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Update on the British Airways Program Changes

by on September 7, 2011 · 54 comments

in British Airways

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Last week we learned that British Airways is revamping their frequent flyer program and renaming their miles “Avios” points. Besides a peculiar new name, we also learned that our beloved Single Oneworld Partner Award chart is going away and will be brought in line with distance-based British Airways awards. Instead of sulking, I thought it would be best to highlight what we know and how to take advantage of the current system before it goes away.

The good news is that some flights are coming down in mileage needed, such as JFK to London, which will now cost 40,000 miles roundtrip and roughly $560 in fees for coach, 80,000 miles and $830 in fees for business and 120,000 miles and $830 for First. While the mileage is 20% less than currently needed, the fees on those tickets hardly make them a bargain compared to transatlantic redemptions through most North American frequent flyer programs. British Airways has announced that they are reducing many of these fees for European itineraries, so I’d love to see them do the same for trans-Atlantic flights, though I won’t hold my breath.

While those fees are high, one of the smarter plays is to upgrade a World Traveller Plus ticket to business class for 12,500 miles each way from Europe 1 to the US. I priced out some World Traveller Plus fares from JFK-LHR for $1,800 so for an additional 25,000 miles to upgrade to business class makes more sense than spending 100,000 for business plus $831 in fees, especially since you earn miles and tier points on upgraded itineraries. You can upgrade an existing reservation online, but if you want to ensure upgrade space is available for a flight that you want to book, you will have to call.

The bad news is that British Airways has confirmed they won’t be releasing their new partner award charts until November. The Avios program launches November 16, 2011, so I’m not sure whether they will announce the award charts before then or on the first day, but either way, they don’t plan on giving much notice. What this tells me is that increases are in store, so my recommendation is use your miles now.

A recent tweet confirming the wait for more information:

“BritishAirways British Airways N.A.

@jools1006 @thepointsguy Hi we understand the value of partner awards and further information will be published in November.”

While this is a little bit frustrating, instead of getting upset, my recommendation is to take advantage of the current lucrative program as much as possible.

Remember, British Airways is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. The current Single Oneworld Partner award chart is nothing short of amazing for certain awards. My favorites:
North America to South America for 40,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 80,000 in business and 120,000 in first. This includes any destination in South America that is served by either Lan or American, plus you can have unlimited stopovers. BA also does one-way awards so you can fly American Airlines on the outbound and then Lan on the return hitting up a bunch of cities they service along the way (such as Easter Island to Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru to Los Angeles).
North America to Asia for 50,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 100,00o business and 150,000 First. This means that the 50,000 point sign-up bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is enough to get you one way to Asia in business class on Cathay Pacific (or American or Japan Airlines). That is incredible to think about, especially since the card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year. You could fly JFK to Hong Kong, stop for several days, then Hong Kong to Bali, all for 50,000 miles one-way in business class!

Click here for more information on how to book partner awards, build in stopovers and what fees to expect on British Airways redemptions.

With all of this being said, I don’t think the sky is falling. As with all good deals, they come to an end and you just have to move on to the next. I’m hopeful that there will be some good deals with the new Avios program, but I won’t be able to assess that until the full program details are released. I still think the 100,000 mile Chase BA Visa was a phenomenal deal and frankly if they ran it again, I’d still think it was a good deal, because there’s always an angle.

The fact of the matter is that frequent flyer programs can (and will) change and this is a good lesson that you shouldn’t horde miles because they decrease in value over time. I’m actually thankful British Airways let us know about these changes and while I would really like if they actually gave us the full details, I can read between the lines and understand that I should probably just use most of my miles and assess my next course of action later.

The great thing is that you have until November 15, 2011 to book and you can book awards up to 355 days in advance, plus changes are relatively cheap with BA ($90 for redeposits and free date changes as long as the routing doesn’t change). Of course that fee structure may change with Avios, but hopefully they will grandfather Executive Club rules with Executive Club redemptions.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jack

    What are the restrictions around rebooking a previously booked award flight for a later date. In other words, how much further ( beyond the 355 day advance booking maximum) can I extend an award flight that is booked before the Nov 15 deadline. Can I just continue to reschedule as long as I pay the $90 rebooking fee? If so, I’m just going to book a route I know I’ll eventually take and then just eat the rebooking fee to push it out until I can actually use it!

  • http://twitter.com/trentswanson Trent Swanson

    Thanks, TPG for the no-spin approach. What we need to know now (can’t wait til November) is whether we should continue to plow hard-earned dollars into the BA Chase 30K by 12/31/11 (to achieve the any-class companion ticket), or whether we abandon that and pursue sign-on awards through the other domestic cards (e.g., United, PR Gold Business). Any thoughts?

  • Noel

    I’ve been, thinking the same. So I will be booking a RTW ticket with my BA miles. 100,000 miles to Asia and back in business should be fun. Routing it as an RTW with stops in Europe and SE Asia just makes it even better.

  • Federico

    I had 107K BA miles (thanks to Chase CC), then I transferred 182k MR points at 1.5x for a total of 273k + 107k=380k BA miles sitting on my account!!!
    I will use 80 or 120k on March (not sure) but I will not use any BA miles until Dec2012 for a South America trip (after my wife’s graduation). I was thinking about Asia in Sep/October… 2013.

    Jun 2012 I had 5 R/T with AA miles (300k on Y class), I did not use BA because they charge some ridiculous YQ fees!!!

  • Bbcd175

    The problem with the Asia redemption is that YQ is still like 200-250 bucks one way.

  • Dave

    TPG, your write up is the first thing I read in the morning amongst the different travel blogs. Great write ups.

    For a JFK-HKG trip on Cathay Pacific in first class, what are your thoughts on using AA miles or BA miles before BA miles revalue? I got enough on either. No planned trips to South America to use BA miles. AA is hard for me to use in the US other than Asia trips.

    AA – 135k miles + little fee
    BA – 150k miles + big fees

    Would you use BA first or AA?

  • Baqa

    How would/could this impact AA redemptions for domestic travel (from BA miles)? Silly use of the miles, I know, but my parents did the 100k BA signup (x 2) solely to use them for domestic travel on AA. Do you think this would change that redemption option?

  • Federico

    Use AA miles unless you want to do some stopover on YVR (CX) or NRT/HND (JAL)

  • Lantean

    Are you guys able to use Qantas reward search to find LAN flights within South America? I can’t even put the cities in the “from” search field, the drop down menu doesn’t have any South American cities… It was fine 3 days ago but now Is all messed up. I can only search trips originating in the USA. :-(

  • Bryan

    Have people in North America found it easy to make date/time changes on ba.com so that they don’t have to call in and get hit with the $70 fee?

  • RakSiam

    I was hoping to use these miles for a CX F trip eventually, but now I am thinking I might try to cash them in for a CX J award instead with a stop in YVR. I typically head to Thailand in November but might move things up by a few weeks… But I expect we’re going to see lots of competition for seats since everyone will be trying to book in under the wire.

  • JMSL

    I have not found it easy, or even possible. Over the past six months I’ve booked three partner awards (two on LAN and one on Royal Jordanian) and it has not been possible to change or cancel any of these online. I get a message saying I need to call my local BA representative.

  • Bryan

    Thanks – so you get dinged with that change fee every time then?

  • Bradley “Carberrie”

    Use BA miles… 150k miles + big fees is worse than AA’s 135k + little fees, but this “more expensive” option is one of the disappearing “values” of BA miles… AA won’t devalue to the same degree as BA because AAdvantage is one of the strengths of AA that they cannot afford to lose!

  • John

    @Dave- Use the BA miles since the one partner awards will no longer be available for bookings made after Nov. 16. The AA award chart remains the same. Use the AA miles for some future Asia, S. America, or Australia trip.

  • Iris97

    Is it possible to transfer points/miles from BA to a domestic airline partner that doesn’t charge high fees?

  • HikerT

    ala Delta SkyPesos, I suspect the new BA program will be dubbed “Adios points” after November.

  • scott

    Nope.

  • Caroline

    I thought companion tickets were only valid on BA flights anyway(?). So I would imagine the value is relatively unchanged, and might be improved if the necessary mileage goes down.

  • JMSL

    I haven’t actually put this to the test yet. For the LAN trips, I didn’t wind up needing to change them. The RJ trip isn’t until next June, but I most likely will need to change the dates. I’m hopeful that when I call BA to do this they will be willing to waive the fee, since it can’t be done online. When booking an award with stopovers over the phone, they did waive the fee for this reason. Even if they waive the fee, it’s still somewhat of an inconvenience, as BAEC customer service often has long wait times.

  • Scott

    Thanks for the heads-up.

    I’m now booked in J for:

    JFK-SCL(stop)-IPC(destination)-SCL-JFK

    and..

    JFK-HKG(stop)-DPS(destination)-HKG-YVR(stop)-JFK

    We still have 400K BA, errr…, Avios points. Too bad that we won’t be able to use all of them in the next twelve months.

  • Man44a

    How do I book a US to South America trip? Where can I read about award rules and restrictions? This post has me thinking about a trip but I don’t know if it’s possible.

    My idea is:
    BNA-Lima-Buenos Aires- Ushuaia-Santiago-BNA

    Any thoughts on this as a possibility?

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Yes, the Companion Vouchers are only valid on BA metal so if you are flying from the East Coast to UK/EU then they are better value as mileage has dropped 20%.

  • fischy

    does any star alliance or sky team member offers status match from iberia gold?
    thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Nice! I’m looking to do something similar to your DPS trip

  • Anonymous

    http://thepointsguy.com/2011/04/how-to-use-british-airways-miles-post-2-booking-a-lan-award-jfk-lim/

    If you fly from BNA you can only fly American.. so you could do something like BNA-MIA-EZE (then you’d have to buy flights to Ushuaia since American does not fly there)
    Then Santiago-MIA-BNA on American
    Any AA milesaaver flight should be bookable with US miles, you may just need to call to get it booked

    I bet Lan does fly to USH but you’d have to end in either Miami or JFK because they don’t fly to BNA and you can only have one partner if you want a cheap award

  • Anonymous

    You can use them on AA domestic flights (milesaaver awards) that should only have a tax of $2.50 per segment

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    My understanding is that it will be based on distance so shorter awards may be cheaper and longer awards like transcontinentals/Hawaii more miles. No one knows until the chart is released

  • Anonymous

    Agree- use the BA miles while you can!

  • Anonymous

    Still cheaper than Europe and worth it in my opinion

  • Anonymous

    How are you routing Asia to US via Europe for only 50k miles in business?

  • Bryan

    Royal Jordanian or Finnair can make that happen.

  • Man44a

    So if I get my self to Miami, could I fly LAN and use this:
    MIA-Lima-EZE-Ushuaia-Santiago-MIA

    Would that qualify as the BA 80,000 in business you posted?

  • Federico

    Yes, you can do that

    MIA-LIM-EZE/AEP-USH

    USH-FTE(optional)-AEP/EZE-SCL-MIA

    AEP-USH/FTE is Y class

  • Federico

    or

    JFK-LIM-IPC (shorter fligth and avoid Visa fee)
    IPC-SCL(stop)-JFK

  • Federico

    Use R/T option and just look for the return dates ;-)

  • Man44a

    So to do this, I would have to call in to BA and get someone to help, right?

  • Shawn

    TPG: If before November I book a trip for summer 2012 using the current one-partner chart, per your article I shall be able to change the dates after November for free if BA does not change its policy. But will BA charge more miles based on the new devaluated chart? Can I change the dates to some time beyond 1 year after the issuance of the award ticket?

  • Rob Perelman

    I need to book a one-way award flight today on BA. My options are:

    30000 miles + $256.33 or
    15000 miles + $376.33

    If I do the second option, I’m paying $120 for 15000 miles or $0.008 per mile. This was previously a “good deal,” but I am wondering if now I should just use the 30000 miles since we are unsure of the value of future miles. For the record, I have 82227 miles in my account and have only used 12500 miles + taxes to get from LAS-LHR-BRU. The return I’m pricing is BUD-LHR-LAS.

  • Jphripjah

    Do you have an expectation/guess as to whether the new partner award rules/redemption rates will take effect immediately when they are unveiled on November 16? Or do you expect that they will say “Here are the changes and they apply to any award tickets booked after January 1″ or something like that?

  • Caz

    The changes can only be up to1 year from when you book right? For example, you book today, 9-10-11 for next April but you want to make a change , you cannot move it further than 9-11-12 right?

  • Caz

    I think Max is 1 year from your booking date only. So if you book Nov 15th, you can only push it back to Nov 15, 2012.

  • Anonymous

    I spoke with a British Airways Executive Club agent today(12 SEP2011) and was told that the LAN award using BA miles only includes one stopover in each direction to the final destination. This is in conflict with information on your site. Is the agent correct or is this a recent change in policy?

  • Anonymous

    Probably just an uninformed rep. I’d hang up and call again.

  • Michael Wong

    Great post, so awesome to have up to date information! I have 180k BA points that I’m looking to use. Currently I’m looking at a trip from LAX -> HKG -> DPS -> LAX. How do you recommend that I setup this trip? Using the online tool I was only able to look at LAX/HKG (RT) for November foe 100K pts + $382 (USD). Thank you for your help in advance!

  • Anonymous

    You have to call to book the Bali legs /stopover in hkg. The online engine is really only good for simple roundtrips

  • Michael Wong

    Is it fair to say if you can find an available one way flight Cathay Pacific via the BA.com rewards booking, that it’s an available flight for a leg on a trip?

    For instance I am have been reaching to see if this would work: LAX-> HKG (STOP) -> TPE (DEST) -> DPS (STOP) -> LAX(DEST)? The issue that I foresaw was that in order to get from TPE to DPS, you have to go though HKG again. Thank you so much for all of the insight, getting so close to booking! :)

  • Rick

    Shame that I got the BA Card in advance of a honeymoon that won’t happen until late 2012. Hopefully the changes made in November won’t hit us too hard.

  • Chad

    Received letter in the mail today with some of the New BA changes. Go to ba.com/theclub for updates including a new reward chart for London flights. I was happy to see that Chicago to London has decreased to 80 K RT in Business and 120 K RT in First. No new partner flight charts have been posted.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_45F4AOWNV5WKHLP6W24J25AIAM Michael

    Booked for HKG & Bali in November, thanks for all of the guidance on this blog! Cost was 50k points + $424 (wish we didn’t have to pay that phone fee). My route: LAX -> HKG (stop) -> DPS (dest) -> HKG (stop) -> LAX. Spending an extra night in HK on the way back to LAX since there were no flights that night. Cheers!

  • JMSL

    TPG, with the changes just a week away, any chance of another update? I haven’t had the time to follow all the discussion on FlyerTalk, but I’m a US based flyer who has made good use of the one-partner chart in the past, and wondering if I should cash out my BA miles within the next week. They said more info was coming “in November”– anything worth noting yet?

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