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British Airways trialling revenue-based Avios flight redemptions on North American routes

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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.

Avios I-class redemptions

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.

Avios wing 8

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 itEtihad 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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There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

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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.

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Comments (34)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • BJ says:

    “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?”

    …because I seriously doubt it is in addition to the standard avios awards, I suspect it is the future replacement for them. Any seats IAG wants to shift they will do so with special offers like LH, SQ and AF/KLM.

  • guesswho2000 says:

    “At the moment, you can use cash to get a SMALL discount on a cash ticket.” Presumably this should be you can use Avios to get a discount?

  • NigelthePensioner says:

    Its certainly the answer to difficulty in getting rid of Avios on long haul flights – look at the LAX example – your Avios will soon disappear no matter how many you have, with this latest test on devaluation. I cant be bothered to do the simple sum, but the devaluation in Avios value since the recent days of 20,000 WT+ to Club Middle East return upgrade and 25,000 to the USA mimics inflation in the Zimbabwe economy!!

    • BJ says:

      The problem if it comes to be entirely revenue-based is that the scheme becomes heavily skewed in favour of American members. The only others with a finger in the pie will be very frequent premium flying members and a handful of bloggers. For the rest of us, longhaul premium redemptions would become extremely challenging even for the most astute avios collectors as a result of declining earning opportunities over the past year. That BA is generally overpriced compared to the competition, especially for indirect flights from the regions, exacerbates the problem and may render revenue-based award flights nonsensical for the majority when compared to revenue flights. The problems may be less for direct short haul flights from LHR, LGW and LCY but ‘cost’ might still be too high in comparison to LCC to make it worthwhile, particularly given that their seats are generally now more comfortable than BA and perks such as lounge access, fast track, and priority boarding are readily available.

      • Mikeact says:

        A ‘good deal’ for some maybe, but not for me thank you.

  • Definitas says:

    When BA does away with its current 8 across CW dormitories the availability of seats will almost certainly plummet and so It is inevitable that BA will be trying to recoup revenue wherever it can.

  • MD says:

    The beginning of the end for collecting avios?

    This is surely a trial with a view to replace the entire current model with solely revenue based redemptions, as BJ has already pointed out, and would of course represent a colossal devaluation. I can’t be the only one who would regard a set trade in at 0.5p per avio, with no opportunity for arbitrage, as daylight robbery.

    BA already test our loyalty on a frequent basis with all the little things we moan about, but to me at the moment they are still worth it. But the moment they announce this as the single new model the BAPP goes in the shredder, I’ll spend my million odd balance and vouchers, and wave them goodbye without a second thought.

    • Russ says:

      You can still use avios for hotels, experiences, car hire.

      • Rob says:

        No-one even blinked when Virgin started letting you pay for the full cost of a cash flight with miles at 0.6p per mile.

        • MD says:

          Of course not, because it’s just an option. I’m perfectly happy to ignore it if it’s only one option, naturally. My fear is BA are so blindly greedy this could become the ONLY option, in which case, adios avios.

      • Lady London says:

        Not economically you can’t

  • John says:

    Sounds like same as what’s been happening with Hilton, revenue-based with caps based on the old categories, then changing the categories on the sly

    • BJ says:

      IIRC Rob once said that he didn’t think BA going all revenue-based would make sense or that he didn’t see it happening. If so, it is interesting that he doesn’t go into that here; it would be interesting to hear if his views in this respect have changed or have become less certain.

      • Rob says:

        100% revenue based does NOT make sense.

        What DOES make sense is expanding ‘part pay with Avios’ so you can pay 100% if you want. If they actually let you cancel such tickets without penalty then that is an impressive extra tweak.

        • neuromancer says:

          Does not make sense for BA or does not make sense at all?
          Here in Brazil all the programs are entirely revenue-based. Prices for long haul (Brazil to the USA) vary from 17 000 to 170 000 miles for different dates. There is no redemption chart whatsoever.
          Even when paying cash the prices do not differ that much.
          BAEC was my refuge, but I really hope they do not go down that route.

    • Will says:

      Not that it’ll do Hilton any harm but I think I’ve stayed at one since they went cash based.

      Moved to Marriott although I must admit the pull of the SPG merger was as buy a factor as the push of Hilton devaluing.

  • Shoestring says:

    BAEC has always treated European SH differently, let’s hope RFS continues no matter what. I’m no expert but I’d wager that if you look at absolute number of Avios redemptions (as opposed to quantity of Avios redeemed), RFS reward flights vastly outnumber LH flights. Maybe 5:1?

    • Russ says:

      Agree, RFS are very handy either getting to a final destination or for starting/finishing a mid/long haul flight from mainland Europe. Plenty of availability and time slots if booked well in advance too. Points return back to your account almost immediately if you cancel so can use them promptly if needed elsewhere. Hadn’t thought about long haul from UK for quite a while so yes, would imagine you’re right saying more RFS flights than long haul.

      • John says:

        Although after BA introduced BOB some of the fares did actually go down quite a lot that RFS started to be poor value if you could be flexible. This year paid under £40 for Romania, Malta, Rome, Zurich, Prague, Dusseldorf – the last 3 would normally be on RFS for me but BA wants 4000 avios (offpeak) to save around £20. Now for last minute bookings or at peak travel times e.g. Monday morning, Friday/Sunday evening RFS is still good.

        • Shoestring says:

          definitely so – unfortunately can’t be flexible (school hols/ peak). Lowest fares ever non-peak on our regular route to the sun with BA. Combine HBO with PP & you’re laughing all the way.

        • Alan says:

          Did those fares include luggage? That’s where the Reward RFS fares come in to their own (if you are using them for a family holiday)

    • Polly says:

      Exactly, the most useful for us atm too. But will be looking at using a 241 next Jan to book a LH Asia trip so hope it’s not too complicated by then. Interesting development tho.

      • BJ says:

        Where are you off to this time Polly, old favourites or someplace new? Ireland is our priority for 2020, never been before.

        • Polly says:

          Ireland fab…but always expect it to rain…otherwise a great choice.

          Asia wise, qr arn to sin, mas to kota kinabolu, onto cambodia 1st visit, then Perth for 8 days. 1st time in oz for the OH. Out mas J, bk cx J both using avios. Checking out Oz for a longer trip in a couple of years to include NZ too.

      • John says:

        Don’t you end up cancelling all your 241s when someone has a sale 🙂 ?

  • Robert says:

    What does RFS stand for please?

    • Rob says:

      Reward Flight Saver, the mechanism that caps short haul taxes at £35 on economy redemptions.

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