British Airways announced early this morning that it will be removing its cheapest award level, which was just 4,500 Avios for one-way for travel of 650 miles or less. This change only affects travel to/from/within the United States — but that is exactly where many of us have found Avios to have the most value. This comes on the heels of an earlier devaluation in January that affected mostly business and first class awards.
Why Is Avios a Good Program?
Avios awards require customers to pay any fuel surcharges if they’re normally collected with a paid fare (many other programs, including all awards on United and most awards on Alaska and American Airlines, waive fuel surcharges on awards). That includes international awards on British Airways to visit Europe.
Because there are no fuel surcharges on domestic U.S. tickets, one of the best strategies was to stay here and use Avios on domestic partners. And if you live in an American or Alaska Airlines hub city, you probably are able to take advantage of many short, nonstop flights at the cheapest level of 4,500 Avios.
For example, I booked tickets to see my dad for Christmas in Santa Rosa, CA, which is just 618 miles from Seattle on a non-stop Alaska Airlines flight. How else can you book holiday travel for just 9,000 points round-trip? I also need to visit my in-laws in Amarillo, TX. We bought regular tickets from Seattle to Dallas, but we used Avios to book the connecting legs on American Airlines, bringing the total cost down by a third. Other great examples include New York to Toronto and Washington to Chicago.
What Awards Are Changing?
Beginning February 2, 2016, the cheapest award category for flights of 650 miles or less will be eliminated. This means all award prices will increase to match the next highest tier, for flights up to 1,151 miles. These awards cost 7,500 Avios one-way in economy class. Although it’s disappointing to see the change, it’s still a great deal compared to the domestic loyalty programs you might use instead. One-way domestic awards on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines start at 12,500 miles, though Alaska goes as low as 7,500 miles for intra-state awards.
Business and first class awards will also increase as a result of this change, but frankly I don’t think many of you should be booking those. BA will charge 15,000 in business or 30,000 in first one-way. For travel up to 1,151 miles, coach is pretty tolerable. It may even be the only option on some flights.
New Award Chart for Travel to/from/within United States
|1 - 1,151||7,500||15,000||30,000|
|1,152 - 2,000||10,000||20,000||40,000|
|2,001 - 3,000||12,500||37,500||50,000|
|3,001 - 4,000||20,000||60,000||80,000|
|4,001 - 5,500||25,000||75,000||100,000|
|5,501 - 6,500||30,000||90,000||120,00|
|6,501 - 7,000||35,000||105,000||140,000|
|7,001 - 100,000||50,000||150,000||200,000|
It seems the 650-mile category will remain available if you’re outside the U.S., but in my experience there have been fewer good opportunities to use Avios for those flights.
Most of the Award Chart Isn’t Changing
The good news is that most other awards are not changing. It’s still a great deal to use Avios for longer flights in coach, including just 12,500 Avios to get from the West Coast to Hawaii. If you want to travel on American Airlines, those flights are pretty easy to look up on the BA website and book online. If you want to travel on Alaska Airlines, you’ll need to call British Airways, but they’ve always waived the phone reservation fee for me.
If you need to book any short-haul awards before they disappear, your deadline is 10:00 GMT on February 2, 2016. You can also transfer points from Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards if you need additional Avios.