Did U.S. travelers do something to upset U.K.-based loyalty programs?
Fresh off the heels of Virgin Atlantic killing one of our favorite sweet spots, British Airways is pulling a similar move with its U.S.-based Oneworld partners by raising award rates on American and Alaska flights under 3,000 miles by as much as 32%. Award Wallet was the first to flag this new development.
Booking AA flights with British Airways Avios has long been a sneaky way to use transferrable points like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Capital One Miles to save big on your flights. But now, those economy flights that used to be a bargain are going to require as much as 3,500 more Avios each way.
This increased pricing isn't isolated to economy class awards, though. You'll see similar percentage increases in first class and even for some lie-flat business class – meaning you'll need as much as 7,000 more Avios each way if you want to fly at the front of the plane on those routes.
As of publication, we've only seen these increased award rates on flights under 3,000 miles. Routes 3,001 miles or longer were left untouched, at least for now.
To be clear: This isn't the total gut job that we saw from Virgin Atlantic last week when they raised rates on Delta flights by as much as 60%. But it's still a good reminder that it doesn't pay to hoard your points and miles. The next loyalty program devaluation is never far away.
Here's everything we know so far.
How Bad is It?
So what's the damage? Well, British Airways doesn't publish a public-facing award chart – the cheat sheet you use to determine how many Avios you'll need to fly from point A to point B. Still, it's traditionally been pretty easy to determine what you'd need for a given flight based on the distance you're flying.
Here's a look at what you could expect to pay in Avios under the old award pricing – and how many points it'll cost you now.
|Miles Flown (one way)
|Old Price (Economy)
|New Price (Economy)
|1 - 649 miles
|650 - 1,149 miles
|1,150 - 1,999 miles
|2,000 - 2,999 miles
All things considered, it could have been much worse. But make no mistake, this is a significant price hike and one that's going to sour a long-time sweet spot.
Higher Prices in Action
We've covered how many more British Airways Avios you'll need depending on where you're flying. Now, let's take a look at some popular routes you can book through BA just to see just how much this devaluation stings.
Short Domestic Flights
Under the old pricing, you could book this short 334-mile American flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) for just 7,500 Avios one-way – or 15,000 Avios roundtrip.
Compare that to the 22,500 AAdvantage miles that American wanted for the same flight and it seems like a bargain. Even more so if you're able to take advantage of a transfer bonus like this one for 30% more Avios from Chase a while back.
Now that same route is going to cost 16,500 Avios roundtrip – a 10% increase.
While that may not seem like a lot, that's 1,500 more points you need to spend to get to where you want to go. While that might not seem like a huge increase, on slightly, longer routes, it's quite significant.
One of our favorite ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles has long been using Avios to fly either American or Alaska Airlines from the West Coast. Under the old pricing, it used to cost just 26,000 Avios roundtrip on either carrier.
Since that one-way flight clocks in at just over 2,600 miles in distance, you'll now be on the hook for an additional 3,000 Avios in each direction – raising the roundtrip pricing to the Hawaiian Islands to a more substantial 32,000 Avios roundtrip.
What About Alaska Airlines?
As Alaska Airlines looks to expand its reach to the Hawaiian islands with its planned acquisition of the state's flag carrier, British Airways is making it more expensive to use Avios to get there. And everywhere else Alaska flies, for that matter.
This short one-way flight between Seattle (SEA) and San Francisco (SFO) on Alaska Airlines used to cost just 9,000 Avios. Now? You'll need 11,000 Avios for the exact same flight.
Longer flights, like the 1,400-mile hop from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Seattle (SEA) were hit even harder. This flight used to cost just 11,000 Avios in each direction but now you'll be on the hook for 14,500 one-way – a 32% increase.
Thrifty Tip: Not sure how far your flight is? Plug your origin and destination (e.g. MSP-SEA) into Great Circle Mapper and click “distance.”
British Airways made a no-notice devaluation to awards on Oneworld partner airlines, American and Alaska, by raising rates as much as 32%. It appears this devaluation is currently limited to flights under 3,000 miles in distance but it's only a matter of time before it spreads to longer flights as well.
The only things certain in life are death, taxes, and airline devaluations. Let this serve as another good reminder that it doesn't pay to hoard your miles – use them up!