Lucky noted a lot of recent chatter about British Airways award space drying up in the past few weeks.
He says it just isn’t so — space dried up a long time before that — and I agree. I’ve even had a note to myself since December to write about “where have all the premium cabin award seats on BA gone?”
Although he’s also correct that there are plenty of cities where you can still find seats.
Ben notes Boston (this has always been a great place to look for transatlantic awards), Seattle (Lufthansa space from here is good too), Philadelphia (I used to see 7 award seats in first class from Philly but no longer, Houston too), Washington Dulles (used to be great for first class but now seems mostly good for business), and Atlanta.
What these cities have in common is that they are not hubs for British Airways’ oneworld partners. Seattle is Alaska Airlines’ base, but Seattle isn’t that premium a market even though it’s quite long haul to London.
And space out of New York is quite good — though American has a hub there, there’s also so much lift, so many seats from New York that plenty remain for awards.
I’d note that while San Francisco and Los Angeles are much harder to get than before, and Dallas became really hard once you could use American miles to redeem on British Airways between the US and London, it’s even harder to get other secondary cities in the Western U.S…. Las Vegas, Phoenix (!), San Diego for instance with the former two once gimmes for awards no longer easy to get.
While Lucky is correct that the phenomenon isn’t new, it definitely exists.
The first commenter on Lucky’s blog offered a theory about where all of the award space has gone.
Now put your fingers in your ears and yell, “it’s not the bloggers! it can’t be us”. Thanks for driving thousands of new people to the miles and points hobby and shamelessly mooching from FT to line your own pockets.
(Yes, I know correlation is not causation, but in this case, it’s pretty clear how and why the number of people in the game have grown.)
Every joyride and convoluted routing you fools take just to say you flew [Cathay/Thai/Lufthansa/Malaysia first class] yet again sucks up inventory. How many times do you need to fly to [Hong Kong via Zurich/Frankfurt/Munich] for 2 days? Why not just spend more time the first time you guys go there? We don’t need any more [First Class Terminal] trip reports or photos from Porsche rides to the plane – with all the inane hat-tipping, blog content is hardly differentiated these days.
Well, then, abcx – tell us how you really feel!
Let’s work through this, for a moment though. It may be true that more people are involved in miles and points than two years ago, although I’m far from certainly that it’s materially the case. But let’s just accept the hypothesis. (And let’s further assume — arguendo — that this growth in participation and growth in mileage balances by members is because of blogs.)
It is still not the case that “British Airways is releasing X award seats, there is now a lot more competition for those seats because of blogs.”
If there was a certain number of seats — that had not changed — and now more people going after those seats there would be an argument abcx could make.
I wouldn’t find it particularly persuasive because it’s a tough sell that this reader had a moral claim on the seats and is more entitled to them than someone else that learned about miles and points and how to use them more recently.
But we never get there, because what has happened is that British Airways has changed the way it allocates seats, based on improvements in the economy and improvements in their sales forecasts. This has nothing to do with blogs or the number of people involved in the miles and points hobby.
During and immediately following the financial crisis, they had a ton of surplus seats. British Airways more than most carriers even has a huge bet on premium seating. And they have more premium seats on more routes than most airlines, too.
But those seats were empty, and made available as awards. British Airways built an internal expectation that those seats wouldn’t get sold, and made those seats available early for points.
BA’s internal expectations have shifted, and business has picked up as well.
Note here also that drying up of award seats didn’t happen on all routes at once (it really started a couple of years ago with Africa). And also that it hasn’t happened on all North American routes, as Ben correctly observes.
Surely blog readers aren’t concentrated all in BA’s premium markets! (Award seats have dried up out of Miami, are there inherently more blog readers living there than Philadelphia and Atlanta?)
Instead space has dried up the most where BA is most likely to sell seats — the West Coast cities (though Seattle isn’t that premium a market, Lufthansa space is pretty available from Seattle too) and partner hubs like Dallas, plus high yield markets like Miami.
New York space is still pretty available, it’s a relatively short flight and there’s SO many seats. Secondary cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta are good too.
But long haul space beyond London is a challenge, especially to Africa where BA first tightened the noose.
There are a lot of criticisms you can offer specific blogs (although I think the one you’re commenting on is definitely one of the better ones). But this isn’t one of those!
Nor of course are the odds particularly good that my recent award trips to Malaysia, the Maldives, or Bali took away the precise seats that he (or you) wanted!