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If you’ve read my blog the past couple of days, you may have noticed that I’m convinced the sky is falling, at least as far as British Airways Executive Club goes for those of us on this side of the pond. British Airways is “revitalising” their frequent flyer program (a term I’ll be using on this blog from now on in place of “enhancing,” by the way), and by that they mean they’re putting us all on a level playing field. In the past the award chart was incredibly lucrative for those of us in North America, while those in Europe were paying substantially more for similar award tickets.
As I argued, it’s a function of being competitive. In the US, airlines have become nothing more than credit card companies with a fleet of private jet that are just a cost of doing business. In Europe, credit cards are side businesses for airlines.
Just as Delta charges fuel surcharges on award tickets originating outside of the US, British Airways had a much more competitively priced award chart for travel on their partners originating in the US, because their competition suddenly became United, US Airways, etc., and not Lufthansa, Virgin, etc. And when I say that, I’m referring to their co-branded Chase Visa credit card that they launched in the US a couple of years ago, which offered 1.25 miles per dollar. I wouldn’t spend a dime on the card if it would take me 250,000 miles to get a first class “saver” ticket to Asia, while otherwise it was sometimes a good value.
I’ve seen dozens of comments from people saying “that’s it, I’m canceling my British Airways Chase Visa card.” Not so fast. For one, we should wait until they officially announce the new award chart. Speaking of which, it really ticks me off that they announced the changes put say they won’t release the new award chart until it goes into effect.
But beyond that, I suspect that the value of the British Airways Visa card will actually be increasing for me. While they haven’t announced the full new award chart yet, they have provided a few examples of the new pricing, and one of the routes that will go down in price is New York to London, which will now cost 120,000 miles in first class. Many are assuming the new award chart will be distance based, so I wouldn’t expect the price to be the same from the west coast.
But the above pricing means that you can essentially get two first class award seats from New York to London for 120,000 miles, or 60,000 miles per person, plus taxes and fuel surcharges. If you spend $30,000 on the British Airways Visa in a year you get a “companion voucher” good for a second passenger on an award ticket
To add to that, I suspect we’ll see a lot more 50% transfer bonuses from American Express Membership Rewards. They offered a 50% transfer bonus just a couple of months ago, and I’m sure once the new award chart is released they’ll offer several more. So with that in mind, you’re potentially looking at first class for two from New York to London for 80,000 Membership Rewards points, or 40,000 Membership Rewards points per person, plus fuel surcharges.
Yes, fuel surcharges and taxes are substantial, but you’ll typically pay 125,000+ miles per person for first class between the US and Europe, so the taxes and fuel surcharges shouldn’t be more than the value of 85,000 miles.
And yes, New York to London is a short flight. A very short flight, actually. But it’s regularly operated by British Airways’ new first class, and you have access to the Concorde Room in both New York and London.
So my point is simply that the value of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is increasing with these changes for me, for all the wrong reasons. Previously there was no need to have the card (for me, at least), since my redemptions were on partner airlines and I could rack up those miles at a more favorable ratio through American Express Membership Rewards. Now, the major benefit of the card, which is the companion certificate good for travel on British Airways, suddenly became much more valuable.