There's a saying about "making hay while the sun shines". Sadly, the "sun" seems to be setting on British Airways miles being a great currency. As of April 28th, despite the marketing rhetoric, most everything involving British Airways miles (Avios) will be more expensive and you will earn less miles for every ticket you purchase, unless you are purchasing first class tickets. I have spent far too much time reading the FAQ's and have some thoughts on how to play it.
Make hay while the sun shines. If you care about travel on British Airways (especially premium cabin travel) or any partner airlines like American, Iberia, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Finnair or Qatar, book now or forever lose more miles. Changes are coming that will mean virtually every seat up front will cost more miles. How much? Up to 140% more. If that wasn't bad enough, all the seats in the back will now earn a fraction of their current miles. Though award seats in coach will remain virtually unchanged, award tickets and upgrades with miles for Business or First Class will go up nearly across the board. Business class awards will cost 25% more Avios on all distances greater than 2,000 miles (one way). Upgrading a paid premium economy ticket to business using miles, which has traditionally been a great value, will now cost 140% more miles on all flights over 3,000 miles (one way). Bye Bye upgrades to Club World from New York to London!
Book now, make changes later. From British Airways:
"Will I be able to change the dates of an existing reward flight after 28 April?
Yes. You will be able to make changes to your existing booking on or after the 28 April 2015 under the existing rules. This means, for example, that you will not have to use more Avios towards your existing booking if you need to change it after this date where under the new rules you would be required to use more Avios to make the same booking. This also means that you will not be refunded any difference in Avios if you make a change to your existing booking which would require you to use less Avios under the new rules. Please note change fees may apply."
I personally plan to liquidate all of my British AIrways miles before April 28th and if I need to make changes... so be it. I can afford a $75 dollar change fee but I certainly cannot afford an extra 25-50,000 Avios each way. My best advice is to book now before April 28th to lock in the lower cost in Avios with the assurance that you cannot be charged more as per British Airways own terms and conditions (which I would screenshot). If your dates don't change, you've locked in the last great value for Avios, and if they do, its a reasonable expense to make the dates work and avoid the horrendous new pricing in Avios.
As you hopefully know, even if you are flying British Airways you can collect miles on other airlines. For earning and crediting miles, I would suggest finding another airline which also serves your destinations. If you are an elite flier on British Airways it may be beneficial to switch your allegiance to another airline which doesn't cut your tier and mile earning in half (or quarter). If you are an economy flier most discount tickets will now receive only a quarter of the miles actually flown while mid priced economy tickets will only receive half! Shocking!!! Silver tier bonuses will be halved and most premium economy will no longer earn you bonus miles. If you are thinking of ditching one world, I highly value the Sky Team Alliance. At a certain tier, all alliances offer benefits such as priority check in, screening, lounge access and priority baggage handling regardless which airline you are flying in the alliance. There are simply too many variables to tell you who to switch to.
For my American readers there is a small silver lining. The distance based chart for short haul flights within the United States seems to be in tact and will not go up. You can still go any distance from 1,152 miles (each way) and less for 15,000 miles roundtrip and from 650 miles or less (each way) for only 9,000 miles roundtrip.
Book now or forever lose more miles. I for one, will now cease to collect Avios and will use what remaining Avios I have to book all the flights I could possibly need before the April 28th deadline. For UK readers, did you know that you could avoid paying those horribly high taxes on awards by getting to the US first and booking from there using Avios? New York to LA round trip in American Airline's swanky lie flat business class is only 50,000 Avios. If you bought a ticket to New York you could see the best of both coasts while liquidating your soon to be useless avios. You could also fly to Rio for 100,000 avios and only $62USD per person round trip. Whether its from London or anywhere else, get rid of those Avios and fast.