Big Changes Coming to British Airways Executive Club Program

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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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