AVIOS announced an overhaul of its popular flyers’ loyalty scheme last week — one that will leave many frequent flyers worse off.
Nearly 6.5m people are members of Avios, previously known as Airmiles. It is run by British Airways’ parent company IAG. Avios is available to travellers flying with British Airways, Flybe and Iberia, and allows them to redeem points earned to pay towards flights, hotels, car hire or Eurostar rail tickets.
What is changing?
Avios is altering the way points are accrued and spent. Previously, economy flights earned one point per mile, with more points for business and first class trips. The new system splits economy fares into three levels, with the cheapest earning significantly fewer points — up to 75% less in some cases.
Those redeeming their air miles outside London who need a connecting flight to Europe will also be worse off — previously a flight connecting through Heathrow counted as one journey, but now it will count as two and therefore use up more air miles.
The changes will take effect from April 28.
Will anyone be better off?
Yes. Business and first class passengers will collect more points. A flexible first class ticket on a 2,000-mile flight with British Airways will earn 6,000 points, up from 4,000.
Also, for members using their points to purchase flights, there will be a distinction between peak and off-peak travel. Those who travel economy on off-peak dates — which amount to about eight months of the year — will need to ‘spend’ fewer points on flights: for example, an off-peak one way economy ticket from London to Paris will require 4,000 points, rather than 4,500 as it does now.
Travel dates designated as peak are distributed through the year, such as in August and at Christmas.
Are Air Miles credit cards good value?
Matt Sanders of the comparison site gocompare.com said: “Air miles credit cards can be good if you are a frequent flyer and a high spender.”
Avios points can be earned on household spending as well as flights, at a range of retailers that includes Tesco and John Lewis as well as Shell petrol stations. For example, Tesco Clubcard vouchers worth £2.50 can be exchanged for 600 Avios points.
However, credit cards that accrue air miles — for Avios or its rivals — do not suit everyone. Many have an annual fee. The key is to calculate your spending and work out how much you could realistically expect to earn in rewards.
Kevin Mountford, the head of banking at moneysupermarket.com, another comparison site, said: “If you want to be rewarded for spending but you fly only once or twice a year and are more of a short-haul traveller, or if you travel on different airlines, a more traditional cashback credit card could be a better choice.”
The British Airways Premium Plus card from American Express, which has a £150 annual fee, includes membership of the airline’s Executive Club and offers a “companion voucher” if at least £10,000 is spent on the card in a year. The voucher allows one person to fly with the holder on a trip, paying only taxes and charges.
Take advantage of introductory offers. Virgin Atlantic’s White card is offering a bonus 3,000 miles to new customers who make a purchase within 90 days. If they apply by March 31 and spend £1,000 within 90 days, they will receive an extra 7,000 miles. That is enough for an upgrade from economy to premium economy on a one-way flight. The interest rate is 17.9%.