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. Simply they are only interested in gouging the paying public and have found a new way to screw an extra few cents from our wallets

  2. Defo something up as BA redemption finder has lots of avalibility but price “unknown” for 2019.

  3. Shreya says:

    If I cannot travel first class I will not bother with British airways avios any more. There are other airlines that I would then prefer and other loyalty schemes.

  4. mike oscar says:

    Don’t seem to find any TLV F availability post Jan 1.
    DME too has nothing available!

  5. As much as I don’t like it the common sense is telling me that it will only become worse before it becomes better.

    I mean, just reading this blog and comments here for the past few years, it seems like there hundreds of people with millions of avios, 2+ 2-4-1 vouchers etc. With a lot of time and money to travel x times per year. So what are we expecting? I understand that even redeeming avios make BA some money but surely it isn’t as good as paying cash prices.

    It seems to me that they made earning avios and vouchers too easy and the only possible outcome of that is to loose the exclusivity. Something has to give. We live in the capilism. Shareholders wants their money, what ever it takes. We want our benefits.

    The solution is simple. Stop moaning, and threatening how you will stop flying Ba and just do it! Stop flying BA. Times change.

    It seems like whatever BA changes to the worse, how much they will mess up, people will just put up with it. And even fly more. Because let’s be honest, getting that 2-4-1 voucher is not that difficult for a LOT of people.

    • Peter K says:

      It would be interesting to find out in 6 months time how many of the “this is the last time I fly with BA crowd” actually do permanently stop.

      • Genghis says:

        Indeed. Nothing confirmed as yet but if so I look forward to seeing lots more availability on my own bookings…

        • Genghis says:

          Given “change is the only constant” in this game, what “risk management” strategies do people employ? I try to keep as many points in convertible currencies as possible (difficult though as a churner. SPG an option but not without risk) but main one is earn and burn. Interested to hear others’ thoughts.

        • “Lots more availability”? You’re such a joker 🙂

          You’ve been around long enough to remember several rounds of BA enhancements. Any of them deliver on the spin? When Golds started paying change fees (2014) the pro-BA crowd expected to see “much better award availability” once those naughty Golds stopped “hogging” the availability.

          Didn’t really pan out that way, did it?

      • Catalan says:

        Trust me, they’d continue to fly BA but still moan!

        • I used to hoard Avios (up to nearly 2m at one point) but I’ve steadily dwindled this down to around 100k being the max I’d keep at any one time in my BA account (couple of last minute RFS).

          I don’t churn Amex cards, so tend to keep quite a significant stash of MR points there, which as ghengis mentioned, gives flexibility.

        • Not me. Unless I’m burning Avios, Since BoB, I am actually flying Star Alliance on all short-haul flights. They are actually cheaper than BA on my regular routes. For long haul paid flights, I still consider BA if it suits me time/price wise which is very rare nowdays. I used to hoard Avios, but now it’s mainly earn and burn, but keeping MR and SPG stash.

  6. Mycity says:

    I can’t check but on FT it’s said you can still get F in February to NY going through On Business redemptions.

    • Polly says:

      Useless for most hobby air mile collectors…v worrying. Let’s hope it’s a glitch.

      • Mycity says:

        Agreed Polly, the fact that it seems On Business have them and not as you say available for us Hobby Collectors is a worry.

        • OnBusiness redemptions book into a cash fare bucket (A in the case of First redemptions), so saying OnBusiness “still has F redemptions” is currently the same as saying “BA is still selling F seats for cash”.

    • HAM76 says:

      OnBusiness doesn’t share the same inventory as Avios and has much better availability. First to JFK on OB is wide open in February 2019 (4 seats per flight). The cost is 34,000 points per person, though, so approximately £37K spent on BA tickets since January 2016.

  7. Steve says:

    Seychelles winter service flights now added in system in the last week starting November 18, plenty of J, no F loaded at all from Nov thru March ????

  8. Wendy says:

    Along with others, if FC awards are gone I will burn our last companion ticket and be done with BA.

    • Barnaby100 says:

      Burn as in destroy? As they are electronic that would be messy. Or burn as in use up?

      • Stu N says:

        Burn = use up.

        I try to get a trip lined up as soon as I have the Avios and Amex 2-4-1 to do so. Am just at that point in the cycle now – my high balance (by my standards!) plus sudden disappearance of F rewards makes me quite nervous.

        Have started to focus more on SPG and Amex MRs as that keeps options open for us if this really is a step change in Avios usability.

  9. Unless I misunderstood the Cruz article he said that the IT for “Dynamic Pricing” would be in place by the end of 2018. If this is the case could it be that they are holding off releasing First Class redemptions until after this date?

  10. 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…

  11. 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.

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