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British Airways: Avios points to be based on spend, not distance

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British Airways: Avios points to be based on spend, not distance

The loyalty points collected by many British Airways passengers could be drastically reduced next year, a leading business travel expert has warned.

On a London-New York round-trip, the minimum Avios points earned by an economy class could drop by 30 per cent – or possibly much more.

Rob Burgess, editor of the Head for Points website, spotted the revelation in an announcement by BA’s sister airline, Iberia.

The Spanish carrier shares the Avios frequent flyer currency with British Airways. The online message from Iberia promises “a new way of earning Avios”.

The airline’s Iberia Plus scheme previously awarded Avios points based on the distance flown, adjusted according to the category of ticket and cabin.

With immediate effect, the key variable on the Spanish airline is the amount spent on the ticket.

Frequent flyers who have achieved “elite status” – which is based on the number of flights taken in the course of a year – will continue to earn Avios at a higher rate than other travellers.

Going forward, Iberia passengers will earn five Avios for each euro spent. Higher-tier travellers will earn up to three additional points per €1.

Silvia Morán, Iberia’s client loyalty director, said: “We think this is a more fair and transparent way to reward our more loyal members.”

The Iberia announcement includes a quote from BA’s head of retail and customer relationship management, Ian Romanis, revealing BA will follow suit next year.

He said: “We congratulate our colleagues at Iberia for introducing this change and we look forward to joining them in 2023.”

If the Iberia conversion rate is adopted and sterling-euro exchange rates remain largely the same, for each £1 spent British Airways passengers will earn six points – or up to 10 points per pound for higher-tier travellers.

Passengers will also get points for money spent on seat selection and baggage, which are currently not taken into account.

Mr Romanis said the move “will unlock even more opportunities for our members to earn Avios when they fly”.

But Mr Burgess, editor of the Head for Points frequent flyer blog, ridiculed the claim. In an article, he wrote: “I challenge anyone to give an example of how these changes ‘will unlock even more opportunities for our members to earn Avios when they fly’.

“When you have to resort to peddling claims like this, which literally don’t make any sense, you know you’ve lost the argument.”

Crucially, the spend your points are based on does not take into account “taxes, fees and charges” – which can comprise a large part of the cost of a ticket.

On the cheapest British Airways flight from London Gatwick to New York JFK, costing £361 return, 44 per cent goes on government taxes (including UK Air Passenger Duty) and airport fees.

If six Avios are awarded for each pound spent, the economy passenger would earn 1,212 Avios – down 30 per cent compared with the current minimum of 1,736 based on the same flight. Spending on seat selection and/or checked baggage would increase the points earned under the new system.

It is not clear, though, whether Avios will be accrued on BA’s “carrier imposed charge”. On the Gatwick-JFK flight, this amounts to £200 – leaving a base fare of just £2. Were British Airways to choose not to offer Avios on the carrier imposed charge, the passenger would earn just 12 Avios. They would have to make 148 transatlantic journeys to acquire the same number of points as today.

Mr Burgess said: “This model of earning Avios has been used by other airlines and is generally agreed to be a dud.”

A British Airways spokesperson said more details about the change, including the date, would be announced “in due course”.

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