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I hate waking up to emails from loyalty programs about coming changes almost as much as I dislike getting up for the 5th time at night to a baby crying. You know good things probably aren’t waking for you on the other side of the door, or in this case, email.
Today British Airways has let us know that effective February 2, 2016, they are making a small change to their award chart that will impact some of us in a big way. Beginning on February 2nd, the 4,500 point awards we know and love are a thing of the past if they originate or terminate within the United States. Clearly they have taken notice of how many of us were redeeming just 4,500 Avios to fly up to 650 miles on partners Alaska and American Airlines, and they decided that the minimum cost for an award flight will now be 7,500 Avios within or to/from the United States.
The 4,500 Avios awards will remain possible outside of North America, and all other aspects of the award chart seem to remain unchanged. Now flights up to 1,151 miles in distance will all price at 7,500 Avios instead of there being a first tier of up to 650 miles flown pricing at 4,500 Avios. That 7,500 point price can still be a very good deal, but no question this change is a major bummer.
The worst part of this change to me is not that 7,500 Avios is the new minimum charge for an award that originates or terminates in the United States, as that still seems quite fair, but rather that the new minimum price for a flight that requires a connection is 15,000 Avios each way since they charge based on each segment.
I just used 9,000 total Avios to book a flight for my mother-in-law to fly from Wichita – Dallas – Houston on American Airlines since each segment prices at 4,500 Avios. The total distance flown on that award is about 553 miles, so in theory the whole thing would have cost just 4,500 Avios on the current award chart if there were a nonstop flight on a British Airways partner between Wichita and Houston, but since it requires two flights it required 4,500 x 2. I’m still totally fine with that 9,000 point price since it would be 10,000 – 12,500 miles on most other award charts, but at 7,500 x 2 it is a bad deal.
I wish that with this new 7,500 Avios minimum they would have also eliminated the per segment charge and instead charged based on the total distance flown. This way those of us who aren’t traveling to/from American or Alaska hubs would still be able to make decent use of the award chart.
As it stands there are still tons of amazing uses of Avios within the US including 12,500 Avios each way to Hawaii from the West Coast, 7,500 Avios flights up to 1,151 miles flown, etc…but there is no question this was a major blow to those who use Avios for short flights or slightly longer journeys that required a connection.
Get those short haul bookings in before February 2, 2016!