Revealed: With the Right Strategy, British Airways Changes Can Be Awesome for Travelers

Most travel blogs I’ve been reading tend to bemoan the fact that the British Airways program totally gutted some of their best redemptions.

Most of the feedback has been negative.

In fact, there is only one voice out there (that I’ve read) that is talking about the positive aspects of the British Airways Avios change.  It’s MommyPoints, and you can read her article here.

With a blog named Help Me Travel Cheap, you can expect that I don’t go for classy first class and business class flights often.  Hey, I live in Papua New Guinea where getting a cracker on a plane is a big deal.

I think flying out of the country where they offer you a can of Coke and a stale piece of bread is classy.  Besides, I’ve got three kids, so just getting a free flight is enough for me.

I suspect that many of my readers are like me.  You want to travel for the lowest price possible ,and you don’t really care that much about premium reward flights.

If that is the case, then you’ll probably like the changes to the British Airways Avios program.

Why?

Options.  Diversification.  Alternatives.

How the Avios Program Changes Make the Ultimate Rewards Program More Flexible and thus More Rewarding

I’m a fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Ultimate Rewards program.  The two major airline transfer partners are United and British Airways.

British Airways and United pack an amazing one-two punch for customers like us.

Why?

With Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer to United if you want to take a long haul trip and get a lot of value out of those miles.  Ben (from One Mile at a Time) points out some cool reward options with United.

But now with the British Airways Avios changes, we have another tool in the tool box.

Short Haul Flights, Domestic US Flights | The Big Winners

The new BA is a short haul and domestic US redemption gold mine.

Obviously, the long trips lost big time with the new BA changes.

We booked flights from New York to Bariloche, Argentina for five passengers for a total of 100,000 miles.  To book that itinerary today would require 162,500.

If you want to see some of the biggest losers, you can do that here.  Notice long distance first and business class flights were the ones most affected.

But that’s OK because we still have that option with United.

I suspect that the more time people have to work with British Airways Avios miles, the more fantastic redemption options they’ll discover.

My point is simply this: Great redemption options were lost and will be replaced with a new variety of great redemption options.

To illustrate my point, here are a few advantageous ways to use BA Avios miles:

  1. Cheyenne, Wyoming (where my in-laws live) has a little airport serviced by American.  Typically, we have to drive to Denver to find affordable flights.  However, with the new Avios points system, we can fly from Cheyenne to Dallas for 7,500 points and $2.50 in taxes and fees.
  2. This Dans Deals post shows that most flights from Miami to the Caribbean are now only 4,500 miles each way.
  3. With family near Toronto, I was happy to see flights to New York (JFK) are now only 4,500 miles each way.
  4. I’m guessing some rates within Australia, to New Zealand, and to Papua New Guinea went down.  (Sorry, but my Internet is down and not allowing me to confirm.)
  5. Miami to Quito, Equador (a trip we’re trying to plan for the future) went from 20,000 down to 10,000.  Of course, the question is how much will it cost to get to Miami (if you don’t live there)?

Flyer Talk has a great intro post that shows some of the new redemption levels.

It is the short hops that are with winners.  This could be especially true for last minute flights.

Again, let me be clear.  I’m not saying these improvements make British Airways miles more valuable.  However, I’m saying if you have a diversification of miles (as I suggest) or you use a credit card that allows transfers to mileage programs (like American Express cards and Ultimate Rewards cards), then this could open up new cheaper doors with creative bookings.

If you are willing to change your burning strategy with BA miles (shorter flights, not longer flights with BA miles and longer flights with United miles), then you can come out of this as a winner.

What are your thoughts about the new program?  What questions do you have?  Have you found any good values you think are worth highlighting?

Comments

  1. Heather says

    I booked a flight from ATL to NYC before the program changed, anticipating the worst from the change. For my family of 4, it cost 100,000 miles and $100. Now, it’s only 60,000 Avios points and $80. I’m assuming since I have my booking that I have to live with the 40,000 miles and $20 lost, right?

  2. says

    I totally agree, Craig, this is a great change for cheapskates like us! I checked a flight from Sydney to Melbourne a month ago and it was 30,000 miles, now it’s only 9,000! The one thing that’s disappointing, though, is that they still have exorbitant fuel surcharges for flights to/from Europe.
    Thanks for the info!
    Jesse

    • Craig says

      Jesse,
      That would have been awesome if the fuel surcharges went away, but as you say they do remain :(.
      Thanks for letting us know about flights between SYD and Melbourne. Sounds like a great deal.

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