British Airways Devalues Shorthaul US Awards

Filed Under: Awards, British Airways

Well this sucks.

Earlier in the year British Airways announced some drastic changes to their Executive Club program, which kicked in for bookings as of April 28, 2015.


The changes were brutal, as British Airways introduced “peak” and “off-peak” awards, and in many cases the cost of international longhaul premium cabin awards went up significantly. Here’s their current chart:


As I noted at the time, the great news was that British Airways hadn’t devalued the single best use of Avios for those based in North America. Specifically, the cost of peak redemptions for short-haul awards were the same under the new chart as under the old chart. So if you wanted to redeem Avios for travel on Alaska or American, you continued to pay:

  • 4,500 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 1-650 miles
  • 7,500 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 651-1,151 miles
  • 10,000 Avios for a one-way economy flight of 1,152-2,000 miles

Well, it seems British Airways has changed their mind on that. Most Executive Club members have probably received the following email this morning, stating that the cost of short-haul awards will be going up early next year:

We’re going to be making a change to the Executive Club pricing structure for shorter reward flights originating or terminating within the United States of America. From 2 February 2016, reward flights will start from 7,500 Avios, instead of 4,500 Avios, plus taxes, fees and carrier charges (“TFCs”) from $5.60 USD.

Only those reward flights that currently cost 4,500 Avios for a one way flight in Economy, 9,000 Avios for Business Class and 18,000 Avios for First Class plus TFCs will increase; to 7,500 Avios, 15,000 Avios and 30,000 Avios plus TFCs respectively. All other Avios reward flight pricing will remain the same as it is today.

If you would like to learn more about this change, simply click on the link below.


So as of February 2, 2016, British Airways is adjusting award costs for short-haul awards in North America. Specifically, for flights of 650 miles or less the cost is changing as follows:

  • From 4,500 Avios to 7,500 Avios in economy
  • From 9,000 Avios to 15,000 Avios in business
  • From 18,000 Avios to 30,000 Avios in first


In other words, they’re basically merging “zones” 1 & 2, so that you pay the same number of Avios for all flights under 1,151 miles, rather than having different prices for people flying up to 650 miles, and those flying 651-1,151 miles.

Bottom line

Stuff like this always eventually happens in our hobby. We find good values, take advantage of them, and eventually those rewards which are disproportionately redeemed for get adjusted in price.

I do think it’s especially crappy that British Airways announced huge changes earlier in the year, and now is rolling out these changes separately. Clearly they realize this is a significant devaluation, or else they would have announced it all at once.

And I also think it’s an interesting precedent to see a global distance based chart be adjusted for one specific region. That’s not something I recall ever seeing before. There aren’t all that many redeeming qualities of the British Airways award chart for those of us in North America, so it’s quite disappointing to see this happen.

While I’m not happy about these changes, I actually think it could have been worse. Most of my domestic Avios redemptions were actually in the 651-1,151 mile range, whereby you pay 7,500 Avios (awards like Los Angeles to Seattle, Dallas to Tampa, etc.). The cost of those awards isn’t going up, at least. I’m still miffed about these changes, though.


What do you make of Executive Club adjusting the number of Avios required for short-haul travel within North America?

  1. People are going to complain about this, but let’s consider reality here. Yes, your avios are being devalued for short-haul travel. Yes, you’re going to spend more for the same trip. BUT….15K avios roundtrip for a trip on AA that would be, at a minimum, 25K on AA? Or 35K on Delta (unless you can find the nonexistent 5K awards) or United? It’s still a relatively good deal, especially since they also don’t apply fuel surcharges. I like my points just as much as the next guy, but lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater here.

  2. I second Stannis.

    Yes, to be fair – the redemption chart is a bit closer to AA’s now (AA has a flat rate, so there’s not much value to be gained with short-haul redemptions). However, unlike AAdvantage, the BAEC program really had nothing else going for it. They’re basically starting to scrap the one good thing from an otherwise mostly crappy FF program.

  3. I agree the devaluation sucks but as long as the program isn’t overhauled to revenue-based award redemptions I’m overall ok. Similar to you, I mostly used my BA Avios for short-haul trips under 1151 miles.

  4. Is Iberia changing their award chart for flights touching the US also? Why not just transfer BA avios to IB avios and book through them?

  5. For those flying from non-hub to non-hub, a connecting itinerary was 9K one-way (for example, Pittsburgh-Philly-Bangor, ME — an itinerary I flew earlier this year). Now that trip goes to 15K one-way, more expensive than AA at 12.5K. Of course, BA’s award fee schedule is better if you’re an AA non-elite.

  6. Wish they would at least fix the whole 2 vs 3 cabin F coding. It’s always miffed me more that F in these routes is priced so stupidly as you are paying like it should be Int’l F.

  7. It’s a loss, not huge, but still a loss. Me and my wife just flew with my parents from SEA to YYC to visit Canadian Rockies, for 36K Avios round trip on AS (vs 100K with other domestic carriers). I guess the fact that the change in NA only is a consolation. That means, in Europe, we can still fly for 4500 Avios on short hops. We did that last year, ZRH-LCY (eventually changed to LHR), and LHR-ORY.

  8. It’s a big loss for me, as someone who uses points frequently to fly between e.g. NYC and BOS, a trip only barely 200 miles now costing 15k return trip. I wonder if they are going to change the taxes and fees as well, it doesn’t seem that would be the case but its not really clear. If they do change those substantially it might just not be worth it anymore to use miles as I can book using cash at $60-90 per leg

  9. Not at all surprising that this is a US-only change given the stupidly high sign-up bonuses on offer compared to anywhere else in the world – of course as usual everyone is affected, even those without the same earning potential (feels like Hilton all over again!). Thank goodness they’ve left this excellent reward level alone elsewhere, it’s fantastic in Europe and Oz!

    The 3x miles for a 2-class service does seem bonkers when spending, however given the corollary of excellent TP and Avios earning on domestic F in the US it’s not so bad!

  10. @Alan –

    I think the word your looking for is “lucratively”, not “studpidly”. But you’re right – this barely makes a dent in our redemptions.

  11. @Arun Haha, quite! Sadly the same doesn’t apply in reverse – latest AA card offer in the UK is 15k (an increase from their even more miserly usual offer) – by comparison in the US it’s 75k! It just gets a bit frustrating with these programmes when they offer wildly different accrual rates (both bonuses and ongoing spend) yet the same spend rate as inevitably the inflation from the increased accrual rates needs to be paid for by all.

  12. @Alan –

    True – it’s certainly not a level playing field when it comes to sign up bonuses. And if they ever level it, let’s hope it’s by bumping up yours and not by shrinking ours, ;-).

  13. “Clearly they realize this is a significant devaluation, or else they would have announced it all at once.”

    I’m not sure I buy that logic… If they view it as such a significant devaluation it would have made much more sense to do it at the same time. People have just about allowed whinging about the devaluation – this means they’re gonna start up again. If anything, that implies to me that BA don’t view it as significant and it will blow over soon.

    As to the people complaining about credit card bonuses in the US vs UK, credit cards are more lucrative for the banks in the US than in the UK, so in combination with increased competition between cards they can afford to create bigger incentives. I see no reason for that to change any time soon – if anything they’re going to become even less lucrative in the UK with new EU rules. Nor do I see why an airline would ever adjust its chart accordingly.

  14. @Callum – I agree it’s not going to change anytime soon (apart from get worse with the EU interchange rules), however it then shouldn’t come as a surprise that they start making these changes to deal with the glut of points they’ve just issued!

  15. I’m pretty annoyed about this. Minimum connecting economy redemptions (which is what I fly most since I don’t live near an AA hub) are going from 9k to 15k one way. AAdvantage is now a better deal at 12.5k regardless of distance (many avios connecting itineraries will be much more than 15k because of distance) and the ability to upgrade to anytime availability – Avios is limited to milesaver space only. Not to mention the crazy minimum 60k avios cost of a connecting redemption in Us Airways poor excuse for first class. The same flights would be only 25k aadvantage miles!

    The only remaining upside to avios are close in booking (aadvantage charges a $75 fee for T-21 days) and cancellation up to T-24 hours (avios charges only taxes and fees paid, while aadvantage charges a $150 fee to refund miles, though a simple time or date change to an aadvantage itinerary is free).

    I was waiting for a transfer bonus to convert a bunch of points to avios, but the devaluation eats up far more than any bonus could offer. I guess I’ll transfer to aadvantage or another 12.5k redemption partner instead.

  16. Reality is much worse than the announced devaluation. !!
    Availability for economy class has became close to non existent (I couldnt find any),
    so instead of paying 4500 miles for an economy short haul , the only option now is 30,000 miles for a first class ticket (and who cares about first class for a 45- 1 hour flight anyway)

    Although I can see tons of availability through the AA site ( AA Super Saver awards)
    Its no longer show up on the British airways site.

    All my miles pretty much became uselss. and booking international with British is even worse.. the Taxes and fees they charge alone cost more than it would to just buy the tickets for full cash.

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