British Airways ups reward levels, but the best deals are still good (and why you should care)

Last year, I talked about the British Airways frequent flyer program and why it matter even if you don’t live in the UK.  The short version is: BA determines the amount of miles (or “avios,” as BA calls them) you need for a flight by the distance of the flight, not the continent or the country.  And since BA is a oneworld partner, its points can be used on American or US Airways.  So on a really short flight, say, from Boston to Washington DC, would cost you as few as 9,000 miles round trip, far better than the 25,000 miles you’d pay at some airlines.  The quick way to get British Airways miles is with a credit card from Chase, which you should not get now.  The sign-up bonus is 50,000 avios, which is excellent, but they usually do a 100,000 point special in the spring.  That’s as good as it gets.

Today, BA announced a number of changes to the program.  The first big one was that the airline adjusted the way you earn miles, er, avios.  Now, you get the miles you flew multiplied by a percentage.  If you flew an expensive ticket, the multiplier is high.  If you flew on a cheap ticket, the multiplier will be something less than 100%.

But the more important news is that BA adjusted the redemption levels.  It’s no use using the avios on a longer flight, since the prices are distance-based.  But on a short flight, you’ll pay only a fraction of what other airlines charge.  And the news for those who use the miles well is good: for short flights, the redemption prices are staying the same or going down (Note: That applies only to coach class.  Biz/First is going up.).

Old Chart:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 8.19.48 PM

New Chart:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 8.20.07 PM

BA has added an off-peak option for the rewards.  For the standard (peak) tickets, the short-haul prices, where you get the best bang for your buck, stay the same.  For the off-peak, though, which is most of the year, the rewards actually go down.  Congratulations, an airline just made an adjustment that should work in your favor.

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2 comments

    • Mike on January 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm
      Author
    • Reply

    You hit it right on the nose, Rich. I get a lot more questions about redemptions than I do earning miles, which is why I only spent a couple of sentences on the earnings, but the airline is starting to move to a system similar to that of the US.

    As you point out, the minimum miles, multipliers and elite benefits have all dropped at the lower levels. If you’re flying on an inexpensive coach or premium economy fare, you’ll earn as little as 25% of the miles you flew. Of course, if you’re flying in a paid high fare class, the multipliers go up. Same thing with tier points and minimum flight miles.

    I understand their objectives, but I thought that there were a couple of pieces that stand out as a bit of a slap in the face. First, the reduction of the Silver bonus from 100% to 50%. Seriously, why is that necessary? Silver is not an easy status to get on BA and they have a fair number of business customers that are in that category. And second, the reduction in premium economy miles. Most airlines are trying to get people to upgraded from basic economy to premium. I don’t know why you would disincentivize a passenger from doing so.

    • Rich on January 28, 2015 at 9:41 pm
    • Reply

    Except that to earn miles has just got harder unless you’re prepared to buy a flexible ticket or a ticket in biz or first. If you’re on a lower economy fare you’ll now only earn 25% miles rather than 100 and if like me you’re silver you’ll now only earn a 50% bonus rather than 100%. So in all the scheme has got worse and is less rewarding of loyalty. Earning teir points has also got harder with as few as 35 round trip transatlantic NY to London on a cheap economy ticket vs 70 today. Reward the rich, slam everyone else

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