The British Airways ‘On Business’ programme explained (Part 1, 2018 edition)

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Some of you will never have come across On Business which is British Airways ‘other’ loyalty programme. Instead of rewarding flyers, it rewards the companies that book their travel. (And if you have your own business, you can be a ‘company’ as well as a traveller, and so double dip.  The only requirement is that your company is VAT registered.)

The programme is explained at this website.  It is fundamentally the same as Avios in structure. You earn On Business points for every flight your company books. They can then be redeemed for flights or for upgrades.

Note – as this is a key question that always comes up – you CAN collect both Avios and On Business points for the same flight.

The sign-up page is here (click ‘Join On Business’ in the menu bar).  If you are signing up, you will qualify for a special sign-up bonus of triple points for your first six one-way flights within 12 months of joining.  If you say on your application form that you were referred by member OB10171896 then I receive a small referral points bonus – thank you!

On Business

Signing up

You must run a genuine business in order to sign up for On Business.  You cannot pretend to have a company, as you must provide the name of your company and its VAT registration number when you sign-up.  The requirement to provide a VAT number means that the smallest businesses will no longer qualify to join.  There is a published register of VAT numbers so it is not possible to make one up.

In theory, you can only earn On Business points when you travel on business for your company. However, you will not get any attention if the occasional block of flights to Orlando for a group with the same surname goes through.

Earning points

Points earning in On Business is 100% revenue based.  The more you spend, the more points you earn.  It is that simple.

The programme has three tiers which you move through based on your annual spending:

On1 – up to £29,999 spend – 1 point per £1

On2 – £30,000 to £299,999 spend – 1.25 points per £1

On3 – £300,000+ spent – 1.5 points per £1

Qualifying spend comprises flights taken on British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines.  Points are based on the ticket price excluding taxes, charges and fees – but including fuel surcharges.

You receive points irrespective of how you book.  You are not penalised for using Expedia or any other third party agent or booking site.

You will not, however, receive any points if you book a flight as part of a BA Holidays or similar package with inclusive hotel or car hire.  

As soon as you hit the threshold for the next tier, you are moved up.  You retain that tier for the rest of the current calendar year and all of the following year.

You can occasionally agree to waive your points for a cash discount.  A saving of ‘5% or more’ on the ticket price will be available on ‘selected flights’ if you choose not to earn points on your booking.  This is a better deal for most people but your chances of flying on a route offering a discount are slim.  The only route discount currently offered to me is Badajoz in Spain!

You should note that, when you have multiple flights on one booking, the earning system can get a little chaotic.  This is because BA has to make a notional split of the cost of your ticket between each individual leg.  This often makes little sense when you look at the points received.

Earning analysis

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this earning structure does not support SMEs.  Setting the threshold for On2 at £30,000 of annual spend – a huge sum even for most businesses turning over £1m – sends out a message that your company is not really wanted.  By insisting that new members of On Business be VAT registered it has set a de facto minimum turnover of £85,000 simply for joining the scheme and locked out charities.

On Business points have a ‘hard’ expiry date of 2 years from the December after you earn them.  Unlike Avios, this expiry date cannot be extended – you must spend your points within 2 years.

The expiry rules create a de facto ‘minimum spend’ threshold on your membership.  You would need to spend £1,100 excluding taxes every two years in order to book the very cheapest reward – a one-way flight between London and Manchester in Economy – before your points expired.

On Business reviewed

Spending points

Redeeming On Business points for premium cabins is very difficult.  A Business Class flight needs roughly 5-6x more points than an economy one.  Avios, remember, only charges 2x the economy points for Business Class on short-haul and 3x on long-haul.

Most small companies can now forget about redeeming for long-haul premium classes.  You would need to spend roughly £40,000 to earn one Club World return to the Middle East.

Before we look at the numbers, you should note a few things:

You can only redeem on BA, American Airlines and Iberia.  You do not have access to full oneworld reward inventory.

Reward availability is better than when using Avios. This, for me, is the main benefit of On Business and I NEVER spend them if Avios seats are available.  This doesn’t apply if you are a BAEC Gold member as the extra availability you get in Economy seems to be better than what On Business offers.

There is no ‘Reward Flight Saver’ option with On Business.  This is not a major problem, however, as ever since British Airways removed fuel surcharges on short haul tickets the actual taxes due are rarely substantially higher than the ‘Reward Flight Saver’ cap.

You cannot redeem flights until two different travellers have collected points on your account. This is presumably to stop ‘one man bands’ joining up.  You can easily get around this by crediting a flight from a friend or family member to your account.

There is no published spending chart.  You need to plug routes manually into the widget on the On Business home page in order to get pricing examples.

Here are a few examples.  These are all return flights but one-way bookings are also allowed:

Hamburg – 2,200 points Euro Traveller return; 10,400 points Club Europe return

New York – 9,000 points World Traveller return; 48,000 points Club World return

Tokyo – 10,000 points World Traveller return; 58,000 points Club World return

Note the astonishing gap between Economy and Business pricing, especially for Hamburg.

Roughly … and this is very rough … I work on the basis that 1 On Business point has the same burning power as 4 Avios when used for Economy flights and 2 Avios when used for Club World flights.

Part 2 of this article runs tomorrow and looks at the value of using your On Business points for upgrades and how to boost your points with credit cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. This prompted me to check my own account, I have 12000 points expiring in 9.6 months according to award wallet. What can I do with such a small number? I live in Leeds….

    • Based on the figures above, almost 3 return trips to Hamburg?

      • Or in fact, if I read it properly, 5 return trips for a total of 11,000.

        • Yes, you can do lots in economy in Europe but virtually nothing in Club. I have 8,000 expiring this year ….

  2. Wellington says:

    BAs fantastic computer system won’t let me register – “Sorry, we can’t find your tax number”

    Have tried with and without spaces and with and without the GB code

    Does anyone have any advice please?
    Would rather not call the contact centre

    • This happened to me as well, and like you I’ve tried all of the different possible formats. Correct number, and it works on other websites used to check the numbers. Looks like it’s just BA IT.

  3. Colin MacKinnon says:

    OB – waste of time. Yes, my fault. I forgot my password. Could I get a reminder/get to changed? I lost the will to live!

  4. ColinJE says:

    Has anyone managed to join OB with a VAT number but without a limited company, ie sole trader?

  5. You can register with on business without a VAT number. They just require your companies house number. It is a real pain and requires some back and forth but customer services can manually do this.

  6. For some reason, the system refuses to credit certain flights booked through a travel agent. Is there any restrictions on that? Or on booking class?

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