Ask the Traveller: Airmiles changes

I read in The Independent that the Airmiles scheme is changing – from 16 November you will have to pay taxes and charges. I assume that if you have a lot (in my case, 9,000), it is probably best to spend them now? Also, you said the points required for flights from regional airports via London will now be the same as from London. Does that include Belfast? Paul Giles, Belfast

Within the past few days more than two million Airmiles collectors have been told that the reward scheme has changed drastically. For bookings made online from 16 November (or through the call centre from 16 December), you will have to pay taxes and fees to claim a "free" flight. For European trips, you pay a minimum of £27 return; for New York, more than £300; and for Sydney, almost £500. Naturally a lot of people have decided to "spend" their holdings before the deadline – on tickets for travel up to November next year. Right now your 9,000 Airmiles could buy you 12 round trips from London to Paris or Brussels; after the changes, you could buy only 10 trips, and would need to pay £270.

Travellers whose journeys start at UK regional airports served by BA may be among the few beneficiaries; the previous price of 500 Airmiles for a connecting flight to London has been dropped. But this applies only from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester. From Belfast, you can get connections on BMI to Heathrow or Flybe to Gatwick – but will need to pay their interpretation of "taxes, fees and charges" (£41.50 in the case of BMI).

Some collectors claim the change has sparked a surge in bookings, leading to a shortage of seats to key destinations. But Andrew Swaffield, managing director of Airmiles, said "There's no problem with availability. The increase in bookings is exactly what we expected."

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