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British Airways’ Sweet Spots Turn Sour

British Airways’ Sweet Spots Turn Sour
Joe Cortez

A cryptic message announces an unpopular amendment: award prices in Avios will change at the end of May. Is this the only change across the loyalty spectrum, or will flyers be contending with changes all year round?

Frequent flyers who collect British Airways Avios recently received a message about the program’s future – and it doesn’t bode well. According to the e-mail, the program will change on May 30, 2019, and will only affect partner awards.

FlyerTalkers report the pricing changes will only affect their oneworld partners and out-of-network alliances. Award prices may change on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Air Lines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, and several others. Pricing on the carrier’s sister airlines Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling will not be affected. The e-mail and subsequent landing page didn’t offer much more detail, except for examples of what routes could change and the fees associated with them.

Immediately, FlyerTalkers interpreted the communication as bad news. Many hypothesize that the changes are a reflection of how much they pay partners for seats on award bookings. Others wonder if the airline could be moving to cash-based pricing, similar to the current structure of America’s four major carriers. Will this be the only change we see this year, or is this the start of a bigger concern for the consumer?

British Airways’ limited change examples

On their website, British Airways explained that award pricing on all of their partner airlines will change, along with upgrade-only awards on American. But instead of announcing how the prices would shift, the flag carrier only gave examples of fees when booking flights on other airlines. If one were to fly between Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to New York’s LaGuardia International Airport (LGA), it would cost the new Avios amount plus $11.21 in fees. While flying from Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH) to Bangkok Airport (BKK) aboard Qatar Airways would cost $180.82 in fees, in addition to changes in Avios.

Because the changes take effect on May 30, 2019, flyers have the rest of the month to either book awards at current prices with Avios, or make changes to their current itineraries where available. Once the change takes effect, all new bookings will be made in accordance on that chart.

But why is the change even happening?

In the forum, many FlyerTalkers are lamenting the potential loss of discounted fares around the world. Poster mrkymark is upset that the flights between America’s west coast and Hawaii will increase from their current price of 12,500 Avios one-way. While cysyuen is looking towards the Southeast Pacific, hoping short-haul pricing between Sydney and Melbourne or Hong Kong and Tokyo will remain the same.

But this could be part of a bigger industry trend. The main reason behind this could be the “revaluing” of award prices among travel providers. FlyerTalker BlueHorizonUK notes: “[It] Seems like BA is really the only airline left that was charging the same for their flights and that of their partners, so this is ‘fixing’ the anomaly.”

That idea isn’t wrong. Over the past several years, we’ve watched several airlines move to a dynamic-pricing award chart. Most recently, United Airlines announced the abolishment of their fixed award chart, joining competitors Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. Only American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have an actual award chart for flights – but for how long has yet to be seen.

Moreover, it’s a well-known fact that Avios could provide better value than using American AAdvantage miles or Alaska Airline Mileage Plan miles for domestic flights. Many FlyerTalkers have used the points to travel for cheap across the United States. Because of this “sweet spot” among award programs, British Airways could be on the hook for thousands of seats every year, each costing the program a comparatively high cost for those seats. In short: it’s entirely possible that flyers’ use of Avios in this manner could be partially responsible for the changes.

Is this a bigger loyalty concern?

While the pending update is a big shock to the community as a whole, it may not be the last domino to fall. Already in 2019, we’ve seen adjustments to Marriott’s award chart, leading to travelers getting “Bonvoyed.” At Lufthansa, premium award prices will change starting on May 9, 2019. And analysts are bracing for changes in Air Canada’s Aeroplan points after the carrier’s re-purchase of Aimia.

As more people use their points, it cuts into an airline’s bottom line. As a result, airlines may adjust award prices to compensate for the losses. For the regular points and miles traveler, any shift is a major shift. But because we’ve already seen some major changes this year, it may only be the beginning of what could be a difficult season.

What’s your take? Share your voice on the FlyerTalk forums!

 

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (4)

4 Comments

  1. strickerj

    April 30, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    Seems a bit shady that a devaluation is coming right after a promotion by both American Express and Chase for transfers to Avios.

  2. GetSetJetSet

    May 1, 2019 at 12:38 am

    “Moreover, it’s a well-known fact that Avios could provide better value than using American AAdvantage miles or Alaska Airline Mileage Plan miles for domestic flights”

    Yea, but the Avios chart is horrible for long-haul and has awful YQ fees other carriers don’t have. Most programs have some +s and some -s, is BA going for “awful value” across the board? Also, they are not the only carrier to charge the same for partner awards, AA (at least) still does.

  3. alexmyboy

    May 1, 2019 at 4:53 am

    rewards program is awful

  4. Peadar

    May 1, 2019 at 6:56 am

    Perhaps they need all the income they can get to put screens in their 747s, that people with normal eyesight, can view without a magnifying glass and also maybe to give a little bit more room to those slightly taller than a Rwandan pygmy, which judging by my last flight with them to Miami in y, is their target market?

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