Economy-class passengers will earn fewer points under radical changes

Travellers who have spent years collecting frequent-flier points with British Airways have reacted angrily to the airline’s decision to overhaul its loyalty scheme.

Radical changes to the system, announced today, will see millions of economy-class passengers earn fewer points and face paying more to redeem them, while business travellers will accrue frequent-flyer points even faster.

British Airways, which invented Air Miles – now known as Avios – has written to collectors telling them of changes to the scheme which will come into effect on 28 April. Economy-class passengers who currently collect points on trips using cheaper, restricted tickets will see their earning power plummet.

Under the current scheme, an economy return flight from Heathrow to Vancouver earns 9,400 points – enough for a round-trip from London to Milan, subject to a £35 payment. But some economy passengers face a 75 per cent drop in the number of Avios earned, which will see them accrue a meagre 2,350 points.

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.

British Airways also revealed that under the new system “reward flight” passengers in Scotland and northern England travelling to mainland Europe will no longer be entitled to a free domestic connecting flight. The airline said that this will “bring the UK in line with the rest of the world”.

Travellers flying from Edinburgh to Heathrow and connecting to Geneva pay 9,000 Avios plus £35 per person for a return journey at present. From April, the number of points needed, and the cash supplement required, will double.

The airline is also introducing “seasonal pricing”. Its website says: “At busy times of the year we will have a standard Avios price and for less busy times less Avios will be needed.”

A British Airways spokeswoman said: “We’re responding to customer feedback that the system should be fairer  – the more expensive the ticket, the more Avios earned.”