Very quietly, British Airways is trialling revenue based redemptions via the call centre for routes to North America.
We are a bit slow off the mark here. A reader told me last weekend that he had been told revenue-based redemptions were coming this Monday, but given the need to give 30 days notice for major Avios changes I was wary. Monday then came and went without any announcements or news.
Something was indeed stirring, however.
This is all very restrictive at the moment. According to experiments over at Flyertalk, it appears that:
You need to be a US or UK BAEC member
You can only book North America routes
You can only book Club World
You can only do it where I-class (the cheapest non-refundable) seats are available for cash – these seats are usually available until 3-4 weeks before departure
You cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher
No-one seems too clear on how the pricing is being calculated. It appears to be based roughly on the I-class cash price – perhaps averaged out over a period to avoid charging different amounts for different flights on the same day – multiplied by something close to 0.5p per Avios.
However …. you retain the ability to cancel for £35. This is potentially the most interesting point of the exercise.
Typical pricing, for example, is 224,000 Avios return to Los Angeles and 194,000 Avios return to JFK, plus taxes.
This would make sense at around 0.5p per Avios:
The taxes and charges on a Club World seat to JFK are £669
0.5p x 194,000 Avios is £970
That implies a cost of £1,639
….. which is in line with standard I-class pricing if you stay a Saturday night – except that you can cancel the Avios ticket and there does not appear to be a Saturday night rule here.
Is this a good move?
Regular readers will know that anything which improves choice when redeeming is generally OK by me.
At present, a British Airways Executive Club Gold member can force open ANY seat – 30+ days before departure – for double Avios. I explain Gold Priority Rewards here. What BA is doing here is:
open to everyone, not just BA Gold members, and
better value than the ‘double Avios’ cost of a Gold Priority Reward
On the downside, you are tied to I-class availability which is not always there. We also need to find out how ‘fixed’ this pricing is, and whether it varies from flight to flight and day to day as cash prices move.
You also need to wonder what happens now to ‘part pay with Avios’? At the moment, you can use Avios to get a SMALL discount on a cash ticket. However, you cannot pay for the full ticket and the tickets remains non-refundable.
(Virgin Atlantic lets you pay for your ENTIRE flight using miles at 0.6p per mile – but, again, the original flight rules remain and the ticket is non-refundable.)
As long as it is IN ADDITION to standard Avios availability then I am fine with it. Etihad Guest has been doing something similar for years and it seems to work OK.
Of course, whether there are lots of people willing to redeem 194,000 Avios + £669 for a Club World return to New York, on a day when a cash ticket is around £1,600, is a different question.
Where we will end up …..
…. I think, is the full merger of cash and Avios booking. You will only have one booking route, not separate miles and cash booking pages, perhaps with Avios options disabled if you are not logged in. This would show:
cash (with the ability to redeem some Avios for a partial discount)
100% Avios via standard reward availability
100% Avios using 0.5p per point, but with cancellation available
This is only my guess, however. At present, this is only a trial and – given it is only available by telephone, for a premium price and does not allow the use of a 2-4-1 voucher – I doubt it will be much of a success.
PS. A different question, of course, is …. if BA is still selling the cheapest non-refundable seats for a flight, why isn’t it opening up standard Avios seats instead of going down this route?
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