Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Forums Frequent flyer programs British Airways Executive Club Legality of collecting Avios whilst travelling for business

  • OldComber 31 posts

    Hypothetically of course, Imagine a situation where an individual collected a small amount (less than 10k) of avios points via travel their employer paid for.
    Imagine that they also had Amex, private travel etc, and had amassed a BAEC balance of over 150 unconnected to their employment.

    Now the person finds themselves about to go to a disciplinary for gaining a pecuniary advantage after having redeemed a total of 32k points to take cash off the cost of their personal flights.

    Would any of the minds here have any examples of previous cases, or any precedent that may help the hypothetical person in question?

    Issue is, that there’s a Gratuity policy, and buried at the back of it, there’s one very vague statement that may preclude the collection of loyalty points.
    However, by that logic, staff who have their lunch costs reimbursed, shouldn’t be collecting any points on their Tesco/Sparks/Advantage card etc…?

    Grateful for any thoughts, and any PM’s would be welcome if it’s appropriate.
    Thank you.

    Hypothetically quite worried.

    SamG 1,735 posts

    I really think it depends on your policy – I don’t see how there would be a legal position or position from another company that you can refer to. If you’ve breached your internal policy then you could reasonably be put through your disciplinary process.

    I know my current employer just says that you must not let your frequent traveller program memberships/preferences influence your travel away from booking the lowest cost option.

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer 2,388 posts

    Don’t confuse legality with company policy

    There certainly isn’t a law against this but company policy will apply.

    Stu_N 112 posts

    @SamG has nailed the position. The wording of your internal policy is key.

    I’d be speaking to any staff support organisations or unions you have access to, not some randoms on the internet.

    ed_fly 245 posts

    I’m not a lawyer, so just throwing some questions / thoughts out there.

    1) I suggest that player x speaks with an employment lawyer.
    2) I don’t know how the employer can say with any certainty that the 32k Avios used, were amasssed from work travel, and prove that player x wasn’t going to use the Avios collected from work travel to discount future work travel.
    3) intrigued to know how the employer found out that the Avios was used.
    4) my very loose understanding is that a lot of employment protections I.e. unfair dismissal etc don’t apply until 2(?) years of service.

    AL 630 posts

    Don’t confuse legality with company policy. There certainly isn’t a law against this but company policy will apply.

    This.

    Some further musings, more later maybe. I’m not a lawyer.

    You haven’t gained at the disadvantage of your employer, though, assuming you’ve followed the rest of the appropriate policies. Points belong to loyalty schemes until claimed by passengers, in most cases. This is true of Avios. Avios-issuing organisations buy Avios, for a cash price, from IAG Loyalty, and dole them out to passengers. Businesses can earn benefit using OnBusiness or through a Corporate Travel Agreement with an airline (e.g. a CTA with BA, with access to codeshares on Oneworld, for a percentage discount or rebate after X spend in Y months etc.). The Avios would otherwise have been left on the table, so your employer hasn’t been left at a detriment through your actions (assuming caveats above).

    Technically, most schemes value their points at £0 (or local equivalent), such that you can’t trade them for cash. You are, therefore, not amassing money at the expense of your employer, to be used for your personal gain in future. When you trade the Avios for a discount, a calculation of ‘worth’ happens to simplify the understanding of the deal, but they are still worth nothing. In fact, you are simply allowing an airline to top its own reserves of Avios back up at a preferential rate, in exchange for a discount. A policy prohibiting discounts between two third parties (you and the airline) is a bit of an over-reach from the employer.

    JDB 4,853 posts

    As others have said, this is a company policy issue (ie a potential breach of the employment contract that will incorporate the staff handbook or similar), not a matter of law. It would be strange if the employee wasn’t provided with a letter stating the alleged breach prior to attending any disciplinary hearing rather than leaving that person to guess if it’s perhaps the ‘gratuity’ section. If the company has a formal travel policy, maybe there is something about miles in that. As above, one wonders how the company found out.

    One suspects that there is more to the story than meets the eye, but whatever the situation it should be taken very seriously and advice taken immediately, plus make sure the person is accompanied to any hearing.

    1958 74 posts

    One suspects that there is more to the story than meets the eye, but whatever the situation it should be taken very seriously and advice taken immediately, plus make sure the person is accompanied to any hearing.

    Indeed. Were the avios used to reduce the cost of business travel? – such that the employee claimed the gross cost (before the discount) rather than the net cost?

    points_worrier 304 posts

    There are many questions here.
    – how do they know about it?
    – how do they know it is the ‘work’ avios that have been used rather than the personal avios
    – could the ‘work’ avios have been used on work flights ( better seating, excess bags etc – if they improve your work flight, this is reasonable)
    – have they been booking inappropriate flights to maximise air miles, rather than choosing the most direct and/or cheapest?

    I suspect something else is going on

    Do take advice (from a union/rep etc). Ask for things in writing prior to the meeting.

    Super Secret Stuff 372 posts

    Don’t confuse legality with company policy

    There certainly isn’t a law against this but company policy will apply.

    This. I am fully aware of all of my companies policies and always stick to them. They allow any benefits accrued whilst acting in the companies best interests (read lowest costs) and do not specify a payment method for travel.

    SamG 1,735 posts

    One suspects that there is more to the story than meets the eye, but whatever the situation it should be taken very seriously and advice taken immediately, plus make sure the person is accompanied to any hearing.

    That would be my thoughts too after thinking about it some more, I’d be thinking that this is being used as the “smoking gun” to get someone out the door. If an employer had any concerns about this then I would think they’d have an explicit part of their travel policy that miles cannot be collected so that it’s very clear and simple for all involved to follow.

    Otherwise something else has happened – lowest possible cost policy has been breached or some kind of fiddle with the net cost etc

    OldComber 31 posts

    Admittedly there are a lot of questions.
    I’ll report back when I find out more.
    Hypothetically.

    Lady London 2,181 posts

    There are many questions here.
    – how do they know about it?
    – how do they know it is the ‘work’ avios that have been used rather than the personal avios
    – could the ‘work’ avios have been used on work flights ( better seating, excess bags etc – if they improve your work flight, this is reasonable)
    – have they been booking inappropriate flights to maximise air miles, rather than choosing the most direct and/or cheapest?

    I suspect something else is going on

    Do take advice (from a union/rep etc). Ask for things in writing prior to the meeting.

    You can actually delay any such meeting till you are able to be accompanied. You choose who – lawyer, union rep, friend, co-worker. And I’d quietly put your phone on ‘record’ as well. If the person you say will be accompanying you is not available when they’ve proposed then you don’t have to attend – it would need to be rescheduled to accommodate.

    Saying ” this sounds worrying although you’re sure there’s no cause so you’ll need to be accompanied “(needing a bit of time to find someone and then coordinate schedules) doesn’t mean guilt it’s just sensible these days I’m afraid.

    I can imagine this must be causing you stress and I’ve seen a number of instances where someone has taken sick leave in such circumstances (doctors can be quite helpful if you go for help with the stress you’re under too) and returned when they feel better perhaps with support.

    This has the air of something being trumped up.

    Lady London 2,181 posts

    @Blenz101 do you feel like advising for the “other side” here? 🙂

    Andrew. 514 posts

    Lots of hypothetical. There’s clearly something else going on.

    Formal Subject Access Request and speak to your lawyer.

    But as far as I know, BA don’t allow you to hold more than one points account, so personal points and points acquired through work are stored in the same account.

    An employer can easily keep track of the base points earned using the BA Avios calculator for each journey taken.

    NigelHamilton 234 posts

    For my sins, I am an ex-criminal lawyer, and until recently had a role in a company that included looking into flight costs. I don’t know how to (or if you can) PM on here but happy to receive one if you can.

    I have seen instances (not cases, they didn’t get that far) where someone had deliberately booked an expensive flexible ticket at their employer’s expense(against company policy), where a side benefit of doing so was the ability to collect more loyalty points. This doesn’t sound like a similar situation. The key thing to point out, is it’s not spending the Avios that would constitute the ‘offence’/breach, but collecting them in the first place (similar to a simple theft, it’s the taking of the money/goods, not spending/disposing that matters). However, if the ticket was clearly the right ticket to have bought under the company policy, then there is no additional cost to the employer – and to state the obvious, the employer would not have had the ability to collect Avios – a company can’t fly on a plane. It then depends on the exact wording of the company policy as to whether it has been breached. Clearly if the company policy prohibits the earning of status or loyalty points as a result of company business, and the traveller added their loyalty number in breach of this, then there’s an issue. Here however it sounds like the policy is vague and I would probably, depending on the facts, construct an argument similar to:

    1) there is no clear prohibition in the staff policy that prevents the traveller adding a loyalty number. Something that is not a criminal offence would need to be clearly prohibited by policy if it is to be used to the detriment of the employee.
    2) the collection of loyalty points is not a gratuity
    3) the flight was the flight that would have been booked anyway and there was no additional cost to the employer (might be helpful if the ticket was booked by someone else in the firm)
    4) if the above aren’t accepted as a reason for dismissing the case, it is a minor matter that cost the employer nothing and should therefore not result in any (or any significant) sanction.

    I don’t think the personal collection of Avios helps the case, it’s more likely an avid collector of Avios would be likely to try to obtain more Avios through this route, so it might actually be a double-edged sword.

    These are (for the avoidance of doubt) just my initial thoughts on the facts presented, and clearly any formal advice should come from someone fully appraised of the situation. I would find it surprising if there wasn’t more at play here.

    Froggee 1,001 posts

    It does sound weird. Contrary to @LadyLondon I’d strongly advise against covertly recording any meeting with an employer. Nothing good can come out of it and it can be taken as gross misconduct by your employer which sounds like the last thing you need.

    You can record with permission but even asking to do this can be taken negatively.

    I’ve attended one of these things in a support role and it was an object lesson that HR exists to protect the company from its employees and has no concern whatsoever about the actual well-being of said employees.

    Do make sure you document everything that happens. It sounds like your employer may not be following proper procedures which could come back to haunt them. So take detailed notes of what was said and keep copies of all correspondence. But nothing clandestine.

    The Savage Squirrel 612 posts

    I’ve had to deal with this from the other side a couple of times recently so know more than I want to about disciplinary employment procedures from the employer’s end. It was horrible dealing with it at that end too, however necessary. Froggee is right, but if employers/HR seems heartless, it’s because above all else we’re concentrating on following policy and procedure to the absolute f***ing letter in case this ends up at tribunal or court. Yes employee wellbeing does come 2ry to that at this stage. Sad but true. In our defence (well mine, anyway) there has sometimes been long and strenuous attempts at conciliation and to support troubled employees before the disciplinary trigger is pulled, which may have been ignored or not taken up. Anyway…

    OldComber your story makes little sense – you have clearly withheld some information, and without enough information nobody can tell you anything useful. How would your employer know what flights you have taken personally. If you have lots of your own Avios in no way associated with the company then how is the flight cost reduction an issue? Is the employer really relying on a stretched interpretation of a vague subclause (something that would likely die on its arse in court or tribunal)?

    “This notification should contain sufficient information about the alleged misconduct or poor performance and its possible consequences to enable the employee to prepare to answer the case at a disciplinary meeting. It would normally be appropriate to provide copies of any written evidence, which may include any witness statements, with the notification.”

    If it is not clear, from what you have received already, exactly what has been alleged and what documents are to be brought forward, as well as possible outcomes/consequences, then it would be entirely reasonable to seek clarification and copies of this documentation, and for the hearing to be delayed until after these are provided and you can consider them – although good practice also suggests that both sides should act reasonably in avoiding unnecessary delay.

    Contrary to something above, you cannot be accompanied by a lawyer (unless your employer is insane enough to agree to this) or friend. A fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union are your options – and you should inform your employer of your wish to be accompanied as soon as you can, as you should be taking up this option. You can of course take the advice of a lawyer prior, and it might well be wise to do so rather than our random musings. I also wouldn’t covertly record – particularly if this is against company policy, as the risks would far outweigh the benefits – your companion can and should take notes.

    Richie 1,079 posts

    ….Formal Subject Access Request….

    Don’t ignore that if employees do this to their employer, they risk being moved over to the top of the ‘must be got rid of’ list, and many employers have perfected the ‘getting rid of’ to a fine art.

    JDB 4,853 posts

    ….Formal Subject Access Request….

    Don’t ignore that if employees do this to their employer, they risk being moved over to the top of the ‘must be got rid of’ list, and many employers have perfected the ‘getting rid of’ to a fine art.

    Yes, it was shockingly bad advice. Unless you are already in a fairly terminal stage of your employment and maybe hope to find some incriminating emails relating to the breakdown in relations as part of a negotiation, doing a SAR is more than likely to backfire spectacularly.

    Someone also suggested an SAR to Amex because their referrals were blocked. Also a bad idea; you won’t find anything and they will not respond well. SAR is a valuable right but should be exercised with great care.

    Erico1875 144 posts

    This person could have used their own Avios to discount the personal flight.
    The 10K Avios collected via company travel may still be in the account.
    These could be transferred to anyone in the company, i.e the owner upon payment of the transfer fee

    Tracey 227 posts

    Assume this is all in the UK, where it is the cultural norm for points gained in any way, be it flights, trains or supermarket shopping, to go to the individual, in other cultures it is most definitely not the norm. German colleagues are fastidious in noting points earned for business travel and ensuring they are used to book business trips. In fact, senior German business colleagues took a lot of persuading of UK norms in this regard.

    TGLoyalty 791 posts

    If your employer is that petty they would take disciplinary action over some Avios earned on work legitimate work travel then used for personal travel it’s really not worth staying with that employer so I wouldn’t care if I was moved to the get rid of quick list … May even help in a future legal case.

    Blair Waldorf Salad 1,187 posts

    If your employer is that petty they would take disciplinary action over some Avios earned on work legitimate work travel then used for personal travel it’s really not worth staying with that employer so I wouldn’t care if I was moved to the get rid of quick list … May even help in a future legal case.

    This exactly! Rather a warning light on what kind of employer you’re working for and whether they’re worth your time.

    Typical fear mongering I see over the use of SARs – a SAR is legitimate in this type of case. Any funny business in responding to it or change of attitude after having made the request would helpfully feed into an employment tribunal case. Advice to not do it so as not to upset Mr Boss Man seems rather anachronistic in 2023.

    SamG 1,735 posts

    This person could have used their own Avios to discount the personal flight.
    The 10K Avios collected via company travel may still be in the account.
    These could be transferred to anyone in the company, i.e the owner upon payment of the transfer fee

    That’s what I was thinking. Unless the balance was now 0 (and how would the employer know this ? You could just buy them again anyway!) Then you could have spent “yours” on discounting your personal flight and “theirs” still be there.

    As we’ve all said above, more info required!

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