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Thoughts about the British Airways ’14 Avios seats’ guarantee and your Avios strategy

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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
New Avios seat availability rules

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 …..

Barclays Avios Rewards

The Barclays Premier upgrade voucher got a lot more valuable

The new Barclays Avios Rewards scheme from Barclays Premier has got a lot of interest from HfP readers. Read our Barclays Avios Rewards coverage here, here and here.

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.

This article explains how the Barclays Avios Rewards upgrade voucher works.

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.

This HfP chart shows the Avios required for each British Airways route, by class, so you can how many Avios you would save.

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.

Changes to avios seat availability

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.

Conclusion

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 points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

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

There are special sign-up bonuses on both of the BA American Express cards until 28th February 2022. The bonus on the free card is doubled to 10,000 Avios and the bonus on the Premium Plus card is increased from 25,000 Avios to a huge 40,000 Avios.

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up (SPECIAL OFFER) and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios (SPECIAL OFFER) and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 30,000 Avios.

30,000 Avios is a special offer which runs to 4th February 2022.

Capital on Tap Visa card

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

30,000 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 45,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

45,000 Avios is a special offer which runs to 28th February 2022.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

45,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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.)

Comments (138)

  • AJA says:

    I wish BA would also allow you to earn TP on reward flights. It is far easier to retain status by paying cash for longhaul business class in sales or even on other carriers. This is especially true given the cost of the taxes and charges on long haul reward flights. I don’t bother trying to snap them up and just use my 2-4-1 on European RFS flights.

    • Peter K says:

      Surely then BA has got it right in your case. They get money from your joint venture flights to get TPs and you get to use your avios on short haul?

      • AJA says:

        Not really. Unless I fly LH routes that are JV routes BA isn’t getting my long haul expensive fares. Then on short-haul I am burning Avios on RFS where the cash they are paid barely covers the APD.

    • Memesweeper says:

      +1

      In the near term BA is going to see a fall in status members, it wouldn’t harm to make redemptions count for TPs

      It would incentivise me to book more redemptions with BA (rather than spending my bank points elsewhere)

      Status is for frequent fliers, not high spenders IMO, regardless of whether the payment is £ or Avios

      • Doug M says:

        BA is unusual to structure TP earning the way they do, revenue based schemes are more common. If you look how hard it is to earn status via number of flights rather than TP it would suggest it’s not frequent flyers but revenue by disguise that earns status.

        • Lady London says:

          Mostly yes, Doug. But both BA and LH offer the chance to earn status based on numbers of flights flown regardless of revenue.

          This preserves the loyalty of the junior consultant flying every week in the cheap seats but hopes to work his way up to a level where his firm will pay for J. This is BA’s future core revenue-earner and this secures them for BA.

          Now BA have added the golden chains of 4 seats on avios in the same cabin being theoretically bookable for his future family’s holidays to lock in boring mid-career earners further.

          Personally I think Rob’s over-egging it about this being “Huge”. But it’s going to make booking holidays for the “family of 4 going to Dubai” a h*ll of a lot easier especially if they are savvy (and Rob will alert them when to book). So will keep a higher level wealth layer loyal too.

          • Doug M says:

            Someone that takes 50+ flights without hitting 600TP really earns silver the hard way.

          • Lady London says:

            Doug I agree. Btw I think it’s 30 and 50. But those are core customers.

          • Memesweeper says:

            I hit Bronze first time the hard way, and was about 5 flights off Silver by virtue of flights taken. before clocking up a lucky J upgrade and got status through TPs.

            Would it so hard to give Silver temporarily for those who’ve clocked up (say) eight BA flights in the last six weeks? The lounge and fast track is very welcome for commuters.

          • Doug M says:

            25 for Bronze I think. But that’s pretty hard going as you must always be in one of the lowest fare buckets in economy to not TP it.
            What I find odd about BA structure is the ease with which you can get status from rigging lots of segments. I’ve been gold for a few years now off the back of never flying direct, and starting ex-EU, all of which is very easy for me, but appreciate not for everyone. There’s no way I’m as valuable to BA as someone doing any 50 flights a year slogging it in economy.

          • Polly says:

            Excellent points there. No way will they waste TPs on reward points. But they might be forced to do it now, that VS are at it.

          • Rob says:

            One reason not to is that it would encourage redemptions on Qatar or other partners which costs BA money. Yes, it costs a few more Avios but you would basically be ‘buying’ tier points with those extra Avios if you went LHR-DOH-DXB instead of LHR-DXB.

            Not sure if they’d be allowed to restrict it to BA flights only under oneworld rules.

  • Tom says:

    I’m no expert on the BA fleet, but should the article say that BA are retiring their A380s, rather than their A321s?

    • Andrew says:

      Nope, BA is very much committed to A380 – no retirement plans. Now they have retired the 747, they need some large aircraft.

      • BJ says:

        Wish they would get more of them mow they are available and do something groundbreaking with them Fortune favours the brave.

        • Andrew says:

          +1

        • Rob says:

          The SanFran flights I booked for next Easter show an A380.

        • Bagoly says:

          I certainly think the current cheapness of A380s is an opportunity for someone, and BA look in the most relevant position.
          Yes, point-to-point routes are preferable for most of us, but there are certain core routes that will be well subscribed, and Heathrow is slot-limited.
          Is there a limit in terms of number of gates at T5?
          I can imagine that HAL would be unwilling to spend money on converting more when they are focussed on the third runway.

          Or go back to Airbus’s original pitch: 853 seats all economy and use for Germany-Canary Islands or Pakistan/Malaysia-Hajj

          • BJ says:

            Delta has a habit of buying cheap aircraft, I wonder if they’ll bite.

      • Tom says:

        Really interesting Andrew, I stand corrected. I’m surprised! Some of the A321s (the NEOs) were absolutely brand new. I wonder where they are going!

        • Insider says:

          They aren’t getting rid of the a321s. Well, maybe some of the older ones with the mid haul config, which are very expensive to fly at LHR due to the landing charges, but not the others any time soon

          • Sam G says:

            none of the A321CEOs are in operation currently and all are pretty long in the tooth. it’s likely that these and the G-GATx series A320s will not return to the fleet. The A321NEOs are very busy (9 flights to Faro today!) and won’t be going anywhere

      • kitten says:

        I would like to live on a A380.

  • Mikeact says:

    This is, of course, not just news for the UK, but Avios users globally. The competition for seats may become even more difficult once US members throw their hat into the ring, and that’s not forgetting all the other BA partners around the world.

    • Memesweeper says:

      It would be interesting to see if other airlines/schemes follow suit. Guaranteed release is unique to BA I think, but wider availability across the board might be something we see a lot of for a year or two while the travel industry tries to recover.

    • Alan says:

      Although on the upside lots of US members are very put off by the high t/f/c (which are even higher for US departures, I think at least in part to stop their massive stash of Avios flooding the bookings!)

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    I reckon the 1AM thing has always been there for a reason and will stay – it reduces that initial call-centre surge massively vs having it at, say 10AM UK time. Lots of people (including me) can’t be bothered for all but the most extreme savings as a seat in X plane on Y date would be nice but we don’t want it THAT much (also anyone in a higher end commission or fee-per-sale based job/business can lose far more than the cash saving by being tired and useless the next day) . Points nerds will call at any time and won’t switch carrier because of this, while the surge at this time is unlikely to be blocking 99% of their potential cash customers… who may be put off by longer call times. To be honest I would move it to 3AM if I were BA and put off a few more people :D.

  • Jonathan says:

    How many times do we need the Barclays account rammed down our throat. Not enough it seems

    • Peter K says:

      Basically all blogs are like this and need to make money. You reading words and occasionally commenting doesn’t generate much in ad money.

      • BJ says:

        And the elevation of miderate tinkering to huge, groundbreaking changes 🙂 I get it, no worries. Everything helps, every page view I suppose, and a comment means a page view.

        • Rob says:

          The Avios changes are in the Times main news section today.

          • Polly says:

            And how come you weren’t quoted instead of The Points Guy, thought that would be one for your lot. Money section.

          • Rob says:

            We do enough with the Times. Just done a piece of the Mail website and I wrote the Daily Express page 4 comment slot on Tuesday (which no-one mentioned in the comments at all, despite my photo being on it).

          • BJ says:

            Might be so but I’d much rather pass on their views to read yours, even if I take issue with them from time to time. Besides, coverage in the mainstream press is not in itself a reliable measure of significance.

          • SteveJ says:

            As you know Rob we’re all FT reading investment bankers and don’t know what the Daily Express is.

          • Rob says:

            This is clearly true though, since not one HfP reader spotted it.

    • NC says:

      Barclays would be better served by dealing with the repeated issues raised with the way they’ve treated Premier customers raised in the comments here.

    • BuilBackBetter says:

      Cancel your subscription and ask for your money back!

  • Paul S says:

    Got my family all on a LHR-SYD BA flight for 18 May next year with Avios! Good going! 🙂

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    There’s some assumptions in here though – the idea releasing more Avios seats at t-355 will increase load factors is a big one, won’t it also potentially cannibalise revenue tickets if it makes it more likely folks can get the redemptions?

    And, increasing yield just isn’t that simple otherwise they could just have a bunch of cheap cash tickets initially. Doesn’t increase yield only decreases revenue.

    Finally this doesn’t even increase the number of Avios seats necessarily, only the ones there on day one. How many flights historically didn’t have more Avios seats fed in between t-355 and t-0?

    • Rob says:

      These are two totally different equations. BA will throw Avios extra seats in the pot as long as Avios pays it the same as it is expecting to get for cash (which can be as low as £0 if it is looking clear that the flight won’t be full).

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        So with historical loading of 83% in 2019, why is it 2021 and they’re only doing it now? Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased they are, I just think that the idea of selling otherwise unsold seats only works when drip feeding inventory in, not at the start

  • Memesweeper says:

    “potentially cannibalise revenue tickets?”

    always a risk, but only at the margins. most of us use Avios for leisure, and I can only have so many holiday trips per year. more Avios availability means I’m less likely to fly with EasyJet for cash,I’m sure BA will be delighted with that outcome.

    “How many flights historically didn’t have more Avios seats fed in between t-355 and t-0?”

    All the ones BA knew/predicted were going to sell out. It seems that’s not actually a very high percentage of all flights according to Rob’s analysis.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      So this is a big loss for the flights that would have sold out and they gain nothing on the others that the couldn’t have gained by drop feeding them in.

      Seems the value is in increasing the attractiveness of the program (which this does) and keeping frustrated Avios holders from liquidating their balance because it gives them a reasonable expectation now of being able to redeem them as they wish

      • Rob says:

        Bingo

      • Polly says:

        Absolutely agree.

      • BJ says:

        To the likes of people who read HfP yes, but I’m guessing the majority of BAEC members who are likely likely holding the majority of the avios rarely notice stuff like this and even more rarely act on it even if they do. But who knows, perhaps the average BAEC member is more clued in than I give them credit for.

        • Rob says:

          The average member isn’t, because there are 5m of those, but perhaps the top 5%.

          No-one in my family has even had a BA email about this yet.

          • Polly says:

            2 of ours got an email.. but several friends hadn’t yet.. weird

          • AJA says:

            I got the email from BA at 4:15pm yesterday 28th but my OH hasn’t yet received anything.

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