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British Airways devalues Avios redemptions on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines

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British Airways has, with no notice, devalued short-haul Avios redemptions on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Some flights have increased by 50%.

Don’t expect BA to tell you about this, because they won’t. Whilst they did confirm the devaluation when we asked, they refused to tell us exactly what has changed:

“Unfortunately we’re unable to provide that level of detail.”

Don’t worry – we have it anyway.

Avios wing 11

Avios originally had one reward chart covering both British Airways and partner airlines. It wasn’t exactly straightforward – BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus flights had peak and off-peak dates, partner flights were always peak – but at least you knew where to look.

(The exception was the little known ‘multi partner Avios redemption chart’ for trips involving 2+ airlines which are not BA. The real sweet spots in the programme are probably now here.)

The first change was back in January 2016, when Zone 1 (up to 650 miles) was abolished for flights within the United States. This was because it was, frankly, too attractive – a flight between New York and Boston was 12,500 American Airlines miles but only 4,500 Avios.

Skip forward to June 2019, and British Airways decided to launch an entirely separate reward chart for partner airlines – see here.

The only major change was to whack shorter redemptions. A Zone 1 flight went from 4,500 Avios to 6,000 Avios whilst a Zone 2 flight (651 to 1,150 miles) went from 7,500 Avios to 9,000 Avios. This is one-way economy pricing. Oddly, short domestic US flights did not change – these still price at the old Zone 2 pricing.

Here is how the partner chart looked up to last week:

BA reward flight avios redemption prices on partner airlines table

Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific have new pricing

Last week, British Airways rolled out higher Avios pricing for short flights on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

There are a few weird things about this:

  • the changes are different across each airline
  • Malaysia Airlines and SriLankan Airlines pricing is untouched

This is what has changed:

Japan Airlines

  • Zone 1 Economy – up from 6,000 Avios to 7,500 Avios
  • Zone 1 Business – unchanged
  • Zone 2 Economy – up from 9,000 Avios to 10,000 Avios
  • Zone 2 Business – up from 16,500 Avios to 24,000 Avios (ouch)
  • Zone 3 Economy – unchanged
  • Zone 3 Business – up from 22,000 Avios to 24,000 Avios

Cathay Pacific

  • Zone 1 Economy – up from 6,000 Avios to 7,500 Avios
  • Zone 1 Business – up from 12,500 Avios to 16,000 Avios
  • Zone 2 Economy – up from 9,000 Avios to 10,000 Avios
  • Zone 2 Business – up from 16,500 Avios to 25,000 Avios (ouch)
  • Zone 3 Economy – unchanged
  • Zone 3 Business – up from 22,000 Avios to 25,000 Avios
Cathay Pacific Avios devaluation

Perhaps the weirdest thing in all of this is why Zone 2 and Zone 3 Business Class flights have a) merged together with the same pricing and b) why Cathay is 1,000 Avios more than JAL.

I mean …. whatever the practical logic for the 1,000 Avios difference, common sense would imply that you equalise the two airlines for the sake of simplicity. If you want to fly from Hong Kong to Tokyo in Business Class, it is now 25,000 Avios one way on Cathay Pacific but 24,000 Avios one-way on Japan Airlines.

Conclusion

In truth, for most UK-based HfP readers, these changes are not going to have much of an impact.

You could even argue that we benefit slightly, as these redemptions were clearly becoming expensive for IAG Loyalty. Plugging the hole to make Asian-based flyers pay more, many of whom probably earned their Avios flying with partner airlines and not BA, will hopefully avoid the need for changes elsewhere.

You can’t deny that the programme is now becoming disturbingly complex, and complex is not clever. You can’t expect people to engage with a loyalty programme if they can’t even find a redemption price easily.

We now have separate redemption charts for:

  • British Airways peak dates
  • British Airways off-peak dates
  • Iberia peak dates
  • Iberia off-peak dates
  • Aer Lingus (matches the BA chart but peak and off-peak dates differ)
  • Japan Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • American Airlines / Alaska Airways
  • All other oneworld partners
  • Multi-partner redemption chart
  • Vueling when booked at vueling com

Oh, and don’t forget that most of these charts are not publicly available on ba.com any longer.

You also need to adjust further for differences in taxes:

  • Aer Lingus flights have different taxes depending on whether they are booked on ba.com or avios.com
  • Iberia flights have different taxes depending on whether they are booked on ba.com or avios.com

You might also have British Airways On Business points from the small business scheme. The On Business redemption chart isn’t published either – although we have it here – and for added complexity the multiple between Economy and Business is different to the multiple between Economy and Business when using Avios.

All of this confusion keeps the HfP team in a job, I suppose, but it really shouldn’t be necessary.


British Airways BA Amex American Express

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Comments (58)

  • Iain says:

    Great last comment Rob. So true. You guys are highly valued by the community.

    • Dubious says:

      Indeed. It also has the potential to keep sweetspots alive.

      • BJ says:

        No, I don’t think so. It is the sweetshop that keep getting hammered. Might be a little foggy but that is the basis of the changes we have seen with BA partners over the last few years. However, despite the changes my first thought without checking the award chart is that these devalued BAEC awards probably remain a bit more attractive than that on the Virgin ANA chart. In this respect you could argue then that these are still sweetspots, only a bit less sweet than in the past… a bitter pill to swallow!

        • Rob says:

          Find another programme with a 4,500 mile redemption like BA to near Europe ….

          • BJ says:

            Didn’t think we were very intered in 4500 Y redemptions here except in special circumstances. Besides we’re talking about something more specific here , not award schemes in general.

          • Stu N says:

            Plenty of people are very interested in 4.500 Y redemptions as they often offer amazing value and are very attainable. I did one on Sunday.

            It’s the intra-Asian redemptions that are probably the niche topic…

          • BJ says:

            Well it’s the intra Asian Market the article relates to, along with JAL and CX.

          • Tim says:

            KLM

          • Polly says:

            Best value ever when the need arises for emergency flights to Dublin and back…RFS saved the day when my mom was so ill.
            Ph call at 10 fm my sis, book an RFS in 5 mins, 25 mins to T5, on a plane by noon, for a few avios….used it like a bus.
            Reminded me of my staff travel on Dan Dare flights to Dub fm LGW, with kids for a tenner!

          • Polly says:

            And intra Asia of course too as BJ says, so useful.

  • Dubious says:

    PS.
    I thought that Aer Lingus flights, whether they are booked on ba.com or avios.com and Iberia flights, whether they are booked on ba.com or avios.com have the same taxes, but different carrier-imposed surcharges and fees?

    • Alex Sm says:

      For the purpose of this conversation, they are all called “taxes”. Don’t add another layer of complexity to what is already too complex!

      • Track says:

        What a rubbish. UK has an outgoing tax APD but not other countries.

        In most other countries, collected money are not for taxes but for the use of infrastructure, including border controls.

        If your APD is £180 while BA collects £600+, the shortcut name must surely be “fees”.

        • Sandgrounder says:

          I quite like ‘cash element’. Everyone knows what ‘taxes’ are in this context though, so does it really matter?

          • John says:

            Yes

          • Paul says:

            Yes because it is utterly deceitful to use the expression tax when covering your own greed.

            I am one of those who does not mind paying tax where that money is then used to fund the many benefits a modern society enjoys. I might grumble at the current Tory catastrophic waste and cronyism or the lack of level playing field that allows Apple etc to avoid their fair share.

            Fundamentally however I object to BA and their staff using the term taxes when what they mean is the cash element. The APD charge in the UK while high is a fraction of the fees and charges that are loaded onto tickets. Few people outwith communities such as this have any idea they pay £35 or more to LHR to endure long queues at security and smelly bogs!

            I am all in favour of price transparency so when I see £30 one way that is the final price, but I think airlines should show clearly just what that £30 is made up of and who gets what. It may in the end help improve travel.

          • mr_jetlag says:

            BA Greed Fee, not taxes.

          • Tim says:

            Because when the word ‘taxes’ is used, it implies it’s governments’ fault. When it’s not, whatever your political colour. It’s BA’s chosen fees. And Lufthansa’s chosen fees. Who are arguably worse.

  • CX says:

    I expect this is because CX forced BA to align their Avios redemptions to be in line with Asia Miles redemptions.

  • BJ says:

    Thanks for this, very interesting for me at least but I suspect highly relevant to many who travel in East Asia. Looks like what they are doing here is devaluing Japan-HKG/China and BKK-HKG. At least that is my guess at the rationale: these are hugely successful routes and ripe for picking. Initially they were genuine sweet spots that have been eroded by the changes the article describes. Originally the default was just redeem avios on CX premium BKK-HKG. New default is check fifth freedom cash options first. There are quite a few of these, and there is also still Sri Lankan which will remain unchanged for avios if they are still operating the route. Japan-HKG will have fewer attractive cash options in premium cabins so despite these increases redemptions may remain attractive. Given these changes I’m a bit surprised that Japan-Thailand which are also incredibly successful routes remain almost unchanged in Zone 3 for JAL, particularly given cash fares on JAL can be sky high even in economy. Perhaps the aggresive activity of AirAsiaX and another (name eludes me atm) with both budget Y and J products was a factor. Overall these changes just seem to demonstrate that micromanaging their award chart is a troubling development at BAEC is here to stay.

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      If they have to remain profitable, they have to micromanage. Can’t have it both ways.
      One thing I slightly disagree with Rob is, people in Asia earn points much more easily from credit cards with no interchange fee cap.
      Example, in singapore, you can easily get 4 avios per SGD, that’s more than 7 avios per £.

      • BJ says:

        I get why they do it but it just takes the gloss off and leaves the gamers very frustrated with messy award charts. In this market I am not that bothered, I have long since dumped premium redemptiins on supposedly premium carriers in favour of the simplicity, competitiveness and importantly the reliability of Air Asia.

        • Stu N says:

          “I get why they do it but it just takes the gloss off and leaves the gamers very frustrated with messy award charts.”

          It’s the gamers that the FF schemes are targeting. We are (possibly heavily) loss-making for the schemes as we earn miles cheaply and burn on high value redemptions, so it is entirely rational for the airlines to target us and make life difficult for us.

      • Dubious says:

        Our if interest, which card lets you get 4 avios per SGD?

        I have found that many of the points earning cards in Singapore come with plenty of earning restrictions, and some even have points redemption admin fees that destroy the real value (not to say the card you are referring to does).

        Many/most exclude earning on high-spend categories, e.g. all my cards don’t earn anything on insurance, education, government services (inc. postal services), cleaning services, public transport, some even exclude hospitals! It becomes quite off-putting when these high-ticket items are excluded.

    • BJ says:

      Correction to my comment: Japan to Thailand is Zone 4 and therefore totally untouched since these changes affect zone 1-3.

  • Graeme says:

    Yes RJ for BKK-HKG remains unchanged, and to be honest isn’t that expensive for a cash fare either.

    • BJ says:

      It will be interesting to see how many BKK fifth freedom flights survive covid in the short to medium term. I wonder too if Covid might see the return of some SE Asua QR flights via BKK as they started out as opposed to the direct routes launched in recent years.

  • Track says:

    Of less importance/relevance, because short-haul availability on Cathay Pacific was withdrawn to Asia Miles program itself.

    It was only possible to find HKG – HKT as married segment to a long-haul redemption, not stand alone.

  • Nick says:

    Having previously seen how much actual cash they have to give to JL and (particularly) CX for these, I can entirely see why they’ve done it. Our ‘sweet spot’ was very clearly their ‘outlier’.

    Real shame though, another of the best uses of Avios gone. Devaluation by stealth.

  • Andy says:

    A shame for me. As a frequent traveller to Japan it used to be great when it was 4500 Avios for a JAL flight! Then they increased it a couple of years or so ago to 6000. Now it’s 7500 it’s probably not worth redeeming as you can usually get a JAL ticket for cash for the same cost.

    Oh well, Avois to Nectar it is!

    • LS says:

      Yes this is the downside for avios – there will be a large migration to nectar. It is getting increasingly difficult to get >0.8p per avios without large numbers or a 241. It is incredibly easy to spend your 0.8p at Sainsbury’s!

      • Max says:

        Exactly. Now with floor value of avios, I just don’t think redeeming for long haul business class is a good value anymore. The avios value + cash element would easily go above 2000 for a long haul return ticket.

    • ADS says:

      I found that the increase from 4,000 to 4,750 (and from 4,500 to 5,250) had a surprising impact on my use of these reward flights.

      Whereas previously a reward flight redemption and a cash fare would be almost the same value, I’ve only been able to justify a single redemption flight since the increase – they just aren’t usually competitive with cash fares any more.

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