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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.


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You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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

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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.

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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.

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Comments (357)

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

  • CV3V says:

    Think we need to develop the ‘What to do when BA downgrade you for someone who paid more for the same seat’ guide!
    Refuse the downgrade?
    Ask to be rebooked? With BA, push for other airline?
    Take the £200 cash (and still claim compensation later)?
    Etc.

  • Mr Bridge says:

    Don’t BA say that they have a minimum number of AVIOS seats available on each flight?

    If they they then sell a seat booked in AVIOS for cash then they do not have that minimum number of seats. This is misrepresentation ( misrepresentation act 1967), and anyone affected, that decides upon further action, may wish to consider the relevance of this act.

    Furthermore, Citizens Advice, have a social policy unit, what this means is that Citizens Advice, nationally consolidates and complies issues that are affecting lots of people. Anyone affected should contact their local Citizens Advice , and ask that the issue is flagged up for social policy.

  • Wayne says:

    Just another piece of proof that BA is all about the bottom line and places no value in their loyal Avios building clients.

    I echo the sentiments of bertiepoppy that we look to create class action suits to set precedence such that we are protected in the future.

    Disappointing.

  • Ash says:

    This is disgusting. Whats the point of spending £10k and circ. £200 on BAP Amex if that’s going to happen. We have a reward flight to SIN in the summer with a baby. I won’t be having any of it, the inconvenience with an infant will be even worse! Be interesting to see how other redemption tickets fair.

  • JamesW says:

    Absolute disgrace.

    I am afraid that senior management in large corporations will continue this downward trend of treating people badly for a few extra bucks until it effects them personally.

    How will it ever effect them personally ?
    It won’t.

    • James Black says:

      cancel the BA AMEX credit card, the only right choice now!

      • JamesW says:

        Yeah, I am today. Decision made.

        • Crafty says:

          We will be continuing with sign-up bonuses but no longer bothering with 2-4-1 vouchers until such time as this is positively resolved.

          • Sam says:

            The value of the BAPP is significantly reduced without the 241 though.

          • Crafty says:

            I agree, but if you can hit your target within say 2 months then cancel, you have bought 18,000-25,000 Avios depending on timing (excluding referral bonuses) for about £35. That’s a better deal than any I’ve seen on here – even including the Avis special!

  • James67 says:

    A few observations:

    1. That Anon was downgraded at EDI and not LGW supports view that FLY and not staff is administering the downgrades.

    2. Anon was unable to select a seat or use OLCI. We need to establish if this is correlated with FLY pre-selecting passengers for downgrade.

    3. We need to establish whether check in and gate agents have any flexibility and authority to override FLY downgrades.

    4. BA reportedly unwilling to contest a small claim therefore they are likely on very shaky ground so if it happens it might be worth telling them to get on the phone with their legal team, as you are aware of this, in the hope that they will relent.

    • Lady London says:

      Not bring able to select a seat can also mean lots of other things. You may actually have been selected for an upgrade. An equipment change could be in the offing.

  • Oonagh cacioppo says:

    I would be UNABLE to fly long haul without lying back for the majority of the journey. Would I have the right to be put on a later flight?
    If so on an outward journey who would compensate for missed onward travel and hotel costs?
    How can one find out Amex perspective on their offer which is obviously in collaboration with BA if BA abuse it?

  • BrianDT says:

    Reading the comments, I assume that these potential downgrades could apply to anybody who has booked an Avios seat, full stop ? Even down the back….flight full….Avios passengers off loaded ? Including of course, all/any OW passengers that also happen to be on BA ? Also Lloyd’s upgrade customers ?

    • James67 says:

      Yes, but 241 appears to be top of the list because BA have convinced themselves they can best get away with selling ‘the companion seat costs nothing’ argument. I suspect they will settle any claims quickly out of court on this one because if anybody takes them to a higher court they will very likely lose big time.

      • Lady London says:

        Settling takes both to agree though. I’d like to think sometime someone will decline saying no thanks but it’s more important to clarify the law for everyone. I know there’s a lot of noise in this discussion now but how many will really decline a private deal with a hush agreement?

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

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