British Airways Partner Award Devaluation: Frustrating & Strange

British Airways Partner Award Devaluation: Frustrating & Strange

11

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)
Cathay Pacific award costs have increased by up to 52%

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)
Japan Airlines award costs have increased by up to 45%

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:

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…

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class

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
Japan Airlines 787-9 business class

Bottom line

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?

Conversations (11)
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  1. Concerned observer

    British Airways appears to have either restricted or eliminated eligibility for economy-level redemptions on JAL beyond October 31.

  2. iamhere

    That's the risk with holding too many AIRLINE or HOTEL points.....
    However, some of their rewards are still pretty good compared to other airlines.

  3. glenn t

    So, looks like the old BA arrogance is back, in their lack of even acknowledging adverse changes after the event. Well it was merely mildly suppressed; you can never get rid of certain traits when it is firmly embedded in a nation's very DNA !
    Let's hope it doesn't herald a resurgence of the snooty senior cabin crew.

  4. Luke Vader

    Darth Vader: "I have altered the deal, pray I don't alter it any further."

  5. Evan North

    Ben, I've also noticed that BA seems to be limiting economy availability on short-haul ex-US flights, including within the US and to the Caribbean. This used to be a sweet spot for BA, especially from MIA to the Caribbean, based on short distances. Now, business and first availability is abundant, but economy is very hard to find. Who wants to pay the inflated rates for domestic first seats? They are basically forcing premium cabin redemptions at unattractive rates.

  6. Luke

    Interesting that this change was made to devalue short haul Cathay Pacific and JAL at a time when either hub is hard to reach for foreign tourists. For instance what uses would I have from Hong Kong that is short haul that isn't mainland China!

  7. Wilhelm

    This is exactly the reason why you should only buy miles if you can book a ticket straight away.

  8. Sam

    I'm beginning to wonder if all these changes and the broader 'aligning' of award rates has something to do with oneworld's stated aim of being able to redeem any miles across the alliance on any award \ upgrade. By making awards across similar distanced broadly the same across all partners, it helps to create equivalence across the currencies for these cross alliance award types (similar to how Star Alliance airlines have a whole alliance award chart).

  9. Anon

    “Unfortunately, this is a problem you guys helped create”….hear, f-ing, hear! Thanks to all these bloggers for ruining what anyone with half a brain took advantage back in the day. I flew a RTW ticket on Continental for 90,000 miles back in 2006, in addition to other great redemptions. Then all these guys started blasting this info all over. Ben, like your blog, but please stop with the indignation about airlines devaluing their awards. You...

    “Unfortunately, this is a problem you guys helped create”….hear, f-ing, hear! Thanks to all these bloggers for ruining what anyone with half a brain took advantage back in the day. I flew a RTW ticket on Continental for 90,000 miles back in 2006, in addition to other great redemptions. Then all these guys started blasting this info all over. Ben, like your blog, but please stop with the indignation about airlines devaluing their awards. You and the others helped lead to these devaluations. And they don’t have to provide any reason at all, not that I’m happy about it, but the boo-hooing over them changing the redemption rates is comical.

  10. John G

    I’m willing to bet everything that I have you’ll start to see all the partner awards be at the similar (or worse) redemption rates as the carrier your trying to use them on.

    You don’t think TPG pointing to millions and millions of people out how much of a better of a deal it is to use Avios for AA than AA itself is going to cause a similar change ?

    None of this...

    I’m willing to bet everything that I have you’ll start to see all the partner awards be at the similar (or worse) redemption rates as the carrier your trying to use them on.

    You don’t think TPG pointing to millions and millions of people out how much of a better of a deal it is to use Avios for AA than AA itself is going to cause a similar change ?

    None of this is a surprise to me. Unfortunately, this is a problem you guys helped create. Things may change when the loyalty world leaders start to see people just lose interest in constantly changing up credit card and airline travel strategy to keep up with this cat and mouse game so to speak. But I doubt it will be anything like it was in the glory days when you would ride CX first just for fun on the weekends.

    1. Jan

      I’m madder at the depreciation of the actual US dollar

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Concerned observer

British Airways appears to have either restricted or eliminated eligibility for economy-level redemptions on JAL beyond October 31.

iamhere

That's the risk with holding too many AIRLINE or HOTEL points..... However, some of their rewards are still pretty good compared to other airlines.

glenn t

So, looks like the old BA arrogance is back, in their lack of even acknowledging adverse changes after the event. Well it was merely mildly suppressed; you can never get rid of certain traits when it is firmly embedded in a nation's very DNA ! Let's hope it doesn't herald a resurgence of the snooty senior cabin crew.

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