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Why I think British Airways should reform the Gold Priority Reward

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VERY long-term readers of Head for Points may remember that, six years ago, I promoted my great idea for improving British Airways Executive Club for elite members – reforming the Gold Priority Reward.

This was such a great idea that British Airways totally ignored it and it got absolutely zero traction anywhere.  

BA Gold

Three years ago I tried again.  No-one listened 🙂

I still think it is a good idea though and I want to flag it again.  British Airways got a new CEO last week and Sean Doyle may want to start with a positive change!

What is a Gold Priority Reward?

As ba.com describes it here:

“If there is no availability in your chosen cabin or on the flight, with the Gold Priority Reward you have the option of using double the regular Avios to secure a seat of your choice on the flight, providing you book 30 days or more in advance. All you have to do is call us to make the arrangements.”

On the face of it, this is not a bad deal.  As long as there are seats left for sale for cash, you can have them – as long as you pay double Avios.

Why does the Gold Priority Reward need changing?

Where this falls down is that British Airways American Express 2-4-1 companion vouchers cannot be combined with a Gold Priority Reward.

The numbers therefore look substantially worse.

Let’s assume a family of four wants to head to Dubai in Club World, and they have 2 x 2-4-1 vouchers available.

A standard Avios redemption on a peak date would cost 120,000 points x 2 (as two people fly free), for a total of 240,000 Avios + roughly £2,000 tax.

Using a Gold Priority Reward would cost a total of 960,000 Avios + roughly £2,000 tax.

Using the Gold Priority Reward makes no sense.  No sense at all.  However lowly you value an Avios point, it would be hard to justify using points instead of cash.

At present, the Gold Priority Reward is pointlessly expensive for long haul use for a couple or family.

It does, admittedly, have value on short haul at peak times.  We tend to use them to get seats on peak ski resort flights over February half term.

British Airways Gold Priority Reward

What’s your great idea?

Here is my suggestion – allow British Airways Executive Club Gold members to use Amex 2-4-1 companion vouchers with Gold Priority Rewards.

There are four reasons why this is a good idea:

It is a change that will only benefit BAEC members.  BA will not be giving anything to members of any other oneworld frequent flyer programme.  The benefit goes entirely to BA’s best customers.

It will improve customer sentiment amongst Gold members

Silver and Blue members of BAEC do not lose anything and will have an added incentive to push for Gold

It will increase the take-up of the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card as the voucher will become easier to use for Gold members

If this change went through, a British Airways Gold member (travelling with a partner and a companion voucher) could guarantee themselves a Club World seat to New York or Dubai on any date for 100,000 – 120,000 Avios per person depending on date.  That is quite a powerful incentive to fly with BA.

Imagine, for example, the incentive a flyer would have to reach Gold status if they were planning to marry in 18 months and wanted to guarantee seats to the Maldives for the honeymoon. 

Similarly, anyone with children would want to push for Gold in order to guarantee seats during school holidays.

I think this idea works.  It requires only a minor tweak to the British Airways Executive Club programme but would have a disproportionate impact.

Comments (69)

  • John says:

    But you can get gold without flying BA at all (4 iberia domestics and 2 QR long haul returns)

    • Richard says:

      There will be a *tiny* number of UK based people who would earn Gold status that way , +IAG still has had some of your money for the 4 Iberia flights… and a *tiny* number of Spanish people who earn BA status this way and would have a UK address to earn a 2-4-1 from…
      So many more UK people to gain additional marginal revenue from the change..

  • John says:

    The gold priority award is sort of a niche benefit. I suppose to an extent, it’s there that BA has a response if a gold customer is frustrated about lack of award availability.

    Gold priority award + 241 voucher seems even more obscure. Sorry for being so blunt but who but the nerdiest of nerds is even considering this?

  • FCP says:

    While you are at it Rob, my great idea is that Avios bookings should also earn tier points (on BA flights only). I have been downgraded from Gold more than one occasion, simply because I used the Avios I had earned to redeem for free BA flights and therefore missed the renewal target.

    • The real John says:

      +1, one of the good things about Hilton. I now have enough points that I can now renew diamond for 2 years under the new lowered requirements without spending any money with Hilton at all!

      • sayling says:

        Hardly seems a selling point to Hilton that you can earn/achieve status without giving Hilton any money, though, does it?

        • Paul says:

          Hilton’s policies over the pandemic plus their benefits when a diamond, mean they have my custom so long as I am Diamond so until at least March 2023.

          On the other hand Spire Ambassador with IHG is worthless so has had no stays in 2020 and now none 2021 and perhaps 2022.

    • sayling says:

      +1

    • memesweeper says:

      +1 — redemptions are paid for, and if you make enough redemptions you’re a frequent flyer, so why no status earning?

    • Lady London says:

      @FCP on those occasions when you were downgraded even on an avios ticket I do hope you exercised your rights under EC261 to gdt compensation for the downgrade after the flight. IIRC you have 6 years to put in a claim.

      Can be valuable, also applies to both seats on a 241. 75% of the value of your F seat back if tossed down to J. You can claim BA’s cash selling price as the value of your 75% compo rather than having to take the avios back, plus 75% of any cash amounts paid.

      Downgrade from J and from PY still worthwhile percentages.

      You will have to go through the ritual of requesting compensation for each downgraded from BA. BA will go through their ritual of denying you.

      After getting their ‘final answer’ or about 3 refusals or after, say, more than 8 weeks of trying and no result or no communication, you will need to proceed to MCOL. But likely worthwhile.

      If we werent constantly hearing about British Airways automatically stonewalling valid claims and refusing unambiguously required reroutes and now even leaving people stranded that may not have the means to get home then I might not want to go out of my way to mention this.

    • Dutchy says:

      Virgin Atlantic have recently introduced tier points on reward flights

  • MT says:

    I like this idea a lot.

    I would like to see greater opening up of Avios availability in general, notably on partner airlines. I like what AA and QF have done here although can appreciate that might not be the best solution for Avios.

    • Paul says:

      The BAEC needs lots of changes but the problem is BA will devalue the scheme when they do so. The GPR is useful on ShortHaul but expensive for long haul, especially for premium leisure passengers. Most gold card holders had their fare covered by someone else so Avios have a very different value to them.
      I pay my own fares and at higher rate than corporate wage slaves so Avios are an important aspect and have real value. Any further dilution hands me directly to other carriers because BA fares and service are already marginal value. I am looking for a special experience when I fly and you don’t get that on BA now..

      So let’s not tamper with GPR as it’s likely to open Pandora’s box and in BA case “Hope” is certainly not going to be found at the bottom!

  • pacman says:

    A double tier points promo would be very much appreciated.

    • Andrew says:

      They’ve reduced the qualification thresholds which is effectively the same thing

      • pacman says:

        Aegean did both, reduced the thresholds and ran a promo sale with double tier miles.

  • Andrew says:

    What I would like to see is the 2for1 work for solo travellers – so just make it a 50% voucher for up to 2 travellers, that way it would work with gold priority rewards, couples would get the same as now, and solo travellers get a reason to work for the voucher. Currently I have a BAPP but never bother aiming towards a 2for1 as I won’t use it.

    • The real John says:

      Do you spend more than ~60K per year on it, otherwise the fee is not worth it without the 241…

      • Andrew says:

        I get the BAPP free as a Platinum member (I think they’ve scrapped this benefit now for newer platinum members) as you’re right, I wouldn’t pay for the card.

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      So you never spend 10k a year but pay Amex £195 for your 1,5 avios per pound spent?

    • Alan says:

      Totally agree, that’s where the Lloyds vouchers were great (and now the VS ones are better too).

    • Fenny says:

      Exactly. Any 2 for 1 deals are pointless for single people who travel / eat out / whatever alone. I have a Cineworld card, but never use the Meerkat Movies / meals offers I get with my insurance. No way I’d pay a fee for a card with a reward that wasn’t worth having.

  • ChrisC says:

    Being gold does not make you one of BAs best customers!

    When I got gold a couple of years ago I earned most of the Tier Points for it by flying AA not BA.

    Others get it by flying more QR than BA.

    There are other things that BA need to sort out such as the food offering before it starts tinkering with BAEC. And I think offering even a quarter, third or half of the normal TPs for reward flights would make more people happy than your idea (they could put in a clause that restricted the number of reward flight TPs that counted for status so you’d have to still fly some revenue)

    Now if you were suggesting you had to pay double the BA surcharges (Please stop calling them taxes) as well as double the avios they might be more amenable to your idea.

    • Andrew says:

      Agreed. 3 return trips to Asia on cheap ex-EU QR fares and then a handful of short-haul BA positioning flights for those Asian trips gives you a gold card but certainly doesn’t make you BA’s best customer. Which is why they don’t exactly roll out the red carpet for you – they go through the motions with the First wing and lounge but that’s about it.

  • PaulC says:

    The other way to ‘guarantee a seat’ is to pay cash for it. And in BA’s eyes, certainly at the moment, cash is king.

    • John says:

      Issuing avios is very profitable. CC companies pay a lot more to BA for a point than it’s redemption cost.

      And selling avios to partners is a business segment which isn’t doing so badly. Of course, a critical part of the business model is that the incremental cost of transporting a pay on an award is quite low (because for the most part, you make seats available which you expect to go unsold).
      The problem with the gold priority award is that its used for years that you expect would sell for cash. The cost of that providing that award is MUCH higher, I guess it can be 5-10x as high as a regular award. You are forgoing the cash revenue by allowing that redemption (it’s a so-called opportunity cost).

      • John says:

        Sorry for auto-correction spelling errors. Pax not pay, seats not years.

        • Jonathan says:

          Exactly. Redemption seats are a clever way of generating revenue from seats they wouldn’t otherwise sell (apart from the guaranteed 2J/4Y on full flights). People only use the GPR when cash prices are extortionate (Eg. Getting a half term skiing flight for 18,000 Avios instead of £600) so they have a massive revenue implication. No way will BA look to extend that further when a huge proportion of their London based Golds (who number in the thousands) probably head for the slopes every Feb half term!

          Most of those Golds generate a substantial portion of their Avios & status through work travel anyway over which they have limited choice so don’t really bring that much to the table in return.