What can we expect to see from British Airways / Avios and Virgin Atlantic / Flying Club in 2019? I’m not into predictions, but the lead-time in this business is so long that we usually have a good idea of what is coming down the line.
What will British Airways deliver in 2019?
The big event in 2019 is likely to be the launch of the new Club World seat.
BA isn’t in a rush, however. It will first appear on the new A350 aircraft arriving from mid-year, but only four of these will be in service by next Christmas. As they have no First Class, you won’t be seeing them on ‘prime’ routes like New York either.
The Boeing 777 fleet will be retrofitted but, again, this is a slow process. Two aircraft are promised by next Christmas. The full process is expected to take ….. and I kid you not ….. four years. Even then, it is not certain that the A380 fleet will be included and it is very unlikely to go onto the Boeing 747 fleet as retirement looms.
All we know as a fact is that all seats will have direct aisle access and that the TV will be fixed in place (ie you can’t fold it away, it will sat in front of your nose for the full flight). I have a sneaky feeling BA is simply going to use a version of the existing Iberia seat – which I reviewed on the A350 here – which is perfectly acceptable. It’s not Qsuite, but it is better than we have.
You can also look forward to BA’s 100th birthday celebrations (although nothing discussed so far seems exciting), some updates to the ‘soft product’ in First Class and World Traveller Plus (ie food, blankets etc), continued roll-out of wi-fi (I am still to get on a BA flight which has it) and new uniforms.
If IAG, BA’s parent, manages to acquire Flybe or Norwegian Air then there will be a lot more going on, of course.
In terms of Avios, we know that a shake-up has been approved by BA and is presumably just waiting for the IT to be done. This means 2019 looks safe, and potentially 2020 too 🙂 If I was asked to guess, I would expect:
a move to revenue based earning for BA flights, although this is actually far more complex than the current model because it doesn’t work on codeshares, partner flights or trips containing multiple airlines.
some merging of the way cash and Avios flights are offered, especially as ‘Part Pay With Avios’ and ‘Pay With Avios and Money’ are hugely confusing. The Etihad Guest system is an interesting model, where you can either book a standard reward at fixed pricing or an ‘anytime’ reward at a points price driven by the current cash price.
My Avios Group contacts are fairly sanguine, so let’s see. On the earning front, there are some interesting things in the pipeline which I can’t discuss but which will be interesting.
Moving on to Virgin Atlantic ……
As with BA, the big story for 2019 is the new Upper Class seat coming on the A350 aircraft.
I have zero inside information, although the fact that everyone is being very tight lipped implies a major change. My view is that the current layout, which never caught on with the rest of the industry, has had its day.
The big question is whether Virgin Atlantic goes for something ‘standard’ such as the ‘cubby hole’ seats adopted by Finnair, Aer Lingus, Iberia etc or pushes the boat out and goes for something like the Qatar Airways Qsuite, where each seat is a mini-suite with a sliding door.
I have seen no discussion on whether this new seat will be rolled out to existing aircraft. Until the Boeing 787 engine issues are fixed, I doubt Virgin has the ability to take additional planes out of service for long periods.
The route network is likely to see further tweaks. Dubai ends in March but there are rumours of Tel Aviv coming. Virgin owns various slots at Heathrow which are leased out so it is not as constrained as it likes to imply. It is possible there are additional long-haul routes eastwards which would make good connecting opportunities for incoming US passengers.
2019 will also be a big year for Virgin Flying Club. From April, your miles will be the property of the new Virgin Group Loyalty Company (VGLC), not Virgin Atlantic. VGLC is a new loyalty company which will work across many Virgin Group investments to help you earn and redeem miles.
Virgin Flying Club itself will remain part of the airline in the same way that British Airways Executive Club is part of BA and buys Avios from Avios Group when you travel.
This matters, because the two companies will soon have different shareholders. VGLC will be buying reward seats for cash from Virgin Atlantic and, although I am told availability should not change, this is unlikely to hold.
My best guess is that VGLC will get a fixed number of seats per flight from the airline at a fixed price, to allow it to continue to offer fixed price redemptions. Anything beyond that will require the airline to be willing to sell them cheaply to VGLC which is unlikely on peak flights.
Subject to regulatory approvals, the other massive development will be the integration of KLM and Air France into Flying Club. They will be both earning and redemption partners, and given the devaluations at Flying Blue recently I can imagine a lot of UK KLM flyers switching schemes. This is part of the process which will see Air France KLM take a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic and join their transatlantic joint venture with Delta.
As with BA, the potential acquisition of Flybe could be the wild card event of the year.
Whatever happens, Head for Points will keep you in the loop.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)
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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
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.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) 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.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
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.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.