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. Clive says:

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

  2. ashic says:

    Any chance that this was a deliberate April Fool’s joke, and the IT glitch is that they haven’t been able to revert it?

  3. Club World gets an unhonourable mention

  4. Lady London says:

    As I have said, British Airways always has a longrange plan that they do step by step.

    Things they do that don’t seem to make sense today always turn out to be part of decisions British Airways has already made.

    Look at HBO, for example.
    Look at Premium Economy.

    When both those were launched it was clear the direction British Airways was heading was to take something away that had been given free (like a decent seat, checked baggage and OK food in Economy) from everyone.

    so step 1 : create a new option to pay slightly less and not have what was previously given free (eg HBO). For now this will temporarily be below previous Economy pricing.

    step 2: increase the price of tickets that include what was previously given free (in other words, Premium Economy price).

    step 3: increase the price of not having the things that were given free, to the old Economy price that used to include those things.

    Result : we now pay more than we used to pay in Economy, to get the things we used to get included in Economy ticket pricing.

    The steps can take 2-4 years depending on competition and market evolution. But it’s definitely where British Airways is going.

    So now
    step 1 : they’ve taken away First Awards
    step 2: they’ll increase the price of awards in Business and, I guess, Economy peak times.
    Step 3: they’ll bring back First awards, but priced well over the new Business pricing. The new business pricing will eventually get close to what First awards used to be priced at.

    so once again we pay more than we paid previously for the same thing…
    Again, this may be accomplished over a period of 18 months-4 years.

    It’s called “the three card trick” in other fields !
    The above is just my speculation.

    • Julian says:

      Fundamentally Cruz’s ambition seems to be to only deliver us the same kind of no frills service he was used to delivering at Vueling but while continuing to charge us the old high (if journey originates from LHR) BA fare levels, for which we unsurprisingly expect to get things like a meal included for free. What he can’t seem to get his head around at all is that people aren’t content to get the same service level as Vueling delivered while paying BA level prices.

      Also BA now seem to have a rollercoaster like stockmarket system of flight pricing where flight prices don’t merely increase gradually as the flight fills up and departure draws near but actually shoot up and down dramatically within just 24 hours.

      For instance was going to book to travel from LHR to Spain and back at the end of next week (6th April) booking back on Wednesday night (29th March) for an ok but far from exactly great £151 return on a Euro Traveller Hand Luggage only fare (the outbound is unfortunately still classified as an Easter school hols period departure period). Then on Thursday morning decided I would book it to find it now cost over £250 return as the outbound flight had whizzed up from just over £100 to just over £200 for that leg. Delayed booking for a couple of days while contemplating the nuisance and cost factor of travelling from Gatwick or Stansted with Easyjet (who’s more reasonably priced flights either departed at 7am or 9.20pm in the evening) and then visited ba.com on Friday night to find prices now back to precisely the same deal offered on Wednesday evening (£151 minus £40 for using 5,500 Avios under Part Pay so £111 in all) so booked at the £111 with Avios Part Pay (wasn’t worth taking £60 off as that cost 10,000 Avios instead of 5,500 for £40 off). Also when BA wanted £251 for the return flight they also weren’t offering any Part Pay with Avios option.

      But when Vueling operated this route 5 years ago the fares were only about £37.50 each way (£75 total) and they didn’t yoyo up and down within a few hours depending on how many other people had looked up travelling on that flight on that same day

      Regarding First availability Cruz’s ambition seems to be to only offer Avios availability in Club and no other class as the same thing has also been going on for a long time in European short haul but with the recent trend that Club availability is appearing on more and more dates while Euro Traveller availability is now next to non existent. But except on dates when computer models show that the plane will actually travel full I don’t see what the excuse is for also not offering any Euro Traveller short haul availability?

      • Julian says:

        Also regarding the proposed charging of different amounts of Avios on different (i.e. on the more popular for travelling) dates BA tried that before about 8 or 10 years ago (when a lot of their marketing for this idea was all in yellow) but withdrew it within a year as their marketing people quite clearly found collectors of Avios didn’t like the uncertainty of not knowing how many Avios they had to collect to take a particular journey.

        Additionally I still don’t understand why BA now offers such an appalling deal (because they refuse to offer an equivalent of Reward Saver for journeys beyond the old Zone 3) for using Avios long haul in World Traveller due to the fuel charges = precisely the same as other airlines cheapest cash fares ripoff. Surely they must have unsold inventory in World Traveller on many routes Off Peak so why on earth don’t they want Avios collectors to book these unsold World Traveller tickets?

  5. Arthur Munday says:

    I can see availabilty for Tokyo and for Dallas in First. I’m BA Gold, not sure if that makes a difference.
    In terms of quality my SJC in First was cancelled a few weeks ago and I was automatically re-booked into CW to SFO.
    However I swapped that to First to DFW and then with AA to SJC and I’m so glad I did. The DFW crew transformed a really bad day into a fabulous start to the holiday, but it was a chalk and cheese experience compared with the return in First from SJC. I don’t know how the service can vary so much. Does anyone know why or on which routes the good crew work?

    • Post 1st Jan?

    • Simon Barlow says:

      For idiots like me, if this was in easy to understand language it would be a great help.

      CW I understand. SJC? DFW? SFO – San Fransico??

      On the qt a Vip with minimal EI can lose the average IQ.

  6. sarah rice says:

    I am waiting for a reply from my last 4 email to British Airways.

    For my son’s 30th birthday on 11th February i had informed him in December. I was buying him a tcket to south Africa to visit family and friends using my existing air milesfrom British airways – as i had assured him i had enough but might have to purchase more to upgrade his ticket to first class.

    The family is waiting for news. Leave has to be booked at work and plans for the visit made.

    I have had only a brief message to say my points have expired. As mentioned before no correspondence at my home address or warning of these points expiring have been verified or justified by me.



    Mrs Sarah Rice

    • Mark Hunter says:

      I would suggest you phone the Executive Club to discuss the situation – they may well be helpful. It would be best to do this as soon as you can.

    • Julian says:


      I suggest you forward your emails to the address shown for BA CEO, Alex Cruz, at https://ceoemail.com/s.php?id=ceo-9664&c=British%20Airways-CEO indicating your dissatisfaction with the non response.

      Their senior customer service people actually have a lot of discretion about reactivating supposedly expired Avios points much like Tesco customer service have a lot of discretion about rolling over and reissuing vouchers about to expire under their two year rule (basically they will roll over vouchers but only if you wait until about a week before their expiry to request this happens but even then you need to hit one of their nice rather than one of their nasty jobsworth type staff members when you call).

      For instance as BA had started flying on the route she wanted to fly my mother needed to reactivate a dormant avios.com accounts she had forgotten the password for (which was a problem as the associated email account no longer existed so she couldn’t get a password change link that way). BA’s CS staff not only solved the password problem but also in so doing made active again Avios points that had technically time expired a couple of years earlier.

      So my message is don’t give up but take your complaint higher up the BA decision making tree.

      • My last email to Cruz remains unanswered. I emailed him regarding the state of the PE cabin on a flight to / from LAS last month.

        I will be following up this week, but if I get nil response it will be next stop IAG and WW

    • Will P says:

      Are you mad?


    • Simon Barlow says:

      Wrong forum.

    • Toby Walsh says:

      Your points expired? It’s your responsibility to check this. What is it you’re hoping for here?

      A gesture of goodwill from BA?
      A free flight?

      • Julian says:

        Avios points shouldn’t expire any more than Tesco Clubcard vouchers should or if they have to in the end for accounting neatness sake then the period should be longer such as five or preferably seven years (which also happens to be the same time frame as HMRC records and online bank account transaction details are available for).

        • Toby Walsh says:

          Of course they “should” expire. They are a liability on the companies books and must be treated as such. No company should be expected to have a liability on their books forever.

          The person who has collected them should know when they expire.

        • Should doesn’t come into it. They do expire and that’s that.
          “Your Avios stay with you as long as you collect, spend, purchase or share at least one Avios every 36 months — any longer and your Avios will expire and be removed, so remember to take action before those three years are up.

          There are lots of simple ways to ensure you’ll never lose the Avios you collect.”

  7. Nicky says:

    It makes me sad that Cruz is ruining the BA product. I suspect that like me many others can only afford to travel in CW because of Avios, ergo when I read so many comments about how bad the airline has become, I have to agree in some respects but travelling in CW is far superior to being in economy. Being disabled I really enjoy having a flat bed, it allows me to be able to walk when I get off the plane at either end. Whilst there are those who slate CW and it’s sliding standards and argue that travelling with other airlines is what we should be doing – think about those who can’t afford such luxury on other carriers. So for the time being I will continue to travel CW using Avios and hope I can carry on doing so in the future. I really don’t want to go back to economy or PE.

    • +1. Being able to fly CW makes the actual travel element of a long haul holiday a pleasure rather than a trauma. However we’re unlikely to be putting much paid business BA’s way unless they radically improve their offerings from the North of England.

      • BA does not care about the North of England and that’s that.

      • Simon Barlow says:

        Agree 100%. Some people are used to first or regular business travel with or without work paying.

        I am just happy to be able to fly business using AVIOS, a flat bed is a major deciding factor for me. So maybe some first class seekers will have to book CW and reduce my options for my BA flight, but guess what, BA fly to many destinations and my avios are a by product of spending on stuff I would normally buy anyway, so they are a bonus. A bonus that lets me travel club (and first to Rio which was brilliant), on a trip a year. I appreciate that any reduction in benefit is unwelcome but I don’t think any of us do badly out of the scheme.

  8. James says:

    I have spent the last 8 weeks tracking First availability to around 12 destinations ( but not impossible ones such as Sydney, for example). I have encountered exactly what your article points out Rob. My wife and I have 2 Amex cards (Prem and Blue) with 12 years of use and are seriously considering cancelling them due to the effort it now takes to secure First or CW seats 355 days ahead and staying up to 01:00. BA has lost its way.

    • Agreed. I want to go to Vietnam in February. I can either redeem in J or F to somewhere in the region, SIN, HKG or KUL say and pay at least £500 in charges then pay for another regional flight or use more avois. Or I can just pay £1500 for Finnair or AF J….Guess what? I can’t find any suitable redemptions so the question is somewhat academic. I can’t see our BAPP making it to May.

      • Simon Barlow says:

        If only I could afford to ‘just pay £1,500’ for a premium seat on another airline. Or £3,000 for two people.

        Some people just have enough avios for two CW flights and to pay the £500 taxes each.

        • Yes I get that. But I’m afraid that still doesn’t make CW redemptions a good deal per se. And whether one has the money or not, relatively the AF and EY flights are very cheap compared to the BA paid options. All of which is academic if the redemptions which you have carefully planned simply do not exist.

        • Polly says:

          Simon, it has been known to find J seats in QR sales to Asia for around the £ 850-900 mark. In those instances it can be justified to cancel an F 241 booking to Asia, and purchase the QR fare. Recently tho these bargains are not appearing as much. But you also need to be flexible to jump on them literally the day they are announced. So yes, there is a difference between 900 and 1500, plus the cost of positioning, overnight hotel etc.
          Here’s hoping F redemptions appear again.
          It does appear rather drastic action by BA to simply remove all F redemptions worldwide at the stroke of a keyboard, without any explanation, or announcement on its BAEC.

  9. BA are trialling Free soft drinks to Silver and Gold card holders on some flights on the GVA Route.
    I wonder if BA are looking to restrict reward availability in F to a similar audience?
    Whilst I accept BA my make more cash from an avios ticket earned by shopping at Tesco saving for an aspirational F redemption, a Gold may generate substantial revenue for BA and find that the seats have long been booked…..
    I accept that not all Golds are equal!!

  10. Richard says:

    as Rob said last week in the big article.. the schemes work because of the Wow redemptions in F and to a lesser extent J.. bad move from BA if true

  11. JamesB says:

    For sure BA lags behind most contemporary competitors but I don’t think it is as bad as most here make out. When all goes well it is ok, far from a disaster. I think their biggest problem is the drip drip drip of changes and fees. If they would bite the bullet and make a step change we could all get a grip and accept it for what it is or move on to another carrier. I also think we should all make hay whike the sun shines because I would not be surprised if BA has the last laugh. Once every penny has been squeezed out of economy products and services it is possible, even inevirable, that airlines will try to maintain profits and drive growth by changing premium cabin products and services. If that comes to pass I suspect premium cabins of the future will look more like CW tban Qsuites. How else will the flag carriers compete with LH LCC operatingincreasingly efficjent aircraft between both primary and secondary cities?

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