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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?