British Airways has announced significant changes to its loyalty programme, BA Executive Club. Starting from November 16, Airmiles, Iberia Plus and the BA Exec Executive Club members will earn Avios points.
Speaking exclusively to Business Traveller, Andrew Swaffield, managing director of the Mileage Company which runs the Airmiles programme and manages the BA Executive Club and Iberia Plus programmes said that the intention of the new programme was to “create a new shared global reward currency to provide benefits for all three members.”
Airmiles customers will see the biggest change, not only seeing their programme name change to Avios, but also having to pay redemption fees for their flights, something which until now they had escaped.
For BA Executive Club members, a welcome change is the introduction of a flat fee for European flight in zones one to three on a new nine-zone map for redemption bookings (reaching as far as Moscow) of £27 or Euros27 (the currency depending on the location of the member of the programme).
Swaffield estimated an average taxes charge being around £90 for these flights at present, and said that this new Rewards Flight Saver product had been as a result of feedback from BA Exec Club members.
“Our customers have been telling us that European redemptions are very popular, but with the taxes fees and charges it has become poorer value to redeem their miles on European flights. We wanted to make it more attractive to do so.”
It should be noted that this is for “regular collectors”, the definition of which seems to be those who have earned points in the previous 12 months. For all others, taxes, fees and charges will apply to all zones regardless of distance.
The name Avios, which “means nothing” according to Swaffield, was chosen because it was “easy to pronounce, scalable, international and would work around the world, yet also hinted at aviation and travel.”
A one-way fare using Avios to zones one to three will pay £13.50 (BA Executive Club and Airmiles members). For all flights over 2,000 miles (zones four to nine) customers will pay the fare with Avios and the airline taxes, fees and charges separately in cash.
The other major change for BA Exec Club members is that from November 16 they can redeem their Avios points for hotels and car rental, as well as flights.
Less welcome will be the new fee of £25 for members when they want to make changes for redemption bookings. Swaffield said this was in part to stop some members from holding multiple bookings.
Exact details of the new redemption zones has yet to be released, but Swaffield said that New York is going down to 40,000 from 50,000 for economy bookings, with an upper range of 100,000 for zone 9, as today.
“BA Exec Club members will recognise the starting price for redemptions of 9000 and 100,000 as they are today, Swaffield said. For redemptions in zones 4 to 9 they will also recognise the taxes and fees which will remains as they are at present.
What’s notable about the announcement is what remains the same for BA Exec and Iberia Plus members. All three programmes remain separate: Avios will replace Air Miles, but BA Exec Club and Iberia Plus remain as three distinct programmes “… keeping their brands and heritage which has value for the airlines which have different customer bases”.
Tier points will remain as today, giving status and recognition in the programme.
Silver card members will continue to have lounge access. Miles – soon-to-be-points – will be good for upgrades. Airmiles members (soon to be Avios members) will get the opportunity to earn Avios when they buy an airline ticket for money, “…and this will extend to Oneworld over time”.
Avios members will not, however, earn tier points. Anyone wanting to earn status would have to join one of the airline programmes.
Swaffield believes that customers will make the choice of whether to be an Avios customer and earn and spend on a range of options such as Eurostar journeys, hotel accommodation, UK days out at LegoLand, Alton Towers and spa and golf breaks, or one of the frequent flyer programme which will concentrate their efforts on flights, albeit with the addition of hotels and car rentals now being options for burning points.
Between the three programmes there are 5.5 million active members (ie: those who have earned points or miles in the previous 12 months). For those who have both Airmiles accounts and BA Exec Club accounts, here will also be the option of combining multiple accounts for redemptions. Air Miles members will see all their air miles being multiplied by 10 on November 16 to create parity.
In other news:
- the BA Amex card is being retained, as is the companion voucher and ability to earn miles – soon to be points – from spend.
- Airmiles customers can now use Avios for one-way flights or to mix and match the airports they fly to and from, e.g. into New York JFK and back from Boston
- The removal of the regional flight supplement for Airmiles customers
- Taxes, fees and surcharges, which are currently included in bookings made using Airmiles will be charged separately in cash for flights to all zones. Airmiles customers can continue to book under the current terms until December 15, 2011.
Report by Tom Otley
NB: notes for Airmiles customers
Avios annual collection example
|Grocery shopping||£150 per month||7200 Avios per year|
|Petrol||100 litres per month||600 Avios per year|
|Credit card spend||£500 per month||6000 Avios per year|
|Online shopping||£100 per month||2400 Avios per year|
|NEW: Air travel spend in cash||1 return flight in a year||1000 Avios per year|
|Total||17,200 Avios per year|