I mistakenly saw possible signs of a British Airways pending devaluation. It wasn’t inevitable, and I didn’t think anyone should make speculative bookings, but it seemed worth not waiting to make planned bookings.
That was based on seeing astronomically high prices from BA’s sister program Iberia Plus (the two airlines have similar programs, both us points called ‘Avios’, and both are owned by the same company).
A few folks like Dan’s Deals and Matthew at Live and Let’s Fly were right not to be concerned, but in some cases for the wrong reasons.
One meme I’ve seen repeated over and over is that British Airways gave plenty of notice when they made big changes to their program in November 2011. That’s not a fair read at all, and we shouldn’t forget what they actually did. Rewriting history could make us complacent with them, and they don’t deserve it.
- British Airways announced a few months out that they would be launching a restructure of the program
- They shared details of prices to and from the UK only and promised that 98% of awards would be either the same price or less expensive.
They did not share any details of the bulk of their award chart with members in advance.
I took a lot of heat at the time in frequent flyer forums by British Airways apologists saying that announcing changes are coming, sharing details of those changes with a few people under non-disclosure agreements, and refusing to share the new award chart until the day it went live was a pretty terrible thing to do to members. The argument made against me was that I didn’t know what the changes were going to be, so should presume to be alarmed. My issue is that any time there are going to be changes but the program keeps that secret it’s cause for real concern.
The changes were huge, and members saving their miles for premium cabin long haul award redemptions really had the rug pulled out from under them — without any advance warning, and actually with reassurances to the contrary, since they were promised that 98% of awards would stay the same or become cheaper.
They did not share that they were going to do distance-based pricing, or that they were going to price each flight segment separately.
You used to be able to make unlimited inline stopovers at no extra cost. For instance New York – Vancouver – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Singapore in business class used to be 50,000 miles one-way with allowable stopovers in Vancouver, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.
Premium cabin long-distance awards shot up dramatically. Short haul coach got less expensive. Many more awards from the US went up than went down.
BA simply said, “yeah but the 98% figure was true for our UK customers” and it would have been complicated to share the pricing tool in advance.
Their dramatic program changes were very much not given any advance notice — at least those members residing outside the UK.
They merely told us some changes would be coming. That doesn’t count as notice, and no one would ever want a program to do that to them in the future. So let’s not give them more credit than they deserve for a having a history of advance notice of changes.
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