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The British Airways ‘On Business’ 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 I receive a small referral points bonus – 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.

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.

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Comments

  1. Nate1309 says:

    OT travelling club world from HKG later. What lounge is the best option? Also have PP.

  2. OT

    With a business class tickets from a oneworld airline can you lounge hop around all oneworld lounges?

  3. KBuffett says:

    Rob, please can you provide a link to the published list of VAT numbers? It would be useful for me work wise.

  4. Do they actually check the vat number links to the business name you put down?

    • KBuffett says:

      I don’t think there is such a register public sky available so I doubt they could. There is a VAT number validator, but that only confirms that the number is a valid one based on some logic

      • Lady London says:

        If you google it will tell you which company owns a particular VAT number. I had to do it to find out if a vendor that appeared to be scamming was real on Amazon in past couple of days. The info came up immmediately.

        btw I thought someone said On Business is not actually insisting on a VAT number necessarily?

  5. OT no bits:

    We’re going to be moving into a new apartment next week and have got furniture etc to buy, OH just hit the spg and gold spend, and I was planning on cancelling his spg
    I have plat(finding it really hard to let go of it)and just cancelled my spg last month, could he get the green whilst holding gold and upgrade to plat? Or need to cancel gold whilst holding green then upgrade?
    Or was wondering if there any other signups worth going for? I’ve looked into virgin, but doubt we would be flying virgin, and we have a good amount of hilton points between us
    Thought about ihg but is the real value in that the free night after 1 year?

    Thanks

    • Memesweeper says:

      I’d say there’s real value in the free night cert. Effectively another 1% back on the first 10k.

      • Thanks, long term spending is just going on an Amex or hilton, was thinking if it was worth signing up for something for hitting a 1 up to 3k spend

  6. KBuffett says:

    OT – Is there anyway to get my wife’s AMEX MR points from her Gold Card over to my Plat account so that I can close her account?

    Also, is there anything I need to consider before I close her Gold Charge Card Account as these cards are no longer available

    • Shoestring says:

      1. no
      2. option to upgrade to Plat for 20K MR points with £1000 spend, £450 fee refundable pro rata and if you time this to coincide with some flights you could do well out of holding Plat for a couple of months & some Priority Pass lounge visits. Hold for 2 months costs her £75 but she gets 20K MR points & 4 (say) lounge visits & the Plat insurance benefits before cancelling, could also refer others from Plat in that time for a potential 90K more MR points

      • KBuffett says:

        Thanks
        I already have a Plat, so the insurance and lounge access is already covered. I had forgotten about the points for upgrade, so I could do that on her account. Just need to figure out where to move her MR points, I have enough Avios so don’t want to move them there.

        • Upgrading gold to plat keeps the MR account active so buys you thinking time. If you need more time when you are done with your wife’s plat then downgrade to one of the low cost (free?) MR cards to keep the account open.

  7. Thomas Howard says:

    Are European flights redeemed through On Business subject to Reward Flight Saver taxes?

    • No. Full taxes – although not s lot more than £35.

    • Lady london says:

      Pretty sure the Iberia and BA ones, at least, are on same system. Logos for all appear at the top when logged into OB. If anything, return taxes to the UK can be less and quite a few outward legs are higher. Could be APD fault.

  8. Not sure why you say that charities are locked out? Although they may well be unlikely to hit the earnings threshold, there’s nothing to stop them being VAT registered.

  9. You don’t need to have a turnover of £85k to get VAT number. That’s just the point at which you HAVE to register for VAT. My turnover is below that level and I have a VAT number to be able to reclaim VAT on expenses.

    The expiry date is a real pain as I never get enough points for a meaningful trip. Better to use them on a poor value redemption in Europe than lose them completely so we’re off to Barcelona next month courtesy of OB.

  10. Long story but I was given an OnBusiness reward flight in club world – can this be upgraded to first with cash?

  11. Are Tier points awarded to the person collecting the Aviois?

  12. Bagoly says:

    If one books a ticket on BA.com, then I know the space where one records the OB number.
    I cannot remember whether it is possible to

    But I have a (cash) flight on Iberia I have already booked.
    I have found the place on the OnBusiness site where I can claim 10 days to 4 months after the flight.
    I can’t see anywhere on the Iberia or BA Manage My Booking pages to add the OB number before I fly – is it possible?

    • Lady London says:

      It used to be addable in MMB although i havent booked recently.

      I dumped our OB account as our travel patterns changed to make it not worrh bothering with. But for the last year it was great knowing the OB account had enough points to get a reasonably priced ticket to a business destination even at peak period. The reassurance of having those points with the level of availability commonly found was really worth having even though they eventually expired unused as other non-travelling business got in the way.

    • Lady London says:

      I’ve remembered. You first have to log in into the OB account then select MMB from there. When you get into MMB haul up the booking and it will give you a version of the form with the OB number space.

      • Bagoly says:

        Found it: now it is not on the MMB form itself, but at the bottom there is a link “Add On Business number” (and also “Add Business Extra number” – the equivalent AA scheme)

    • Bottom of MMB – ‘Add OB number’ – unless one already added then it’s not an option

  13. Romeo Hernandez says:

    Will there be similar posts on Air France bluebiz and Lufthansa partnerplus benefit?

    • We have done stuff on PPB before, never looked at the AF scheme – and done very little on the VS one.

      • @alastairtravel says:

        The BlueBiz one is good in its simplicity as points = pounds and you can use for taxes as well.
        The Virgin one is still very fiddly to administer although they keep saying this will be improved.

  14. Lady London says:

    Thé VAT thing was brutally introduced by British Airways even on existing membres. Overnight the système demanded you re-register. Thé system wouldnt let you if you could not add a VAT number. You could spend accrues points but they deactivated tour ability to earn any more.

    All the while they published nothing stating what they had donne. Just enforced it. This is one of the reasons i wouldnt rely on British Airways to act ethically. When cancelling thé account i also had to deal with an offshore call centre with poor written English that completely misstated the reason I’d given them for closing the account because they couldn’t be bothered to deviate from a cut and paste letter they had that let people know British Airways was closing the On Business account rather than it being closed at the request of the member. I asked them to correct it but got an incohérent reply.

    • “i also had to deal with an offshore call centre with poor written English”

      People in glass houses…

      • C’est la vie!
        I think we should get LL to do an article. I had such a chuckle reading her Frenglish in recent comments!

      • Bagoly says:

        But I think the peculiarities arise between LL’s fingers and her machine’s CPU – i.e. even if one can change the virtual keyboard to UK/US English, a physical one may well still be AZERTY. And there definitely looks to be some software auto”correction” going on.
        That’s a bit like Boeing’s MCAS – it believes it knows better than the operator!
        And with the way that companies often now “lock down” machines it is not always easy to use Regional Settings to allow one to be multi-lingually-correct.

        But you do raise an interesting point – could similar hardware and software issues be what makes staff in some shared service centres appear less knowledgeable than they really are?

  15. Lady London says:

    Both Iberia and American Airlines seem to use thé scheme . But if you take a look at their qualification requirements they are both much more intelligently flexible and they dont require VAT registration.

    • Bagoly says:

      Is it actually one scheme across the three airlines?
      Or three similar ones?
      i.e. I know one can credit from all three airlines to one’s OB account.
      But is there a difference between having an OB account at BA and one at IB or AA (there is with Avios, as Rob’s various recommendations on when to use IB make clear)

      • Lady london says:

        Pretty sure the Iberia and BA ones, at least, are on same system. Logos for all appear at the top when logged into OB.

    • That’s correct. But I believe thet in the UK you can only join BA ONBusiness. In Spain, IB ONBusiness, while anywhere else you can choose.

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