News

Exclusive: Don't lose your Airmiles!

28 Jan 2009 by Mark Caswell

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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