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British Airways has made some big changes to its Executive Club award program, which start on April 28, 2015.
They’ll have a new award chart, and are changing the ways you earn points from flying on British Airways.
The good news is, there will NOT be much difference for folks who:
- Earn British Airways Avios points from credit card sign-up bonuses and spending
- Use British Airways Avios points for coach flights
But if you’re someone who earns Avios points from flying on British Airways, or you like to use your points for Business or First Class award tickets, you might not be so happy with the news!
(Or if you’re a blogger right in the middle of publishing a series on how to book British Airways award flights!) 😉
Bookings made before April 28, 2015 aren’t affected by the program updates. Let’s see how it will affect you!
Spending British Airways Avios Points
1. Award Tickets on British Airways
Most folks avoid using British Airways Avios points to book award flights on British Airways. That’s because British Airways adds huge fuel surcharges to most of their award tickets.
Instead, many of us prefer to use British Airways Avios points on their partner airlines! (I’ll explain in the next section.)
The new award chart is still distance-based. But British Airways is now adding peak and off-peak award prices for flights on British Airways only.
Looking at their calendar, more than half of the year is considered “off-peak” (indicated by the dots).
Here’s what the old award chart looks like:
|British Airways Avios points required for each flight|
|Travel Distance||Coach||Premium Economy||Business Class||First Class|
|0 to 649 miles||4,500||6,750||9,000||13,500|
|650 to 1,149 miles||7,500||11,250||15,000||22,500|
|1,150 to 1,999 miles||10,000||15,000||20,000||30,000|
|2,000 to 2,999 miles||12,500||18,750||25,000||37,500|
|3,000 to 3,999 miles||20,000||30,000||40,000||60,000|
|4,000 to 5,499 miles||25,000||37,500||50,000||75,000|
|5,500 to 6,499 miles||30,000||45,000||60,000||90,000|
|6,500 to 6,999 miles||35,000||52,500||70,000||105,000|
And this is the new award chart:
So you’ll use fewer British Airways Avios points for these award tickets on British Airways:
- All off-peak coach class flights
- Most off-peak Premium Economy Class flights (except flights from 2,000 to 2,999 miles)
- Short-haul (less than 2,000 miles) off-peak Business Class flights
You’ll need the same number of points for:
- All peak coach class flights
- Short-haul (less than 2,000 miles) peak Premium Economy and Business Class flights
And you’ll pay more points for:
- All First Class flights (off-peak and peak)
- Long-haul (2,000 miles or more) off-peak and peak Business Class flights
So for folks who fly coach or Premium Economy class during off-peak times, the award chart changes are positive. But remember, they haven’t reduced the fuel surcharges!
But if you like to fly First or Business Class (long-haul flights), you’ll need more Avios points for your ticket (and still pay big fuel surcharges). So it might no longer be worth it to consider booking First or Business Class on British Airways!
2. Award Tickets on Partner Airlines
You can use British Airways Avios points for flights on oneworld partner airlines, like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Air Berlin. Or on other partners like Alaska Airlines and Aer Lingus.
In fact, that’s 1 of the best uses of Avios points for folks in the US. Because British Airways doesn’t add fuel surcharges to domestic award tickets on American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines.
Because the award chart is distance-based, you can fly coach on flights under 650 miles for only 4,500 points each way. Or fly to Hawaii from the west coast for only 12,500 points 1-way in coach
For partner award tickets (except Iberia, which is updating its own Avios program), British Airways is NOT adding off-peak and peak pricing. All awards are at the peak level. So there are no reductions in award ticket prices for any class of service.
You’ll pay the same number of points for:
- All coach class flights
- Short-haul (less than 2,000 miles) Premium Economy and Business Class flights
But you’ll need more points for:
- Long-haul (2,000 miles or more) Premium Economy and Business Class flights
- All First Class flights
Again, if you book coach class or short-haul Premium Economy and Business Class tickets, there will be no difference.
But if you want to book Premium Economy or Business Class on flights more than 2,000 miles (that includes Hawaii from the West Coast), or any First Class flight, you’ll pay more points.
This means that some other favorite uses of Avios points (like cheap flights on Aer Lingus to Dublin, or to Germany on Air Berlin) won’t be affected as long as you fly in coach
. But it won’t be such a good deal anymore if you’re looking for a lie-flat seat and champagne service!
So that’s bad news for folks who liked using Avios points for First Class flights on Cathay Pacific.
For example, a 1-way First Class ticket from New York to Vancouver before the changes take effect costs 37,500 points plus taxes and fees. On April 28, 2015, the price goes up to 50,000 points!
Thank goodness it’s relatively easy to earn British Airways Avios points!
Earning British Airways Avios Points
For folks in the US who earn British Airways Avios points from credit cards like the Chase British Airways Visa Signature card, or by transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, there will be no difference in how they earn points.
But if you earn points from flying British Airways, you’ll now earn more points for booking more expensive tickets, and fewer points on cheaper tickets.
Here’s a comparison of the old and new Avios points earning rates depending on fare class and cabin:
This isn’t good news for coach class flyers who book discounted British Airways tickets (during seat sales for example). They’ll only earn 25% of the miles flown!
They’re also changing:
- The minimum number of Avios points you can collect per flight (the cheapest tickets will now earn less)
- Tier point (elite-qualifying points) earning (again, the cheapest tickets will now earn less)
- Bonus point earning rates for some elite flyers
Other Program Updates
1. Restrictions to Changing Award Tickets
British Airways is temporarily restricting the ability to make changes online to award tickets. Before April 28, 2015, you’ll be able to modify your bookings online.
But after that, you’ll have to call to change some award tickets (like changing from an off-peak date to a peak date).
2. Changes to Award Ticket Prices in the UK
In the past, British Airways would not charge extra points if you booked a domestic connecting flight in the UK. For example, if you wanted to fly from Glasgow to Berlin, but had a connection in London, you’d only be charged the number of points required from London to Berlin.
Beginning April 28, 2015, you’ll be charged for both the Glasgow to London and London to Berlin flights.
This only applies to flights connecting to and from Europe. Domestic connecting flights to long-haul flights (for example, to the US) won’t be charged extra. So if you’re flying Glasgow – London – New York, you’ll still only pay the London to New York price.
3. Upgrades Using Avios Points
British Airways will allow more upgrades on paid tickets using Avios points. Currently, only the most expensive tickets can be upgraded (by 1 cabin) using Avios points.
After the changes
, most paid fares (except the cheapest coach fares) will be upgradable using Avios points.
4. More Available Award Seats
There will be more available award seats on British Airways flights.
British Airways guarantees at least 2 Business Class and 4 coach class award seats will be available on every flight. So that’s good news for folks who like to use Avios points on British Airways (and don’t mind the fuel surcharges).
I like that coach award prices are NOT changing (and sometimes cost fewer points if you book British Airways award tickets). So folks can still use British Airways Avios points for cheap, domestic short-haul tickets.
But I’m NOT excited that First Class (and some Business Class and Premium Economy class) tickets will soon cost more points!
As we know in our hobby, award charts don’t stay the same forever! So it’s best to take advantage of your favorite deals while you can!
That said, new deals and great values always come along.
Which parts of the upcoming changes do you like? And which will you miss the most?!