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A Final Thought about the British Airways Changes….Seriously, They’re a Good Thing for Most of Us

I’ve been reading lots of commentary about the changes British Airways has made to its award chart with its new Avios distance/zone-based points redemption program. Pretty universally, the feeling is that British Airways has screwed over travelers and that we should all be up in arms about the screwing we just received.

If you haven’t seen, basically redemptions for flights to Asia and South America have gone from being very reasonable to very expensive. However, redemptions (especially nonstop redemptions) within the US; from the US to the Caribbean and Central America; within South America; from the US to Europe; and within Europe, have all become more reasonable. In some cases, far more reasonable.

How these changes affect you is based entirely on your travel patterns. I suspect for people (like me) with families, these changes are actually great. We can take cold weather trips to the Caribbean and Central America for fewer points than required before. Plus, short-to-mid haul flights within the US have also become more reasonable. As a commenter pointed out yesterday, flights from New York to Montreal are now 9,000 miles round trip plus about $55 in taxes. Many flights within South America are now 9,000 miles round trip plus $10 or so. Those are great deals, and there are plenty more.

For most families (and many non-families) that’s pretty much how we use miles. Sure, I take trips outside of those places — but I’ve got miles in plenty of other mileage plans to ensure I can fly free pretty much wherever I want. But for most people, these changes are beneficial.

If you were hoping to hop around South America for 40,000 miles like you used to, that’s gone. So are the well-priced business class trips to Southeast Asia on Cathay. Those are gone too. But most people reading this should take everything else they’re reading about Avios with a grain of salt — the changes will actually benefit most of us. How often does that happen?

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  1. I would agree with you if flights without stops (but with connections) were priced by total miles traveled and not by segment. As it stands, the award chart heavily penalizes those of us who do not live in AA hubs.

    Further, in terms of SPG points per flight with the transfer bonus, the LAN distance based award chart is almost always a better value than Avios. I know comparing in terms of SPG points is not perfect, but that is the only common way I could come up with.

  2. The connections thing definitely penalizes people in non-hub cities. But even with those connections, many flights are still cheaper (esp to the Caribbean & Central America).

    I’m a big fan of the SPG->LAN transfer (it’s how I went to Easter Island), but it takes a week or two for points to show up at LAN, and their customer service is horrible (ie, if you have to call them). If you’ve got SPG points, LAN is a great transfer option, no doubt.

    • I guess I am upset because I was really looking forward to some bargains on Caribbean redemptions because those are trips that I actually take (and usually pay cash for).

      However, after scrutinizing the chart and various locations, the only awards worth getting excited about are those within 650 miles of Miami (Cancun, Grand Cayman, and Turks and Caicos). For me, the rest of the Caribbean redemptions are marginal values – if values at all. And I don’t even live that far away from Miami (New Orleans, which 15000 miles RT to Miami).

      Here is an example of how hard the segment pricing hits. Take MSY-SXM:

      If priced per segment, 35000 Avios points are required for a RT.

      If priced by total distance, 20000 Avios points would be required for a RT. That would be a flight worth using points for.

      • Agreed – the connections are a bummer. If you don’t live in hub, you are definitely penalized (though you’re no worse off than you were). You can go from MSY to Central America via DFW for 29,000 miles r/t.

  3. Rapid Travel Chai

    Thanks for showing a balanced perspective. Each traveler is different and these kind of things are rarely black and white, so blanket pronouncements are a disservice to travelers. I had the BA miles specifically for South America trips and am glad I burned them, but others will be happy they kept them.

  4. As is often the case, we’re on the same page here. For every N. American BAEC member unhappy with these changes, there will be a happy one. BAEC was never a great program to begin with (largely because of the crazy fees); it just had a few interesting loopholes. It’s closed up some of those loopholes (but, amazingly, it’s still by far the cheapest way to Easter Island!), but it’s opened new ones. I bought JFK-Halifax tickets for my family for next summer: 9000 points and $52. That fare is north of $600. How can I complain?

    • That’s actually a great example of what the program is now good for. I took the family to St John’s, Newfoundland, 2 years ago and it was 100k miles for the 4 of us on Continental (Halifax would’ve been the same). I’d much prefer 36,000 miles for the same trip.

      I prefer to look at the changes this way: BA used to be a great program for crazy long-haul routings. Now it’s a great program to use when you have shorter, high-priced routes (like nyc – halifax). There’s plenty of value in that.

      • It’s actually nice to not have every award travel ticket be for 5000 miles. :smile: From NYC, there was basically no logical way for a leisure traveller to buy a ticket to Eastern Canada. Now it’s a deal. Avios isn’t great as your primary ff program, but it’s going to be a very useful tool.

        BTW, I’m also thinking of Bermuda (never been), but I’ve got to figure out a lodging deal first (very expensive).

  5. I just lucked out with BA miles. I was about to have to pay $550 each for a family of four to go from Mem to DFW to visit the inlaws over Christmas but I just used a total of 36,000 Avios points to get the tickets instead. Sweet! Having said that, the new connection rules stink.

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