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Avios ‘moving to dynamic pricing’ – and other Investor Day news

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Every year, British Airways parent company, IAG, holds an investor day for the financial community to update it on what is happening.  The 2017 event took place on Friday.

The 126 pages of slides from this are available to the public and you can access them here (look under the IAG tab).  It is less painful than sitting through the entire five hour conference call!

Here are a few highlights from the slides, which cover all of the IAG operations:

BA:

“BA is a premium brand for all customers”

Profitability, punctuality, lost baggage and aircraft availability metrics all improved

Additional £200m added to the (notional) ‘£400m invested in Club World’ (don’t read much into this, the number is padded by replacement capex, necessary capex – new planes need seats! – and the new Gatwick lounges which many believe the airport funded to persuade BA to move)

New Club World seat to be rolled out from 2019 (no mention if just on the new A350 fleet or more widely)

Boeing 747 fleet to be refurbished from 2018 but phased out by 2024  (this process appears to be accelerating from earlier timetables)

Additional seats to be added to the new Boeing 787 aircraft (how? – they were designed to be pretty dense in the first place)

Boeing 767 aircraft to leave the fleet in the short term

Rome added to the list of 2018 lounge refurbishments (plus JFK and Aberdeen)

New long-haul Economy catering from January 2018 with ‘improved quality’

Changes to be made to the way the short-haul buy-on-board service operates (fewer choices, implication a crew member from Club Europe will help out)

Self-service boarding to be extended to EU short-haul from the current domestic trial

Overall performance of the maintenance unit is, financially, still behind the market due to high costs

Iberia:

Iberia financial performance much improved in a difficult environment

Additional 9 seats added to Iberia’s A320 fleet

Vueling:

Vueling ‘recovering customer trust’ after mass cancellations in 2016

Vueling wants “smart, digital, young and value maximising customers” (!)

LEVEL:

Low-cost long-haul flights bring in ‘80%-90%’ of the revenue of a full service airline with ‘10%-20%’ lower costs

LEVEL currently running at 90%+ load factors and is profitable

Potential for 15-30 LEVEL aircraft flying by 2022 (IAG has suggested it could use some of Monarch’s Gatwick slots)

Aer Lingus:

Aer Lingus performing well

New A320NEO LR fleet will open up much of US Eastern seaboard for single-aisle long-haul operation

Avios and loyalty

There was virtually no mention of Avios Group in the presentation, apart from the following bullet points which are copied verbatim from the slides:

“New management team in progress

Avios launched with EI and VY programmes

Single group points bank by June 2018

Customer improvements planned for BA and IB programmes

Progressive introduction of Dynamic Pricing from 2018

Group loyalty review in progress”

The ‘single points bank’ project has been mooted for years and is already substantially behind schedule.  The idea is that you will have one single Avios account, and all your activity from BA, Iberia, Aer Lingus etc will drop into it.

This will be more complex than the ‘Miles & More’ model, however, because there is not one single status / tier programme shared across the IAG airlines.  It will also require the various Avios airlines to harmonise their redemption and earning partners.  It’s not easy, which is why it is taking a long time.

‘Dynamic Pricing’ could mean anything.  This could work in a positive way with, for example, extra availability being released on busy flights for people willing to pay a premium.  Many airlines, eg Emirates, already do this.  BA already does it in a small way, allowing Gold members to get a seat on any flight for double Avios.

The negative risk would be moving to something that gets you nearer to a ‘revenue based redemption’ model, with mileage more closely linked to the cash cost.  This is a crazy model, however, and not even the major US airlines have dared try it in its purest form.  You only need to look at the, ahem, success of Nectar in the UK to see how excited people get about a ‘revenue based redemption’ model.

I would also stress the benefits of SIMPLICITY, which dynamic pricing can mess up.  Too many people I meet in the loyalty industry think that their members spend all day, every day, focused on their miles and points and are willing to understand complex schemes.  I don’t believe that, which is partly why we only publish stories in the morning and why most of our readers pop in at 9am for 5 minutes and then get on with their jobs.

The decentralised nature of Avios Group (which doesn’t even operate from the BA offices, it is down in Sussex) makes me think that it will fight any attempt to make points less valuable.  The wildcard here is new CEO Drew Crawley, who I’ve not met yet and cannot measure.  He was parachuted in, literally overnight, after Gavin Halliday resigned to run Etihad Guest.

Anyway ….

If you want to learn more about any of this, there are 126 slides you can work through via the link in the first paragraph.  Get yourself a very large cup of coffee first.

What you will come to realise, however flippant we may be occasionally about the way the BA is run, is that (obviously) there is far, far more going on than is ever apparent to those of us on the outside.

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