Yesterday we shared the genuinely exciting news that British Airways will now guarantee at least 14 Avios seats per long-haul flight.
Our full story on Avios seat availability is here, but basically on long haul you will see:
- 4 x Club World seats – for the first time a family of three or four can guarantee enough seats for them will appear, as the previous guarantee was only two seats
- 2 x World Traveller Plus seats – this is the first time that BA has guaranteed Avios availability in World Traveller Plus
- 8 x World Traveller seats – the number of economy Avios seats is doubled, although these are still likely to represent poor value once taxes and charges are added
A few random thoughts came up during the day yesterday that I thought were worth highlighting.
Why is British Airways doing this?
A few people asked why I thought British Airways had agreed to this, given that it is a permanent change which will outlive covid.
I think there are a few issues here.
It is true that BA will lose money on totally full flights from this move, since it is releasing seats for Avios which could otherwise be sold for cash.
However, even in the good times, British Airways never got near the 95% load factor which Ryanair regularly announced. In 2019, BA was at 83%. On the vast majority of its flights, releasing more seats to Avios doesn’t cost BA anything as those seats would be unsold anyway.
There are also fewer British Airways flights scheduled, even looking 6-9 months ahead. Expansion is restricted due to a much reduced BA fleet with no Boeing 747 or long-haul configured A321 planes whilst many people are sitting on multiple 2-4-1 vouchers and expanding Avios balances. Was there a risk that the number of Avios seats available was going to be swamped by the number of unredeemed vouchers?
It is also worth remembering that BA’s core customer is a mid 30′ – mid 40’s business traveller who is likely to have a family. Whilst the old Avios seat guarantee was better than most airlines offered, it still had little to offer such a traveller. The ability to book 4 x Club World or, as I did yesterday, 2 x Club Suite and 2 x World Traveller Plus to Barbados for October, will be highly valued.
As well as encouraging business travellers to accrue more Avios from flying, these changes will also drive more people to Avios partners such as American Express, Nectar, Barclays Premier etc. This is more important than ever at the moment, given BA’s need for cash. It is a virtuous circle if done well.
BA will also clearly be happy with the few million pounds of taxes and charges that our article yesterday generated for them.
Talking of Barclays Premier …..
The Barclays Premier upgrade voucher got a lot more valuable
You can apply for Barclays Premier here.
One of the benefits is an annual Avios upgrade voucher. It isn’t really an upgrade voucher – what you do is book an Avios seat, being charged the Avios required for the cabin below you.
You can’t use the voucher in First. In reality, you also couldn’t use it in World Traveller Plus very often because of the lack of availability. Now you can.
Assuming that you are happy with World Traveller Plus, it is now SUBSTANTIALLY easier to use a Barclays Premier (or Lloyds Avios Rewards, if you still have one of those) upgrade voucher for it.
It is also a decent deal. New York, for example, is only 13,000 Avios each way on off-peak dates in World Traveller. This means that, using a Barclays Avios Rewards upgrade voucher, you’d get a return World Traveller Plus seat to New York – acceptable for a six hour flight – for just 26,000 Avios plus taxes and charges. You can’t argue with that.
Upgrading long-haul economy flights with Avios is now more likely
British Airways allows you to upgrade cash tickets by one class, subject to fare rules and availability of Avios seats in the higher cabin.
The biggest barrier to upgrading economy cash seats to World Traveller Plus is the lack of reward availability in WTP. This is no longer a problem.
You need to book certain types of economy ticket – this article explains how to upgrade British Airways long-haul economy flights – but it just became a lot easier to do because there is a better chance of finding World Traveller Plus seats.
It will also, of course, become easier to upgrade World Traveller Plus tickets to Club World now that there are four guaranteed Club World seats released for Avios on each flight. ANY World Traveller Plus cash seat can be upgraded with Avios if there is Club World availability – there is no requirement to have booked a certain fare class.
Is the ‘seat release at midnight’ strategy sustainable?
There is currently a huge surge in traffic to BA’s overseas call centres at 1am BST (midnight GMT) as seats open up for 355 days time.
This call volume is now likely to triple. As well as more seats becoming available for booking at 1am, which encourages more people to try for them, you will also be getting first time calls from families and people who are happy with World Traveller Plus.
As an aside, I have never booked an Avios redemption 355 days in advance because of the inability to get four seats in a premium cabin. This has now changed and I may be fighting you on the phones.
How is BA going to deal with this? The IT restrictions imposed by Amadeus mean that times cannot be staggered.
The real value of this new strategy isn’t visible yet, but it will be
I mentioned this briefly yesterday but I want to highlight it again today.
British Airways is, at present, like a start-up airline. The current schedule is a fraction of what it was. In the Autumn I can see 1 x daily flight to Dubai compared with 3 x Dubai and 1 x Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Slowly but surely, routes and flights will be restored. On the day a new flight launches, those 4 Club World seats will pop up for every date in the schedule.
Nothing is off the table now for redemptions. Even deals you might have considered impossible – say, 4 Club World to the Maldives over Christmas – are now very possible. It is 90% certain that BA will be adding more Maldives flights as the year goes on, and as long as you’re reading Head for Points on the day they are announced, you will be able to jump in and scoop them up.
Once BA is back to its usual schedule this won’t be possible, but there should be literally 100+ occasions over the next year when BA will add back a long haul service to its schedule and those 14 Avios seats per day, every day, will be bookable.
There is a lot to like about this move by Avios, especially if you have a family. As I point out above, it may lead to changes in how you earn and redeem.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
There are two official British Airways American Express cards:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)