Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

EXCLUSIVE: Alex Cruz on upcoming changes to Avios and British Airways Executive Club

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Last week Alex Cruz, BA’s CEO and Chairman, gave an interview to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

You can read the piece here.

Whilst the interview behind the article also covered the upcoming changes to British Airways Executive Club and Avios, the newspaper decided not to publish that section.  Instead, the South China Morning Post offered it to us as an exclusive.

(This is not as random as it seems because I met with their aviation correspondent when I was in Hong Kong last Easter.)

Here is what Cruz had to say.  I have edited his words in a couple of places to make them easier to follow because this is a verbatim transcript (heaven help anyone who ever tries to read a verbatim transcript of any speech I give) and corrected three small errors he made.

I will do a separate article with my thoughts later in the week.

“South China Morning Post:  I understand the IAG board approved changes to Avios, what do those changes look like for BAEC members?

Cruz: I think there are two waves of changes. And the first wave has begun, it began mid-way through last year and will continue throughout this year.

What is this first wave? It is fine-tuning a lot of elements of Avios to make it more friendly, more accessible.

What am I talking about?  I am talking about maternity leave for members that don’t travel for a number of months and because they don’t travel they lose their status. We have expanded that to say “no, no, no, you will keep your status”.

You will find a lot of small refinements to the programme to make it more friendly, to make it a programme that people feel comfortable with: extensions, family accounts, flexibility around reaching of the tier status.  If you miss by one point and at the end of the year you don’t make it to Gold, let’s talk.

We are providing a little bit more flexibility to our agents to make sure we are more friendly. Many of those you will see increasingly being released on a monthly basis throughout this year.

The second topic is a big one. The next wave of changes I think you are making reference to.

We aren’t in a position to speak about it openly because of the technology, the timing it takes to get the technology going. We don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. We prefer to under-promise and over-deliver.

So at the moment we have seen how a number of airlines around the world have changed the way in which they collect points and redeem points to be much more value driven.  If the ticket costs £1,000 you get more points than if your ticket cost £100.

Also, at the time of redeeming, finding more flights available for different amount of miles. I think we are definitely going to go in that direction.

One of the key instruments which I hope we will completely redevelop by the end of the year is the “Pay with Avios” concept. I got a short-haul ticket for my son the day before yesterday and I used 2,500 Avios to discount it by £20.  As a consumer, I was looking at it and I wasn’t given an option to buy the whole ticket or pay half of the price. What I really wanted was a slider. I am willing to pay £30, “how many points will you take?”.  So moving it up and down. That is the direction we are heading in.

We would like to be in a place, I am not sure if we make it by the beginning of next year or the end of this year, where every single payment that is made in BA through every channel – baggage, seats, upgrades, tickets themselves – can be paid with Avios.  You can say “I have so many points and I have so much money” and if I have a lot of points, you can pay for the whole thing independently of when you travel which is very, very important.

There are a lot of people that say “Can I fly to London at Christmas in business class?” Yes, there are always seats available which people log-in exactly 355 days before departure to select.  That’s not the point. The point we are moving to is that if there is a seat for sale, you should have access to it.  You should make a decision how many points you use and how many money you pay.

Is that the direction we are going in? Yes, absolutely. Do we have a launch date? We don’t have it yet, we have some technology developments we are going through and I want to feel 100 per cent sure we can make the promise on the date.

Avios wing 12

South China Morning Post: Can you reassure BA frequent flyers that thresholds won’t change? Or revenue-based mindset won’t be introduced?

Cruz: Let me rephrase your question. Is the exchange of points for money a tricky subject? The answer is yes. So, how do you tier that in how it makes sense to the consumer. That is something we have to figure out.

Now the technology we are building will allow us to do multiple things but we haven’t defined what those roles are like and we are doing tests at the moment with groups of frequent flyers to present different types of propositions to see which ones will be better live. By the way, we are doing this across regions and a number of Hong Kong-based frequent flyers have been contacted to give feedback on this particular topic.

It is a very tricky subject because we can’t come out with a product that will be seen to be more punitive. It has to be more positive. It has to give you more flexibility or it won’t work but no we haven’t defined it yet.”


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 (128)

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

  • Paul says:

    So revenue based earning and spending on the way! Not the best start to the week.
    For an airline with awful premium products I would have thought that the IT to make the changes he greets to was the least of his problems. This move would remove the only remaining reason to fly BA.

    • pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

      so the airlines and hotels spend all this time getting people onto programmes and then make these moves that drive them away.

      hotels want to move away from the model of using OTAs but they offer negligible benefits.
      airlines see loyalty in customers paying more than they can elsewhere. but that won’t exist if the perks keep getting eroded.

      • pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

        i’ll qualify the hotel comment by saying that generally hotel chains are more expensive and that on many, the prices are more expensive directly, hence how many have removed BRGs or do not honour them. the best they can offer is free wifi and breakfasts.

    • John says:

      The only reason you fly BA is because you want Avios? I earn and spend most of my Avios on airlines other than BA, and I fly BA when it has cheap tickets (admittedly, not that often) on routes that are convenient to me.

      • Alex says:

        No, you stick to an airline to get status. The idea is that you can fast-track security, choose your seat and access a lounge (nobody cares if home-airport lounges are overcrowded or not so good, you don’t arrive 2hrs early at Heathrow if you can fast-track security).

        I did a TP run at the weekend to reach Silver for this. They’re the home airline in the UK, they fly to the most destinations, and status has a way of getting you perks and making travelling a lot nicer.

        If you compare the product to other airlines (ME3 for example), it’s subpar, but their competition in the UK is Ryanair, Easyjet, Flybe etc. They’re not substandard in that light!

        • BTC says:

          For regional BA flyers, especially ones that aren’t right beside an airport, you do end up in the “home” or Heathrow lounges for a while, as you have to factor in BAs habit of culling domestics when there’s problems!

  • pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

    forget ashley giles, this is the king of spin. the propaganda machine is in overdrive. this isn’t about making more profit and giving less value for avios? no, this is about giving the customer want he wants – he can now book whatever he wants so long as he pays loads – they have sensed a new opportunity. someone who has no concept of true value – now value of something they have finally learned is the price that someone is willing to pay. and that’d be fine if they didn’t have any competition.

    <>

    the answer to the customer is as few as possible, and to the airline, as much as possible. this new inventory will just be an excuse to make things available that are unaffordable for the majority of the customer, while reducing the percentage of available redemptions at affordable rates. they can keep saying they have more available but ignore the fact that it’s a stealth rise.

  • Susan says:

    “We don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. We prefer to under-promise and over-deliver.”

    Based on Flyertalk BAEC he may find those words don’t mean what he thinks they mean.

    • pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

      he sounds like he’s talking about pizzas. and you don’t always get what you want. sometimes your first preference is gone. “chicken or beef?” >> “i’m vegetarian” >> “beef it is sir”..

      • Alex says:

        You should let them know if you have dietary requirements. They honour them, but you have to add it to your booking.

    • startupflyer says:

      This line made me chuckle out loud. One thinks Mr Cruz has a somewhat back to front view on BA promises and technological ability.

      Boarding groups being my new fav. Flying yesterday with my wife & son, all on the same booking and we got different boarding group numbers. It’s not a massive jump in logic to assume people on the same booking might, um, board together? Ground staff were fine with us boarding together, unsurprising given how used to coping with various IT glitches they must be.

  • Simon says:

    Hmm, the casual Avios user will like this. My boss last week mentioned she’d used the miles from 2 flights to LA to save a few hundred pounds on her family holiday in Europe this summer by using part pay. Inwardly I winced about whether that was the best value use of the points but she was just happy to get “something for nothing”

    And I quite like the Delta model with pricing tiers and seats always available, and very clear IT so you know what the availability is and what the base price on that route is. When my father has used his SkyMiles to book me on flights to see him, it’s meant some odd routes if that’s where the cheap redemptions were, but that’s fine.

    But this only works for him because high interchange fees make it easy to earn gazillions of points. I’d love to know how he thinks earning will work without that. It will end up being like the coop membership card…

    • pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

      i agree the casual users will like this. some guy at work was telling me how he’d saved 450 pounds by spending a mouth watering number of air miles to reduce his economy flights to washington to 800 pounds each. i didn’t even think it was possible to be ripped off so badly. this is the customer they want.. “they pay as much as they want”.. perfect for one another

      • John says:

        You are not ripped off just because you don’t take advantage of the biggest possible discount.

        • Peter K says:

          I agree. A lot of Tesco clubcard customers use them for face value too get money off their shopping and they are happy with that. The fact that they could get 2-4x the value using them on one of the boost options does not mean they were ripped off using them at the lower value.
          We would rightly feel ripped off however if we earned avios expecting to pay Hong Kong 120k avios and suddenly the cheapest option became 200k avios.

    • callum says:

      That sounds good in theory, but I can foresee varying pricing levels being used to effectively increase the price. I.e. you CAN fly London to Paris for 4000 Avios, but the majority of the seats will now be loaded at 6,000 etc.

      • pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

        that’s the availability on qatar’s frequent flyer programme. 99% is double airmiles, 1% is standard airmiles. so a return to asia should be 150k, but is more likely to cost 300k.

  • John says:

    So exactly the same ideas and spin as came from Hilton last year, even down to the “points slider”.

    The bit bolded by Rob (a number of airlines around the world have changed the way in which they collect points and redeem points to be much more value driven) merely shows that BA has no ideas of its own any more, and just wants to follow everyone else except it doesn’t even do things as well as others.

    • pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

      qatar have the same deal on their frequent flyer programme.
      the qatar forum of flyertalk is full of people moaning about there being no redemption availability, but there is loads of availability for double miles.. and they’re also slider there if you don’t have enough miles. cruz is just taking the qatar thing and applying it to BA. one of the few good things about BA was the frequent flyer programme and now they want to replicate qatar’s very unpopular programme.

      • memesweeper says:

        Well, to be fair to BA, I think what’s being proposed is the ability to use Avios as a substitute for cash for any/all services. That’s not the same as a double-price redemption. Proof of the pudding is yet to come though!

  • Martin says:

    The only reason I choose BA over other airlines is the use of the companion voucher and Avios to fly club world or first which for me is the cheapest way I can fly in premium cabins. Devaluation of Avios further for me, a casual flyer but high CC spender, will mean i’ll explore my options with more scrutiny and more than likely ditch my BA card and possibly/probably use other airlines

    • Paul says:

      What will be interesting is how the likes of visa MasterCard and amex react. This will affect their customer base too, as a major devaluation and dumping casual, premium leisure flyers may influence how some choose their credit card.
      Remember this may come in at a time when amex is making changes and possibly eliminating the free BAPP card for long term holders of the platinum card.

  • Dev says:

    This sounds like it’s officially game over for me. If it’s revenue based earning, I am going to ditch BAEC and spread the love to airlines based on service quality and convenience, and forget about loyalty programs.

  • Alan says:

    Oh crap…

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