British Airways Avios are (used to be?) one of my favorite points/miles currencies. You get access to the Oneworld Alliance of airlines, which includes American Airlines, US Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Iberia, and more, and while the distance-based award chart can be difficult for some to understand, it also has the potential to be extremely valuable. My
Most other bloggers are avoiding calling this a British Airways Avios devaluation, using words like “changes” or “updates” to describe them. After reviewing the Club Changes page that British Airways has posted, I can kind of see why: there are some positives and some negatives. Personally, I see it as a huge negative, but the way you travel will dictate whether you like the changes or not (or even if you care at all).
All changes are as of 4/28/15 – any awards booked prior to this date will be calculated based on the old chart.
The Old Award Chart
As a reminder, the old award chart was broken into 9 distance-based zones. “Blue Class” is Economy and “Full Economy” is Premium Economy. On this chart, Business Class was 2x the points of Economy, and First Class was 3x the points of Economy. This chart is fantastic for short-haul awards, as I noted in my post on the best Avios routes to fly and useful 4,500 Avios redemptions around the world.
The New Avios Award Chart
If you thought the old chart was complicated, you haven’t seen anything yet. The new Avios award chart is even more complicated, but not terribly hard to understand. The zones and distances remain the same. Within each class of travel, however, there is now “peak” and “off-peak” travel rates.
These peak/off-peak dates will likely change each calendar year, but once the calendar is created for a year it’s unlikely that it will change. The 2015 calendar has been published.
Here’s the need-to-know:
- Zones and distances are the same.
- New “off-peak” and “peak” travel dates are set each calendar year.
- Economy redemptions remain the same price, but…
- Business Class and First Class are substantially more expensive.
- Partner awards (i.e. non-British Airways awards) are always peak awards.
With airline award chart devaluations, there’s almost always some silver lining or positive that can be found. With the various regions and/or zones, it’s likely that some awards go down in price while others (most) go up. The same is not true with hotels, where devaluations are generally across the board (with the exception of annual category changes, which in some cases is beneficial).
This chart does have some positives, but they are small in my opinion. If you always redeem your Avios for Economy tickets, these changes will be a net positive for you. This is because the peak Economy redemption rates are the same as the old Economy redemption rates. That means that the off-peak rates will actually provide you with cheaper redemptions going forward if your travel happens to fall within that date.
As a reminder – all partner awards are considered peak awards. That means the off-peak will only help you on the off chance that you’re actually flying on British Airways. Frequent travelers based in the UK that fly Economy will be happy with this change.
I won’t sugarcoat this – I hate these changes because of how partner awards are treated. My favorite way to redeem Avios is on partner awards since I’m based in the US. I rarely fly British Airways itself, so the “off-peak” awards are not useful to me except on the rare occasion I’m flying to/from London.
I do a lot of international travel, and if you read my blog regularly you know I enjoy traveling in premium cabins whenever possible. I’ve flown Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Iberia, Qatar Airways, and others on Business Class awards or better using Avios, but now I’ll really have to curtail that because of the changes to premium cabin awards.
Business Class Awards up 50%
Zones 1-3 will remain unchanged in price, so for flights up to 2,000 miles there is no change in Business Class. Beyond that, however, you’re looking at an across the board 50% increase. That means flying on American Airlines’ great new Business Class on cross-country Los Angeles to New York flights goes from 25K Avios one way to 37.5K Avios one way. Similarly, Cathay Pacific Business Class from New York to Vancouver will change the same amount. Those 37.5K Avios is what is used to cost to fly in First Class on those same flights.
I recently flew Cathay Pacific Business Class from Hong Kong to San Francisco for 70K Avios one way, which I thought was a decent deal compared to other mileage currencies. The cost of that award will now be 105K Avios one way – an absolutely massive increase and one I would never consider as a redemption option.
First Class Awards up 33%
First Class awards also increase significantly, up 33% across all zones except Zone 1. Those same two flights I mentioned above, the Los Angeles to New York on AA and New York to Vancouver on Cathay, go from being 37.5K Avios to 50K Avios one way in First Class.
It didn’t make too much sense to redeem for First Class awards before except for in Zone 4, which were the cross-country flights I mentioned before. I flew Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Vancouver using 37.5K Avios and thought it was a great deal. At 50K Avios, I would not consider this a good option.
Economy travelers can breathe easy knowing that absolutely nothing negative has happened for them. Everyone else, and I suspect many readers of this blog, should be very unhappy with these changes. Your prices have effectively gone up 33% – 50% for the best awards.
Let’s hope American Express or Chase come up with some 75% transfer bonuses to Avios, because otherwise Avios will be useful only for short-haul awards. I suppose we should be thankful those continue to exist, but it’s hard to be happy with this change overall.