British Airways Devaluation Update and Campaign to Keep the Single Oneworld Partner Award Chart

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Yesterday I wrote about some upcoming changes to the British Airways program and they seemed okay for their European members, though I had some major questions about their partner airline award chart. Right now, the biggest value of British Airways miles for most North Americans is the ability to use miles on Oneworld partners (like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Lan) for travel from the US to South America for 40,000/80,000/120,000 (coach/business/first) roundtrip and Asia for 50,000/100,000/150,000 miles roundtrip. Not only are these good deals in terms of mileage, but the steep fuel surcharges BA adds on to flights to Europe do not apply to these awards. This is the reason why I got the 100,000 mile Chase British Airways Visa back in April and why I transferred a bunch of Amex points to British Airways in July at the 50% bonus.

However, now the British Airways rep on Flyertalk confirmed that partner award chart is drastically changing:

“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 only, BA +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 purposefully withholding 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.”

Excuse the crude reference, but in my opinion this is a perfect example of a sh*t sandwich: you deliver seemingly good news (20% decrease in some awards), followed by terrible news (huge increases in partner awards), then follow it up with some good news to hope that people forget about the bad news (TBD)

Update from BA Rep on Flyertalk:
With regards to the pricing queries you have, we are working towards sharing the detail with you in a more structured manner as soon as possible. I’m sorry that we cannot publish the full details at the moment. We will be communicating more detail in the lead up to the changes actually happening. Can I please ask that you do not send me individual pricing queries by route via PM as I cannot answer these due to a rapid increase in queries and while I appreciate everyone has personal concerns, the wider community share some of these too as well as the general day to day account concerns. What I will say is that the general consensus concerns have been noted.”

I then Tweeted BA asking for more clarification on the award chart and the response was:

BritishAirwaysBritish Airways N.A.

@thepointsguy Hi. We will be issuing further details on Partner reward pricing in the coming months. Thanks for tweeting.

Coming MONTHS? They can’t be serious.

Until a BA rep can prove otherwise, I think we were all served a hearty portion of said sandwich. While routes like JFK-London  come down in miles by 20%, their fees and surcharges are over three times more than their US counterparts.

American, Delta and Continental all priced at 40,000 (AA off-peak) – 60,000 miles roundtrip for a coach New York (JFK or Newark) to London, whereas a British Airways award will cost a whopping $563.29.

Newark-London for 60,000 miles and $168
JFK-LHR on Delta for $168 and 60,000 miles
JFK-LHR on American for 40,000 miles and $168
JFK-LHR on British Airways for 50,000 miles (40,000 in the new program) and a whopping $563

I’ve always dismissed these insane fuel surcharges and instead recommended that you redeem your miles on partner awards to/from anywhere but Europe. With that option becomes much less lucrative come November 16, 2011 – I would encourage everyone to redeem as many miles as they can before that date.

In addition, I think it’s also smart to express your opinion of these pending changes. Not only should you email, Facebook and Tweet British Airways, but also get in touch with the credit card companies to let them know you aren’t happy that British Airways is making negative changes to the program.

The credit card companies are the ones with real power here. They buy billions of dollars in miles from the airlines, so if their top customers are raising a fit about the major devaluation of their currency, the credit card companies can put pressure on the airline to scale back the severity of the changes. You can send secure messages online to American Express and Chase or simply call the number on the back of your card.

While you may think your opinion doesn’t matter, it does. The issue at hand here is that the airlines are major copycats. If every other airline sees that British Airways can devalue their miles and pull the rug out from their members – just months after enticing them with lucrative offers, what will stop everyone else from following suit?

I don’t recommend getting crazy, but voicing your frustration via social media and through your relationship with your credit card company can be very powerful. It seems that British Airways has made their mind with the changes, but that shouldn’t stop us from giving them constructive feedback that they should keep their single Oneworld partner award chart intact. They made positive changes for their European-based members, so where is the love for the North American members? I don’t even need any “enhancements” - just leave the single Oneworld partner chart alone and I’d be satisfied.

What are your thoughts?

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