a seat in a plane

Yesterday was a big day if you collect British Airways Avios, have a BA Amex, or Chase British Airways Visa Card. A lot changed. I’d argue, almost all for the better, unless you play niche games. I hate high cash fees, and a modest increase in points cost to offset seems reasonable.

Anyway, people immediately came to me with a number of questions and I’ve tried to drill down to the important stuff, and what still has people a bit confused. Here are a few answers you might find helpful, based on the changes.

I also found the reactions really funny.

To summarize…

If you don’t like the new pricing, you can still access the old pricing.

This allows you to pay more cash and fewer Avios like the old days if you really want to. I’d rather pay less cash, personally, which is why I welcome the changes.

If you have a financial product, such as a BA Amex or Chase BA Card, your card just got more valuable,

Since surcharges are lower and you still get 50% off the Avios price when you earn a voucher, you’re coming out circa 15% ahead of where you were yesterday.

The cost of living crisis is real outside of Flyertalk.

People in the UK who last week needed to pay a minimum of £857 per person for an aspirational business class trip to USA can now pay £700 for not one, but two people total — and US customers now pay $700 per person, rather than $1500 plus. They need more points, but it’s easier to earn more points than more cash these days.

Amex Vouchers can now be used for Iberia & Aer Lingus flights.

These airlines have low Avios costs and low surcharges too. If you are cranky AF about the changes and want to ‘stick it to the man”, fly Iberia from Madrid for peanuts.

Surcharge pricing is about where your account is based. Simple.

If you’re based in the USA, a business class flight from the East Coast will cost $350 each way, and will always be quoted in dollars. If you’re in the UK, it’ll be £350 round trip, or £175 each way for business to East Coast USA, or places like Dubai.

One way’s will price at £175 which is a H-U-G-E improvement over previous pricing and odd variations on one ways between places.

a seat in a plane

Choose Happiness This Holiday Season

Despite all this, which hopefully I’ve added clarity to, people were trying to argue that these were really negative changes for everyone without a 2-4-1 voucher to use with their Avios.

In a slightly negative article I found these reactions from our friends (truly, I like them a lot) Head For Points very funny. Let’s see how much worse things turn out with the big changes, in their words…

For people without an Amex 2-4-1 voucher (for New York)…

As you can (see), virtually nothing has changed.

The ‘Avios rich but cash poor’ benefit from being able to use more Avios and less money. However, the marginal cost of being able to do that is poor. You ‘save’ £500 in taxes by using 60,000 extra Avios – not a deal I would personally make.

For everyone else it is the same. Booking yesterday with a pot of 100,000 Avios required £853 of taxes and charges, and today it requires £850.Head For Points

For people with an Amex 2-4-1 voucher…

It is clearly good news IF you have an American Express 2-4-1 voucher to burn AND you have 160,000 Avios to make the booking. Your booking has got around 15% cheaper when you look at the combined cash and Avios required.

If you only have 100,000 Avios in your account, nothing changes. You’re no better and you’re no worse off. Your 2-4-1 booking will still cost you £850 each in taxes and charges, plus 100,000 Avios.Head For Points

I just don’t see a world where these are negative changes, based on how many new avenues to earn Avios now exist, and how much higher new card ‘welcome bonuses’ are. And again, if you want to pay the old prices for a redemption, you can.

Plus, the UK Amex voucher can now be used as a single person supplement, which reduces the Avios by 50% for one, so you now get a ticket for much lower surcharges and pay fewer Avios too. I hope Chase follows in the USA.

How can one be shocked that a loyalty program actually wants you to engage with its products and airlines to benefit the most? Can anyone really argue against that with a serious face?

Only in the echo chamber of Flyertalk can people see having exactly the same choices they had yesterday, with new options which make things more affordable for people who don’t earn as much cash — as a bad thing.

There are legitimate implications for accounts based outside of the UK and US which I hope are addressed, but if you’re not one of those, I just don’t get it.

There are niche examples of having old style vouchers that have different pricing now, but I’ve always advocated for people to spend their points and their vouchers. They’re not savings accounts — points are typically depreciating assets. See: half the posts on GSTP ever, about devaluations, changes and opportunities closing.

If you don’t save them up for years, changes aren’t as impactful and you’ll get more travel joy in the meantime. God, Spend The Damn Points!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Gilbert, it seems there are far more situations where BA just plainly devalued avios masking it as “lower surcharges”. I recently booked BUD-LHR-PHL with stopover in LHR for 4 people. Paid 280k avios + 2200USD. Now same award costs 400k avios + 1400USD. And no, “old option” is unavailable, with some other options offered being ridiculously high in surcharges. I am sure there are tons of other examples like mine above…

    1. Hey Sergey, where is your account registered? If not US/UK, this is the area I’m hoping will improve, because it seems silly to punish EU/outside based areas with no access to reward flight saver. Feel free to email me, gilbert @ (this website) and happy to discuss further. Very best.

  2. “If you don’t like the new pricing, you can still access the old pricing”. – that is simply not true… think you’re biased/blinded because you have so many points and youre mostly UK/US based, I dont think you’re looking at the bigger picture, firstly you need to have access to RFS fares, fares from places like hong kong/brazil, or ex EU fares via london.. all gone up…. I agree with UK/US 2for1(new voucher) +RFS you can emulate the old pricing.. but lets not kid ourselves, the “old” pricing has done up drastically since 2021, so this is a bait and switch and a lever to get your to sign up to the Avios subscription.

    1. Two things:
      1) access to Reward Flight Saver for anyone in the UK is incredibly easy. Earn one point, in almost any way, within a year. The moment you do, you get RFS. Any points transfer from a bank, a points purchase, taking a flight, buying wine, shopping online, etc all counts.

      2) It is true for everyone except those trying to use the old 2-4-1 Amex vouchers (almost all of which expire soon) and for those outside of the US/UK. As I said in the post, it’d be great for all regions to get RFS access. Any solo traveler looking at NY, Dubai, whatever today are getting the options of new prices or the old prices too. It’s just these crazy niche legacy products and a few destinations which seem impacted at all.

      1. I agree on RFS, that’s not my main gripe… I feel BA have been setting up prices/fees over the past few years with huge jumps in fees since 2020 with this change in mind, so it seems like a positive, but all BA have done is a stealth (well not so stealth) increase the Avios needed vs pre covid, and some people are applauding them.

        Things like an Avios subscription seem “worth it” now because of the decrease in FEES but the increase in AVIOS – well played BA, you’ve managed to suck a few people in.

        The game changes and we need to change with it. The main positive is redemptions on other carriers with the BA Amex 2for1, most of my Avios spend recently has been Qatar to be fair, living in the EU being and being able to use 2for1 on Iberia etc will be amazing so there are some postives.

      2. It sure seems like fares have gone up from flights outside the UK to the UK.
        Last September my wife and I flew Lisbon to Seattle, thru London for about 146K Avios plus about 300 each.
        The same flight March 30, 2023 (off peak) is 244,500 Avios plus $324.34 each.
        I’m based in the US and have earned Avios within the year. That certainly seems like a price increase to me.

  3. I agree with babyg’s above comment this is a great change if you are in the UK but I am going to disagree it is a clear positive for US. Gilbert I think you are either drinking heavily from the BA Kool
    Aid or you are letting your UK perspective bias you. For UK this seems a clear win I agree. I think for US flyers the situation is more nuanced. You hang your hat on that the old pricing is still there but I am not seeing it for US based BAEC members. Prior to this change US based members could avoid the usurious ex-US surcharges by booking one-ways from the other countries back to the US for example. This saved us some money. Now I can no longer do that. Even booking a one way from LHR to US gets me the ex-US surchages thus I can no longer access the old pricing. For UK folks having everything price as ex-UK is a win for US folks not so much. Now the good news is in the current pricing scenario I am sometimes seeing US 2 cents of value in using BA points to “buy down” the taxes so that is indeed a decent deal that I’ll use). Though I am seeing less than that for some other flights. I think if you are Avios rich (I am) and or use the 2-4-1 ex-US this is probably a gain otherwise I am not sure.

    1. There’s no kool-aide. BA doesn’t sell any.

      TBH, it’s the US which has the most benefit across the board. Surcharges in the USA were the most out of control of any market, yet are now dependably equal in both directions. They went down the most of any market. UK was uncomfortable in the £800’s for business to many destinations, but no one in the US would engage at $1500+ in business surcharges. The ex-Europe stuff is valid but lets see where it comes out. For the Avios rich, it’s a real win to me.

      1. Dependably equal but at the higher ex-US rate no matter where I depart from (I don’t see that as a positive). I’d rather have unequal with the option for a lower surcharge rate when not departing US. The problem is the higher ex-US surcharges are now enforced on all trips for BAEC for US members. If I could still access the actual old pricing for a non-ex-US departure I would agree with you but I can’t so I don’t. BA has effectively further increased the surcharges on me (I mean they have been on a true bender on that over the last couple of years for US folks). Sure I can buy the surcharges down with points and that is nice (even a win of sort) but this is far from a clear win for US folks overall.

  4. I noticed very little mention of economy class rewards. For us in Canada I just wrote about the BA changes here as YYZ/YUL to LHR are 25,000 Avios + C$100 each way with RFS. So 50,000 Avios plus C$200 for a round trip off peak award. The non RFS pricing could be as low as 26,000 Avios but has C$880 in fees! I think what people need to do is compare this to the competition – Air Canada Aeroplan wants 70,000 points + C$295 for a round trip YYZ-LHR economy reward. BA’s RFS beats that and with both of these airlines being 1:1 transfer partners from Amex Canada, BA stands to be the better option now!

  5. As obviously you have some juice with the BA people, why don’t you ask them why non US/UK members are getting the shaft? I am not resident in either and I see no reduction whatsoever in fees, and mileage increasing as much a 2X. Please do not say anything about APD’d as those only connecting did not have to pay these yesterday nor tomorrow. Considering that half of BAEC Gold members live outside the UK and US I would think that this is a really big deal, don’t you?

    1. Juan, i’d love more understanding on this too. For sure. I don’t particularly see why everyone can’t have access to comparable RFS access. I would however challenge that half the BA Gold members are outside of these two jurisdictions. I promise I’ll raise these questions.

  6. what i dont quite understand is the ib or ei options. i have 3 amex 241s and tried to book mad to jfk and dub to jfk as dummy bookings. each time it said my 241 could only start in the uk?

  7. So if it’s 40 Percent that makes a difference to you? BA confirms no numbers, however over the years there have been some that have leaked out. There are somewhere around 60,000 BAEC Gold members. I have seen numbers that there are 20-25k in the UK. I have also seen numbers that there are 3k Hong Kong and also seen numbers that there are 3k in Aus/NZ. Do you think they have less in Germany, France, Spain, etc? Granted there are probably 20k or so in the US, maybe a bit more due to distance, etc. But when you add in Ireland/Spain/Italy/UK/Russia (at least until recently there were 1500+), not to mention Turkey where not to long ago there were 300 or so………not to mention another 40 or so European countries, it all adds up, doesn’t it, especially as BA is quite active in many of these markets, and has been stealing their long haul connection passengers for decades (you think that the 30 or so destinations in North America majority passengers are US and UK citizens/residents?).

    I really look forward to hearing what the BA people say to you.

    1. The only thing I know to be sure for now, is that these numbers are off by a significant magnitude. I will look forward to hearing about RFS implications for members outside of the US/UK and will certainly post once I do.

  8. Yes you have based everything that you have posted about these changes on the narrative that US/UK based BAEC members are by far the majority, and they are a majority, but not as much as you have let on and you are treating us almost as an afterthought HfP does not. As an example on a recent SEA-LHR BA flight I would posit that far less than 10% of the passengers on the plane were US or UK citizens (or resident in either country), I base that on literally a dozen people at baggage claim and less than 30 pieces of luggage coming out in London (and based on check in, there was a hell of a lot more baggage checked in solely in the five minutes that I was at the desk). The vast majority of the passengers that I saw were connecting to the Middle East, India, and many European destinations – many French, lots of Germans and Scando’s and even Ireland (I was in Club). I would posit that of perhaps 56 seats in Club, perhaps 2-3 were empty, and maybe 6 passengers were NOT transiting. In the back I would posit that more than half the passengers were transiting to the sub continent alone. Now pax do not mean EC members and EC members do not mean Gold or even Silver members, but I can guarantee you that other than 3-4 or BA’s North American routes (such as JFK) the vast majority of BA passengers are not US or UK domiciled………..and when considering the extra distance (and tier points) involved, a hell of a lot more people than you think are in fact Gold Card members outside of the US/UK.

    My numbers are NOT significantly off (other than not including Gold For Life and Guest List members or Premier). Here is a little tidbit for you………They have what about 6 million members? All FF programs try and make their regular top tier to be appx 1% of their total membership (not including special members….so you want to add in Gold members, GGL and Premier? You might raise it another 7k or so, however you are still going to have essentially going to have the same split of US/UK/others that I have laid out and no, I am not off by a significant magnitude – especially considering that the numbers have remained almost exactly the same for close to 3 years as no one lost status since early 2020 and very few people have increased status in that time.

    1. My audience is almost entirely US and UK, so I cover things with that angle. Same as an outlet in Switzerland covers things from a Swiss perspective. And I believe your numbers are off.

  9. “Your” audience is immaterial, this is the internet and the world is your customer. Almost all blogs and bulletin boards on the subject are originally in the English language and geared toward originally an Anglo audience, which by definition is US/UK, yet none are as dismissive of customers from everywhere else. That is a poor excuse for looking at us as an afterthought.

    Have you thought that perhaps my numbers are perhaps exactly spot on, except that I have slightly changed one parameter solely to mask the fact that my numbers are in fact so accurate? Have you thought that perhaps by almost totally dismissing BAEC GC members as an afterthought you are actually making yourself look not so knowledgeable on the subject? A little hint for you, BA is a connection carrier with hardly any domestic service to speak of – I am not comparing solely to US airlines here, but even when compared to AF (at least for now) and LH BA has hardly any domestic service to speak of, and in essence is just a connection carrier……….bar its UK, mostly London based passengers. A non connection carrier is only truly successful when it has a 50/50 split in its O/D passengers. For a connection carrier it is more complicated, but if one were to split it into 25’s, one would be getting close. So 25% UK, 25% other end of O/D Dest, and 25% for each of the approximate ends Not at the O/D would be a close approximation.

    So by definition, and the way that BA has set it up, you are going to have a somewhat similar layout in GC holders (as opposed to bargain barrel non BAEC members or even Bronze for example that might earn status after a trip, never fly again and only chase the cheapest possible fare) with a weighting towards London of course as it is in the middle of the Axis. Which is exactly why my numbers are not as “off” as you maintain.

    All this is immaterial though, so if non UK/US is 39% you think us unimportant. If it were only 30% – it is not – we are therefore unimportant? You made a mistake in your “this is awesome” post(s)……..Now if you truly are the independent travel blogger that you claim to be, the proper thing to say would be to your audience, “I did not realize how bad this is for the significant amount of non US/UK premium members, and will be asking BA myself to clarify this matter.” Instead of essentially, “This is the greatest thing ever…….it is so great………it is wonderful………….cash in my pocket…….cash in my pocket…….so many ways to earn avios…………….so many ways to earn avios…………and then almost as an afterthought FT people are nuts and it might possible be effecting a few non US/UK members”

    1. If you’re so sure of all this, you should probably tell your colleagues at the airline you work for, not me.

      If 90% of my readers are in The US & UK, why would I focus on readers elsewhere. The way the internet works, people develop topical authority in different localities. If I start writing about the credit card programs in Indonesia, it would alienate my UK and US audience, while diluting my authority on the topics I cover in the places where my readers actually are.

      I’ve already, countlessly, said I’d like to understand why other regions aren’t included, yet you dismiss this. I’ve already said I’d ask. CTFO.

  10. I do not work for an airline, but am very familiar with the industry. I am a “civilian”.

    You truly do not know what 90% of your readers are in the US or UK, you know what IP addresses you are currently seeing when you review the logs, for example, where you have seen me from since I have been posting (Spain and then Turkey if I am not incorrect) is not where I am nor where I was. Do not do yourself an injustice, most FF junkies that I know ARE in fact familiar with this blog……………..and the vast majority do not reside in the US or UK – although they are all Elite members of US and European FF programs..which is sort of the point of this back and forth, is it not?

    That is not fair as the “credit card game” traditionally was a US game, followed by the UK, with a small afterthought in maybe 6 or 7 other markets, but you know this already. No one is throwing you affiliate links/money from Indonesia, and your blog is not in Bahasa, so this is a canard. If BA launched a credit card in France, I am sure you would mention it. No one is expecting you to “cover” Lion Air.

    Yes, you have said that you would take this up with BA, and I am very curious to hear what they have to say, or in fact that “pressure” that you and others may put on them may in fact lead to them tweaking this, so that those NOT residing in the UK or US are not negatively effected. If and when you accomplish this, you will be justified in writing such “rah rah” coverage, and be able to serve everyone.

    1. By chance, did you notice that RFS pricing has been added for all Euro currency destinations and markets too? Seems like a lot of spilled tea for nada.

  11. This is a devaluation/price increase. The option to redeem the same number of avios and pay the same amount in fees that would have been applied before this change does not exist. One can redeem the same amount of avios but the amount of fees payable has increased. For example, in October, I used a Chase companion voucher for (2) Club Words tickets to Africa (250,000 Avios plus USD 5,100). Under the new scheme (assuming use of the companion voucher and a 50% reduction in avios required) the cost is 225,000 Avios plus $7,220. This is an increase of $2,100 in fees. I understand that prices go up but to advocate that this change is not a price increase is factually inaccurate

    340,000 Avios plus $3,200
    282,000 Avios plus $4,778
    225,000 Avios plus $7,220
    196,000 Avios plus $9,400
    154,000 Avios plus $1,120
    112,500 Avios plus $3,760

    1. Hi Paul, thanks for the lengthy message. Your example doesn’t make sense.

      You say you previously booked flights for 250,000 Avios plus $5100 in cash. Let’s value Avios at 1.5 cents a piece — a common valuation. In that example, you’re therefore paying effectively $8,850 for these flights (250,000 x 1.5 cents = $3,750) and $5,100 in cash.

      For 90,000 more Avios, the new changes are allowing you to take $1900 off the cash price. That’s an insanely generous valuation of Avios from their end, where 90,000 points is covering $1900 in taxes and charges (5100-3200, per your example) and 340,000 – 250,000 per your example. By any napkin math, that’s a better deal.

      The new price of $3,200 cash plus (340,000 Avios x 1.5 cents – $5,100) is a total of $8,300 in your “cost”. That’s a $550 head to head comparative cost reduction by the most widely accepted metrics. It’s an improvement for you.

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