Starting Nov. 16, 2011, British Airways is making some major changes to its Executive Club loyalty program. While the name of the program will stay the same, members will earn a new type of currency called Avios points instead of miles. The new Avios points will be the loyalty currency of British Airways, AIR MILES and Iberia. In an interview with Business Traveller, Andrew Swaffield, Managing Director of the Mileage Company said that the new program was created to provide a “new shared global reward currency to provide benefits for all three members.” British Airways Executive Club miles will automatically be converted into Avios points at a 1:1 ratio when the program switches to the new currency in November. Members do not need to do anything when the program changes and Avios points will have the same expiration policy of Executive Club miles. Points will not expire as long as members earn or redeem at least one point every 36 months.
There will be other changes to the program as well. Members will be able to redeem Avios points for hotel stays and car rentals and a new flight award will be launched called the Reward Flight Saver, which will be available on flights in Zones 1-3. Instead of being required to pay the regular airline taxes, fees and surcharges, members will be charged a flat fee of 27 pounds / 27 euros if you are travelling in Euro Traveller and 34 pounds / 34 euros if you are travelling in Club Europe when redeeming points for a Reward Flight Saver award. Zones 1-3 include many destinations in Europe from Prague (Zone 1) to Moscow (Zone 3). The award charts will also be changing, although the new pricing has not been released. According to the website, “On 97 percent of our routes there will be either no change or the route will require even fewer Avios points than the current BA Miles”. For example, flights between New York and London will actually decrease from 50,000 miles roundtrip in coach to 40,000 Avios points and from 100,000 miles to 80,000 Avios points in business class. Visit httrp://www.insideflyer.com/link/?5293 to learn more.
Bottom line: At first glance, the Executive Club changes don’t seem too bad. Members will be earning a new currency but the value of that currency will remain the same–one mile equals one Avios point. There is, however, one major change that will effect members who redeem miles for partner awards. Under the current structure, partner awards are much cheaper than awards on British Airways. For example, a business class award on a partner airline between the U.S. and Asia costs 100,000 miles compared to 240,000 miles if you fly on British Airways. While we don’t know what the new award pricing will be, it’s likely that awards on partner airlines will increase to match the miles required for flights on British Airways. According to the BA Executive Club representative on FlyerTalk.com: “partner rewards will be priced the same as BA. So a single pricing table for itineraries which are: BA only, BA +1 partner or partner only.” While the changes will benefit members redeeming flights for short-haul European flights, members redeeming miles for partner flights may be looking at increases of 100 percent or more.