British Airways clarifies some Avios changes

This morning I posted the details of British Airways’ new frequent flyer program, Avios. Well, I posted the details to the extent I could make sense of them, which wasn’t all that much!

Then a couple of hours later I posted suggesting that Avios awards weren’t pricing correctly based on the new published rates. As I showed, the Avios award calculator suggests that New York to London to Barcelona should cost 60,000 miles one-way in first class. I mean, how much clearer can it be?

Let me mention in particular the first highlighted point above, which reads “Prices shown are the lowest based on a one-way journey, with up to one connection (on BA flights only).”

Yeah, one thing they forgot to mention. They lied. Each segment prices individually, which is why this award costs 75,000 miles — 60,000 miles for first class from New York to London, and 15,000 miles for business class from London to Barcelona. So very quietly British Airways has eliminated the concept of the “free” stopover, since you’re charged separately for each segment. The above isn’t just a typo, but an outright contradiction.

But here’s what I find truly hilarious ridiculous. Check out the “answers” that the British Airways Executive Club representative on FlyerTalk provided us with.

Remember how British Airways advertised that the cost of 97% of awards would stay the same or go down? Turns out they really meant:

We did say that 97% of our flight prices got the same or better – this was for BA flights to and from London. I apologise if this was confusing and I assure you we will continue to monitor your feedback on this.

It would seem to me that this is something that would be worth disclosing at the time, no? Isn’t this considered false advertising? After all, many people may have not redeemed their miles before the changes under the expectation that most awards would go down in price or remain the same, only to find the restrictions that weren’t disclosed.

Then there’s this:

2c) Will BA ever publish a “distance band” as IB have?

Our pricing is not as straightforward as publishing a distance banded model – instead we chose to develop a calculator and our forthcoming zone map tool to help retrieve the prices for the flights you are looking for instead

Whew, I was worried for a second that I wouldn’t need a “calculator” or “tool” to figure out how many miles I would need for an award ticket. And here I was expecting the program would be “simplified.”

We have said so far that this is the beginning – we are always looking for ways to improve the Club so please continue to read our communications as they are issued

I can hardly wait to see what’s next! Perhaps you can instead develop an award chart whereby the cost of a ticket is based on whether there’s a full moon or not?

And here’s my absolute favorite:

10) Why was the partner award chart not announced in advance of the changes? Poor communication ==> poor loyalty

I think this is a fair challenge. On hindsight, I think I would have developed the Avios calculator in advance to ensure that you had access to be able to price all of the individual queries that our members had. Looking at booking behaviour at the time, I thought it would be useful to issue the prices for BA flights in and out of London and indicate that partner parallel routes would be the same price. I now see that more detail may have helped. The only thing I can offer are apologies and the explanation that we were limited in terms of development with the timescale we had.

On hindsight? On hindsight?!? British Airways, did you miss the… oh, I dunno…. thousand blog posts/articles/tweets/forum discussions begging you to disclose the new award chart upfront? If you were limited in terms of the development due to the timescale, maybe you shouldn’t have rolled out the new award chart so quickly.

I like British Airways, I really do. I think they’re a great airline. But their rollout, communication, and disclosure with these changes have been an absolute marketing failure. And that’s putting it nicely.

Am I off base?

Filed Under: Awards, British Airways
  1. Only thing your off base about is the “I think they’re a great airline” 🙂

    They are an airline that can be above or below average based on who you are comparing them to (i.e. US carrier or an Asian carrier).

    Good stuff…

  2. Not off base at all! Just wishing I could have been more flexible to cash in the miles for flights next year.

  3. I’m utterly appalled that BA has decided to charge on the basis of the sum total of the segment distances. Sure, their unlimited-stopover policy is generous, and I can see how it would be reasonable for them to dial that back (either by limiting the number of stopovers, or by charging based on the distance ORIGIN-STOPOVER + STOPOVER-DESTINATION). But the new policy seems to be that even if I fly JFK-YVR-HKG-BKK straight through with no stopover, I’ll pay for what amount to 3 separate segment tickets.

    Maybe I’m just ignorant, but I can’t think of any other major carrier that prices awards in this appalling way. Lucky?

  4. I think in respect of their statement that only 3% would increase the impression I took from that statement was that it was BA metal flights.

    As for why not distance based chart it’s hard to see why not, I can only imagine some small anomolies appear but maybe this ‘zone’ chart will help.

    @beltway – if you go JFK-HKG-BKK I believe you would be charged one segment JFK-HKG ad then for the second segment HKG-BKK. I don’t think you would be charged for the YVR aspect as it not the same flight and just a ‘stop’ and the flight number remains the same?

  5. @ Euan — I can accept the fact that it could be interpreted to mean 97% of awards on BA metal don’t go up, but not disclosing they meant ex-LHR? That seems like a bit of a stretch…

  6. The actions with regards to this particular rollout seem to resemble how class-less the airline used to act (think Richard Branson and his one time little ‘ole airline). The company had ample time and opportunity to make this less painful and now they pull the “in hindsight” card. Very disappointing.

  7. In hindsight this is nothing worse than I expected. That is why I booked a CX F from US to Bali a week before this madness. Adios BA miles and BA card!

  8. Devaluation is never fun. Companies need to make the transition as stress-free for the customer as possible, so that every customer feels that he has been able to make the best of a bad situation. Unfortunately most of these companies have no Department of the Golden Rule. Furthermore allowing customers to make the best decisions will cost the companies money. So they often try to hide the ball. We’ve seen it many times. We expect it.

    Putting that criticism aside, Avios have serious value as a supplement to traditional programs. You can redeem Avios for award travel on expensive short-haul coach flights like Montreal to the Northeastern US, or even last-minute SFO-LAX trips. Those redemptions can exceed 3 cents per point in value.

    Crucially, no other FF program provides cheap redemption for last-minute short-haul travel. Keep a small Avios balance on hand for this purpose. It will save you hundreds of dollars some day.

  9. We should not give BA the pass “in hindsight”

    They knew exactly what they were doing from the start, being vague on all the details. They didn’t want everyone to burn up there miles before the announcement was made.

    Can’t wait for the chase rep to ask me why I’ve decided to close my BA CC.

    You may have noticed they now are offering car/hotel rewards. Compared AA to Adios today and surprisingly Adios is less per night for my search criteria. I’m sure that will change when they find the mistake.

  10. To be honest, I wasn’t that annoyed once all the details came out… maybe because I had already set my expectations accordingly. Basically, no more long-haul redemptions for me, I’ll only be redeeming Avios points on short hops where needed.

    The real worry I have is that this is where all award programs in the US are eventually headed as well. And I’m just waiting for the US carriers to start adding fuel surcharges to awards too, like Aeroplan and the rest of Europe 🙁

  11. British Airways, if you’re reading this blog, and I know you are, you’re losing loyal customers at a rate, I’d guess of about 10,000 a day. This could have been handled so much better. Now you’ve bungled this to the extent that Gary or Ben will surely create a new nickname for BA miles. You’ll be the new SkyPesos! Delta, you’re no longer at the bottom….

  12. Yeah, it’s unbelievable how poorly this has been handled – you’re not off base at all. The BA rep’s answers on FT are an absolute joke (as are the people who defend every word of it) NSX has a point that there are some decent values to be had, but the whole of it is just so convoluted and opaque.

  13. I hope to never give these guys another dime. Unbelievable. And I agree — Avis should sue them for ‘implied defamation’. (Yes, I just made that up.)

  14. The BA rep’s answers on FT are an absolute joke (as are the people who defend every word of it)

    I recall seeing (and myself posting) some entirely valid criticisms of BA’s lack of transparency back when the coming changes were first (sorta kinda) announced. The ferocity of the defend-BA-at-all-costs comments, and the nastiness of the attacks on people who had the audacity to criticize BA, was breathtaking.

  15. @ rosie5442 — What about it? It should still be applicable to any one-way or roundtrip, even if it’s the combination of a few segments in terms of pricing.

  16. I think everyone who booked to Bali on Cathay should carve their initials in the first class cabin so we can keep track.

  17. I am sitting on 130,000 and a 2-4-1 Cert.

    I guess I will book a nice SEA or LAX to LHR and call it a day and close out my BA card at the end of this year.

    Has there been any mention of costs of LAX-YVR on Alaska? I can’t seem to get their lovely calculator to work.

  18. I suggested to Lucky that all of us who did book Cathay to Bali should all get together in Bali or Hong Kong for a meal or a group photo.

  19. Why are there so many sheep over on the BA forum defending BA and taking this lying down? Is it because they are British?

    Who the hell wants to redeem BA miles for short-haul within Europe? Who cares if it is cheaper? Short hauls in Europe costs like $100 one way anyway and that’s on a full-service carrier (I always take RyanAir/EasyJet). With the new requirements, you are still paying $50 out of that. The guys redeeming BA Miles for flights like MAD-LHR are truly idiots.

    I knew this was going to happen, but BA are lying bastards and should be punished. We should just boot that BA woman Nicki off FT. It’s not like she adds any value. She just insults our intelligence and lies to us about “things in hindsight”.

    I also won’t be surprised if they re-price all the currently favorable award redemptions upwards (like ICN-NRT, JFK-BDA, etc.).


  21. As a loyal BA customer living in North America, I feel a real sense of betrayal with the whole 97% language.

    I have no faith whatsoever in the future of this programme.

    I plan to use the rest of my miles and get out.

  22. @lucky: Since the majority of BA flights connect LHR with somewhere, their statement wasn’t that far off. But I guess that people who book awards only transit through LHR and that’s what is driving up the award mileage costs.

  23. @Abcx Indeed, one of the BA fan boys already posted how “blessed they are” to have BAEC rep Nicci on the board…dont make me puke!

  24. @G – 10,000 ‘loyal customers’ lost per day? Not a chance.

    People often mistake the noise that comes out of a relative small group to be in line with the views of the majority. We shouldn’t believe our own hype about our own importance here. There aren’t people running in their droves from BA as a result, but there is a relatively small (by BA / IAG standards) vocal group, mainly outside of Europe who are unhappy with the changes.

    Also, there is a difference between ‘loyal BA customers’ and ‘loyal BA Exec Club (now Avios’ members. This appears to be a problem to some of the latter. I haven’t seen too much criticism from the first group on the likes of FT or Milepoint.

    BA clearly could and should have handled it better. Some people will prefer to go to other schemes as a result. For many, the changes work out no worse, or possibly even better (such as those flying short haul more, or those in Europe with the ability to bundle fuel and tax into an award). Despite some hysterical reactions, Avios aren’t the new SkyPesos.

  25. The mods on the BA board are out censoring in full force! I guess they have been conditioned by British libel laws.

    Nobody wants to call a spade a spade I guess.

  26. Are you lot for real?


    BA are lying bastards and should be punished.

    dont make me puke!

    Coupled with the anti-Brit sentiment about sheep and idiots, frankly, some of you should be ashamed of yourselves. People in the real world couldn’t care less that you’ll have to get one more credit card to fly F.

  27. At one point I was going to grab a BA card and start accumulating, but I am really glad I saved the time and effort!

  28. I myself love the savings on NA domestic short-haul flights. The wifey and I have enough miles for 11 round trips from DTW to NYC each! (Now I just have to explain to her that she can’t use them all for girls weekends.) 25k to 9k for that flight? Outstanding! That smashes Delta so I can save those miles for future use. Plus the savings from MIA to the Caribbean means we’ll be visiting the Turks/Caicos or Atlantis in the near future as well. Bravo BA, I never intended to sit on your metal anyway.

  29. @ Adrian — But it often doesn’t add up. For example, New York to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific prices at 35,000 miles one-way in coach, while Los Angeles to Sydney (which is shorter) prices at 50,000 miles one-way. Any clue why that is? And if the award chart is so straightforward (which I would *love*) why is BA claiming that there is no straightforward award chart and that we have to use maps and calculators to figure out how many miles our trip requires?

  30. @ hyderago — I’d have to seriously disagree the statement wasn’t far off. Previously the award chart was based on zones. We had no indication that they would literally charge by the segment. For example, previously Paris to London to Los Angeles was the same cost as London to Los Angeles. We can agree that a majority of Executive Club members *don’t* live in London, right? I mean, BA is a pretty global airline. So I think that’s a bit more than just a little off.

  31. And it’s the by segment pricing that is the most offensive. I can handle the devaluation – every program does it from time to time – but it’s awfully discriminatory to charge people extra for the pleasure of having to connect.

  32. It is not a surprise that BA had to devalue their program, after giving away so many chase miles. My family of 4 all got the CHASE BA card bonus, and took advantage of AMEX MR 50% bonus transfers, so in very little time, without ever setting a foot on BA, we have a family account balance of more than 500,000 miles. If I were from UK and regularly used BA and read this I would be furious! Because for this very reason they devalued their program

    We took advantage of the dirt cheap ASIA CX redemptions and South America LAN redemptions, which it was very well documented it was a gift from god and that it was for sure going to be eliminated. For people who wanted to book this and did not do it, they missed their opportunity.

    I really think that the people that earn 100K plus ADIOS in a year without creditcard activity are a minority in the big picture of the entire program, I am for sure not in that group. So I will no longer chase F awards, it will all be shorthauls.

    I agree that they lied with the 97% BS, also free stopover elimination is terrible and not being forthcoming with the award chart is also BS!

    People living in AA hubs have benefited. NY area people have cheap awards to all northeast. Chicago area people have cheap redemptions to Midwest and even cheaper awards to Europe. Miami area residents have very cheap redemptions to Mexico, Caribbean, Central America and North part of South America! LAX area residents have cheap awards to all the west coast.

    I think that the Europeans got royally screwed! All Europeans, that have to connect in London are now charged for that segment! No more free stopovers in LON.

    I am disappointed about the devaluation, but I think that for a USA point of view, it is not that bad.

  33. Gary is on record saying that these days, the frequent flyer program is generally the more profitable arm of the airline. He pretty much says that United is a credit card company that flies some airplanes.

    And I’d have to agree with those that say that the most offensive part of this is the segment pricing. Above, nsx wants to say that there’s good deals from Montreal to the Northeastern US. No, there are good deals from Montreal to anywhere in the Northeastern US that AA flies non-stop, ’cause that connection is going to get you.

    Gary is right when he says that frequent flyer programs are about aspirational awards — which is why WN and B6 don’t get much love from him. There might be *dollar* value in flying DCA-ORD at cheap mileage, but there is no *aspirational* value.

    And BA handled the rollout poorly. They knew they were going to screw NA flyers on long haul awards (their teaser UK and IB charts pretty much confirmed it so I knew it was coming). I’m just glad that I had the miles I did — when I picked up the BA card last year, I didn’t anticipate having enough miles for another year.

    But it truly is downright insulting that BA advertised that 97% of their awards* won’t increase in value. (* = we will tell you the details on November 16.)

  34. @Mile Jorge

    You make a valid point, but presumably this was of BA’s own doing. They ran *two* cycles of 100k Chase promotions. You mean to tell me they had no idea how many cards (and miles were being issued?) Did Chase run these promotions without BA’s consent/knowledge?

    This was all planned well in advance. If that number is true (that 300 people were working on this project at BA) then this was no small last minute knee-jerk response to the miles floating around. They were working on this when they issued the cards in the first place.

  35. “Gary is right when he says that frequent flyer programs are about aspirational awards — which is why WN and B6 don’t get much love from him.”

    No blanket statement of that sort is correct for all people at all times.

    Plenty of us fall into the “get-something-for-almost-nothing” camp rather than the “fly-F-to-Bora-Bora-and-stay-in-a-6-star-hotel” camp.

    For example, if you don’t have someone to serve as a Companion, the WN CP is probably worthless. If you do, it can be worth thousands a year. Aspirational, maybe not. But I value thousands of tax-free dollars of travel a lot.

    As a Sapphire holder who lives in an AA hub and who doesn’t plan to go to the Maldives or Easter Island, I think I see some amazing possibilities for money-saving domestic and near-non-domestic redemptions, especially last-minute.

    But of course I recognize that the program is drastically devalued for many.

  36. I suspect most BA users will be even more frustrated at trying to use BA miles because of their award calculator.

    Most people in NA are not sophisticated enough to know where the “hubs” are and where individual segments are. It is a very London-centric way of creating an award chart. But if you live anywhere else and you don’t have a direct flight to your destination, have fun examining the intracacies of multi partner route maps! Technology can make things easier, but the lack of common sense here in relying on their calculator (which can’t compute connection) is complicating things for most people.

  37. I think as a not so frequent mileage collector, I will stop collecting BA miles, unless the sign up bonus miles on their cards are like 200K!!..I now need 160K miles to go to Kuala Lumpur from the west coast…thats ridiculous!! It was only 100K before

  38. Ozaer N – Malaysian will be in oneworld soon, sometime 2012, so you may be able to use AA miles, it all depends from where and when you need to travel.

    I need to book MAD-WAW, I don’t know why it is at $2900 COACH! In April 2012! Maybe it is because it is on the IB USA site. Anyways, back to topic, I will use AVIOS!

  39. I was on the phone with BA on Tuesday to book my points pre-Avios… and was disconnected. I tried calling back about 20 times and never got through. Cry. Cry. Cry.

  40. Here is what it now costs Canadians to use Avios miles – YVR to LHR for two people in Biz Class:

    120,000 points + $4,052.16!!
    (Or 60,000 points + $2,026.08 for one passenger)

    Collecting these points has become a useless exercise. We can buy a ticket cheaper paying full price.

    So, like many, we will use what we have and then cut up our British Airways RBC for good. Gone! Simply furious. BA are you listening?

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