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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.

  • Alex says:

    Very risky for BA given Executive Club is the only remaining differentiator with the LCCs

    Other airlines that have gone revenue based have done so because they’ve got their house in order, offer a solid product and so don’t need to be generous with the frequent flyer scheme to attract customers. People complain about Delta Skypesos but keep flying Delta because it’s the best (least bad?) Of the US3

    Let’s hope the next downturn comes and kills the idea before BA can get the IT sorted

  • Riku says:

    I only value status now, not redemptions. Even with reward flight saver 42 euro is needed for a return HEL-LHR and Finnair have been doing cash fares recently for 114e (including tea/coffee/juice for all and soft drinks for gold card holders). Without RFS the “taxes and fees” often make it more expensive to use points for a redemption than just book with cash in the first place.
    Finnair is another airline who have had the cash/points slider for a long time as well, so BA is quite late with this feature.

    • Anna says:

      Indeed, I tend to use RFS for travel in the school holidays when, the cash price of tickets can easily be 10 times the RFS fee. At other times LCCs are often the best option, especially for those of us based in the north.

  • Alexey says:

    I don’t care about revenue based collection of point … but if the redemptions are revenue based I am out … will probably stop using BA completely , cancel all BA/Avios cards and move my spend to maybe Virgin ?
    It seems the main outcome of these revelations is that we need to think about extra value of card like Amex Platinum or Starwood Amex where you can transfer points to the different airline …
    For now will just be spending avios that I currently have and keep tesco points in tesco as well as HSBC points etc unconverted

    The only hope that it will take them at least 2-3 y to destroy their FF program

    • ankomonkey says:

      I suspect Virgin will follow suit shortly after BA. Just like they did with peak/off-peak. They often copy BA and are now aligned with AF/KLM who are ahead of BA in moving in this direction.

      Will there be any decent schemes left?

  • Chelseafi says:

    O/T I’m flying from Stansted this Saturday 7.45am family of 4, hoping to use the Escape Lounge I have my PP and OH has his PP as sup to my amex Plat, am I correct in saying we can guest our kids and all get in free? (also want to do same on return from Mallorca Airport if anyone knows if we can) thanks

    • Rob says:

      Yes, no problem. Make sure they charge 1 guest to each card and not 2 guests to one person, as that triggers a fee.

      • Anna says:

        I’m hoping to do this in May at MAN but the Escape Lounge in T3 is increasingly full!

        • Polly says:

          Anna,
          You may have to pre book with that £5 fee pp to ensure you all get in. Then call up amex and ask them to credit the money paid out. After all PP is a main selling feature for the Plat card. Very hit and miss now at both LGW and LHR, annoyingly.

        • Tracy says:

          We couldn’t get into any PP lounge in Manchester last June…..all full 🙁

  • Chelseafi says:

    Cheers Rob

  • simon says:

    O/T. Wife triggered her 241 voucher last week. Is there any downside to now cancelling her BAPP card and getting the pro rata refund, then referring her again in 6 months to get the bonus and start the process again…. She can then use a sup card on my BAPP to get my spend up to hit my 241 in the meantime. Is there any reason not to do this or will it jeopardise her voucher if we cancel her card for 6 months??

    • Dave says:

      There is a risk they will take her voucher. Some people say they do not do this, whilst others say they do. I have personally never tried it as I value the 241 too highly.

      • shd says:

        I cancelled my BAPP the week after I got the voucher. Amex read me a load of T&Cs about not being able to use the voucher. Several months later, it’s still sitting there in my BAEC account!

    • Genghis says:

      In short, there’s very little risk

      • Bonglim says:

        I tend to cancel once the voucher is in my BA account.

        When you try and cancel they will say that you MUST use the BA that triggered the voucher, when you use the voucher (so cannot cancel), but in reality there is no way for the BA system to tell which amex card is used. So you can use ANY amex card in your name (inc supplementary cards) when you use the voucher.

        • BP says:

          If you know the trick you can use ANY card. I just booked a 241 using my MasterCard

      • simon says:

        Agreed Genghis. I’m not sure BAEC would even know the card had been cancelled.

        • Brandon says:

          Data point – my wife has retained her 2 for 1 and her BA card was cancelled approx 2 months ago. She currently has no other Amex Card.

        • simon says:

          Data point – my wife used her supp card on my account to pay for her last 241 voucher…. which triggered my 241….. so can use any AMEX card to pay

    • Ben E says:

      if you cancel a card and haven’t used the voucher then they’re likely to take it. However, you can downgrade to the blue, get a pro-rata refund and keep the voucher until you use it. Then cancel the blue… To downgrade, all you have to do is apply for the blue card online: you’re not allowed to hold blue+black so they downgrade you, you might have to chase for the pro-rata refund.

      • Crafty says:

        Likely based on what? No evidence to back this assertion.

      • Mike says:

        Ben E – that is not true regarding cancelling the card and BAEC removing the 241 voucher.

      • Barry cutters says:

        I was sitting on £9960 waiting till a certain date as I needed to keep 2 x 241 for the rugby World Cup. Unfortunately a company took a recounting payment even though I had cancelled the subscription. Thus taking me over the £10k. First I knew of it was the email saying I’d hit the 241 voucher. I called and complained- had the £60 refunded by the company and an apology . After going to ba and Amex I was told that there was no way it could be returned . Amex trigger it and then ba have full control .
        So based on that evidenc there is no way Amex can take it back.
        On top of that I’ve cancelled the ba card personally 7-8 times and never had an issue using the voucher.

      • Brian W says:

        Nonsense Ben E, what are you basing that comment on? My OH and I have been doing it for years and have never had a voucher removed. They sit there for up to 2 years until you use them regardless of the earning BAPP being cancelled. I usually have a laugh and a joke with the Amex reps when they start reading out the script by saying “you and I both know that’s not true”. With most of them its obvious they know its just a ploy to get you to keep the card.

        • simon says:

          Thanks for all replies. Evidence seems to say there is almost zero risk… Presume this means my wife can also generate a second 241 this year when she re-applies in 6 months.

  • Alex W says:

    It sounds like there will still be the 2 J and 4 Y seats available at T-355, hopefully these will not be increased in price. You’ve got to imagine these will remain otherwise the Amex 241 voucher becomes redundant.

    Then sounds like everything else will move to revenue based spending. My pet peeve with these things is that the “slider” doesn’t tell you how many pence per Avio you are getting. You have to work it out manually to see whether you are being ripped off or not. If flight tickets could be reduced by at least 1p per Avio I’d be happy with that, but this hasn’t happened since promos a couple of years ago.

    Usually you are getting low value per Avio and it takes a long time to find something that’s good value, if at all.

  • Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

    I would assume that they’ll retain the current availability and pricing for reward flights, but add the ability to still get an Avios ticket with points even once the reward seats have gone. I guess the difference is how much they’ll be, and will they work with the 2 for 1 voucher.

    It sounds like this could be great for frequent flyers on expensive business tickets who haven’t really earned the points themselves and therefore don’t have to ascribe much value to them. But for people like me who rely on card spend and other earning streams I can’t see how this could end well. Looking forward to your write-up tomorrow, Rob!

    • Rob says:

      I will just cut and paste what you wrote above 🙂

    • John says:

      This is what qantas does and Haas been for several years

    • Doug M says:

      Agree Duncan, and I’m pretty sure this is what Rob has said before about these type changes in general. I can’t get excited about this until we know the details, until then it’s just woe is me Internet ramblings.
      They’ll have to retain some method of working the system or they’ll lose a lot of price/status sensitive business that can go elsewhere. I suspect much of the high price travel is retained as a result of LHR convenience, not the EC. I’ve sort of become a fan of Ex-EU, and bought at the right time I’ve been getting my USA trips for £1000 to £1200 in business. I’ve done some strange routings for TP, although never a trip solely to earn TP. The extra Avios from Gold is nice, as are the first wing and lounge, but if I can do Ex-EU in business at the right price I think status will have less value to me anyway.

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