British Airways devalues Executive Club

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There’s a trend among airline frequent flyer programs, and it’s not to the benefit of most travelers. Last year we saw major changes at Delta and United as they greatly reduced mileage earning on discount economy tickets.

American has not joined that club, and won’t in 2015. But the devaluation trend has now spread across the pond to AA’s Oneworld partner, British Airways. While they haven’t copied Delta and United’s moves exactly, they are similarly targeting mileage earning on discounted tickets. Here are the most significant changes:

Economy class mileage earning

  • Many discounted fares currently earn 100% of miles flown. This will drop to 25%

Elite frequent flyer bonuses

  • Silver members’ mileage bonus cut in half from 100% to 50%

Elite status qualification

  • Lowest priced tickets will earn 25% tier points instead of 50%

A quick example: a traveler books a roundtrip, discount economy ticket on BA from Los Angeles to London. Currently she would earn about 10,911 miles. After these changes go into effect that same trip will yield just 2,728 miles.

The carrot with this stick is a claim that the Executive Club will release more award seats than ever before, including guaranteeing at least two business class award seats and four economy award seats on every flight (when it first goes on sale, presumably). Of course, this won’t be of much benefit to those who will now have to fly four times as far to earn enough miles for an award.

There’s no word yet from American Airlines about how it will handle awarding miles for discount economy flights on BA under this new earning schedule, though you can expect that earning will be changed, since British Airways decides how many miles to award for any particular ticket. Watch this page for changes.

BA’s program changes will be effective on April 28, so be aware before booking any travel on British Airways past that date.

BA

Analysis

These changes take the Executive Club from a mid-tier program with some decent benefits down to a lower-tier program that is better avoided. BA already has some of the highest award ticket redemption rates in the industry, and also levies ridiculously high fuel surcharges on award tickets. These changes make the program a poor value relative to many of its competitors, including partner American Airlines’ AAdvantage program.

The airlines making these changes argue that they are rewarding customers who give them the most business. That’s fair enough, but the reality is that very few travelers fly on the same type of ticket all the time. Even as a top-tier elite and frequent international traveler I fly on a mixture of paid economy and business class tickets. These new programs are structured in a way that does give great rewards for paid premium cabin tickets, but also undercuts even high-level elites if they fly on a discounted ticket sometimes. These new earning schedules were poorly thought out, and more care should have been given to ensuring airlines’ most loyal customers don’t get the short end of the stick because they fly coach part of the time.

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Ryan has been a travel expert for more than ten years. His journeys have taken him to all six inhabited continents, including living in the Middle East and backpacking across Australia, Asia and Europe.

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