staff at Istanbul, at the gate at the airport the dispatch manager told me it was actioned by a staff member from London , from the log which is kept in the booking, and there was no operational reason. On board the flight crew showed me the seat manifest on the iPad and the offending person who got me moved was coloured ‘black’ i.e. GGL. However over riding a seat choice is in fact not policy. So misdirection really, and certain staff at BA can do things in the IT system which doesn’t follow a specific rule, just whimsical, yet covered up to the point of like solving a mystery in a James Bond movie.

  • Luca says:

    I can’t imagine American Express would be too thrilled with this news, unless complicit. Have you reached out to them for comment?

  • Paul says:

    BA is simply not to be trusted. This is a firm which was involved in dirty tricks against Virgin and their modus operandi seems to be “whatever we can get away with” glad someone took them to court and forced them to settle.

  • Steve says:

    Another reason to avoid spending Avios on BA.

  • Paul says:

    The comments about the Amex 241 not being of value anymore is just what BA want to hear. This will be used to enhance them away based on feedback from customers

  • Concerto says:

    As I said before, boycott, boycott, boycott. Take your business elsewhere, spend those Avios on partner airlines.

    Virgin are not exemplary, they do exactly the same thing. Keep that in mind.

    • Oonagh cacioppo says:

      I would be happy to collect with another airline however the 241 offer appears to be the best use of points. I would be most interested to know if you have an alternative suggestion for using Amex or Avios points for flying Club or First ?

    • James Black says:

      Agree, now I only use avios and 241 on BA flight, now I will cancel my Amex when it expires.

    • James says:

      Looking to book a trip to NYC in October for Sept 2018. I prey they don’t do this to me.

  • Dynamo says:

    On a 2-4-1 to Cape Town during Easter. Seems like a flight which they would typically oversell. Wish me luck

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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