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British Airways moves to ‘earn Avios based on your spend’ – are you a winner or a loser?

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British Airways has just released details of its move to revenue based Avios earning.

We knew this was coming – it was announced a year ago, with Iberia switching in November 2022. We actually had the world exclusive on this back in March 2018 when Alex Cruz discussed it in an interview with a Hong Kong-based reporter which ended up being published by us.

It hasn’t worked too well for Iberia, with carve outs already put in place to stop passengers defecting to other carriers on some routes. It remains to be seen if similar carve outs will be required here.

Full details can be found on this page of the British Airways website.

British Airways claims in the official press release that:

“This is a simpler and more transparent system”

This is not true, because earning is based on the fare you pay excluding third party taxes and charges – a sum which 99% of passengers don’t know.

In reality, it represents a sharp cut in Avios earned for most people, except for those on fully flexible tickets which are generally paid for by their employer.

The only upside for non-status passengers is that you will now earn Avios for money spent on seat selection fees and additional baggage fees.

However, to be fair, British Airways says in the press release that the change is being made as the result of customer feedback. You have only yourself to blame.

When do the Avios earning changes come into effect?

The changes kick in for tickets booked from 18th October.

Any travel booked before 18th October will earn at the existing rates.

What is changing with British Airways Executive Club?

One alleged selling point for the new arrangement is that it is simple. The number of Avios you earn per £ is based on your status in the British Airways Executive Club programme.

A base level Blue member earns 6 Avios per £1, whilst an elite member will earn up to 9 Avios per £1.

Take a look here:

Your elite status bonus has been cut

Part of the problem with the new structure is that it is alienating elite flyers by cutting elite bonuses.

Historically you received the following elite status bonus (based on miles flown):

  • Bronze – 25%
  • Silver – 50%
  • Gold – 100%

These will be cut for tickets booked from 18th October to:

  • Bronze – 17%
  • Silver – 33%
  • Gold – 50%

To be fair, the actual change will vary by cabin flown because the current elite status bonus does not apply to the cabin bonus. On the other hand, on a cheap short haul flight the majority of your earnings as an elite currently come from the cabin bonus.

A system so simple its impossible to know what you earn

As happened with the Iberia changes, British Airways is basing your earnings on the NET cost of your ticket, after taxes and external surcharges have been deducted.

(Iberia initially tried to deduct its own surcharges too but had to row back on that within hours.)

This makes it very difficult to know in advance how many Avios you will earn. Taxes and external surcharges make up a large part of the cost of an inflexible Economy ticket but only a tiny part of a fully flexible Business ticket.

For example, a £39 one way ticket to Manchester has a base fare, adding back the ‘carrier imposed surcharge’, of just £16.50. You earn Avios based on 40% of what you spend.

An £8,072 one way flexible business class ticket to New York has a base fare of £7,795. You earn Avios based on 97% of what you spend.

It gets even more confusing ….

To make things even *ahem* simpler, it appears that some tickets including those booked as part of a BA Holidays package will continue to earn under the current mileage- and cabin-based scheme:

“…. some tickets where the fare paid isn’t disclosed or isn’t available, including flights booked as part of a British Airways Holidays package, will continue collecting Avios based on a percentage of how many miles you fly and the cabin you fly in (no minimum Avios apply).”

Interestingly status bonuses will be cut compared to what you would earn now which is perhaps the clearest indication of what these changes are meant to deliver:

“Executive Club Bronze, Silver and Gold members will collect 15%, 30% or 50% extra Avios on top of the base flight award.”

British Airways to change how you earn Avios

What can I do if I don’t like these changes?

There is, of course, an easy way to avoid these changes – credit your flight to another airline programme.

The response of Qatar Airways here will be key. If Qatar Privilege Club continues to award Avios based on cabin class and distance, you may earn more Avios by crediting your flight to a Qatar account. It only takes a few seconds to move them back to British Airways Executive Club.

The issue is that you won’t earn British Airways tier points this way. If you don’t care – either because you’ve already retained status or know you’ll never manage it – then opening a Qatar Privilege Club account may be the way to go.

Will we see carve outs of certain routes as Iberia did?

The new ‘earn based on what you spend’ method is great, it seems, except when it isn’t.

Iberia has had to create two carve outs based on routes where it has strong competition:

  • routes to Latin America earn from 7 Avios per €1 instead of from 5 Avios per €1
  • flights between Madrid and Barcelona earn from 6 Avios per €1 instead of from 5 Avios per €1

Let’s see if there are similar carve-outs on routes where British Airways is under most pressure.

What is wrong with this model of earning Avios?

This model of earning Avios has been used by other airlines and is generally agreed to be a dud. The only exceptions are Finance Directors, who can easily understand how the cost of miles is linked to the money coming in and so like the idea.

(Flyers can’t easily understand the Avios they earn, because it is based on the ‘ex taxes and surcharges’ cost of your flight, a number which no-one knows. You can see who the new system is designed to please.)

Those who think more carefully about these things usually don’t agree. This is because you are rewarding the wrong people most highly.

The people who are flying on £10,000 fully flexible business class fares to New York are the ones who are laughing all the way to the mileage bank. However, with few exceptions, these are corporate travellers whose choice of airline is made by their employer. You could give these people zero miles and it wouldn’t impact the money that their employer spends with the airline.

This earning model also excludes corporate rebates. Most big companies get a rebate from the airline at the end of the year if they hit spend targets. That £10,000 ticket? A chunk is likely to be repaid. This leads to an even bigger over-rewarding of people travelling on corporate tickets.

Similarly, it is (duh) the fullest flights which charge the highest prices. Because these flights are ALREADY full, it makes no sense to spend most of your loyalty budget rewarding the people who fly on them. Those seats would sell anyway, multiple times over. I don’t see anyone offering incentives to buy Taylor Swift concert tickets.

On similar logic, fares are higher on routes where there is no competition – but on routes where there IS competition, and where fares are lower, the lure of Avios is more important. Weirdly, you will now be rewarded more for flying expensive routes where only British Airways could get you there. You will earn fewer Avios on competitive routes where you can choose between carriers.

You can find out more about the British Airways Executive Club changes on its website here.

Remember that the changes kick in for flights booked from 18th October.

Remember that you can share your thoughts in the comments below.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)

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

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

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

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable 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

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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.

EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.

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

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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.

Comments (437)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • newbz says:

    I think a lot of people are wrong about “corporate deals” and how people apparently have no flexibility when it comes to the choice of airline. I’m sure there are companies that do it differently, but for me (and many friends) it’s based on Concur or similar software which tries to force you to choose the cheapest logical fare that’s within your company’s travel policy.

    Let’s say I want to fly to NY – the system will allow me to book ANY business class ticket unless there is a ticket that’s significantly cheaper (GBP 300 I think) and the arrival + departure of the cheaper flight is +/- 2 hours. I often see similarly priced flights on e.g. BA, AA, VS and UA and can choose any of those. Don’t want to fly VS or DL? Just enter EWR. Don’t want to fly UA? Enter JFK. Want only BA? Enter LHR-EWR/JFK-LHR as no other airline flying to NY from London offers this, so the system won’t be forcing you to take a cheaper “more logical” flight and will confirm this is within the company’s travel policy.

    • IanM says:

      You’re absolutely right – the observations on corporate deals here is outdated. Lowest Logical Fare is the primary driver for most corporate travel programmes these days. Corporates with big volumes have deals with all the main carriers, and in practice the traveller chooses at the point of booking as you’ve described.

      There are also very few if any backend rebates anymore, and certainly not any with double digit % payouts. All the value is built into upfront discounts that are applied to the published fare at the point of booking. That’s the way it has to be for all the carriers to ensure they’re competitively priced in the booking tool searches, or they’re not getting the business (in theory – policy compliance can be hit and miss of course).

      • JDB says:

        Lots of firms don’t want back end discounts, particularly if they are re-charging to a client in a transparent manner. Equally, airlines still offer agreed net fares (that earn miles/status points) on a corporate’s busiest routes so the traveller doesn’t get to choose (or even know) the fare, but is expected to use a particular airline on certain routes unless they get a policy exception sign off. The airlines also dish out a few cards for newer travellers in the firm.

    • Richie says:

      Can you put in LON-XXX-LGA for extra TPs?

      • newbz says:

        Yes, you can always pick an airport and exclude the other ones in the metro area. Similarly, many people will exclude LGW while booking through Concur to avoid old-style CW seats on BA or JetBlue which may otherwise pop up as the most logical fare to/from London (B6 flies from LHR as well, but limited flights/hours).

  • Mikeact says:

    It’s pretty obvious to me going forward, dynamic pricing for award bookings….why would BA/IAG be the odd man out ?
    Have a re read HfP April 2023
    115 Billion Avios issued by IAG Per Year
    ‘Only’ 83 Billion redeemed in 2023
    ie Billions unused…forgotten, cancelled by IAG as per the terms of membership, etc.etc.
    So you can’t book the seat you want today….AUS/NZ/SA ?.. keep on saving…1Million or more, will get you there.
    I was lucky enough to get into this game in the early 80’s, in the US, when all the airlines jumped on the AA band wagon…..they just couldn’t throw enough miles at you, probably more so than today, and dead easy to redeem. I rarely pay for flights this day and age and status ? Been there, done that, apart from KL who gave me Premier for Life…a bit of loyalty recognition ? (Welcome to their 1Million+ reward options!)
    So after well over 40+years, I will continue to amass points/miles with card options….rarely paying for flights. And there are still sweet spots around if you know where to look.
    Luckily perhaps, I can still get 2xJ long-haul awards per annum for the foreseeable future. Good luck everyone

  • Nick says:

    OT – me and my partner recently flew LHR to Vancouver business class (a350) and when we boarded seat controls for my partners seat where broken. Crew did a seat reset at the gate but still was broken. Informed flight was full so could not have a new seat and no time to get it fixed and crew could manually adjust to bed if needed. At end of flight someone came and took all details and said they reported it to BA and someone will contact us – haven’t heard anything since then and it’s almost three weeks. Worth chasing this up with them?

    As an added finesse they also lost my bag on the return, still waiting for my bag.

    Cash tickets if it makes any difference vs Avios ones

  • Peter K says:

    But it all depends on where you want to fly to.
    Which other one world airline flies direct to many places in Europe from the UK?
    Does Qatar fly direct from the UK to the US / Caribbean/Maldives/South Africa etc?

    I’m not saying BA is the best, but just because in your circumstances there is another clear alternative, it doesn’t mean there is for everyone.

    • Peter K says:

      That’s a reply to an earlier post, but the point stands. BA are making negative changes, and the direction of travel is not good, but they know that they have the advantage of direct flights long and short haul.

      • AL says:

        There comes a point, when BA service isn’t justifiable to fly them any more. I make no secret that I’m no BA fan (despite being OWE via BAEC), and if they keep going down the routes that annoy people like me, and encouraging others to become annoyed, then – on the short haul routes, at least – they’ll face stiff competition from the likes of U2.

        • meta says:

          And actually it’s incorrect that there is only BA that has direct services both on short-haul and long-haul. BA removed a lot of long-haul destinations to Asia because they became unviable, but other airlines still fly them – such as Bangkok (Thai, Eva), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). And then they have competition to China (many options), Tokyo (JAL, ANA) and the list goes on.

          Avios collecting skews perspective unfortunately. None of my friends and colleagues rely on BA’s network or are actually collecting Avios.

  • Antony Savvas says:

    Just as I become a BA Gold member for the first time next month, I’m rewarded with a 50% cut in the Avios status bonus from October. I won’t be killing myself to retain it for next year.

    As someone who currently starts their long-haul and short-haul business trips from Newcastle and Manchester via Heathrow, it would be quite easy for me to retain BA Silver and also quickly build up status with KLM/Air France who offer direct flights to Europe from all the UK regional airports – unlike BA.

    The organisations that book and pay for my flights often try and get me to fly to Amsterdam from Manchester and Newcastle to reach Europe or North America, because it’s nearly always cheaper with KLM. But I choose BA because I want to retain and build status.

    This may well change now depending on how these BA Avios changes affect my Avios earning.

  • BA Gold member says:

    Another kicker to the recent changes – it appears that BA have dramatically reduced the reward seat availability in Business for single seats in favour of a pair booked using a an Amex Companion Voucher. Has anyone else experienced this? You can only earn one Companion Voucher each year so this seems like a massive step backwards for Gold card holders.

    • Rob says:

      That’s not the case, it’s just that a 241 with a BAPP can book into I-class cash availability in Business (when 8ish I-class are there) which massively increases availability, esp from the regions.

      Nothing has changed. It used to be impossible to get Sydney. You CAN now get Sydney virtually whenever you want as long as you start in Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh etc and book 3-6 months out. Still virtually impossible without the extra 241 availability but as this comes out of a cash bucket it shouldn’t change what the rest see.

      • BA Gold member says:

        Thanks for the explanation – but it still doesn’t make sense to me that I can now see Rewards availability on a route for two pax using a Companion Voucher but that disappears if I try to book the same flight for one.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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