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The British Airways ‘On Business’ SME loyalty programme reviewed (Part 1, 2019 edition)

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This is our review of the British Airways ‘On Business’ loyalty programme.

Some of you will never have come across On Business which is British Airways ‘other’ loyalty programme. Instead of rewarding flyers, it rewards the companies that book their travel.

(If you have your own business, you can be a ‘company’ as well as a traveller, and double dip.  The only requirement is that your company is VAT registered.)

The programme is explained at this website.  It is fundamentally the same as Avios in structure. You earn On Business points for every flight your company books. They can then be redeemed for flights or for upgrades.

Note – as this is a key question that always comes up – you CAN collect both Avios and On Business points for the same flight.

The sign-up page is here (click ‘Join On Business’ in the menu bar).  If you are signing up, you will qualify for a special sign-up bonus of triple points for your first six one-way flights within 12 months of joining.

If you say on your application form that you were referred by member OB10171896 then you receive 1,500 bonus On Business points after crediting your first flight.  (And so do I, so thank you!)

#review of the British Airways 'On Business' loyalty programme.

Signing up for On Business

You must run a genuine business in order to sign up for On Business.  You cannot pretend to have a company, as you must provide the name of your company and its VAT registration number when you sign-up.  The requirement to provide a VAT number means that the smallest businesses will no longer qualify to join.  There is a published register of VAT numbers so it is not possible to make one up.

In theory, you can only earn On Business points when you travel on business for your company. However, you will not get any attention if the occasional block of flights to Orlando for a group with the same surname goes through.

How to earn BA On Business points

Points earning in On Business is 100% revenue based.  The more you spend, the more points you earn.  It is that simple.

The programme has three tiers which you move through based on your annual spending:

On1 – up to £29,999 spend – 1 point per £1

On2 – £30,000 to £299,999 spend – 1.25 points per £1

On3 – £300,000+ spent – 1.5 points per £1

Qualifying spend comprises flights taken on British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines.  Points are based on the ticket price excluding taxes, charges and fees – but including fuel surcharges.

You receive points irrespective of how you book.  You are not penalised for using Expedia or any other third party agent or booking site.

You will not, however, receive any points if you book a flight as part of a BA Holidays or similar package with inclusive hotel or car hire.  

As soon as you hit the threshold for the next tier, you are moved up.  You retain that tier for the rest of the current calendar year and all of the following year.

You can occasionally agree to waive your points for a cash discount.  A saving of ‘5% or more’ on the ticket price will be available on ‘selected flights’ if you choose not to earn points on your booking.  This is a better deal for most people but your chances of flying on a route offering a discount are slim.  The only route discount currently offered to me is to Badajoz in Spain and this hasn’t changed in at least 18 months!

You should note that, when you have multiple flights on one booking, the earning system can get a little chaotic.  This is because BA has to make a notional split of the cost of your ticket between each individual leg.  This often makes little sense when you look at the points received.

Earning analysis

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this earning structure does not support SMEs.  Setting the threshold for On2 at £30,000 of annual spend – a huge sum even for most businesses turning over £1m – sends out a message that your company is not really wanted.  By insisting that new members of On Business be VAT registered it has set a de facto minimum turnover of £85,000 simply for joining the scheme and locked out charities.

On Business points have a ‘hard’ expiry date of two years from the December after you earn them.  Unlike Avios, this expiry date cannot be extended – you must spend your points within two years.  If you do not have on-going activity on your account, they expire even sooner – exactly on the 2nd anniversary of your last earning activity.

The expiry rules create a de facto ‘minimum spend’ threshold on your membership.  You would need to spend £1,100 excluding taxes every two years in order to book the very cheapest reward – a one-way flight between London and Manchester in Economy – before your points expired.

# review of the British Airways 'On Business' loyalty programme

How to spend BA On Business points

Redeeming On Business points for premium cabins is very difficult.  A Business Class flight needs roughly 5-6x more points than an economy one.  Avios, remember, only charges 2x the economy points for Business Class on short-haul and 3x on long-haul.

Most small companies can now forget about redeeming for long-haul premium classes.  You would need to spend roughly £40,000 to earn one Club World return to the Middle East.

Before we look at the numbers, you should note a few things:

You can only redeem on BA, American Airlines and Iberia.  You do not have access to full oneworld reward inventory.

Reward availability is better than when using Avios. This, for me, is the main benefit of On Business and I NEVER spend them if Avios seats are available.  This doesn’t apply if you are a BAEC Gold member as the extra availability you get in Economy when using Avios seems to be better than what On Business offers.

There is no ‘Reward Flight Saver’ option with On Business.  This is not a major problem, however, as the actual taxes due are rarely substantially higher than the £35 ‘Reward Flight Saver’ cap.

You cannot redeem flights until two different travellers have collected points on your account. This is presumably to stop ‘one man bands’ joining up.  You can easily get around this by crediting a flight from a friend or family member to your account.

There is no published redemption chart.  You need to plug routes manually into the widget on the On Business home page in order to get pricing examples.

Here are a few examples.  These are all return flights but one-way bookings are also allowed:

Hamburg – 2,200 points Euro Traveller return; 10,400 points Club Europe return

New York – 9,000 points World Traveller return; 48,000 points Club World return

Tokyo – 10,000 points World Traveller return; 58,000 points Club World return

Note the astonishing gap between Economy and Business pricing, especially for Hamburg.

Roughly … and this is very rough … I work on the basis that 1 On Business point has the same burning power as 4 Avios when used for Economy flights and 2 Avios when used for Club World flights.

Part 2 of this article runs tomorrow and looks at the value of using your On Business points for upgrades and how to boost your points with credit cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

Comments (66)

  • Kevin says:

    I have tried joining, and the final step of the process, once I click “Join Now” the page reloads, and starts back at the start of the application form. No message that the form has been submitted, no email to confirm the application is being processed.

    Anyone else tried joining, and got the same, did you application go through?

    • Kevin says:

      If anyone has the same issue, just to let you know the request has not gone through. I phoned and they set me up over the telephone, and got my account details straight away.

  • Chris says:

    In my experience, Rob’s comment that you still get points even booking through travel agents is incorrect. I’ve only ever had one such booking earn points and that was for a business class flight. I found every travel agency economy flight was recorded as 0 points earned. As far as I can tell, unless the booking is direct with BA, you can’t earn points for economy class bookings. Ask On Business and they just say that you can’t earn points on discounted flights. It’d be interesting to hear if anyone has had better luck.

    • Rob says:

      Total nonsense. BA doesn’t even have flights (except staff tickets) which don’t earn. Your agent is somehow ripping you off.

      • Chris says:

        Sadly it seems to be their standard policy now. I just checked our On Business account for a flight taken 11th April, booked through Flight Centre this time* and once again it has posted with zero points and with a note saying “Ineligible flight; Discounted ticket”. Is anyone else finding this?

        (*the same occurs with other Travel Agents including NetFlights for example, so I don’t think its the Agent)

        • Rob says:

          I thought you were referring to Avios in the original comment, sorry

        • @alastairtravel says:

          Yes Chris is correct here. The fare eligibility has become much stricter – no negotiated fares, or specialist fares (e.g. marine/missionary) receive any credits any more. I expect your Flight Centre booking includes a negotiated or possibly an IT fare.

          My understanding is that BA never intended for these fares to be eligible, but only had the necessary IT upgrade about a year ago to reliably identify these fares as part of the On Business programme

  • @alastairtravel says:

    Yes Chris is correct here. The fare eligibility has become much stricter – no negotiated fares, or specialist fares (e.g. marine/missionary) receive any credits any more. I expect your Flight Centre booking includes a negotiated or possibly an IT fare.

    My understanding is that BA never intended for these fares to be eligible, but only had the necessary IT upgrade about a year ago to reliably identify these fares as part of the On Business programme

    • Chris says:

      Reassuring to hear I’m not the only one finding this. In the meantime I’ve been booking most of our flights elsewhere and crediting to PartnerPlusBenefit (the Lufthansa equivalent). These seem to post every time without fail so definitely seems a better option for those booking through 3rd party travel agents. It’s a shame as I’d much rather we were using the BA scheme.

      • @alastairtravel says:

        It has been a source of customer feedback to BA that many fares are no longer eligible but no sign of an imminent policy shift on this. With Partner Plus, Blue Biz and Emirates Business Rewards nearly all fare types are eligible so these schemes are better for crediting if it’s close on fare price