British Airways Award Chart Changes

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Brace yourselves, British Airways is making changes to their award chart effective April 28, 2015, and it is largely bad news.  They also made changes to earning rates, though I’m not going to focus on that as much since most of us don’t actually earn our Avios by flying British Airways or their partners.  Here in the US, many of us earn them by using co-branded credit cards and transferring in via Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards.

Unlike the last time British Airways had an award chart change, they aren’t overhauling the way the entire chart works.  They are keeping a distance based chart (though they do use the term zones to describe distance ranges, so don’t get confused).  Instead they are tweaking a few rules, adding some variable rates for British Airways and Iberia operated award flights, and making premium long-haul seats pricier regardless of carrier.

New British Airways Award Chart

British Airways Introducing “Off Peak” Rates for Award Flights on British Airways:

For British Airways operated flights, they are introducing “off-peak” awards depending on the time of the year, the cabin and zone.  They say that this means for 2/3 of the year, you will need fewer Avios to fly on economy award flights operated by British Airways.  However, if you like to fly in business or first class using your Avios, you will have to spend more Avios, even if you are flying on an off-peak time over what the current rates are now.

British Airways Premium Cabin Awards Getting Pricier:

In business  class, you will pay an average of 25% more Avios for travel during off-peak periods and an average 50% more for travel during peak periods.  In First Class, you will pay an average 13% more Avios for travel during our off-peak periods and an average 33% more for travel during peak periods.

For example, if you wanted to fly from Houston – London in British Airways business class today it would cost you 50,000 Avios one-way + nasty fuel surcharges.  Effective April 28th, it will cost you 75,000 Avios + nasty fuel surcharges (unless it was an off-peak rate, and then it would be 62,500 Avios).  First class (like what we booked here) would go from 75,000 to 100,000 Avios + fuel surcharges (unless it was an off-peak date, and then it would be 85,000 Avios).

More British Airways Award Seats Available:

In theory, these changes mean that (at least for this year), there will be a minimum of two business class and four economy award seats available on all British Airways flights that are offered for sale from 355 days before departure up until 45 days before departure.  Who knows if that will continue beyond this year, but it may help those who have had trouble finding the British Airways operated award availability they want, albeit at higher prices than before.

Changes to Partner Award Chart:

Partner airlines (other than Iberia) will not benefit from the “off-peak” reduced mileage awards, and instead will still be charged one constant Avios rate around the year.  The good news is that the economy prices remained unchanged.  This means you can still fly on partners American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, etc starting at 4,500 Avios each way, which is great news. 

The bad news is that where business class used to be 2x economy and first class used to be 3x economy, those rates will increase starting with the “Zone 4” flights, which means flights 2,001 miles in distance or longer.  Starting with routes of that length or longer, business class is going to be 3x the coach price and first class is 4x the coach price.  So, where you can currently fly from Boston – Dublin on partner Aer Lingus for just 25,000 Avios one-way in business class, that rate will increase to 37,500 Avios (a 50% increase).   Ouch.  Zone 5 flights such as Chicago – Dublin on Aer Lingus will go from 40,000 Avios in business class to 60,000 Avios in business class.

Eliminating “free UK” flight for European Connections Only:

British Airways has a somewhat little known feature that your connecting (or feeder) flight in the UK is free.  In other words, if you fly from Belfast – London – Paris, you are only charged for the London – Paris segment.  This is going away for flights connecting on to Europe effective April 28th, but will remain for longer haul trips, including to/from North America.  So, you can still fly from Houston – London – Belfast/Manchester/Glasgow/Edinburgh/etc and just pay the Avios for the Houston – London segment.  You can then still have your stopover in London for however long, and then continue on to the next UK destination without spending additional Avios for that flight.

Overall Impressions:

For those of us who earn our Avios via credit cards and use them primarily to fly partners, this is bad, but not overly horrible.  However, there are some real losses, including Aer Lingus business class flights across the pond jumping by 50%, though with the talks that British Airways may be acquiring Aer Lingus, the value of that award without big fuel surcharges may have been short for this world anyway.  I think those who occasionally use the British Airways “Travel Together” ticket you can earn from the Chase British Airways card where you don’t pay Avios for the second traveler, will also find these changes to be annoying as they will mean that certificate is now pricier to use in Avios, and you still the same nasty rate with fuel surcharges.

You can make any bookings at the current rates for future travel through April 27th, then on April 28th the new rates will kick in for all future bookings.  You will not get a refund for bookings made prior to April 28th in the event the route will get cheaper on Avios, though you could choose to cancel and rebook if that was in your best interest and the availability is still there.

If you have ever wanted to fly from Boston – Ireland for just 25,000 Avios in business class, you have three months to make your bookings.

How do these upcoming changes impact your future award travel plans?  If you want to see others’ reactions, you can follow along with the conversation on Flyertalk here

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Thank god I just booked the BOS-DUB recently. With that little known trick, can I fly onto Edinburgh from Dublin without any extra points?

  2. Hi MP! A little off topic, but also slightly related. I tried to use avios to book a flight from NYC to Toronto on BA.com. The flight is on TAM. I kept getting errors and I called BA to book, but the agent kept telling me that there was no economy award space even though I was seeing it clearly online. It was the same issue booking the reverse. Do you have any suggestions on how I can book my flight or am I out of luck? I only see TAM availability.

    • Ang, a NYC – Toronto flight on TAM? I’m unfamiliar with that route. Seems like something that would be operated by American. I would look for American Airlines availability on that route, and American space is typically available to book on the British Airways website.

      • Looks like this is indeed a new route starting up soon (then cont on to GRU). Maybe their booking issue is just related to it being new.

        • Thanks MP! Yes, it is a new route! The thing is, these flights on TAM between Toronto/NYC have been showing up online for the last month or so on BA.com, but just not bookable. So I am confused as to why they were showing up online so far in advanced when they can’t be booked? I saw these flights can now be booked, but I tried again last night and I still got the error message. I will call again and see what happens.

  3. So bummed! Was planning on flying BOS-DUB in Summer of 2016…I know that with the probable BA takeover of AL there’s not much chance of that now without the horrible fuel surcharges, so I’m going to come up with another way to get there. I was so excited to be flying into Dublin, too! 🙁

    I have a friend in England that is really bummed about this announcement today. I feel so badly for her.

    • jodyw, well you could still fly that route in economy for the same price….or 12,500 more Avios each per person in business. Not as good, but potentially still doable.

  4. Hi Summer, 2 questions:

    1) Can we still make bookings for the summer at the current rates? Or do the changes apply for all flights after April 28th regardless of whether or not the booking was made prior to that date?

    2) Which website is best for finding aerlingus availability. I never seem to find anything for them.

    • Bill, yes you can book for summer at current rates. There isn’t a perfect solution for Aer Lingus availability that BA has access to. I have used United’s Aer Lingus availability as a guide and then called BA to verify. United does show more than BA, so it is not a guarantee, but often a start.

  5. No doubt their hired someone from Delta to make these changes. Delta has ruined the loyalty and awards programs. Other airlines just copy them.

  6. The fuel surcharges are indeed nasty. I just priced out a long haul trip at the current rates WITH a companion ticket and it still doesn’t make economic sense.

  7. I think there are winners and losers. For most people that take short-haul trips in the US, it’s not changing and that’s a net positive (since it could have been worse!!)

    Stinks for people who fly premium cabins (especially on partner airlines), but at least we have 3 months to finish the bookings!!

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