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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 (December 2021)

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:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee 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

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion 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 10,500 Avios:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard 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 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 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)

  • Lady London says:

    @,Chrisasaurus Doesn’t matter right now as seats are not a a scarce resource.

    Cash (provided by outrageous ‘taxes’ – a previously expanded strategy by BA that is now positioning them well for this) is the scarce resource currently for BA. This strategy increases revenue by offering a resource (seats) that has a current value of close to zero and which under all predictable circumstances will still also retain a marginal value of close to zero for the next year.

    Eli Goldratt The Goal book is the most fun illustration of this I ever read. It started slowly but then I couldn’t put it down.

    • Polly says:

      Basically free cash loans from all of us avios bookers. Helps with their cash flow…

  • Andrew says:

    I use Avios for two things.

    Domestic UK flights – which can offer extraordinarily good value on Fridays, Sundays and Mondays. It’s not hard to achieve 3p per Avios.

    Domestic US flights. I hate overnight flights, so will often fly out to one airport, then back on a daytime flight from the East Coast, so use Avios for a positioning US domestic flight.

    The change won’t make much difference for the latter, but should open up more good value Avios opportunities for the former.

    • Richie says:

      I’ve done the BOS-LHR daytime flight which was good, I fancy the AA ORD-LHR daytime flight, does this compare well?

      • ChrisC says:

        I’ve done that AA flight.

        Thought it was great actually.

        Crew was good and as was the food. Their snacks much better than the BA ‘club kitchen’ with proper wraps etc not just crips and chocolate

        Preferreed the AA seat too (though not tried BAs club suite yet)

        Landed LHR around 10.30 pm and back home in Brighton 2 hours later. Quick cuppa then off to bed for a good nights sleep with fewer of the effects of jet lag that I usually get.

        The Flagship Lounge at ORD is excellent with a good selection of hot and cold breakfast items.

        • Richie says:

          Thanks, I’ll add it to the list of possibilities.

        • Lady London says:

          Is there any day flight from the US back to the UK departing from any further West than Chicago?

          • Andrew says:

            The daytime flights are from ORD, BOS, EWR, JFK and IAD. There’s also one from YYZ.

            Technically, I suppose you could have an 07:00 flight from Vancouver or Seattle getting into London at 23:30, but both the departure and arrival time are a bit rubbish.

      • Andrew says:

        Haven’t done a daytime ORD-LHR yet. Boston is excellent though. The last time I did it, we had a great tail wind. Arrived 45m early, landing at 18:15.

        IAD to LHR was similar with a slightly later arrival 9pm ish. Leaving Washington in morning sunshine, then arriving in London at summer dusk, was great for my body clock.

  • DaninMCI says:

    This will sound a bit negative but it really isn’t beyond a business possibility. With the high YQ surcharges that BA attaches to award seats they could use their carrier to carrier agreed IROPS type pricing to just buy seats on any aircraft and carrier that they have access to, pay cash out of the YQ charges, and still make money on these by getting your cash and Avios back. I doubt that would ever be the case but it does show how crazy their fees are.

  • Zoe says:

    Rob how will your seats get distributed? I think your kids are old enough to slum it in World Traveller Plus now. We came back from Barbados one October half term and ended up with 3 out of 4 of us upgraded to Club. My daughter and I swapped half way.

    • Rob says:

      That’s what we’re doing for Barbados in October, unless more open up. Got the 2 extra CW seats which appeared and the 2 WTP seats which opened up. I am fairly sure BA will add more BGI flights nearer the time so I will try to swap then.

      • BJ says:

        Surprised at that, didn’t think we would ever see you doing that.

      • Babyg says:

        Hi Rob, any BGI hotel tips (family with a 6year old so need great pools and beachfront)??, Im heading out with Virgin in september (thanks to their 50% redemption sale)… but im struggling with good options from the usual suspect (hilton/marriot)… im considering an Airbnb on the beach at this rate…

        • Rob says:

          You can now redeem at the Elegant Resorts hotels via Marriott.

          My rough plan is to end with 4-5 nights at Sandy Lane, which is mind bogglingly expensive but we’ve been before and do rate it, and then do 4-5 nights elsewhere first. We’ve stayed at the Fairmont before and Cobblers Cove.

          Have a look at Turning Left For Less – Michele was out there for a week and stayed at a few places recently.

          Rhys is trying to get a free week off Marriott scuttling between the Elegant Resorts properties but they are all in the process of being upgraded – not sure how much building is going on. In a year it will be great.

          • Babyg says:

            Thanks for the tips, I’ve checked out TLFL and the Michele’s reviews (which were very useful), my Barbados trip was a book first research later type booking, cheers Rob.

  • MilesOnPoint says:

    Question re: Avios flights to Sydney:

    How much would one save on fees by adding Inverness leg to LHR-SYD return, eg. INV-LHR-SYD then SYD-LHR on inbound?

    The typical taxes LHR to SYD in Club World seem to be approx £775pp

    • Aston100 says:

      Don’t forget to factor the cost of getting to and from Inverness and possibly overnighting in a hotel.

    • Alex W says:

      I priced it up for you. £701 INV-SYD return in business plus 250,000 Avios. It may be slightly cheaper if you do the open jaw but you would need to call to book on one ticket I think. Compared to an Ex-EU for say £2k all in, you would be getting 0.5p per Avio. Very poor value.

      • MilesOnPoint says:

        Much appreciated for the pricing Alex, so despite the lack of APD from INV the saving is negligible. I think pre-COVID I would be much keener to start on the continent (ex-EU) eg: ARN-SYD but now with plenty of Avios and 2for1 vouchers, the idea of direct from UK is more appealing and worth premium. Especially with option to add layover in SIN if wanted and hopefully Club Suite offering a better BA hard product in J

  • Andrew says:

    “or, as I did yesterday, 2 x Club Suite and 2 x World Traveller Plus to Barbados”
    – is it possible to do this in a single booking?

    • Rob says:

      It was 2 bookings because I used one 241 of mine and 1 from my wife. Technically me and son are in WTP but will swap onboard.

      • Stu P. says:

        Would love to see your daughter refuse and tell the cabin crew to send you back🤣

  • David says:

    I’m surprised no-one appears to be concerned that F (Z) award availability has plummeted to almost zero. It’s virtually impossible to find any seats UK/US after Aug 2021. LHR-JFK, which always used to have availability, has 5-7 flights a day, but shows zero seats. And to/from the West Coast, impossible.

    • BJ says:

      Not much metal with F is flying.

      • Ed says:

        Lots of F availability to Boston, also reasonable to Philadelphia. I suspect there will be a drop of nyc F seats in due course. IIRC similar situation this time last year.

  • Robin H says:

    Rob, glad you are not spoiling your children on the Barbados trip!
    (Father of three)

    • Polly says:

      People we know put the kids in Y, until they are old enough to earn J themselves. Our daughter was allowed up to F to have breakie with us on a previous HKG flight… but as a tiny size 8 so Y suited her just fine.

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