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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 (July 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

30,000 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 (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel 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.

  • George Budd says:

    Isn’t it revenue-based earning in Y already though, with a proportion of the Avios awarded for particular booking classes?

    As long as they leave the 2 current-price J reward seats at T-355 days alone….

    What sounds like it will take a hit are the randomly released J/F reward seats at the standard avois price during the year preceding travel – perhaps we won’t see those any longer and you’ll have to pay more.

  • Zoe says:

    OT to Rob, no link to comments from my emails this morning. Upgraded IT 😉

  • Tim says:

    Knowing BA’s perfection for timing, and constantly being behind the curve, no doubt these changes will be made just in time for a nice big global recession. Other airlines will get ahead of the curve again. BA will be finished. Or at least I live in hope… ???? Trying to be nice to customers hey? Nonsense. BA is so stingy they don’t even offer complimentary water or coffee or tea. Even the US airlines didn’t stoop that low.

    • Nick says:

      Errrrr there’s free water on every single BA flight. But why let facts get in he way of a good rant?!

      • the_real_a says:

        Have you ever seen inside the potable water tanks onboard an aircraft? I would prefer to sip from the toilet bowl!

  • Mike says:

    This magic avios/cash payment slider has been on the Qantas website for the past 7+ years! You can use as many points as you want to discount a cash ticket.

    Let’s hope there’s some sense coming to avios earning… At the moment the points for an economy ticket are so abysmally low, I actually earn more points for spending £100 at John Lewis (via avios.com)than I would on flights with BA!

    • Judge says:

      Same as Melia rewards, and their IT isn’t exactly great.

    • chris says:

      The points awarded for shopping v flying are more a reflection of the profit margin John Lewis can make on portal orders

    • ankomonkey says:

      I think Finnair have something similar and have had for many years.

  • Genghis says:

    It’s not clear whether the existing reward flight structure will exist + “full pay with avios” on cash flights? Potentially my strategy of not stockpiling points was the right one…

    • ankomonkey says:

      I have the same approach. Earn & burn or stockpile and get burnt. I’d rather be the one holding the torch than the one whose hair is on fire.

  • Judge says:

    How long do we have to put up with Alex Cruz? He’s done immeasurable damage to the brand, gradually eroding everything that BA has stood for, because he seems to think he’s in charge of Easyjet or Norwegian. Lots of work for his successor to get their teeth stuck in to! I just hope it’s not an effectively lifetime appointment like WW.

    • Alex says:

      He’s turned BA/IAG into a cash-making machine. Investors choose the CEO, not the frequent flyers, sadly…

      • Judge says:

        Yes, cash making in the short to medium term. But not in the long term if the brand is completely eroded. Normally I very rarely fly with anyone other than BA (and never LCC), and I have status, but in response to the “improvements” we have seen in the last year or so (to economy and Club catering, and now the densification), over the next year I already have itineraries booked with KLM, Air France, Lufthansa and Swiss. In particular, I can no longer see any reason to fly short haul BA in economy over another airline, as even status holders get absolutely nothing on board. Whilst I can get a Heineken and sandwich with KLM. But even if I get nothing from another airline, I’m no worse off, so a BA flight has just become a commodity. Yes I can use the lounge with BA (for now!) but I’m not really that bothered as I don’t usually spend a lot of time at the airport, and anyway if with another airline I can use Priority Pass if needs be. I’m more interested in the on board product. Historically I’ve liked the CE product but it’s gone downhill rapidly. Only exception is that I still really like flying either economy or Club from LCY (lack of lounge no problem), though that should not be much of a surprise since they host the only fleet which escaped the “improvements”.

  • Rob says:

    Let me say, given the grumpy comments above, that I actually think – if done properly – this will be just fine. KLM / Air France has just done roughly the same thing. I will explain tomorrow.

    • Joseph Heenan says:

      Thanks Rob. A write up about how to do this properly is probably worth being a full article! (I don’t really understand the full implications of the Flying Blue changes yet either, and I have a bunch of miles with them…)

    • Nick says:

      Cheers Rob. My initial reaction was a groan, but then I remembered that as I only pay to fly BA as a last resort now, very few of my avios actually come from flights so revenue based earning would not really affect me. And I expect to be flexible when redeeming so as long as I can still travel in the same cabin for approximately the same amount of miles, and even occasionally use my 241, it shouldn’t matter too much. Right?!

      Once these changes do come through though, it would be interesting to see how the game has changed in the last say 5 years. The last devaluation was not insignificant, and this change could be even worse. Add in the relative degradation of BA’s product and the loss of many of the routes for earning free/cheap avios and the game seems to have become a lot harder/less worthwhile in recent years. On the plus side, cash fares for long-haul biz class on better airlines seem to be almost too good to be true.

  • Alan says:

    We have been using our Amex MR points on Virgin Miles and have recently used a significant stash on 3 returns to New York in August. This has wiped out my wife’s account and left me with appproximately 40k VMs. I was considering exchanging the majority of my current AMEX MRs to Avios but, on reflection, I think I will add them to my Virgin stash.

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