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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 (June 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 £15,000 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 – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. 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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus 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.

  • CV3V says:

    As a recap;

    BA release 2 CW seats on every flight, even then its damn difficult to book requiring getting in a year early.
    You pay Amex a card fee and collect avios to get into a premium cabin.

    In the case of Anon:
    BA oversell the cabin, with 241 tix the first to be downgraded, splitting up travelling companions.
    BA ground crew confirm this is now their approach.
    BA ground crew then go back on what they said and blame a faulty seat.
    BA cabin crew confirm the cabin was oversold.

    What happened to looking for volunteers and providing compensation? BA can oversell but it’s then how they handle their customers and this behaviour is not just atrocious but deceitful.

  • Clive says:

    Social media is a powerful tool. Maybe some # are required

  • Steve says:

    Goldsmiths offered me coffee and biscuits when I bought my last watch. If it was run by BA I’d have paid extra to sit on the Rolex desk, paid to buy a biscuit in store, had my coffee taken away once they’d found out I was paying with Tesco vouchers and paid extra to use my Goldsmiths credit card.

    • Sideysid says:

      Ahh so a fellow HFP reader has also got a Rolex through Tesco vouchers. You can’t do that anymore as they have caught on, what model did you get? I got myself a very nice Datejust II with white gold bezel a few years back.

  • Cate says:

    So if we turned up at the airport and a companion had been downgraded and BA wouldn’t budge, we could simply walk away from the airport. Does the voucher get returned to us? I presume associated hotel bookings through BAEC would also be impacted.

  • Lewis Watson says:

    Did they offer the option of staying in club for a later flight

  • Mark says:

    I’ve got a 2-4-1 in F and CW coming up. I will be recording any conversations should this situation arise.

  • uk1 says:

    This is a lot more complex than I think is currently appreciated and I think the least worst option for anyone finding themselves in this situation is the money claim court option claiming the nearest value of a replacement ticket ie full class CW or First. It isn’t what BA reimburses that is the issue it is what the passenger had lost which is a first class seat or CW seat and any unfair contract termsthat prevent this might be invalid in the UK. A further complexity which I haven’t seen discussedanywahere is the much more complex nature of the return leg. On this leg, having taken the outward leg, the BA Amex 241 passenger cannot change or cancel his ticket without losing it completely. So they in BA’s view have no choice but to accept that BA still reserve the right to try and sell that uncancellable ticket for a seat to someone else and bump them down. British Airways are clearly saying – wrongly in my view – that even though they have a passenger with an inflexible ticket that they presumably are highly likely to use if they do not wish to be stranded abroad or pay for a different ticket can have their seat sold to someone else. I’m not sure that would be considered in the UK to be a fair contract. Anyway, no one knows the answers to these questions even lawyers so trying the court process is a decent eay to test BA’s resolve.

  • Ro says:

    Sorry but why are you waiting for them to do this to you? After your next trip just start flying other airlines! Not saying they are all perfect but BA really does so often sound awful

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

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