Where has all British Airways First Class Avios flight availability gone?

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EDIT:  On Tuesday morning, the seats reappeared.  A mistake or a plan which had to be reversed under public scrutiny?  Click here for my thoughts.

For the last few days, ba.com has been showing virtually no Avios availability in First Class for 2019.  I sat on the story because I thought it may be an IT glitch, but it does now seem that ‘something’ is up.

The ‘something’ is potentially linked to the Avios and British Airways Executive Club changes discussed here by Alex Cruz, although the problem with that conspiracy theory is that Cruz said that the IT required would not be in place until the year end.

What is odd is that not all First Class availability has been removed.

As of last night, there was still 2019 availability on the following routes (E&OE):

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Doha
  • Dubai
  • Kuwait
  • Riyadh
  • St Lucia
  • Tel Aviv

British Airways First Class Avios availability reduced

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the pattern:

Middle East and Caribbean routes retain F Avios availability in 2019

North, South and Latin America, Africa and Asia routes have no F Avios availability in 2019

If you assume that this is not an IT issue and is not linked to reduced availability ahead of a big cash sale (but I normally get notification of those) then you can only assume that British Airways is trying to introduce some immediate changes to Avios redemptions.  This would be in advance of the planned bigger moves, presumably ones that can be done now with the current IT infrastructure.

Options could be:

A major reduction in routes with First Class from 1st January (but if it was being cut, the Caribbean routes would be on the list and New York would not, and in any event seats are being sold for cash)

First Class to be relaunched from 1st January as an uber-premium service which will be so exclusive that BA does not want it tarnished by anyone unwilling to pay for it (but, if so, it would be put on the Middle East routes as a priority since BA is losing premium business to Emirates and Etihad, and those are still open for redemption – and anyway, does anyone believe that BA is capable of offering a super-premium First Class service like Lufthansa or Air France?)

First Class redemptions restricted to certain groups only (eg British Airways Silver and Gold members, potentially no oneworld partners or Blue / Bronze) – the issue here is that this strategy doesn’t have any benefit to BA, since BA First Class is not exactly a premium product on the world stage.  This also makes no financial sense, because IAG makes a lot of money if a Blue member transfers 150,000 Amex points to book a BA First Class redemption, and zero money if a status member redeems 150,000 miles earned from flying.

‘Dynamic pricing’ to be introduced for First Class ahead of its introduction in other classes (but that would require IT capability which Cruz implied was not yet available)

…. or something else?

Whatever it is, British Airways will need to come clean very quickly as it is now clear that ‘something’ is up.

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  1. It says something for the success of this site that my wife and I have gone from aspiring to redemptions in club world, to only redeeming in F as CW is so underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong-CW is a very comfortable way to get from A to B and I think much of the criticism is unfair, but we no longer see it as a treat as we do with F. On our last trip we used a 241 for one leg in F and paid cash to another airline for their J product on the other leg rather than redeeming for CW. Even with a 241, it is sometimes hard to justify CW redemptions when cash fares in J can be so low.

    If they get rid of F and or restrict redemptions to places I don’t travel, that will seriously undermine the value of the 241 for me. No complaints – just a shrug of the shoulders and keep an eye out for other ways to travel. I’ve rediscovered the value of European redemptions recently, so avios will still be my main currency for a while.

    • Archie Bob says:

      I for one will definitely be changing my behaviour if redemptions in F are no more. Paying £1100 in charges, plus £200 for the 241 voucher, and 150k or so Avios for two mediocre Club World seats won’t be happening. So many better deals out there using both cash and points.

      Good luck to those who still see the value in the above or believe that those expressing such views will just put up with it anyway after having their moan. You’re very welcome to all the ‘extra’ availability they’ll now be…

  2. Clive says:

    The current mood feels like an opportunity for VS, if they could announce their own 241 and a decent credit card, to get people to jump ship to them en masses to use the network opened up by AF/KLM.

    • Clive says:

      *en masse

    • Davide says:

      Yes, I have been thinking this too. If Virgin’s card can match the current BA AMEX offering I can see a lot of people switching as the AF option could be a massive game changer.

      The problem however is the economics of it all. How affordable is such a card in a world of 0.3% IC rates? I ask as the majority of us have decent concepts of finance, which means we all clear our balances at the end of the month and avoid F/X fees through certain other cards. Additionally, the majority of us are not loyal whatsoever and churn cards like they are going our of fashion. This is why I think the end game is nigh for people with PAYE wages under £70k, since to maintain profit the credit card companies will either have to cut the sign up bonuses or not allow people to churn. This will ultimately cut the rate massively for people without very high wages/their own companies/do not fly for work as they will only be able to generate enough points for a return J/Z flight for two, every 2 years or so at most.

  3. What bugs me is that avios uses very few airlines other than BA .

  4. ringingup says:

    It’s back!

  5. F Availability appears to be back, sorry if someone has already posted. Just checked for SAN for March and there are a few days to choose from, pricing seems to be the same as before too.

  6. Gilbert Ott says:

    And…. availability is back. Just as it was before.

    • Stu N says:

      Yes all seems to be working with similar sorts of availability to before.

      Maybe BA were testing strength of feeling around F redemptions? ????

  7. DavidK says:

    I see availability too now. Only checked JFK however.

  8. Mr Cinnamon says:

    Indeed they are all back. Conspiracy theorists can relax for now.

  9. Wendy says:

    Well, in an abundance of caution we went ahead and used our Companion certificate for RT SAN-LHR in March 2019 in FC. Our certificate expires in October and in 2018 we had so much trouble finding flights out of SAN we ended up booking in alternative cities. The whole reason we embraced BA in the first place was for the ease of flying out of SAN (after decades of having to fly out of LAX) and the ease of booking FC with 2-4-1 certificates.

    We watched AF Flying Blue take away the ability of mere mortals to use miles for La Premiere (FC) a few years ago and now it appears that Virgin will only allow upper level elites to use their new 2-4-1.

    This may have simply been a glitch or an anomaly, but it *feels* as if a change is in the works. I won’t work on earning our next Companion Certificate until some time goes by and we find out if there will be sea changes.

    And Haha Barnaby. In my vernacular to “burn” something means to use it up. It is often used in combination with miles and points. 🙂

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