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Live in the regions? Your Avios have just been devalued (accidentally)

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If you start your Avios redemptions outside London and require a connection, your points were devalued (accidentally) on Monday.  It just took us 48 hours to notice.  No-one else seems to have spotted this at all.

The good news is that I think BA will end up reversing what they have done, because it is totally unfair.  I don’t think it is deliberate and I am told by Avios that it is an accident.

On Monday we wrote about the roll-out of BA’s trial of £1 Avios redemptions – see here.

Under this scheme, you now have the option – if you choose – of reducing the ‘taxes and charges’ element of all UK and European redemptions from £35 (economy) or £50 (business) to just £1.

The downside is that you need to use more Avios.  In my view, you need to use so many additional Avios that it isn’t worth.  You have the choice, however.  No-one is forcing this new structure on you.

In my article I wrote “I’m sure that more quirks in the pricing will come clear in the next few days.”  Unfortunately I was right.

Avios has devalued for everyone who needs a regional connection

Here’s an example.  A Club World off-peak Avios redemption from Newcastle to New York, off peak, costs 100,000 Avios.  This is the same price as a flight from Heathrow to New York.  The domestic connection is free.

Or, at least, it used to be.

Take a look at the screenshot below (click to enlarge):

Avios devaluation

A ‘Club Europe connecting to a Club World’ redemption from Newcastle to New York, off-peak, has gone up by 10,000 Avios from 100,000 to 110,000 Avios return.

Where has this ‘extra’ 10,000 Avios come from?

Here is my guess.  This is the new pricing for a Club Europe redemption between Newcastle and Heathrow, return:

Avios price increases from the regions

The old standard price was 15,500 Avios + £50.  Under the new scheme, you can now use 25,500 Avios to take the taxes down to £1.

25,500 Avios minus 15,500 Avios = 10,000 Avios.  This is where the increase in the long-haul ticket comes from, I am sure.

But there is no tax saving …..

But wait“, I hear you say, “perhaps BA has reduced the taxes and charges bill to compensate for adding on 10,000 Avios?“.

Er, no.

This is the identical trip, booked from a British Airways Executive Club account which does not qualify for Reward Flight Saver because the account – which belongs to my father in law – has not earned an Avios in the past 12 months (click to enlarge):

Avios price increases from the regions

The Avios cost is just 100,000 Avios!!  The taxes are the same at £666.08.

So, let’s get this clear …. you now need to pay 10,000 additional Avios for a long-haul redemption, if you are flying from the regions, if you are an ‘active’ Avios collector!

You can save 10,000 Avios by not collecting a single Avios for 12 months and going ‘inactive’ 🙂

My money is on this being an IT mistake – and Avios has told me this morning that this was not planned – so hopefully we will see it rolled back over the next few days.  

Thanks to Julian for this.

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Comments

  1. Good find, but need to chip in with a couple of corrections here to stop you sounding like the Daily Mail.

    “The domestic connection is free” – Wrong, there’s an extra cash £££ element that is significant.

    “The taxes are the same at £666.08.”. – Wrong, taxes and Carrier Imposed Surcharges (YQ)

    • Yes it’s a big bare of mine that Rob refers to BAs rip off fees as Taxes. Mind you BA sales staff also call them taxes yet there is no benefit to the treasury. The charges comprise of a relatively small tax ( in relation to BA fees….. think it about 1/3rd ) plus airport charges.

      • Michael says:

        I think we all know what he means when he says tax’s, even though it’s factually incorrect.

    • How much was the “extra cash element that is significant” on domestic connections previously?

      As the taxes and fees are the same on both examples shown, it looks like the “extra cash element” has been replaced by 10000 avios, but with no option to pay the previous amount instead.

  2. “I’m here to get one of those incredible Avios saving offers you do for inactive Avios collectors”.

    “Hang on, I know you! You’re an active Avios collector”

  3. @Rob, actually, this is not new. If you cast your mind back about 6 months ago we had exactly the same issue when, for about 48h, BA was charging for domestic connections. I emailed you about this, Anna and a couple of others spotted it too and we discussed in the comments. At the time CSA claimed it was a system error and corrected the bookings or made bookings over the phone for the correct amount of avios. At the time I was sceptical it was an error, I thought it was embedded in the system as a possible future change…surprise, surprise here we are again. Another error, perhaps, but I’m not so sure, I expect the free domestic connections are gone as soon as BA thinks it can get away with it with minimum fuss.

    • LucyK says:

      Yes I had this issue too back in April – charging10k for domestic legs. I asked CS and the a Twitter team if this was a change and they confirmed it but after calling a very helpful CS agent based here in the northwest she booked the itinerary at the ‘normal’ rates but the transaction had to be done manually and took a few days for the ticket to be issued.

    • IIRC when I booked my F outbound seats from MAN to MIA in May the pricing came up initially as more than the expected 100,000 Avios but when I clicked through as I didn’t want to lose the seats, the Avios required dropped to what I would have expected. BA’s IT has long had glitches like this, however it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they start charging extra Avios soon for regional connections on to long haul flights.

      Their CSA’s are as good as their IT – my complaint about not being able to select my meal in CW next month got a detailed response about how to select a “special” meal. 🤦🏻‍♀️

      • Lady London says:

        Cut and paste at its best, Anna.
        You’ve got to admire them.

        Personally, drives me nuts when customer service gives that kind of response that is completely off topic for the original question. This type of thing is a major reason for me to move my professional and personal business elsewhere if it’s repeated too often. As it is, and other sins, if you are unlucky enough to encounter British Airways’s offshore complaints handling.

  4. Derek Scott says:

    I have been saying for years, which falls on deaf ears, that BA should improve the functionality and options online to allow a combination of cash and/or Avios by sector. ie, EDI-LHR-NYC, i’d like The option of choosing the domestic to be cash and the Transatlantic to be potentially something else ( full Avios redemption, cash & Avios upgrade, or part cash part Avios).. all in one booking.

    As has been the case for years, those not in the London catchment area of ‘London Airways’ have less flexibility in this respect.

    This is playing right into the hands of United, American, Delta, Emirates, Qatar and others, who fly direct from regional airports successfully and with lll drive people to more direct routing

    • NigelthePensioner says:

      “This is playing right into the hands of United, American, Delta, Emirates, Qatar and others, who fly direct from regional airports successfully…”
      Absolutely correct Derek and which airline walked away from loads of its own regions? Yes our own BA, handing the domestic routes to FlymayBe who couldn’t cope. Now, it will be hell’s own game for BA to try and renegotiate slots in the regions to establish a better regional and worldwide network. Why should they bother though? They seem to have almost given up on leading the airline industry with passenger choice – they have Qatar to do this and Cathay and others within the OW alliance. As for the new seats, well Im afraid that, say, a 5 year or whatever programme will see the final seats being fitted after the market leaders have already moved on to the next generation of comfort and joy.
      Why do we still fly with BA? Simple. Once on board, we are unquestionably well looked after by lovely people who want you to enjoy your flight. It really is that simple in our account! Although Willie and Alex are pushing us very close to the limit with shareholder revenue based business plans rather than focussing on passengers – the paying clients…….

      • Michael says:

        Why would BA waste their time from the regions when they have fortress Heathrow. They’ve practically got a legal monopoly across the Atlantic. Sadly, BA make their money at the pointy end of the plane, which might be more difficult to fill from the regions. MAN-JFK would be the most likely to make a return but why would they bother when they can just funnel it all through Heathrow?

        • MAN-JFK would be awesome if you could use a 2 4 1, it would completely transform our travel experience.

      • Only reason I fly BA is to use AVIOS and a couple of annual companion vouchers.
        If paying full whack, I wouldn’t fly BA at all.
        Based in Bradford, Manchester and LBA are within easy reach. Better airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar)cover long-Haul east And either virgin, TC (premium), or the American lot fly direct to enough places so no need for a stop in LHR. Also, I’d rather fly KLM if a connection is required and they have loads of regional options.
        Hopefully BA’s new biz class product will help their cause and they will keep offering attractive AVIOS options although, I can see AVIOS are becoming more difficult to obtain with the likes of AMEX imposing new rules.

        • GregB says:

          Exactly the same for me.as I live in Leeds. I was really annoyed when they cancelled their Sunday evening flight up from Heathrow as that has forced me to go over to Manchester for my voucher flights.

          If KLM ever started doing a decent 2 for 1 voucher I doubt I’d fly BA again.

        • Sussex Bantam says:

          Hi Paul – are you related to Martin Hickey ? I used to play football with him in the Bradford City Supporters team !

          • Hi, no I don’t think I am but I am an avid BCFC supporter for my sins. My whole family is. My family own Mittion Group and do a lot for the club.

    • Lady London says:

      @Derek Scott I don’t think any airline has technoloigy yet that would allow cash segments and points-paid segments to be mixed on one ticket.

      In actual fact BA’s new experiment in allowing the customer to choose their preferred balance of points (avios) / cash payment across the ticket as a whole, is probably a very close approximation.

      I do expect this glitch with regional pricing to be removed rapidly by BA. It’s clearly an error. Err…. when they’ve fixed the current 2-airport baggage meltdown that is going on currently at both LHR and LGW (so clearly another IT failure and not just the usual T5 baggage misses), paid the £183 million fine for data breach, and negotiated their way out of the upcoming pilots strike. Simples, reallly 🙂

    • Bagoly says:

      With Iberia one can at least choose different classes for different flights.
      Most usefully that means that if the short-haul has no availability in Business, one can still book the long haul in Business.

  5. Not Julian says:

    “No-one else seems to have spotted this at all.”

    “Thanks to Julian for this.”

    Err, so was it Julian who actually spotted this then?!

  6. Sharon says:

    Just proves my point for years that BA are only interested in LHR and everyone else doesn’t matter. Why are likes of Qatar are doing so well from the likes of Cardiff and Birmingham? This is why.

    • Matt B says:

      Is Cardiff doing well?? I thought loads were light and once the WAG subsidy ends that could be the end? Happy to be corrected as I would like it to succeed being fairly local to me.

      • Yup. Heard that they planned to move to Bristol.

        • LewisB says:

          Qatar have publicly said that they decided on Cardiff over Bristol because of the runway length and cargo capacity. Bristol doesn’t have any cargo operations at all. There’s a 1m WAG marketing budget for 3 years but that’s pennies. CCA figures show an increase for May 2019 on May 2018 (launch month) and as it’s already been states apparently the cargo demand is very high for this route. Passengers numbers need to improve though.

        • Lady London says:

          I am finding myself checking flights into and out of Bristol airport increasingly now – as all my prospective clients seem to be in places that are relatively accessible to Bristol. (let’s not comment on the huge completely stopped traffic jams in rush hour around Bristol, and probably blocking access to the airport, at peak times now which I suspect may be the case due to economic expansion in the region).

          In fact I was looking at an upcoming contract near Cardiff this week, but actually due to the volume of flights and decent timings, Bristol and crossing the Severn Bridge made a lot more sense than flying into Cardiff.

          So I expect Bristol airport to get massive and hope they fix the road.
          CWL I’d expect QR to drop once any subisidy period foir the route is over.

          • LewisB says:

            Bristol is a fantastic airport for European flights. Lots of Welsh pass CWL and venture to BRS for their summer getaways, it’s hard not too for a lot of people. It’s unbeatable for CWL. I’d expect QR to drop CWL by the 3rd year if the loads don’t rise to 75%-80%.

      • Michael says:

        The route fell 10% short of it’s passenger target for May 2018-May 2019. Target was 90k and they filled 81k.

        • By the standards of Qatar new routes, eg Malta, you would expect Cardiff to be ok.

          The mistake, possibly, is not using an A321 for these routes which they could fill easily.

          • Michael says:

            Belly cargo is a big part of the Cardiff operation apparently – the A321 can’t hold that.

          • Don’t give them ideas! No one wants to fly QR business class on a A321.

          • Lady London says:

            Would that be sheep going to the Middle East then?

  7. OT. Is it worth transferring 5,000 points from my wife’s IHG account to mine?

    It is me that will be travelling, so I have started my own account. She has these points and unless we move them, they will lapse. Not sure if it is worth $5 per 1,000 though.

    Or do I just start again?

    Have requested a status match from my hilton diamond hence the need for my own account.

    • I have done this in the past, it is just about worth it. Note that, unless things have changed, they count for status too (but count against status for the original holder).

    • Lady London says:

      5,000 would get you, at absolute worst, a room worth about £25. Either as part of a 15,000 or 20,000 point room, or lower end of pointsbreaks.

      So as Rob says, just about worth paying usd25 to move.
      Thanks to Rob for mentioning that the moved points can also go towards the status of the receiver. This will be useful for couples as 2 can stay in the room that only 1 needs to have status to get!.

  8. Mikeact says:

    I guess a one way 1p option could be 12750 Avios plus 50p .

  9. Philip says:

    Rob, is there a case to be made that the Avios “currency” should be brought under the oversight of the Financial Conduct Authority (or similar regulator), to stop devaluations or other abuses?

    For instance, a month or so back I made an Avios redemption, and discovered a while later that my account (and that of my wife which is linked in a family account) had been debited twice.

    Naturally I contacted BAEC – twice so far – and they said they would pass it the back office to sort out. But to date nothing has happened.

    I also used the online system to reclaim the erroneously-debited Avios, but all I received back was an email saying that this was not something they dealt with.

    If this situation had arisen with my bank, they would not only have corrected such an egregious error immediately, they would have offered compensation too, because such an error would have had the regulator down on them like a ton of bricks.

    Any thoughts, Rob?

    • I think the issue in the UK at least is that Avios are deemed to have no monetary value, and also remain the property of BA so they can pretty much do what they want with them and the customer has little recourse. Of course, your actual money is a completely different kettle of fish!

      • RussellH says:

        True.
        And if they did have monetary value, then presumably that value would be taxable.

      • marcw says:

        They DO have a monetary value – but they are not disclosing it!!!

        • Not legally. Otherwise, as RussellH points out, the Revenue would be sniffing around them.

          • Lady London says:

            And then the same request would arise for bitcoin and all the other pseudo-currencies and that would be a hornet’s nest. Best if it doesn’t happen.

            sorry to hear that @Philip I am sure if you keep calling British Airways (don’t bother with their overseas call centre) they wil resolve it – have you tried calling the Executive Club and not just a general complaints line?

          • marcw says:

            They DO have a monetary value… otherwise how the hell does Avios Group make profits, and pay their staff… Avios is not a charity!! They essentially sell (and buy) Avios.

  10. Seemore says:

    Two weeks ago my wife and I booked first class redemption flights using a 2-4-1 voucher from LHR to LAX over the phone with the BA First Team. Returning from YVR to LHR. Included were Club Europe from EDI to LHR. Initially we were charged an extra 15000 avios which was unsurprisingly the cost of EDI to LHR Club Europe flights off peak. My wife was told this was what the BA system said. She queried this but was told it was correct. We proceeded with the booking. However, we immediately double checked on the BA website what the correct number of Avios should be. We arrived at a figure of 170,000 Avios and not 185,000 Avios which we had been charged. My wife rang up the BA First number again and queried the amount we had been charged. This time the BA Agent agreed with our calculation and refunded us 15,000 Avios. Was this a sign of things to come?

  11. Colin JE says:

    Thanks for this really interesting piece. I must admit I didn’t even know the free connection was available before this!

    Are we talking long haul only? What about European short haul – does this still apply? And is this Club only or Economy/ PE too?

    • When Avios launched, you got free connections on European redemptions too. This was scrapped a couple of years later.

      Works for all classes.

    • Long haul only. So if, for example, you are flying MAN-LHR-CDG, you will pay twice the avios and fees that you’d pay if you were just travelling from LHR. Because of this we rarely use avios for short haul now unless it’s one of the direct seasonal flights from MAN.

      NB – even on long haul it’s not “free” – there are currently no avios to pay for the connection but there is a cash element. It’s around £50 per leg from MAN, which may well be the RFS fee on a business class seat.

      • AndyGWP says:

        hmmm I didn’t have to pay any extra fees for HKG – LHR – MAN (vs. HKG – LHR)… but I’m guessing that’s down to the specific taxes and fees situations at the origin of this flight

        • The_real_a says:

          Andy I do that route often and the price difference was always an extra 40-50quid over vanilla HKG to lhr.

          • Lady London says:

            Might it depend on married segments? i.e. if there is a fare published for HKG-MAN in which case only one lot of tax (provided connection in LHR is not over 24hrs), as well as a separate fare for HKG-LHR.

          • AndyGWP says:

            Interesting! Maybe it was a calculation error? Im sure they had to manually calculate it (I was using Lloyd’s voucher for upgrade to CW). (I even had to have it recalculated again tho when I changed flight date and it came out pennies cheaper) 🤔

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