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Exclusive: Don't lose your Airmiles!

Published: 28/01/2009 - Filed under: News »

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UK loyalty scheme Airmiles, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BA, has quietly changed its T&Cs, with the result that thousands of members may now have to pay a fee to redeem their Airmiles. Worse still, inactive members may see their accounts closed and all Airmiles lost.

Those affected by the new rules are members who collect Airmiles irregularly. Also affected are those members who collected many thousands of Airmiles in the days when they could be accrued through using NatWest credit cards, taking BA flights and shopping at Sainsbury’s. They may now find that today’s opportunities for earning Airmiles (now that BA flights no longer qualify and with a different bank and supermarket chain involved) are not so attractive and so are no longer bothering to collect Airmiles.

Many of these members may be holding on to tens of thousands of Airmiles which they plan to use sometime in the future. But, in truth, if action isn’t taken now they could lose the lot which might mean losing flights potentially worth thousands of pounds.

Until now all Airmiles, once earned, were valid indefinitely. But a small paragraph buried on the home page of the loyalty firm’s website informs members that this is no longer the case.

A new set of rules has been brought in to encourage members to collect Airmiles regularly. It means that if members do not collect any Airmiles in any one year they must now pay a fee when redeeming their Airmiles. Worse still, should no Airmiles be credited over a two-year period then the member’s account will be closed and all Airmiles will be lost.

A spokesperson for Airmiles told Business Traveller, “We have millions of members who regularly collect and use Airmiles. We also have members who, for whatever reason, haven’t collected any Airmiles in nearly two years.

“Our terms and conditions have always stated that  ‘we may at any time put a time limit on how long you have to spend Airmiles and that we may decide to amend the limit from time to time and will give customers reasonable notice’.

“We have now amended our terms and conditions and set a time limit.

“All members now need to collect at least one Airmile in 24 months to keep their account open. They also need to credit one Airmile during the last 12 months otherwise there’s a £30 administration fee per booking.

“We are writing to over 1.5 million members who may have forgotten about their Airmiles account. Our members have been responding very positively to their letters with many now collecting again.”

However it’s likely that a number of these inactive or semi-active members will have changed addresses. So it will take some time before everyone becomes aware of the new rules.

Financial experts believe the new rules are being brought in to lessen Airmiles’ redemption liability in the future, should BA at any time decide to dispose of the company.

In previous years BA had tried to sell Airmiles. The firm was of less use to BA because its Executive Club members had started earning BA Miles instead.

Reports in The Independent newspaper of July 24, 2006 and in The Daily Telegraph of February 2, 2002 suggested that BA was hoping to raise £200 million from the sale. But BA found no takers for the business.

When asked whether this might be the case today, the spokesperson would only state that “Airmiles is not for sale.”

Readers wishing to check the state of their Airmiles’ accounts can either do so online or by calling +44 (0)844 4933332. For more information visit airmiles.co.uk.

Report by Alex McWhirter

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COMMENTS » 

seanyjmuc - 29/01/2009 16:06

What an absolute swizz! I collected Airmiles through my NatWest credit card (when you still could) and then when I tried to redeem them, I always found the flights to be incredibly expensive compared to paying cash. Now that they have changed the Ts and Cs, folks have very little, if any, incentive to persevere with this scheme. Far better to sign up to an airline and become a member of their loyalty schemes.

Binman62 - 09/03/2009 20:01

I am one of those who collected having been told they never expired and currently have over 40000 miles. I have been using them recently as a family matter meant I was commuting from Heathrow to Glasgow / Edinburgh regularly. I was surprised but also delighted that every time I need to travel from Aug 08 until Dec 08 I could get a seat. Not always at the best times but I got a seat to either Glasgow or Edinburgh. Since January however Airmiles have, without telling members, withdrawn all miles only tickets on BA from Heathrow T5 to Glasgow or Edinburgh. They will sell a seat at £73 return but you cannot use Airmiles alone. They will provide Airmiles only on BMI or ex Gatwick or London City. Just try it for yourself, the availability calendar never appears for Glasgow or Edinburgh as it does for Aberdeen Paris or anywhere else thus showing that there is not a single seat that month. I have tried every month for the next 11 months and nothing. Calls to Airmiles elicit the usual response that they are full and try Gatwick or London city, but if seats are available on BA.com or indeed Airmiles.co.uk for £73 they cannot be full, and certainly not for year. In addition, if they are selling seats at £73 it means that 750 Airmiles are not worth this amount to BA, the owners of Airmiles and yet it could have costs anything from £7500 to £37500 to collect the 750 miles required, depending on how you collect them. In every case when an Airmiles seat is not available, BA miles seats are and on every flight of the same day. The cynic in me would suggest that this is because BA miles seats generate revenue for BA due surcharges and booking fees. Airmiles not only generate no revenue but on domestic routes like GLA/EDI there is likely to be little demand for hotels or car from people visiting friends and family. Perhaps this might elicit a better response from Airmiles but I doubt it. My advice is for people to avoid collecting Airmiles entirely and if you have some use them while you can….but don’t expect to go to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

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