British Airways Restricts Award Space To Partners

British Airways Restricts Award Space To Partners

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Historically, British Airways has offered the same award availability regardless of whether you redeem through the Executive Club program, or through a partner program. That’s no longer the case, but it’s not necessarily quite as bad as it sounds. I also can’t blame British Airways for this change.

British Airways limits award space bookable with partners

British Airways now offers a different number of award seats depending on the program through which you book:

  • Programs using Avios as their currency have the best availability; this includes British Airways Executive Club, Aer Lingus AerClub, Iberia Plus, and Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Programs not using Avios as their currency have less availability; this incudes programs like American AAdvantage, Alaska Mileage Plan, and more

This seems to relate primarily to British Airways’ award seat guarantee. The airline promises at least 12-14 award seats per flight to be made available when the schedule first opens 355 days out. On short haul flights, you can expect at least 12 award seats:

  • At least eight Euro Traveller (short haul economy) award seats per flight
  • At least four Club Europe (short haul business) award seats per flight

On long haul flights, you can expect at least 14 award seats:

  • At least eight World Traveller (long haul economy) award seats per flight
  • At least two World Traveller Plus (long haul premium economy) award seats per flight
  • At least four Club World (long haul business class) award seats per flight
British Airways has an award seat guarantee

Long story short, that initial allocation of award availability is now only available through programs accruing Avios, and not through partner programs. Now, there are some important things to understand:

  • British Airways often makes a lot more award seats available as the departure date approaches, and those are bookable through partner programs; the closer to departure you get, the less of an availability discrepancy you’ll notice
  • British Airways Executive Club members long had access to award seats before most partners, based on when availability calendars open; British Airways’ calendar opens 355 days out, while American’s calendar opens 331 days out, so that limits the implications here
  • First class availability is still identical through partners, given that there’s never a first class award guarantee
You’ll notice the most discrepancies in business class

So if you see a discrepancy in award availability between British Airways Executive Club and partners, now you know why, and that it’s not a glitch. In reality, you’ll probably often still find availability matches, especially closer to departure, since that award availability typically isn’t part of the initial allocation.

However, looking around 11 months out when both British Airways Executive Club and American AAdvantage have access to award seats, you may see a discrepancy. For example, on a particular date from London to New York, British Airways shows four flights with business class award space, with one flight having three seats, one flight having four seats, and the other flights having nine or more seats.

Executive Club award availability on British Airways

Meanwhile American AAdvantage only shows award space on the two flights that have nine or more award seats. The two flights with three or four seats obviously have that space as part of the initial allocation, and that’s not something American has access to.

AAdvantage award availability on British Airways

I don’t like this change, but it’s logical

We’re increasingly seeing a trend whereby airlines save some award availability exclusively for members of their own program, and restrict it to members of partner programs. As much as I don’t like this trend, I’d do the same thing if I ran a loyalty program.

Loyalty programs can be big profit centers and can make people more loyal to a brand, and you want consumers to participate in your loyalty program, and not in a partner program. After all, British Airways has a lot more upside if you’re engaged in Executive Club rather than AAdvantage.

With the ways in which many airlines have been monetizing their programs (by selling miles inexpensively and essentially acting as an alliance premium cabin ticket consolidator), it’s not surprising that some airlines want to add some restrictions.

There are no changes to British Airways first class awards

Bottom line

British Airways is restricting some of its award space to partner programs. Specifically, the guaranteed award availability that’s offered when the schedule first opens is now only available to those redeeming any “flavor” of Avios, and not to those redeeming any other partner points currencies.

It should still be easy to redeem partner currencies for travel on British Airways, since the airline does still make a lot of award seats available, even beyond the initial allocation. This change will probably be appreciated by Executive Club members, while others will probably be less fond of this.

What do you make of this change to British Airways award availability?

Conversations (22)
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  1. AT Guest

    Isn't it partially their own fault for adopting a "common" currency that now turns out to be not quite so common?
    Given the transfer possibilities its not clear their own fliers will benefit against the mileage runners.

  2. Euro Gold

    Good to know for future references (I was thinking of using BA for a backup on a future trip). Yes, BA has the high fees and taxes but there is something to be said about award availability being plentiful.

    But I will say that looking at award availability on BA's website, not sure what is up with their award pricing since on the flight I was looking at, the price for the segment in J...

    Good to know for future references (I was thinking of using BA for a backup on a future trip). Yes, BA has the high fees and taxes but there is something to be said about award availability being plentiful.

    But I will say that looking at award availability on BA's website, not sure what is up with their award pricing since on the flight I was looking at, the price for the segment in J was more than the price for the same segment in F. I also think there have been some changes to the award chart pricing since earlier this year...

    1. James K. Guest

      So when they adjusted their avios prices to be more miles but less cash (it used to be roughly 50,000 + $650 and now it's 80,000 + $350) they didn't adjust the F price. So now the F price is often lower on miles, but higher on cash

    2. secretflyer New Member

      They didn't adjust them per se, they just rolled out Reward Flight Saver, which effectively added 5 extra price points in terms points/cash. Yes, the default now involves more points and less cash, but you can pay pretty much the same points/cash as before if you go for the middle option.

      RFS hasn't been rolled out to F so there is still only one price point, which requires less points (but much more cash) than the default J price point.

  3. Dempseyzdad Diamond

    Booked British Airways BC from SJC to London in July using AA miles, but they subsequently canceled the flight. BA moved the seats to SFO - London BC, even though they didn't have to. BA treated us well on award seats that were none-existent for award travel.

    1. secretflyer New Member

      They actually did have to rebook you for free under UK261, regardless of the availability of award seats. They weren't doing you a favour, they were just complying with the law!

  4. James k Guest

    Another blow for AA miles. BA space cut in half, CX nonexistent, JL and QR unicorns from/to the US

    1. tda1986 Diamond

      I don't really see this as affecting the value of AA miles, since BA awards have always been worthless due to the taxes/fees.

    2. Alan Guest

      Continental Europe to USA in business has reasonable-ish taxes/fees imo ($~394 one way, comparable to AF/KLM)

    3. James K. Guest

      Yep. As Alan says, The sweet spot is to book from non-Spain Europe to the US. 57.5k miles and $350 is a fine deal for two flights in J

    4. secretflyer New Member

      Worthless? Hardly so, cash J prices (especially for bookings originating in the US) are astronomical and availability is much better.

  5. Raylan Guest

    Not unreasonable that BA would do this. To be honest, it makes the Chase BA card quite a bit more valuable with the up to $600 rebate on taxes and fees and companion cert. Not easy to find TATL J space for a family of 4 on the same flight that far ahead of time so for people who value consistency or predictability over paying the absolute lowest rock bottom award price, BA is a pretty solid option.

  6. Robert Guest

    This must be the new trend within the Avios carriers. Nearly impossible to find QR saver inventory, IB is now more difficult, and AY is going with Avios in 2024.
    SQ has always been finicky about releasing saver seats to partners.
    It’s just time to pivot and reassess.

  7. Michael Guest

    Oh no! So which program are we supposed to use now to pay the $800 in surcharges for their 8 across business class seats?

    1. James K. Guest

      All their 777s, 350s, 789s, and 781s have club suites installed - wonderful hard product, no more 8 across.

      Fly from continental Europe (exception: Spain) to the US via London and you'll only pay $350ish in surcharges.

  8. digital_notmad Diamond

    Didn't VFTW report that this violates their contract with AAdvantage, though?

    1. 305 Guest

      Feel like AA violated that when they switched to dynamic-only pricing. I find it suspicious how lots of redemptions are priced at justtt 500-1000 miles above the old sAAver level, aka just above the threshold to show as available though partners.

    2. Lee Guest

      Certainly, Gary has a copy of their entire contract between AA and BA and has determined that absolutely no provision allows for award inventory restrictions.

    3. digital_notmad Diamond

      Gary's report was that AA execs were taken by surprise and, per his sources, appear to believe that their contract with Executive Club prohibits this.

  9. Daniel B. Guest

    Could it also be retaliatory from BA because AA does not release any 57.5k awards for its own metal?

    1. Lee Guest

      Other airlines are doing the same thing. United, Singapore, etc. With BA, it's more like AA rarely releasing transcon Flagship award inventory to partners. Sure, if one is willing to fly at oh-dark-thirty, one will occasionally see award inventory. During reasonable hours, nope.

  10. NathanJ Diamond

    You’re totally right Ben; it’s their prerogative.

    With so many airlines using Avios now (with many opportunities to funnel transferable currencies in to your preferred Avios programme), it shouldn’t really be that hard to use it to one’s advantage one way or another.

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NathanJ Diamond

You’re totally right Ben; it’s their prerogative. With so many airlines using Avios now (with many opportunities to funnel transferable currencies in to your preferred Avios programme), it shouldn’t really be that hard to use it to one’s advantage one way or another.

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secretflyer New Member

Worthless? Hardly so, cash J prices (especially for bookings originating in the US) are astronomical and availability is much better.

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secretflyer New Member

They actually did have to rebook you for free under UK261, regardless of the availability of award seats. They weren't doing you a favour, they were just complying with the law!

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