British Airways began offering full mileage-earning to their Executive Club members, even on discounted fares. That’s huge. No more 25% mileage-earning and never quite reaching an award. A monster step forward for a European program, and one that has Flying Blue scrambling and shaking their heads.
Every European discount fare traveler with a choice, not wedded to a non-stop (or not able to access one from their home airport) and not striving for elite status in a competing program really should consider British Airways Executive Club.
With bmi’s Diamond Club slated to go away, BA Executive Club became in one fell swoop arguably the best frequent flyer program in Europe. Sure, there are arguments to be made for Miles & More. But their award chart is expensive and has gotten more so. This really was a major change.
What BA’s members didn’t really get was a whole lot meaningful in terms of increased award availability. Sure, they get access to American Airlines transatlantic award space but the American premium cabin product isn’t all that and BA availability is far better to begin with. So while a nice feature, it’s not huge.
On the other hand, American Airlines AAdvantage members really got the brass ring.
American members can now use their miles for premium cabin awards from the US to Europe pretty much every single day of the year.
Before the change, American Airlines members couldn’t redeem for British Airways seats between the US and London. Now they can. And BA availability really is just that good, and they have that many flights to the US.
Can’t find Los Angeles – London non-stop? You’ll almost certainly find Los Angeles – Las Vegas – London or Los Angeles – Phoenix – London or Los Angeles – Houston – London. Can’t find Chicago non-stop? That Philadelphia flight is awfully darned available, and of course American’s domestic award availability is really, really good to manage connections.
Alright, a couple of caveats.
- Fuel surcharges. American didn’t used to add these to British Airways awards on those flights which members could redeem for — e.g. from Canada or the Caribbean to London, or London to the Middle East, Asia, Africa. Now all British Airways redemptions come with fuel surcharges, which transatlantic roundtrip can run $450. A US to Africa roundtrip can be double that. (Plus if you depart London rather than just connecting, you’ve’ got the UK’s premium cabin departure taxes, too.)
- American’s domestic award availability isn’t perfect, I mean right now if you look at the days leading up to Christmas there’s not a lot out there. Those dates have just been loaded into the schedule and I was struck that American wasn’t offering anything DC – Chicago for December 21-24 when I checked on Saturday morning.
But these are minor complaints, to me. I realize others feel differently, they believe that a free ticket should be a free ticket. Still, I believe that the fuel surcharges are a small price to pay for (1) an excellent true lie-flat business class product, which few carriers offer universally across the Atlantic, and (2) the outstanding award availability of British Airways, I know of no other airline which offers as many seats for redemption as they do.
If you want to take your family of six in the same cabin on the same flight, who else will offer that many redemption seats so often? Very occasionally Lufthansa will. But BA uniformly does on some flights, such as their Houston flights.
It’s absolutely true that fuel surcharges are a real cost. And they make economy redemptions a very poor value, since much of the ticket price is still being charged even though you’re spending your miles.
Still, the ability to use your miles for premium class travel almost every single day is a tradeoff I’m willing to accept.