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What do you do if British Airways suspects you of selling Avios and closes your account?

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Like virtually all other frequent flyer schemes, British Airways Executive Club lets you issue tickets for other people using your Avios.

Unless you are in a BA Household Account, there are no restrictions on this.  Some airlines take a harder line – Singapore Airlines, for example, will only let you issue tickets for people on your ‘friends and family’ list and restricts how often you can amend this.

Here is an email I got from a reader a few years ago when I first looked at this topic:

“As a long time subscriber to your blog I wanted to know if there is any way you can help me.  I am a British Airways Executive Club Gold member, or least I was until Friday.

I received a email from BA last Tuesday telling me that my account was being suspended and investigated.  I am suspected of not keeping with the terms and conditions.  Basically BA suspects me of selling mileage tickets and asked me to email them with my response.

I emailed them to say that I have never violated the terms and conditions.  On Friday I received another email from them telling me that my account has been closed “due to Brokeridge activity” that contravenes their terms and conditions.

I tried to contact them by telephone but couldn’t get a response.  Obviously this is not the case – I have never sold tickets in my life.  I have been a BAEC Gold member for over 13 years and, yes, I have bought tickets for family and friends but I thought that’s what the mileage was there for. 

I’m asking you if there’s any way that you can help me with this as I have over 150,000 Avios and companion tickets and over 20,000 accumulated tier points.  I’m completely devastated and I don’t understand why they would treat their loyal customers like this.”

What should you do if British Airways closes your Executive Club account?

For clarity, I am not taking sides in this case.  Executive Club has an aggressive anti-fraud programme, and rightly so.  In general, when I receive an email like this there is often something else going on which has raised suspicions.

I know – having personally issued tickets for many friends and family members over the years – that British Airways does not come after you automatically.

Why would British Airways threaten to close your Executive Club account?

If British Airways does close or threaten to close your account, it will have looked at your Avios redemptions over the medium term and spotted patterns which are deemed suspicious:

  • Were all flights booked to depart from the UK?  If you were booking flights which either did not touch the UK or were flying TO the UK and then back, this looks more suspicious than booking tickets FROM the UK which are likely to be for genuine friends and family.
  • Were you using your own credit card to pay the taxes?  Not paying the taxes yourself raises a flag.
  • Were the surnames of the passengers different to yours? 

Obviously there are honest reasons why you could give Avios tickets to friends and family which would still trigger the fraud alerts above.

There is also one other fact that British Airways knows and which you don’t know:

  • Have any of these passengers travelled on tickets issued by OTHER BAEC members?

If British Airways sees a person flying on tickets issued from a number of different BA accounts then this clearly looks like someone who has been buying tickets from other members.

If you were thinking of selling Avios by booking tickets for random people, the one above is where you are most likely to come unstuck.

If your account is flagged, British Airways may put a marker on certain tickets to question the passenger at check-in.  It is easy for the check-in desk to casually ask how they earned so many Avios, or to ask if the passenger gave a nice gift to the person whose Avios were used.

What should you do if BA closes your Executive Club account?

This was my advice to the reader who contacted me (who, remember, had lost around £1,500-worth of Avios and his chance of hitting ‘Gold for Life’ status):

  • Make a list of all tickets you have issued for third parties in the last couple of years
  • For each ticket, explain how you know this person and why you would want to voluntarily issue an Avios ticket for them without any money or reward in return
  • Where the surname differs from yours, get each person to send you an email confirming how they know you and that they did not pay you, either in cash or gifts, for the Avios

Whilst British Airways can, in theory, do what it wants, they are likely to act responsibly in the face of evidence.

As it turnes out, our reader DID get his account reinstated after providing the airline with details about the flights he had issued from his account.

Irrespective of the Executive Club T&Cs, it would also be possible to go to Money Claim Online and claim against BA if you believe that your account is totally clean – but you’d be foolish to do this if there is any chance that they have real evidence.

After all, it only takes British Airways to show that one person you issued a ticket to has previously bought tickets via a known ‘mileage broker’ and your case will be thrown out.

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Comments (93)

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

  • Gordon says:

    This has stuck in my mind last time I read the article!

  • AJA says:

    The flights starting and ending at LHR is a problematic one especially now that you can use an Amex 2-4-1 to start outside the UK. Though it helps that the card / voucher holder is on the booking.

    I have never bought tickets for anyone else other than my OH (as part of a 2-4-1) so I wonder if I started doing so whether that would trigger a query?

    • meta says:

      I booked for my parents after couple of years of collecting and no it won’t trigger an audit. I also put them on the friends and family list.

    • JDB says:

      @AJA – I wouldn’t worry about that. Those who doing the things BA is trying to prevent probably think they are quite clever but are, in reality, probably quite thick. BA picks these things through certain patterns of behaviour (as credit card companies do) but also, the ‘purchasers’ can’t be kept to a script and it’s often when there is disruption or compensation/refund claims that they get caught.

    • Mr. AC says:

      Booked Avios tickets for a number of friends and relatives over the years. Initially didn’t use a household account, now do. If I need to book for someone else and I ran out of space I use Iberia transferring the exact number of Avios, so if the account is closed down the damage is limited. I hope if this happens the won’t “expand” the ban from Iberia to BAEC.

  • Adam says:

    Slightly off topic, I flew BA first class a couple of months back to NY, my tier points and avios didnt post to my account. I completed the form a month ago but still nothing.
    Whats the best way to escalate this to get BA to action it.

    • shanghaiguizi says:

      Save yourself a lot of time and wasted energy and give up.

      BA stole tier points from me on a return trip in business to Manila, flown in part in BA metal with a BA ticket number.

      BA tried every trick in the book to avoid crediting and I gave up in the end. They even asked me to submit copies of my boarding passes as if they don’t know who was on their plane. Forms filled in, multiple calls to multiple agents, copies of everything submitted in triplicate. Nothing.

      And so began me actively hating on BA at every opportunity I get for the next decade.

      • John says:

        We can tell.

      • JDB says:

        If you devoted a fraction of the effort you devote to criticising BA (as well as QR and most things British) chasing the tier points, they would have been credited to you ages ago; it’s not difficult, but rather just a matter of having the nous to get things done. Problems with points crediting are not exclusive to BA and like most airlines, BA has its good bits and bad bits that change over time. There doesn’t seem to be too much point getting het up about it and a decade of hating will have a far more negative impact on you than BA.

        • Shanghaiguizi says:

          Depends tbh. A man must have a code.

          Issuing the tier points for flights flown wouldn’t have cost BA a dime.

          If even a tiny fraction of the daily visitors to this site see one of my comments and chose to fly on an alternative airline then I’ll have cost BA something.

          • Thywillbedone says:

            I agree and have an ever-lengthening list of brands I won’t touch due to various wrongs/slights over the years. It seems to be almost a deliberate strategy for some corporates these days to send you from pillar to post not because they don’t know where to send you to resolve your query, but because they are banking on you giving up through sheer frustration.

    • Nick says:

      There’s a manager who reads PMs on flyertalk – that’s the easiest way to escalate missing Avios. It helps if you have a copy of your boarding pass. Alternatively call up and ask the agent to raise a case internally (note they won’t be able to fix it themselves, so don’t get angry with them).

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      Call Exec Club or chat are your first port of calls and should resolve it. Have the booking ref and flight detailed to hand.

      Was there anything complex about your booking? Simple A-B flights rarely don’t post automatically but if you started in say club then UUA then that does cause problems.

  • Andy E says:

    If BA won’t engage with an explanation for their reasons, then the next step for me would be the following…
    It worked for Farage.

  • Skywalker says:

    Same surname rule could be problematic for women. Made up situation (but not impossible): if someone has a household account that consisted of 6 sisters with different surnames after multiple marriages, will this account get flagged?

    • Nick says:

      No. Name is one possible link but nothing would ever be done on that alone – BA isn’t that stupid. And anyway, in that case it’s fairly likely you’ll have travelled with one or more of the sisters at some point, which would de-suspicion them. In many circles it’s rare now for women to change their name on getting married so fraud scoring needs to be cleverer than that.

      As mentioned in Rob’s original article, there’s nearly always something that triggers suspicion, and conveniently it’s usually missed off when people complain. Most of the Corporate Security team are ex-police and know a thing or two about burden of proof.

      • Lady London says:

        I can think of one of our regular posters here who has that sort of background. She’d be brilliant (and a nightmare for any miscreants) if she switched sides and worked on that BA team 🙂

    • cin4 says:

      Given we are substantially into the twenty first century, obviously not just women.

      • Skywalker says:

        Yes agreed @cin4, it was just the first made up situation I thought of.

        There is also the fact that anyone else can change their name as they so wish too, without marriage being the reason.

  • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

    Virgin also close accounts. Example here

    Took a few comments for the OP to say exactly what they did to arouse Virgin’s suspicions.

    Many similar stories start with “but I only booked …” which generates sympathy before we finally get the truth of what they did and sympathy vanishes,

    One on BA flyer talk a good while ago starts with “BA cancelled my reward flights and I don’t know why” before it became clear they did a quid pro quo with a couple of their tenants.

    • NorthernLass says:

      That story is legendary! I think Rob said once that he eventually had to stop getting involved in cases like the one in the article because people just weren’t being completely candid about what had gone on.

    • Alastair says:

      Ahh yes, the famous ‘use of all of the garden’ story – or something like that, it was quite bizarre..

  • Mikeact says:

    It’s pretty amazing that there are still some serious mileage brokers in the US….I guess the airlines generally turn a blind eye. I was approached by one, offering what was quite a significant amount for 1Million miles out of one of my accounts..this was probably after I purchased a great value J class return with them, on a carrier that I rarely used. It was a few years ago, with no problems.
    Would I do it again? No.

    • Guy Incognito says:

      Yes. I was tempted to sell a significant number of AmEx points (high 7 figures), but declined because I figured the risk was too high and I didn’t want to lose all the points!

  • Chris W says:

    9 times out of 10 with these stories there is something the BAEC member isn’t being honest about and it turns out they did violate the terms and conditions.

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

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