History Says Don’t Worry About a Surprise British Airways Avios Devaluation

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Last night I started seeing posts about a potential looming British Airways award chart devaluation.  I was busy getting my kid ready for the first day of Pre-K (ohmygoshhurray!), so hadn’t been able to dig into this much until now.  The deal is that Iberia changed their award chart in pretty major ways, especially for partner redemptions on airlines like American, about 10 days ago with no notice (see linked post above for more details on that).  Since Iberia and British Airways both use ‘Avios’ and are jointly owned (and you can even transfer Avios between them), there is legitimate fear that BA is on the verge of making similar drastic changes that would cut the value of Avios for most of us here in the United States who have grown to love the distance based redemptions that currently start at 4,500 Avios each way on partners American, Alaska, etc.

I’m not saying this couldn’t happen (I mean, everyone devalues eventually so it absolutely could), but I’m not burning my Avios in a mad panic either for two main reasons.

1.  British Airways did announce a change was coming last time they made major award chart changes in fall 2011 – they just underplayed it and didn’t share details.  However, we all knew something was coming last time around and had a couple months to lock stuff in before the new rates kicked in, so I like to think that we would still get a head’s up if/when they make a major change again.

2.  They are denying a big looming change on social media when asked.  Now social media reps won’t be the first to know (or be able to share) that something is coming, but it makes me feel at least a tiny bit better that the answer so far is that there is nothing major to announce.

All of that said, if you have a British Airways redemption to make, you might as well make it – especially if it is a short haul trip on a partner airline.  They are pretty easy to cancel without much penalty online and the official cancellation penalty is just $55.  Fall three years ago was the time of year they made a big change, so it still could be coming this fall.  Or, hopefully it isn’t.

Airline frequent flyer programs are really a business unto themselves these days with the programs selling miles to companies (especially banks) to use to lure their own customers, so they know that big changes have big impacts on lots of things in motion.  That doesn’t mean award programs can’t or won’t make sweeping major changes, but I’m not worried enough about this one happening quietly overnight to warrant speculatively locking in lots of flights I’m not sure about.

While I’m not burning my Avios, I am working on a redemption on British Airways using the 2 for 1 companion certificate I earned last year for spending $30,000 on my British Airways card in a year.  You can now use those certificates for one-way redemptions (even online), and that might be just the way to use it to fly to Europe next summer on a British Airways operated flight without going broke on taxes and fees.  For 60,000 Avios + about $883 two of us can fly first class to London on flights of 3,001 – 4,000 miles in length.  That averages out to 30,000 Avios + $441 each for a one-way first class ticket.  That’s not the “deal of the century”, but it is a deal I’m pretty happy with in order to try out a British Airways premium cabin and get to Europe relatively well rested.    If you wanted business class it would ring in at about 40,000 Avios total and roughly the same taxes/fees as first class for two tickets.  I was working on that redemption even before this recent Avios scare, but I’m working on it a little harder now, just in case…

Have you been locking in some Avios redemptions?


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  1. I think I’m in your camp, my guess is there will be some warning. We’ll see. I’m curious about your First class redemption and taxes, what routing is that? I have been seeing much higher taxes on routes I’ve tried.

  2. Jim, I’m not trusting exactly, but they did change Iberia. They didn’t change British Airways. I’m not saying it won’t ever change, but I don’t think it will be handled in the same way. In fact, it already hasn’t been as it didn’t change along with Iberia.

  3. Makes me reflect back on the last time BA changed their chart. When the advance notice came out a few years ago t, I decided to make a speculative booking for my wife and I, Dallas to Cabo on AA. I believe it cost 30 or 35k Avios round-trip plus ~$100 in taxes, similar to what AA would charge. Then the new chart came out, and the new rate was 15k Avios round-trip for that distance. So sometimes we all panic a little too much around anticipated changes – that was one where i would have been better off not reading the blogs.

  4. Well part of the reason I’m having trouble using Avios is that that their website booking engine is worthless. I can’t see any AA availability out if IAH/HOU on flights that AA.com says is there. The US availability is better but not much–mostly showing only the F availability–of course at triple the Avios. No domestic F is worth triple the points. Very frustrating. Lucky says to call Singapore to the BA redemption center there… not looking forward to that.

  5. Yes, I’ve used Iberia avios in the past on Vueling flights and frequently use BA avios for short-haul AirBerlin flights in Europe and AS in the US.
    Absolutely the best redemption rates around and I was holding my breath for a while, when I could not log into my BAEC account over the past weekend to book awards until yesterday.

    • Nomad, they useful many situations. Luckily for all of us this seems to have just been a scare and a case where Iberia published a chart that was previously relatively unknown and unpublished. It offers some subpar redemptions compared to the British Airways version, but isn’t actually new.

      Not to say BA won’t ever change (they will!), but there doesn’t seem to be an immediate ‘crisis’.

  6. Hi MP — this is off-topic, but just wanted to mention that I got a 70k Chase Ink Plus offer in the mail today. I live in South Carolina, where Chase doesn’t have a banking presence, so the 70k branch offer wasn’t accessible to me. Since it’s still invitation-only I don’t think they’re likely to take the 70k public, but folks might want to consider watching their mailboxes!

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