HUGE devaluation to British Airways Executive Club — no more single partner award chart!

Earlier today I posted about the changes to British Airways Executive Club that will kick in come November.

The changes they advertised were all more or less cosmetic, though the real question for me was what would happen to British Airways’ single partner award chart. British Airways has multiple award charts, and the most reasonably priced one is the “single partner” chart. When they said the program would be more “straightforward,” I feared the worst — that they would get rid of the single partner award chart, which is the best redemption value.

And it was just confirmed by BA Executive Club on FlyerTalk:

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.

This is awful news.

Now, they haven’t actually published the new award chart, though I suspect it will be closer to the award chart for travel on British Airways than the award chart for travel on a single partner airline, based on what they’ve said so far.

While a business class award ticket from the US to Asia currently costs 100,000 miles if flying just one partner airline, British Airways charges 240,000 miles for travel on their own flights — and that’s not an anomaly.

This is an interesting situation because most Executive Club members are in Europe, and actually use their miles for travel on British Airways. In the meantime many of us in the US have racked up a substantial number of British Airways miles through their 100,000 mile credit card sign-up bonuses and 50% transfer bonuses from American Express. All along I’ve been wondering “when will it change,” and I guess that day is coming quick.

So I suspect for those of us that are used to redeeming miles for travel on partner airlines, this will essentially translate into award prices going up by about 100% on average, sometimes more.

It is worth mentioning that the one award that is priced the same by British Airways for travel on their own flights as it is on partner airlines is travel between the US and Europe. But that was never the best use of British Airways miles anyway.

More than anything else I can’t help but think this is another huge hit for American Express Membership Rewards. They’re losing Continental as a partner on September 30. My favorite partner of their’s, Aeroplan, devalued their award chart back in July. ANA, another partner of their’s, recently started charging fuel surcharges on Virgin Atlantic award redemptions. And now British Airways miles will be massively devalued.

So it’s time to burn those British Airways miles now. I have a small fortune of them, so I’ll be booking a couple of Cathay Pacific first class tickets to Asia for 150,000 miles each, and also a couple of tickets to South America on LAN for 80,000 miles each. The only issue is that my schedule is pretty booked up. Rarrr…

Who’s in the same boat?

Filed Under: British Airways
  1. Thanks for the heads-up, Ben! Do you know if they will allow you to book partner awards for travel beyond November using the current award chart? It definitely seems like that’s the safest bet if so.

  2. Do we know yet how long we have to book award travel before the ‘single partner’ option goes away?

  3. @ Kevin — I assume they will allow you to book beyond that date, which is what I plan on doing, since my schedule is booked up for the rest of the year.

  4. Not that surprising, they had some cheap awards and now they are getting rid of them. The name of the game as always is earn them and burn them as quickly. As for Amex I like the other benefits they provide but the need to step up their members list. I think for most people it will not be a big deal as they ware happy to redeem them on BA flights to Europe anyway.

  5. Lucky,

    I agree with what you say, now that award redemption levels will be mileage based it’s likely, IMO, that North America to Asia and South America will increase.

    One point I would add is that whilst BA currently charges 240,000 miles First class from LHR-Asia, this is being reduced to 160,000 miles – a 25% reduction.

    The new redemption charts only come into effect in November. If you book now (even for future travel) it appears to be a current rates.

    From the initial batch of announcements (more are to come) the big winners are UK/EU based members and frankly I couldn’t be happier. It’s a British airline after all and I can’t recall ever seeing a UK credit card come with 100,000 miles as the sign up bonus!

    However, I can understand how everyone must feel particularly if you were planning a nice CX First class flight to HKG from NYC.

  6. @ BostonFlyer — Most people with Amex points are happy to redeem them for high tech toasters, LCD TVs, etc., so I doubt they’ll care too much. šŸ˜€

  7. @ infamousdx — Tickets are valid for a year from the date of issue. When individual partners open up their award calendars is up to each airline. BA opens up their space a year out, while American opens up their space ~330 days out, for example. So in theory if you book in early November before the devaluation, you could book as far out as next November.

  8. Historically, the super high prices NA to Asia on BA award fares made sense, as one had to transit via LHR to get there. Making the partner fares EQUAL to that, even when one is travelling say AA or Qantas or something other to say Asis just doesn’t make sense. Do we have actual confirmation that F on Qantas to Australia is going to be 420K miles, that doesn’t hardly seem realistic at all.

  9. Will booking AA metal with BA miles (excuse me Avios Widgets) for USA to USA flights change?

    Example TPA > HNL @12.5k>25k>37.5k each way?

  10. How would they even price out partner awards on routes they don’t fly. US-South America, heck even intra-US or US-Hawaii.

  11. @ tivoboy — Very true, and I do suspect some of the prices will go down a little bit. But I still think we’re going to see an average of around 100% increase in mileage costs for those originating in the US.

    @ Jay — They haven’t released the new award chart yet, so it’s tough to say. I don’t necessarily think they’ll go up, though you never know.

  12. I’m having trouble locating the current “single partner” award chart on the BA website. Can someone provide a link?

    Thanks in advance,

  13. @ David — I suspect we’re going to see a new award chart which will be for travel on British Airways, travel on one partner, or travel on British Airways and one partner. That chart should have all the regions listed, I suspect.

  14. Does anyone know if it is possible either to upgrade an already booked BA award from coach to business class? I booked one direction of a DFW – GIG flight in coach. Now I have a bunch more miles and would prefer to upgrade it to business class since it looks like I will have far less use for BA miles going forward. I realize I could cancel the award and rebook but would prefer not to do that.

  15. Indeed… the NEW pricing chart (that the BAEC refer to in this post will be published at launch.

    “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.”

    I think that awards from the US to Asia and South America will increase based on the changes ex-UK but not to the levels in the current partner table.

  16. @ Euan — Definitely a valid point, and it all comes down to managing expectations. Awards, even on partners, were priced disproportionately high when originating in Europe. The US and Europe are two totally different markets when it comes to miles/credit cards, as you point out. In the US the airlines are merely credit card companies with a fleet of hundreds of private jets, while in Europe co-branded credit cards are a side business.

    Americans no doubt have it too good when it comes to miles and credit cards. When the BA card rolled out in the US, people were shocked when they had to pay fuel surcharges on award tickets, because it’s not something we’re used to. As it stands, British Airways’ single partner award chart is priced about the same as the competition, not taking into account that they impose fuel surcharges.

    Now they’re not only going to massively jack up the prices to European levels, though Americans are still stuck paying fuel surcharges.

    So I actually agree with you, this is good for those in Europe, and ultimately that’s who BA is targeting. It wasn’t far that those in the UK were paying more than double as much as we were. At the same time, when BA aggressively entered the US market on the mileage front, through their co-branded Chase card and Membership Rewards association, I assumed they would realize that they were competing with other US airlines, and not other European airlines, since that’s the alternative for us.

  17. @ Nic — There’s no way to upgrade an award ticket, so you would literally need to redeposit the award and rebook it in business class.

  18. Would it be safe to assume that YYZ-HKG in J on CX for 100k will be gone? I am figuring it is so I have been looking at availabilty next spring…………

  19. @ Euan — Wait a second, so they’re not giving any advance notice on the new chart? They’ll release the new chart the day that the new pricing kicks in? That would royally suck…

  20. @ Lucky – I agree with you. It’s a very different market in the US compared to the EU for air miles. The BA credit card in the UK will get you a 7,000 miles bonus, sometimes 18,000 at max if they have an offer on.

    In addition, Europeans are perfectly use to paying YQ which is not how it is done over the pond.

    The problem is that a lot have jumped on the Chase bandwagon and got 100,000 miles, many I suspect without realising BA charged YQ, and now they have a bundle of miles they are going to get less value for going East instead of West.

    If you look at FT during the day (UK time) there have been very few complaints about the mileage redemption changes with one or two exceptions.

  21. What’s ridiculous is the gaggle of BA cheerleaders over on FT. They think they’re actually getting a good deal. People, even if you live in the UK, if you were actually smart, you’d arbitrage the different award charts and position yourself to N. America to leverage the cheap S. America award. Now you can’t even do that and you pay inflated mileage levels and insane fuel surcharges. Instead of being happy that now Americans get f***ed to, you should be sad that you are getting screwed even more than before.

  22. @ Lucky – that’s what they have said so far. That may change based on feedback.

    @ JohnnieD – as lucky said, now it appears it will be based on ‘distance’ so it’s likely it will increase.

  23. Oh, and BTW, after what BA did on the $550 India deal, I am perfectly happy sticking it to them and being a cost center. I’ll redeem my 120k miles, use the $50 BA Chase Michelin star NYC promotion and call it quits. Bye Bye BA Chase.

  24. Yeah no advance notice on the Award Chart changes.

    Wow that’s awful.

    This seems to me to be a classic case of Bait and Switch for those of us who signed up for the Chase BA card or transferred Amex points to BA. If I had know about these changes I wouldn’t have done either.

  25. So, JFK-LHR is now 120K in F, and LHR-HKG is now 180K in F. Can we use that to infer that JFK-HKG is going to be 300K in F under the new chart for using either BA or partners? Does that compare to 150K (on CX) at present?

  26. @ Jettyboy – no I don’t think that will be the case. My understanding is that it will be based on the distance from JFK-HKG direct and not JFK-LHR-HKG. It’s these ‘distances’ and zone redemptions BA have not published yet.

  27. I see. Thanks for the clarification, Euan. My sense it will probably be in the 200s – definitely going to be worse, but hopefully not twice as bad as the current scenario.

  28. Wow a lot of hot and bothered folks here

    Personally I’ve been racking them up to do JFK-JNB in F for four of us using 2 x Chase 2-4-1 vouchers. That’s 540k total miles under current table, don’t expect that to change that much under new one, might even go down

  29. How does all this square with the “only 3% of routes are going to increase” announcement? Does that refer to only BA metal awards? If that includes partner awards, then we dont have much to worry about then ,right?

  30. I’m so sick of marketing BS. Did BA hire the same PR firm as COdbaUA????

    Just come out with the news, ALL the news, and be done with it. Don’t tell us we’ll like it, or that it’s actually good. There is NO MORE good news in the world of FF miles.

  31. Just a quick question:

    I have friends in both Latin America and Singapore/Hong Kong that I’d like to visit soon with my cache of BA miles. I’d appreciate if anyone would chime in on what would be a better redemption of the 100k miles I got after the 50% MR point transfer:

    1. Flying J from LAX and hitting up all the LAN hubs in South America: Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires(?)

    2. J on Cathay Pacific from LAX-HKG-SIN

    Ideally, I wanted to do both with BA miles, but I don’t think I’m going to get another 80k BA miles in the next two months before the redemption rates change. I have about 170k AA miles too if that helps people weigh in. Thanks!

  32. Ben,

    Just to clarify. The Exec Club currently has three award tariffs:
    1. BA plus one partner
    2. One partner other than BA
    3. Multiple partners

    Under the new scheme, the first two award types will merge and distance based banding will be introduced. The redemption amounts are barely distinguishable so the change makes a lot of sense.

    Multiple partner awards will continue to be calculated based on mileage.

    I hope this allays your worst fears.

  33. I have just under 1 million BA miles in my account but am not too bothered by the changes as there is hardly ever any BA award inventory available anyway! I haven’t been able to find a single club world seat to BKK in the last 18 months and I refuse to spend 240k for an F award.

    I doubt BA will make more award inventory available in future?

    Mentally I have written my miles off a long time ago.

  34. @ Rambuster – I don’t know abut the last 18 months but over the next 12 months there are 2 J seats to/from BKK on various dates in May, June and July 2012.

  35. @ Prospero — While the different is hardly distinguishable for those in Europe (where single partner awards are priced very similar to BA metal awards), the difference is huge for those in the US. Currently it’s 100,000 miles in business class to Asia on a single partner, while it’s 240,000 miles to Asia on British Airways. So we’re potentially looking at 100%-150% increases for those in regions other than Europe. I agree though, the change isn’t *that* bad for those in Europe.

  36. @ chubbuni13 — Both are excellent values, so you really can’t go wrong with either option. That being said, I think the 100,000 mile option to Asia is a better option relatively, and will likely increase by more come November. So I’d go with that one first, all else being equal.

  37. So LAX-LHR is around 5500 miles and LAX-EZE is around 6100 miles. Given LAX-LHR is 100K in J under the new chart, I would think LAX-EZE would probably be 120K round trip? An increase of 50% from the current level, if true

  38. I can not believe it. Good Investigating. When I read the report I did not even notice the award chart changes. This is truly gut wrenching. I was hoping to cash in on the 100k Chase BA card. Oneworld is bringing it all down at once.

  39. Wow their fuel surcharge are high enough goddamn Brits! (Haha).

    So… I guess I need to start planning a trip to SA sometime next year and buy the tix within the next month…. arghh/awesome!

  40. Rambuster, if you have written your miles off, wouldn’t anything (even 240k to BKK) be better than nothing? At some point, if you can’t find a better use, it’s just time to fold and cash in for what you can get.

  41. I fly mainly from SFO to asia and was debating whether to transfer my MR points to BA (for use with CX) or NH (for use with NH). But I guess with this introduction I am better of with NH in terms of my route?

  42. @ lucky

    As the sample rates published thus far on have been ex LON, we’re lacking detail on what the final rates will be ex North America. FT members are rightfully asking for greater clarity on this issue. Hopefully it will come soon.

  43. Thanks for the heads up – I was considering bumping up to AMEX Platinum, but I just don’t see enough of a benefit now. I focus on AA and UA, as well as some hotel programs. Basically, the only benefit MR now has is for those hotel programs! I can’t justify a $450 annual fee, given the changes to BA, dropping CO (and earlier dropping of Southwest).

  44. Does anyone know how this will affect rewards on AA ? Right now you can get domestic (usa) trips for 25K and no fuel surcharge and all that, also Hawaii for 35K, same as AA’s saver awards. Will these still be around or go away ?

  45. Raise your hands if you’re planning a flight from the US to South America in C on LAN? Nice of BA to dictate my future travel plans for 2012. Rolleyes.

  46. @footypjs – Same here, in fact I was considering doing a CC app-o-rama this weekend including AMEX Plat…now, not so much

    @Dan – Yep, I’ve had to move up our planned S America trip because of this. The BA fanboys on FT will say otherwise, but I don’t expect the partner rewards to S Amer to improve under the new chart…could be wrong but since they won’t tell us the new levels, do I take the chance or not?

  47. Headline: Leading carrier reduces miles needed to fly JFK-lhr by 20% (including f and j cabins)!

    While the arb to us BA points on cx/jl probably will tighten, it won’t be as bad as currently being speculated by many (my educated guess) and they’re making a lot of BA travel available for less miles.

  48. @ London Tim – Air Miles collectors are ones I do feel sorry for going from tax free to paying full taxes and YQ for Y redemptions. That is a big shift.

  49. An update from the BAEC representatives on FT…

    “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.”

  50. For someone who earned his BA miles by actually flying, this is painful. Those bloody millions of free BA credit card sign up bonus miles had to be offset somehow, so I am not surprised.

  51. Just to point something out super quick…let’s assume LAX-HKG was already priced based on distance…on a partner award you were paying to go 7260 miles and on a BA-only award you were paying to go 11450 miles (+58%). In theory, this should mean it will get CHEAPER, not more expensive, to fly LAX-HKG as the rational shorter-distance rules would apply. While I’m not so naive as to believe the changes will be good, a little bit of rational thought implies that the changes for certain routes will not be as catastrophic as has been speculated by Ben, Gary, etc.

  52. @ sjs — You’re an eternal optimist! But look at the current single partner award chart. Cathay first from London to Hong Kong, which is 1,200+ miles shorter than Los Angeles to Hong Kong, costs 240,000 miles in first class. I’m thinking that’s closer to what we’ll see…

  53. Does anyone know how this will affect rewards on AA ? Right now you can get domestic (usa) trips for 25K and no fuel surcharge and all that, also Hawaii for 35K, same as AAā€™s saver awards. Will these still be around or go away ?

  54. @ kevin — They haven’t announced the new chart yet, so there’s no way to know. I wouldn’t be surprised if that award chart were “revitalised” too…

  55. Lot’s of LHR based folks are saying that now the Yanks will be treated equitably as the UK folks, so it’s fair. But there are three ways that we are not being treated fairly on BA awards.

    1) The fuel surcharges on award travel are not distance based. They are distance based if it doesn’t require a transfer in LHR, if it does, then the fuel surcharge is additive, resulting in the maximum YQ double that of a route going through LHR vs. one that only originates/terminates through LHR.

    Right now, Denver-Capetown RT has double the fuel surcharge as London-Sydney RT even though the RT mileage is within a two hundred miles of each other. (assumes both are purchased in the same country; and uses great circle mapper for DEN/LHR/CPT and LHR/SYD).

    2) The fuel surcharges for tickets purchased in the US be the 24% HIGHER (after accounting for exchange rates) as those purchased in the UK for the same exact routing.

    Right now, long-haul more than 9 hours is $285 vs. 145 pounds. With Friday’s fx rate being 1.622, that means the 145 pound fee should only be $235, adding $200 to LAX-CPT purchased in the US vs. LAX-CPT purchased in the UK).

    3) Inventory from West Coast US to LHR is loaded a month later than award inventory from LHR onward. I actually saw two J class seats from LHR-MLE but couldn’t book them because there weren’t any award seats available for LAX-LHR for the preceeding 6 weeks.

    The first two are hard facts, the third is based on actively monitoring BA award inventory from Dec 2011 through July 2012.

    That #1 and #2 will remain has just been confirmed by BA’s rep on FT. I decided to completely cash out of my account using a 241 LAX/CPT in F, great award, but which cost me $3200 in YQ, APD, etc. ($2280 in pure YQ for two tickets).

  56. Just decided to bump our trip up a few months. My wife and I were planning on spending some of our “family” miles on a Japan/HKG/TPE award in CX F for sometime in November-December of 2012. Looks like we’ll have to push that up to September or October, otherwise we would be paying they’re potentially horrible new rates.

    So, give it another 4-6 weeks and I’ll have my ticket booked for next September. I’m thinking YVR-HKG-TPE-NRT-HKG-YVR. Should be a fun trip!

  57. @ Ari — Sounds like a great trip and a smart move to push the trip up. Just keep in mind that the routing you propose isn’t legal. You can do Vancouver to Hong Kong to Taipei, and you can do Taipei to Tokyo to Vancouver, but you can’t do Taipei to Tokyo to Hong Kong to Vancouver, as it’s not a legal routing. Just something to keep in mind!

  58. I wonder what good does it do to the airlines to throttle the wide usage of their premium cabins with a cheaper award chart!

    IMHO, as it is now – it encourages the game that we all are playing… but with f***ed up award chart that may come out – it will dwindle all enthusiasm in most of us, that’s like killing an active cycle…

  59. Do you suppose that the partner airlines are pulling there reward flights out of the pool..? I have been looking at using AA to help me spend BA/Chase miles to get to Lima, Peru. There were flights in the distant future, and we were waiting to get within booking range for September 2012. When I read the announcement about changes, I started looking at the possible flight dates, and can’t find a single AA flight in the next 10 months. I have run 100’s of searches, with ‘next 7 day’ scans to the end of the booking horizon, and NOTHING to LIM. Is there an incentive for AA to block out all rewards bookings until after the new rates are announced…? Anyone know if they have done this, and if I might find something open up before the rate change…?

  60. @ RJS — American has gotten really stingy with award space on their own flights lately, so I don’t suspect any foul play here. If you’re looking for travel on American Airlines, have you taken a look at American’s website to see if they have any award dates for your preferred dates at the saver level? If they do, it should be bookable through British Airways as well…

  61. Hi Lucky,

    Can we book partner awards before November 15, then change flight dates or times later without a repricing? I think I saw a BA rep on FT say that you could. And how much are change fees?

    One more question: I’m looking to book CX, how far in advance can you do it? The BA website says 355 days, others have said 356, is that by phoning in? The BA website actually shows availability up to one full year on CX but won’t let you book beyond 355 days.

    Thanks for helping sort out this major change!

  62. Has anyone ever been able to book a flight to Hawaii using BA miles? They can’t find a single flight over the next year available with a partner airline. Don’t believe there ever were any.

  63. @ Malcolm — You should be able to use your British Airways miles for American first class or economy class to Hawaii. If you’re asking for business class it’s probably not available since American only has first and economy class to Hawaii.

  64. Zone Avios Additional charges
    Zone 1 27,000 Up to $ 169.87 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 2 45,000 Up to $ 127.80 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 3 60,000 Up to $ 207.67 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 4 75,000 Up to $ 865.95 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 5 120,000 Up to $ 1,192.58 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 6 150,000 Up to $ 1,263.78 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 7 180,000 Up to $ 1,250.40 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 8 210,000 Up to $ 970.22 taxes, fees and carrier charges
    Zone 9 300,000 Up to $ 1,280.85 taxes, fees and carrier charges

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