British Airways Executive Club has devalued short haul partner awards on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, and the way that the program is going about it is both frustrating and strange.
The latest British Airways Executive Club devaluation
British Airways Executive Club has distance based award pricing, and historically pricing has been mostly the same across partners. Here’s what that partner award chart looked like:
As initially spotted by Miles To Memories, within the past week the number of Avios required for awards on both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines has increased. This only impacts short haul awards (covering a distance of up to 2,000 flown miles), and the devaluations on both airlines are slightly different.
For travel on Cathay Pacific, here’s how pricing has changed:
- Zone 1 now costs 7,500 Avios in economy (up from 6,000) and 16,000 Avios in business (up from 12,500)
- Zone 2 now costs 10,000 Avios in economy (up from 9,000) and 25,000 Avios in business (up from 16,500)
- Zone 3 now costs 11,000 Avios in economy (unchanged) and 25,000 Avios in business (up from 22,000)
For travel on Japan Airlines, here’s how pricing has changed:
- Zone 1 now costs 7,500 Avios in economy (up from 6,000) and 12,500 Avios in business (unchanged)
- Zone 2 now costs 10,000 Avios in economy (up from 9,000) and 24,000 Avios in business (up from 16,500)
- Zone 3 now costs 11,000 Avios in economy (unchanged) and 24,000 Avios in business (up from 22,000)
As you can see, the worst devaluation is to Cathay Pacific business class awards covering a distance of 651-1,150 miles, where the cost has increased by 52%.
My take on this British Airways Executive Club devaluation
The British Airways Executive Club program very much feels like it’s going from a distance based award chart to basically just having dynamic award pricing. British Airways no longer formally publishes its partner award chart, and we’ve seen some devaluations in the past:
- In 2016, Executive Club eliminated Zone 1 for awards within North America, so awards on Alaska and American now price at a minimum of Zone 2 pricing
- In 2020, Executive Club raised award prices for short haul connecting itineraries on British Airways
- In 2021, Executive Club raised award prices for short haul awards on British Airways metal by 750 Avios
A couple more thoughts on these changes…
These changes were made without notice or acknowledgement
Back in the day British Airways Executive Club would provide advance notice of program changes, but not anymore. For the past several years that hasn’t been the case, and it’s extremely frustrating. Members spend a long time racking up Avios, only to have the goalposts change without notice.
But I’ll take it a step further — what’s frustrating is that British Airways won’t even really acknowledge these changes, or provide details, even after the fact. Head for Points notes how a British Airways spokesperson did acknowledge changes happened, but when pressed for details, the answer was “unfortunately we’re unable to provide that level of detail.”
This is such bad form. Seriously, they’re “unable” to provide that level of detail, or they just don’t want to? Because it has been pretty easy to piece together what has changed, so I don’t think this is a function of being “able” to do anything…
What was the motivation for these changes?
Generally speaking when frequent flyer programs devalue award prices it’s for one of two reasons:
- Reimbursement costs have gone up, so the airline is trying to adjust things so the math makes sense
- The program sees so much demand for certain types of awards, and thinks there’s a business case for increasing award costs, and therefore margins on awards
There’s a possible interesting twist here, though. Prince Of Travel notes how the new British Airways Executive Club pricing largely matches what Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Japan Airlines Mileage Bank would charge for members of their own programs.
For example, here’s the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles award chart:
As you can see, while the distance ranges are a bit different, the points required now more or less match what British Airways Executive Club is charging.
You might think that’s a coincidence, but it’s the same story with Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. Here’s the economy award chart:
And here’s the business class award chart:
I guess there are a couple most likely explanations here:
- Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines weren’t happy about the number of people booking awards through British Airways Executive Club, and this was solved by pricing being better aligned, creating less of an arbitrage opportunity
- These redemptions were costing British Airways Executive Club too much, so when deciding to raise award costs, British Airways looked to the airlines’ own programs for pricing
British Airways Executive Club has increased the number of Avios required for travel on short haul Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines flights. In some cases we’re seeing the number of Avios required for award flights being increased by up to 52%.
These changes are extremely frustrating, especially the lack of communication around them. Historically British Airways has been known for its consistent distance based award pricing, but with different partners getting different pricing, it’s starting to feel a lot more like a dynamic program.
I’d be fascinated to know the motivation behind these changes, in particular why these two partners were devalued, and how the pricing matches what those programs charge directly. Clearly something is going on in the background.
What do you make of this Executive Club partner award devaluation?