British Airways Now Lets You Redeem Avios To Select Seats

Filed Under: British Airways

In March I wrote about the changes that British Airways Executive Club is planning over the coming years. The changes essentially match the trend we’re seeing with loyalty programs globally. British Airways plans to move more closely to a revenue based program, and to give members more opportunities to redeem their Avios for all kinds of products and services.

This sounds a whole lot like Delta SkyMiles, where you not only earn redeemable miles based on how much you spend, but can also redeem SkyMiles for all kinds of things.

British Airways has just introduced a new way for members to redeem Avios, which I suspect is pretty indicative of what we can expect going forward in terms of redemption value. Per FlyerTalkBritish Airways Executive Club members can now redeem Avios to select seats. Members can pay all or part of the fee using Avios.

British Airways has one of the more restrictive policies when it comes to reserving your seats in advance. The only people who can select seats for free at the time of booking are those in first class, oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, and those on flexible tickets. Anyone else, including most paid business class passengers, have to pay to select seats in advance.

So, at what rate is British Airways letting you redeem your Avios towards seat assignments? It would appear that the rate is 0.0055GBP (~0.0074USD) per Avios. That’s the same rate at which they allow you to redeem Avios for other things as well.

For example, for a business class ticket between London and New York, seat assignments in advance cost a minimum of 65GBP per direction.

However, the seats you’ll actually want to select will cost at least 72GBP, and some even 79GBP. We’ll go with the lower cost for the purposes of this example.

That means if you wanted to redeem Avios to select seats, it would cost you over 26,000 Avios for a roundtrip seat selection. That’s a pretty not-great value.

Bottom line

As I always say, I’m a fan of programs giving members more ways to redeem their points. However, I do wish it would be at a halfway decent rate. Valuing Avios at less than three quarters of a cent (in US currency) each is a terrible valuation. If British Airways wants to continue moving towards a revenue based program, it would be nice if they at least offered a halfway decent value.

  1. BA is also about to announce a new boarding process with a separate queue ahead of First/Oneworld Emerald, where you can pay to board ahead of people when at the gate. There will be an agent with a CC processor or ready to take down your Avios details.

  2. Seems like this is an instance where they would want to value avios at a higher rate to induce people to use them. I would imagine many people are on the fence between paying for a seat with avios and just waiting to pick at T-24. If that is the case, they are losing no money, even if they valued avios a 3c per avios.

    JetBlue does this with their EMS seats for Mint members. You can usually get ~10c/point when using the miles for that purpose.

  3. @Nick Yes. Imagine paying thousands for a business class ticket and you can’t select a seat in advance!

  4. You’ve written “0.55GBP (~0.74USD) per Avios”. That’s 55p and ~74¢ respectively. Either you meant .55p and .74¢ or I’m missing something. I’ll take a 74¢ redemption on Avios all day long!

  5. You can also choose seats 7 days out with BA Bronze or OW Ruby – admittedly perhaps a bit “low” down the status pecking order for this blog but it could save someone a tidy sum.
    “That’s a pretty not-great value.” That’s pretty not-great English…

  6. We here at BA just want to give you all the back stabbing enhancements so you can have choices

  7. I flew on paid Biz seats and was either Emerald or Sapphire and could not select a seat…. (maybe I did something wrong in communication with them but think I was still duped). At some point I was able to secure a seat but BA changed my seat without notifying me saying they “reserved the right to change seats”, etc. At that point decided never to fly them again. Also, the connections at LHR were a nightmare.

  8. Oh bang the drum slowly! They must be the only “major” airline that charges you for pre assigned seating in J. The sad thing is the product is so outdated and subpar that they disqualified themselves from my trip to TLV early in the game. Mind you the fact that their discount J fares are completely non refundable (think only them & DL are that way) helped kick them out of the running too. The joys of a captive market. Wonder what will happen after Brexit and there isnt as much demand for premium traffic to LHR?
    @Nick I hope your comment isnt copyrighted because I will be using it.

  9. @Evan you can, but you can’t pick emergency exit rows on long-haul, that’s for Gold only.

    Indeed, pretty low value.

    However, I did pay 90-odd GBP for emergency exit row on the top deck of the 747 for LHR-SFO, that was completely worth it. Better service, all menu choices available (since they’re starting earlier than downstairs and it’s a smaller cabin). For the return I was downstairs, at the back of the CW cabin, the service was really not that great (and along the lines of the BA-bashing we see on this site and others).

  10. Lucky, I have approx 375,000 BA points and would like your advice on best use. BA charges substantial service fees, taxes, etc. However, I am considering return travel from Vancouver to London next year for our 25th wedding anniversary. We are entirely flexible on timing of flights but need to fly business or first class due to DVTs. What is our best economic approach to spending the points? Also, would it be worthwhile to sell the points? If so, what is a fair market value?

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