The new membership cards are pretty good looking.
They’ve increased elite status tier points earning on long haul flights, plus allowing Concord Room cardholders who earn 5000 tier points in a year to bring in a guest to the Concorde Room at JFK and Heathrow. “Rolleyes” – the Concorde room isn’t that special.
And the Avios.com website is live.
Award pricing is now distance-based, and shorter awards are less expensive. We’ve known that. It’s why New York – London in business class goes down from 100,000 miles roundtrip to 80,000 miles (20% decrease).
Longer awards are more expensive. San Francisco – Hong Kong in first class is now 210,000 miles roundtrip, up from 150,000 (40% increase). New York – Bali in first class is now 260,000 miles, up from 150,000 (73% increase).
The famous North America to South America and Easter Island award – previously 80,000 miles roundtrip in business class – is now 150,000 miles (88% increase).
On the other hand, it’s worth noting that anyone who booked an Easter Island award already and is spending more time there than they’d like can now book a separate award ticket Easter Island – Papeete (Tahiti) for 25,000 miles roundtrip in coach.
Your miles may vary on pricing though, because my initial impression is that routing matters, each segment seems to price out separately on partners such that Los Angeles – Miami non-stop is 12,500 miles one-way in coach but Los Angeles – Chicago – Miami is 20,000 miles on-way in coach. The segments price additively.
Further, BA has never been especially good at publishing an actual award chart, they’ve had tools to look up award pricing route-by-route. I once constructed my own, and a reader sent me a similar one they had done which was quite useful as well. They now have a ‘zonal map’ which is currently bringing up errors for me.
But using the award calculator (“How Many Avios Do I Need?”), you can search for pricing and it forces you to check segment-by-segment for pricing and add up the cost of each segment. Which effectively suggests that connections are more expensive than non-stop flights, even for awards that used to be in the same ‘zone’. Los Angeles – London prices the same at 150,000 miles roundtrip in first class. But Los Angeles – London – Paris which used to be the same price is now 177,000 miles roundtrip.
It also means there’s not really such a thing as a free enroute stopover in the way it used to be thought of, that US – Bali was no more expensive than US – Hong Kong and you could add a stop in Hong Kong for free, now you pay US – Hong Kong plus Hong Kong – Bali whether or not you stop in Hong Kong. So in that sense I suppose the stop is free since it doesn’t cost you more Avios to make the stop than not to.
Fees have changed up a bit. The telephone award booking fee has gone from $20 to $25, date and time changes done online used to be free and are now $40 whereas if done on the phone used to be $70 and are now $65 (again, additive — $40 change fee plus $25 telephone fee).
Flying intra-Europe has reduced fuel surcharges (provided you’ve earned at least 1 mile in the program within the preceding 12 months), and short-haul is of course less costly, so using points that way is less expensive than before. Of course it was commonly the case in the past that it was more expensive in actual cash cost to use points for short-haul flights than to just pay for those flights — because the cheapest coach fares could have lower fuel surcharges than corresponding award tickets. That’s been fixed.
But long-haul flying and connections are pricier, in some cases much pricier, and the old one-partner award chart which had real values is now gone, the program is especially gutted for North Americans and for non-Europeans generally.
The roughest thing, to me, is that there was no advance notice to the new award chart. It just showed up today. We knew that a new program with corresponding award chart would be implemented on November 16th, they let us know that 2 1/2 months ago. They promised that “97% of our routes” would be staying the same or getting less expensive. And then they refused to release the new award chart until it was implemented.
- If the ‘97%’ figure is true, and I haven’t run the numbers, it must be that case that ‘our routes’ was operative in the phrase — i.e. those routes served by British Airways directly or with a single stop, not ‘those routes on which you can redeem miles’.
- Members save up miles, sometimes for years, with reward goals in mind. That’s why programs generally do – should, and must – give significant notice to members when making changes, rather than pulling out the rug from under them. Lucy, Charlie Brown, and yanking the football away from members just as they are about to redeem their points is simply unacceptable, notice gives members the warning they need to make redemptions and also time to accumulate more miles or even buy them if necessary to get the award they’ve been after, following the rules of and promises made by a program over time.
British Airways didn’t do that. And they should be roundly criticized for that.
Some details are yet to emerge, partly due to technical difficulties (it’s still 4am on the US East Coast and just now the start of the business day in London) and some because of the opaque way that details are shown on the British Airways website. There are potentially particulars I note above which could wind up slightly off. But the overall message is — longer awards are more expensive, shorter awards are cheaper, connecting flights are more expensive, and the best awards on partners from the U.S. have been obliterated.
I’m off on a Cathay Pacific first class redemption this week, having cashed out the last of my BA miles. I’ll raise a glass to the memory of British Airways Executive Club. There’s a reason some members are referring to new ‘Avios’ points as Adios.
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