British Airways announces radical changes to frequent-flyer Avios points (and reveals new way to help the rich get richer)

Company will get an 'online kicking', according to critics

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The Independent Online

Business travellers whose firms pay for comfortable seats in the front of British Airways planes are to accrue frequent-flyer points even faster. But millions of economy-class collectors who buy their own tickets are to earn far fewer points, and face paying more to redeem them.

British Airways, which invented Air Miles - now known as Avios - has written to collectors telling them of radical changes to the scheme from 28 April.

Passengers who currently collect points on trips using cheaper, restricted tickets will see their earning power plummet. At present, a Heathrow-Vancouver economy return earns 9,400 points - more than enough for a round-trip from London to Milan (subject to a £35 payment). Some economy passengers face a 75 per cent fall in the number of Avios earned, to just 2,350. The same traveller would need to make four round trips to earn enough for a journey to Italy and back.

Conversely, business-class and first-class passengers on the same plane will see a 9,400 point-rise - with the increase alone providing enough Avios for a free flight to Italy.

Passengers in Scotland and northern England face dramatic increases in the cost of redeeming points for journeys to Europe. At present they are entitled to a free domestic connecting flight. That courtesy ends, says British Airways, “To bring the UK in line with the rest of the world.”

A traveller flying from Edinburgh to Heathrow and connecting to Geneva at present pays 9,000 Avios plus £35 for a return journey. From April, the number of points needed, and the cash supplement required, will double. Connections to long-haul destinations are unaffected.

 

The airline is also introducing “seasonal pricing”, saying: “At busy times of the year we will have a standard Avios price and for less busy times less Avios will be needed.” BA says that off-peak flights, which cover eight months of the year, will require fewer points for economy seats. But for the one-third of the year in which demand is strongest the cost will be the same as now. The peak periods mostly cover school holidays, though every Tuesday and Wednesday is classed as off-peak.

Every booking in Club World and First will be more expensive that at present, regardless of the time of the year.

British Airways is also increasing the available number of reward seats by six per cent, adding 500,000 each year. In addition, the airline is promising that some reward seats will be available even on the most in-demand departures, with a minimum of two business-class and four economy-class seats on every BA flight. These can be booked as early as 355 days before departure. If any are left by 45 days out, then the airline may sell them as normal tickets instead.

A spokeswoman for British Airways said: “We’re responding to customer feedback that the system should be fairer - the more expensive the ticket, the more Avios earned. And it brings us in to line with what many of our competitors are doing with their loyalty schemes.”

Jordan Dias, a management consultant, tweeted that he was “very disappointed” with the adjustments, and predicted BA would “get an online kicking from many for woeful changes”.

Tony Anderson, former marketing director of easyJet, described Avios as “the crack cocaine of frequent-flyer points”.

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