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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 (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.

  • Mike says:

    hey I hope this doesn’t mean there is a chance of AVIOS redemption costs going up – surely not – we have only just had a revaluation which i seem to recall increased the cost of business class long haul by 50 %

  • Will says:

    I’m not sure how linking earning to price paid for the ticket (like they do in on business) but for tiered redemption availability
    1. It already exists for golds as a gold priority reward and its useful
    2. If you can use a 2-4-1 voucher you may be willing to pay a premium in avios to open up space for redemption.
    3. If they genuinely are listening to customers then the “taxes and fees” element of an avios booking is a real issue so perhaps a reduction in this amount could help to offset avios increases.

    • JAXBA says:

      I’d imagine no reduction in fees, but the added ability to pay them with Avios (if so desired).

      • Lumma says:

        I’d like it if you could use avios to reduce fees and actually get a free long haul flight. Virgin obviously already do that although it’s obviously not the best use of their miles. Currently have 48,000 virgin miles and it’s tempting when they have Boston on offer for the low £300s to take the £288 discount that those would give me

        • shd says:

          If BA offered you 0.5p/Avios if you redeemed Avios to cover your taxes/fees/charges, you’d take them up on the offer?

    • shd says:

      I thought the extra availabilty for Golds is only in Economy, and came from the V fare bucket, which is the one OnBusiness books into (since they devalued OB)?

      • Callum says:

        I believe it is for normal redemptions but they can also get any available seat in any cabin for double the Avios.

        • shd says:

          Ah, of course – thanks.

          I always forget about that benefit, as I never even came close to using it when I was Gold!

  • Tracy says:

    No bits today…I am trying to transfer my amex rewards to spg but amex will not accept my spg number. I vaguely remember reading on here before about adding zeros to spg number……can anyone advise?

  • AK says:

    O/T cause no bits today from what I can see.

    Missed a flight on Sat morning in CE cause I had a fever. Rested ove the weekend and am feeling majorly better now. Don’t have a doctor’s note nor do I think I can get one.

    What are my rights in terms of compensation?

    • Anna says:

      You won’t be entitled to compensation – you may be able to claim on your travel insurance but you will probably need confirmation from your doctor that you were ill.

    • Sean says:

      You want compensation for a flight that you willingly missed? Are you serious?

  • James says:

    Does this make sales of Avios by the likes of Iberia (IAG !!) for 1pence or less even more attractive right now as it will become harder to earn Avios on flights if most of the flights you tend to take are discounted economy, discounted CE or discounted long-haul business class (from sales etc…) ?

    Of course if the number of Avios needed for a redemption flight surges upwards too then the benefit (if any) of buying some at 1p will most likely be neutralised 🙁

    • Rob says:

      No. Avios, when used for cash equivalent transactions, only get you 0.5p or so of value. If it became harder to do ‘straight’ redemptions with more focus on ‘cash alternative’ transactions, you would be losing money if you’d paid more than 0.5p per point.

      • James says:

        Ah !
        I was thinking that we were getting to keep the RFS type redemptions and current redemption charts principal but allow MORE flexibility on the amount you can part-pay in cash&points.
        I do see that if the redemptions all move to a straight forward fixed points-for-cash rate then of course if that rate was less than 1p it would be extremely bad value.

        Cheers Rob.
        Not good news at all.

        Incidentally I cancelled my BAPP today as am not getting value for my £195 but did say I’d keep it if I could have it for free for the next 12 months and was told that this couldn’t be done because THE FEE IS A BENEFIT !!!!!!

        Okay then !!

        Cancelled 🙂

    • Mark says:

      If BOTH earning AND redemption switch to a cash based model then it may be that the number of flights you need to take to get an equivalent flight may be fairly consistent. This would be similar to schemes such as Tesco Clubcard where the number of items you need to buy to get the value in points to buy another does not change whether you are buying Finest or Value (ignoring the fact that points are only awarded for full pounds spent).

      The people who will loose are those who take advantage of the current situation where there is not a direct connection between the number of points earned and cash spent or the points required to get a flight compared with the cash equivalent.

  • vindaloo says:

    Am I the only person who noticed he didn’t respond to the question: “Can you reassure BA frequent flyers that thresholds won’t change?” I took the question to be referring to TP thresholds for status but if so then he ignored it completely, which presumably means it’s going to be harder to achieve / retain status.

    • VK says:

      yes. looks like it. though did he confuse it with avios upper thresholds and therefore chose to ignore it? I don’t think so. Anyway, over the last 2 yrs of devaluations by most airlines, there are very few (Alaska) if any left with a consumer friendly program. I think given all these things, people who can afford to buy cheap J flights will win in the long run as the only use of status would be to get higher avios/alternative air miles which will in turn offset the cost of the odd first class upgrade or just reduce ticket price for the J ticket. I am only in avios at present for the 241 and their SEA/Oz partner redemption rates which are quite nice for some flights. I am in the process of exhausting all my amex and starwood stash towards a family trip to Oz in J. after that, I may just not bother much with miles and points as it seems like its just not worth the hassle. especially even more so from UK as we get penalised to the max with these absurd surcharges and taxes. I think we are penalised enough with direct and indirect taxation + NI and god knows what else already…oh ya..weather…LOL. stamp duty. no tax relief for mortgage interest on OWN home but ok for buy to let. its NUTS. anyway, thats my rant for today.

    • James says:

      Yeah, was VERY obvious.

  • Anna says:

    I’m slightly flummoxed that Mr Cruz’s immediate family have to pay for flights and that he has to book their tickets himself!

    • vindaloo says:

      Maybe he’s the only person in the family who knows how to get the best value from the points. I book all my extended family’s flights for the same reason!

      Hang on: what am I saying? He redeemed points at a 0.8p valuation. Clearly he doesn’t have a clue either.

      • Anna says:

        I meant surely he has an assistant to do such menial tasks lol. I always imagine CEOs having someone to do everything from booking travel to buying their kids’ Xmas presents, or is just on US TV shows?!

        • Cate ⛱️ says:

          Not all CEO’s, some are project manager, gofer, receptionist, secretary, accounts, transport, buyer etc etc combined. It’s the CEO’s partner that really benefits…bless 🙂

    • ankomonkey says:

      I don’t believe he booked a redemption. I’m sure he gets such a big staff discount that it makes redemptions worthless.

  • Chris A says:

    O/T
    Anyone able to say how long it tends o take for a Clubcard – VFC transfer. I have just done one for the first time. Email said up to 28 days but I hope it might be less!

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