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Big Changes Coming to British Airways Executive Club Program

by on September 1, 2011 · 55 comments

in British Airways

I just got an email from British Airways that nearly made my heart stop – they are changing their frequent flyer program starting November 16. Immediately I thought, “Oh crap, here we go – a major devaluation!,” but instead it seems like an attempt to expand the program and include Iberia’s frequent flyer now that the two carriers are as closely aligned as ever.

However, after looking into it, I don’t think this will be an earth-shattering change (like a move to a revenue-based redemption system like JetBlue/Southwest, etc) and it may even make the rewards you redeem cheaper. The new miles will be called Avios miles, which seems a little weird, but I’m sure we will get used to it. Per the BA release, “The name reflects the valuable, global and distinctive nature of the currency that will offer members a more rewarding experience in the Executive Club. It is simple to pronounce and evokes travel and flight in many languages.”

What isn’t changing: Elite program, non-air partners (like hotel stays), expiration (still after 36 months of no activity)

Key changes:

1) Award charts will change and some routes will go up and some down. There was nothing about partner award charts or stopovers, so we will have to wait and see. See the full chart here. The good news:
JFK-London will go down. 80,000 roundtrip for business class (down from 100,000) and 120,000 for First (down from 150,000), 60,000 for Premium Economy (down from 75,000) and 40,000 roundtrip for coach (down from 50,000).

2) There will be more redemption options for car and hotels. This isn’t surprising, because British Airways has minted millions upon millions of miles this year with 100,000 mile credit cards and 50% American Express transfer bonuses, so I knew they needed to come up with new ways for their members to redeem miles.

3) New Saver Awards for short-haul flights. Lower amount of miles and taxes needed.

There is still a lot of “wait and see,” specifically with partner rewards, but I’m hoping for the best. Either way, we have until November 16, 2011 so if necessary we can unload as many miles as possible before then if any real negative changes are implemented. Check out this businesstraveller.com article on the program for more information.

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  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    I would say it’s unfair to say some rewards will go up and some will go down. You’re correct that some will go up but for those that are changing, most go down. BAEC have said – 73% of reward prices remain the same, 24% get cheaper and 3% will increase in price.

    The East Coast of America reduces from 50k to 40k but more interestingly (from UK anyway) BKK/NRT/HKG reduce from 80k to 60k.

    Big improvements to Europe as well with reduced redemption rates but flat fees (inclusive of taxes/YQ) which now make redemptions within Europe, particularly longer routes to DME/IST/ATH much more attractive.

    As you say, it will be interesting to see what hotel redemptions are on offer – it could be a good use of miles for some members who are miles rich.

    More changes yet to come but in the first instance I would say that most BAEC members (UK/EU based) will be happy. US members should also be happy (reduced mileage for redemptions) but I dare say the usual complaints of YQ! :)

  • Anonymous

    Yea, I agree things seem fine, but I’m not totally sold that only 3% of flights are going up. I want them to release their partner award charts first before I hail this new program.

  • Phil

    I think it was only yesterday I was saying that the value of BA miles could easily go down… and so far things look rosy here (120k for JFK-LHR in F is nice, though remember the big YQ fees)

    But let’s not be idiots here folks, this is media management – drip out the good news, get everyone feeling good, then keep the bad news for later. As Brian notes the big one is what is happening to the single partner awards. From what I have seen so far I expect to see a harmonisation of pricing and a regional based approach (pretty much in line with everyone else) and would expect the old bargains like JFK-HKG going up in price.

    For me I am planning on a large JFK-LHR-JNB redemption for 4 in F so that is the route I am looking out for.

  • Asdfasdf

    yeh this is prob just the start…

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    I would agree that there may be some more movement in the partner award charts, my guess would be in particular to USA-Far East. However, there was a lot of talk that the West Coast would increase above 50k to 60/70k and in fact it’s remained the same.

    From a UK/EU perspective, I think most concern on ‘future’ announcements relate to potential changes to the tiers within the BAEC – the introduction of a new tier between blue and silver, changes to requirements to maintain status and any change to existing silver/gold benefits.

  • Afasd

    It’s not 3% of flights, it said 3% of routes

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    I agree something has to give and I think bad news will come. However, I don’t imagine there will be masses of UK/EU based members of their FFP who will be overly bothered about changes to JFK-HGK, that’s just my opinion.

  • Afasd

    The points name change is ridonkulous as well.

    “BA miles” warms my heart as it reminds me of earning 100K miles on the plaid BA card.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Correct… big difference :)

  • Anonymous

    perhaps im missing the point, but the reward saver program looks really appealing if you use london as your base. I’m assuming they aren’t including the massive fuel and tax surcharges of course… TPG, am I missing something here?

    Reward Flight Saver

    All you will pay is Avios or Avios & Money, plus a flat fee of:
    •£27 / €27 if you are travelling in Euro Traveller
    •£34 / €34 if you are travelling in Club Europe

    Zone 1 9,000 Avios
    including Prague, Copenhagen and Milan

    Zone 2 15,000 Avios
    including Madrid, Lisbon and Dubrovnik

    Zone 3 20,000 Avios
    including Athens, Moscow and Istanbul

  • BRB

    1) Avios points (not miles)

    2) Did I read it correctly that taxes from East Coast US to Europe and/or intra Europe are going to decrease?

    3) How do I redeem EC points for hotels at the moment? Didn’t know we had an option

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    You are correct. One of the most frequent comments was the Euro redemptions were poor value. I think they have addressed this issue very well and they are now appealing – even from the regions! (EDI, GLA, MAN & NCL). Particularly given the ‘taxes’ are now fixed at £27 or £34 depending on class of travel.

    At the end of the day BA is a British airline so it’s nice to see UK (and EU) members get something positive – we’ve never had a 100,000 mile credit card sign up bonus.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    You are correct. One of the most frequent comments was the Euro redemptions were poor value. I think they have addressed this issue very well and they are now appealing – even from the regions! (EDI, GLA, MAN & NCL). Particularly given the ‘taxes’ are now fixed at £27 or £34 depending on class of travel.

    At the end of the day BA is a British airline so it’s nice to see UK (and EU) members get something positive – we’ve never had a 100,000 mile credit card sign up bonus.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    2. Intra Europe taxes are decreasing. They are going to fixed fees of £27 (Y) or £34 (C). You must have earnt miles within the last 12 months to qualify for these rates. Taxes elsewhere remain the same.

    3. You can’t! This is a new benefit and one I am most interested to see how it works. Could help BA reduce the number of miles held by members, particularly those who have collected them via Chase’s 100,000 mile sign up offer.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    2. Intra Europe taxes are decreasing. They are going to fixed fees of £27 (Y) or £34 (C). You must have earnt miles within the last 12 months to qualify for these rates. Taxes elsewhere remain the same.

    3. You can’t! This is a new benefit and one I am most interested to see how it works. Could help BA reduce the number of miles held by members, particularly those who have collected them via Chase’s 100,000 mile sign up offer.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    A recent response on FT from the BAEC in respect of Partner Awards –

    “Partner rewards pricing gets simpler – the new pricing grid which we will publish at launch should be used for BA only flights, BA plus one partner or partner only flights. The current oneworld multicarrier redemption will also continue to be used for bookings containing more than one partner.”

  • Phil

    This is exactly what I predicted. Harmonizing the award chart

    Anyone wanting the cheap JFK-HKG/beyond on CX should book now

  • tivoboy

    We knew something was going to happen, the 100K program TWO YEARS IN A ROW was a pretty good advance indicator, no?

  • Alan

    Crap…Tel Aviv is one of routes that will need more miles. I’m trying to cross $30,000 spending so I can get that 2-4-1 voucher. Time to buy Amex gift card to speed up my spending so I can book the flight before it goes up.

    Is it right to book LAX-TEL (through LHR) before Nov 16 since it will go up 15,000 points/miles?

  • Dean

    The big worry to me is that they will cancel the stops rule. I bet they are going to change the rules about SA (probably the only reason to have the miles).

    If you look at Israel it looks pretty bad, not only a devaluation but I think it was moved to zone 4 from zone 3 so it will not be part of the Reward Flight Saver.

  • Dean

    I bet harmonizing means fuel charges on all redemptions…

  • David

    From BA via Flytalk
    “Sorry if it wasn’t clear in my earlier post, partner rewards will be priced the same as BA. So – a single pricing table for itineraries which are:BA onlyBA +1 partner or partner only

    For multi-partner itineraries these will be priced using the current oneworld multi carrier redemption. The pricing will be based largely on a distance banded model for all reward sectors. We are not purposfully witholding anything or trying to hide anything – I will be as informative as I can and try to keep up with your questions. Please do feel free to prompt me if you feel I am missing something important that needs a detailed or urgent answer. ”

    So I’m booking my CX JFK-HKG-SIN trip now.

  • Federico

    New T&C
    Effective from 16 November 2011

    http://www.britishairways.com/travel/ec-terms-and-conditions/public/en_us

    13. Redeeming Avios Points

    13.8. There are no charges for stopovers included in an Reward itinerary. Where stopovers are at connecting points on the most direct route between origin and destination.

    AFAIK the partner rewards will remain the same!!! :)

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Nicci has said there will be one redemption chart for BA, BA+1 partner and 1 partner redemptions. That will mean North America to South America and Asia reward mileage will be based on distance, LHR-EZE is 6,900 miles and 210k miles for First class redemption, JFK-HKG is 8,000 miles so I would anticipate some sort of increase.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Agree with your comments on TLV – not the best result with a mile increase and a move to Zone 4 so full taxes.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    It seems that North America to South America and Asia reward mileage will be based on distance. LHR-EZE is 6,900 miles and 210k miles for First class redemption, JFK-HKG is 8,000 miles so I would anticipate some sort of increase from the current 150k miles.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Not quite, it appears that partner rewards will become ‘distance’ based.

    LHR-EZE is 6,900 miles and 210k miles for First class redemption (with BA) and given JFK-HKG is 8,000 miles I would anticipate some sort of increase from the current 150k miles for First class with CX.

  • Baaal

    I haven’t redeemed a single flight yet, but did you have to pay taxes and fuel charges before? Because apparently now you do, and I’m not sure I like that given that they’re usually 20-40% of the price… Using 50K miles to get a 50% discount? I don’t think I like that…

  • Sam

    JFK to LHR on Business is going down to 80,000. Do you think it will be the same for LAX to LHR ?

  • Sam

    JFK to LHR on Business is going down to 80,000. Do you think it will be the same for LAX to LHR ?

  • http://infamousdx.com infamousdx

    If changes take effect Nov 1, 2011 and I book an award on Oct 30, 2011. How far ahead can I push the dates forward to prolong the trip? Is the award only good 1 year from time of booking?

  • Bonofan

    Nope. They are dividing the US into zones. LAX-LHR will probably remain at 100K or if anything, increase.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    New changes come into effect from mid-November (15th or 16th). I believe you can book 1 year in advance, BA opens up their award space 355 days in advance but not sure about others.

  • http://infamousdx.com infamousdx

    Hmm thanks. My question should have been:

    If I book an award Oct 30, 2011… can I call BA later and push that date to December 2012? Is that within the rules?

  • Jack

    Presumably you could then re-schedule the flights for a later date, assuming there were availability? Wouldn’t that buy you additional time? Any idea what the limit would be there?

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    LHR-LAX has been confirmed to be 50,000 miles with no change (100k for J). The East coast (NYC/BOS/ORD, etc) reduce to 40,000 miles.

  • Jeremy

    TPG, any way you can mine your official contacts at BA for some further information about proposed plans? We would be eternally grateful (not that we arent already!)

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    More announcements are due i the lead up to launch mid-November. BAEC representatives are also answering questions here – http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1254357-announcement-new-revitalised-executive-club-coming.html

  • Latimer

    London to Cairo RT for only 25K miles in coach? That’s great!

  • PanAm

    If you read the latest from the BA rep on FT, which I think someone quoted above, the partner awards especially from N America are apparently going up drastically. Since N America-Europe awards were always one of the least valuable uses of BA miles for US members, I”m not sure why the slightly lower values for those routes are something to get excited about for US folks. Things like single partner NA-Asia and NA-IPC will no longer be such a great value.

    For the UK people this is obviously a great change.

  • P David

    Question… I booked JFK – LHR in F about a month ago for our honeymoon one way. Cost was 75k. Can anyone guess if there will be anyway that I can get some miles refunded due to the new lower cost?

  • Asdfasdf

    Avios is the silliest name evar

  • http://infamousdx.com infamousdx

    I asked this same question to lucky and the award ticket can be pushed 1 year from date of issue. That doesn’t give much time but it does give a stay of execution.

  • Arubaiguana

    Trash. I got the BA Chase card with 100k mile bonus to fly from the east coast of the USA to Europe only to find out that BA f’s you over with absurd fees. So then, thanks to this site, I learned that I can get good value for the miles on a trip to South America on one of BA’s partners. Now it looks like that option is fast disappearing. Didn’t want to rush into planning a trip but guess I better at this point. A lot more people than normal will probably be trying to book reward flights in the next couple months. Is that how you see it, pointsguy?

  • Unhappy Flyer

    I think it’s Avios points (not miles). Also, you failed to mention that the excessive fuel surcharges and fees on long haul award flights don’t seem to be changing.

  • Caffe

    I have filed a complaint to Amex. I xfer my mr points because of the us to asia awards and the 50 percent bonus. There is no doubt BA was working on the change sametime they offered the bonus. This is bait and switch. It looks like single patner award from sf to hkg on Cathay in economy will increase from 50k to at best 80k and worst 120k. That is ROBBERY! BA needs to grandfather old miles or offer a way for people to return their MR points.

    BA working on these changes at the same time luring people in offering bonuses is sinister, what is the difference between that and banks knowingly offering subprime mortgages knowing everything was going to blow up?

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    BAEC rep confirmed that they won’t refund. You could cancel and re-book but personally I wouldn’t risk losing a redemption as there is no guarantee the seats would be avilable again.

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  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    @ PanAM – no BA had not said Partner awards will go up drastically.

    What they have said is – “3) Partner rewards pricing gets simpler – the new pricing grid which we will publish at launch should be used for BA only flights, BA plus one partner or partner only flights. The current oneworld multicarrier redemption will also continue to be used for bookings containing more than one partner.”

    Based on what we know from the new ex-UK redemption levels it’s likey there will be some increase.

    Redemptions to Asia using BA miles from EU have always been far higher priced than from North America. LHR-HKG is a shorter flight (over 2,000 miles!) than JFK-HKG yet first class redemption is only 240k compared to 150k. However, if going distance based it would also be fair to assume that LAX-HKG would not be as expensive as going from JFK. It’s worth noting that LHR-HKG, etc is reducing by 25%.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YRK6JIEMWGNDBGXDBDUC7ZRAMI AA

    Not great at all when you factor in the fuel surcharge etc. A “free” reward return trip London-Cairo on BA 6-20 December [as of a few minutes ago 7:00GMT 9/4] will cost $460 in surcharges and taxes. To book the same revenue flight now will cost $525. Even at their great new mileage level that means BA value their hard earned frequent flyer miles at $2.60 per 1000. At the current 40,000 rate to Cairo the value drops to $1.63 so I suppose the changes are really great; after all one a half peanuts is better than one peanut. Who do BA think they are kidding treating us all like monkeys? Redeeming BA miles on BA flights is a disaster. Take another example in the Middle East. A reward BA Business class trip from New York to Tel Aviv in December 2011 will today cost 130,000 miles and $559. I recently booked the same itinerary in Business on Delta for 120,000 miles and $45. BA take 8% more points and over TWELVE times as much money. So much for the great BA and the much maligned Delta Skypesos!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YRK6JIEMWGNDBGXDBDUC7ZRAMI AA

    Not great at all when you factor in the fuel surcharge etc. A “free” reward return trip London-Cairo on BA 6-20 December [as of a few minutes ago 7:00GMT 9/4] will cost $460 in surcharges and taxes. To book the same revenue flight now will cost $525. Even at their great new mileage level that means BA value their hard earned frequent flyer miles at $2.60 per 1000. At the current 40,000 rate to Cairo the value drops to $1.63 so I suppose the changes are really great; after all one a half peanuts is better than one peanut. Who do BA think they are kidding treating us all like monkeys? Redeeming BA miles on BA flights is a disaster. Take another example in the Middle East. A reward BA Business class trip from New York to Tel Aviv in December 2011 will today cost 130,000 miles and $559. I recently booked the same itinerary in Business on Delta for 120,000 miles and $45. BA take 8% more points and over TWELVE times as much money. So much for the great BA and the much maligned Delta Skypesos!

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