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British Airways Executive Club has started (quietly) running a trial for a new redemption option. Members who have their accounts based in the UK or the US are now able to book Club World rewards that book into “I” class availability. (typically the cheapest inflexible Business Class fare bucket)
Of course this doesn’t come cheaply, as members are being quoted prices in the 190,000+ Avios range for return trips, when the regular off-peak pricing to North America starts at 100,000 Avios return.
Some of the elements to this trial are:
- Limited to Executive Club members resident in the UK and the US
- Travel is to/from North America (obviously the US, Canada and Mexico – I’m unsure about the Caribbean…)
- Club World only
- Can only be booked over the phone
- You can’t use an American Express 2-for-1 voucher, but you can Upgrade Using Avios or use a Gold Guest List upgrade
- You will pay the same amount in taxes / surcharges as for a regular reward, and you won’t earn Avios or Tier Points for the flight
I believe that Paul from Turning Left for Less was the first to pick up the rumour on Flyertalk and find out the relevant details from BAEC. So HT to TLFL…
Why I Hope That This Trial Ends in Failure
Some commentators – wink, wink – take the view that any additional opportunity to spend Avios is a good thing. And it’s hard to argue with that… especially for the subset of Avios collectors who accumulate substantial amounts of Avios through business travel, but can’t book their holiday flights far enough in advance to grab Club World (or better) reward seats to popular destinations.
But that approach glosses over a simple fact. If British Airways wanted to make it easier for members to redeem their Avios, they would simply release more award seats! And not just a year in advance, but in hard-to-forecast releases much closer to departure.
In addition, British Airways has long taken care of their truly important customers – Gold and Gold Guest List members – with the Gold Priority Reward (any seat on the plane for double the usual Avios) and what are informally called “jokers” (most seats available for the usual amount of Avios).
So, by running this trial, British Airways is simply testing the market to see whether members will pay more Avios for the same Business Class reward.
What Might Happen if the Trial is Successful
Again, the argument can easily be made that this reward option would be incremental to standard reward flights. For now… But it would be very simple to gradually reduce the availability of “standard” award seats in Club World and subtly shift members in the direction of more expensive rewards. There would be no need for a widely-publicised devaluation that would drive the blogs / newspapers wild and lead some members to cut up their American Express cards…
Don’t believe me? Just try to find an award seat in Business Class to/from the US on American Airlines or United Airlines. You’ll see a lot of this…
And a lot more of this…
The aviation market seems to be pulling in two different directions. Airfares are coming down, yet the cost of reward flights using miles is going up. Hopefully Executive Club members will ignore this new redemption option and we can stick with the current system for a few more years…
What do you think? Do you like this new option? Or do you share my fears about its ultimate impact on award availability? Let us know in the comments section…