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. Bonglim says:

    Has anyone else noticed changes in availably for US internal flights, when booking on BA.com?

    I had been planning a return in 241 to IAH (Houston) in F and back from Chicago (ORD) in J for thanksgiving. Then booking an internal flight in business class between the two cities.

    All of that was available and I booked it over the last week or two. Luckily.
    The internal flight was not on the exact day we wanted – although there was very good availability on the other days. I have since been back to see if any new ones appear on the day we actually wanted. But there seems to be no availability through the entire week.

    Might just be coincidence.

  2. Bigglesgirl says:

    Out of mild amusement I thought I would check my American Airlines account to see if I could book F on BA via there (often possible when ba.com is having a funny five minutes)…..interestingly all BA F availability has also disappeared from aa.com too.
    I also tried the app which came up with a funny message saying the booking part of the app was ‘not vailable’ for the moment and to come back later.
    Does this sound more ike an IT glitch? I really hope so…..got my 241 to use before 1st May!

  3. This discussion been going on for the last 3-4 days over on FT BAEC thread.

  4. Has anyone actually asked BA?

    (while they might not give an honest/transparent answer, surely its a first step?)

  5. Fred Finn says:

    British Airways had turned from a truly world class full service airline, to a hybrid low cost carrier, they seem to have lost direction.yet European carrier Lufthansa seem to go from strength to strength. How can this be and with the ludicrous safety video almost 10 minutes of shouting, seems to be an attempt to copy the highly successful Air New Zealand environmental safety video or that if low cost carrier Southwest Airlines whose flight attendants are originally hilarious and,get full attention.
    What a disappointment British Airways has become and now they take out toilets on long haul and reduce the seat width to 17 inches and 29 inches and maybe 28 inches in economy seems in both short and long haul. Other genuine LCC have more width and certainly more seat pitch
    As the most travelled person on BA I feel cheated and look for other ways to fly
    Fred Finn 718 flights in Concorde 15 million miles

    • Alex W says:

      Thank you Fred I hope BA take heed of your wise words.

    • DavidK says:

      Well said. Let’s hope they stop the rot before it is too late. They aren’t quite EasyJet……..yet.

    • Lady London says:

      Yes the current British Airways safety video gets very irritating once you’ve seen it a few times. Thank heavens I don’t fly most of my flights on BA these days. Any more than the few times I’ve seen it in the past month would drive me nuts.

  6. Rob, when you find out what is happening here can you post a a new article?

  7. There are a number of people across frequent flyer social media who are believed to be covertly paid by BA although I doubt Gilbert is one of them.

  8. michael walsh says:

    Honestly I have flown 4 x biz class and 1 x first class return BA flights in last 2 years lhr scl lhr yvr lhr dxb lhr mur and have been massively underwhelmed by their premium offerings. I am seriously considering flying premium economy if have to use BA such as lhr scl (only direct) or another airline if flying biz or 1st. Business class is poor compared to other airlines and whilst first was good it not as good as others for that amount of money and lounge in Vancouver was an absolute shocker. Was like something out of the 80s

  9. I think that BA CW redemptions are the sweet spot anyway so this doesn’t affect me much. As BA Gold I’d rather pay for First and get triple Avios.

    • There is no doubt that 3 x CW flights are better than 2 x F and a cash flight in Economy …

  10. roberto says:

    Of course F award seats are not guaranteed in the T&C of the Avios programe we all signed up to. They have only existed up to now as its an excellent secondary revenue stream and I cant see that changing any time soon.

    Revenue fares are still selling in F meaning the seats will still be there in 2019 so it makes no sense for BA to pull the plug completely and leave that spare capacity unsold if people are looking at award redemptions .

    They probably will look at moving the goalposts though.

    If people are prepared to “pay” and extra 30000 avios to get from here to there in First over and above J then why not switch to a system that charges between say 25000 and 60000 for example for the same thing depending on (1) how busy the route is (2) number of days until the flight and (3) how many revenue seats are currently unsold. Places like SIN where there is generally a bun fight for availability at T-355 will cost much more and Boston/JFK/Middle East maybe a little less than currently available..

    Once they have figured out how this works in the smallest cabin they will then roll it out completely across the board.

    The laws of supply and demand should work in every industry I guess and people will just get used to the new algorithm booking early ( great cash flow for BA ) on non busy routes for a better deal or paying over the odds for last minute booking on fuller planes.

    Like it or not other airlines do it to some degree and eventually everybody will.

  11. Clive says:

    Rob, do you think there is any risk of them monkeying around with existing F redemptions for 2019 or are they safe?

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