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Major Airline Devalues Its Mileage Program

SmarterTravel

Yesterday, in the inboxes of many members of British Airways’ Executive Club program (including mine) there appeared an email with the apparently innocuous subject line “We’re making changes to the Executive Club.” Of course, any traveler worth his upgrade certificates knows that such headings are almost always code for “We’re making changes that you won’t like.”

Indeed, the changes to Executive Club, set to take effect on April 28, amount to a devaluation in the eyes of most program members.

But first, the airline’s attempt to assuage the predictable skepticism from flyers vested in Executive Club:

On 28 April, we’ll be making some changes to the Executive Club that will mean you’ll notice a difference to the way you earn and spend Avios with us. We’re making these changes to provide more opportunities for you to spend Avios on reward flights as well as to ensure that the Executive Club continues to deliver a competitive and rewarding loyalty programme for the future.

Continuing on the theme of better award availability, British Airways is promising to make more than 9 million award seats available—an increase of over a half-million seats—”with a minimum of two Club World/Club Europe and four World Traveller/Euro Traveller reward seats on all British Airways operated flights that are offered for sale on ba.com.”

In exchange for that increase of around 5.6 percent more award seats, program members will take a hit on the earning side of the program. A big hit.

In particular, the earning rate for restricted coach tickets—the type of ticket most leisure travelers purchase—will drop from 100 percent of actually flown miles to just 25 percent. That will be a bitter pill for many Executive Club members to swallow.

In addition, those cheaper tickets will only earn 25 percent of the elite-qualifying points, down from 50 percent currently.

And, more on the topic of elite status, the tier bonus for Silver members will be cut from 100 percent to 50 percent.

On the award side of the program, British Airways is introducing peak and off-peak pricing. For coach awards, it’s a mixed bag, with some prices going up, some down, and others remaining the same. Fuel surcharges remain in place, however, which already strip away much of the value of coach redemptions.

For award flights in business or first class, the prices rise, both for peak and off-peak travel.

As with the new revenue-based programs being introduced by Delta and United, the winners in British Airways’ new scheme will be those who travel frequently on unrestricted tickets. They’ll continue earning miles at the current rate, and have better access to award seats. The losers will be the occasional leisure traveler, whose ability to earn miles will be drastically curtailed.

As one poster on FlyerTalk thread summed it up: “So it’s now easier to redeem on the flights it was already easy to redeem on, whilst pretty much everything else about the program has stayed the same or significantly diminished in value…”

Reader Reality Check

How will these Executive Club changes affect your loyalty to British Airways?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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