Avios And British Airways Executive Club Are Merging — But Don’t Panic

For many years British Airways has operated both an Executive Club loyalty program as well as an Avios Travel Rewards loyalty program. To complicate things, the currency for both is called ‘Avios,’ meaning you can earn and redeem Avios in either program, as well as transfer Avios between them.

To be completely honest I’ve never really understood why British Airways and IAG operated both separate programs — it seemed to unnecessarily complicate things.

Well, perhaps British Airways agree, because today they have announced they are closing the Avios Travel Rewards program, and merging it into Executive Club.

Do not panic.

This is not a devaluation. The value of Avios in either program is not changing. There’s no changes to transfer or conversion rates.

And it does not have the complexity of trying to merge two completely separate programs with different values, rules and members, like Marriott and SPG are currently trying to do.

This is largely an operational efficiency exercise to simplify and operate one consistent program, and I think this will be a good simplification change for consumers.

The difference between Avios Travel Rewards and Executive Club

British Airways Executive Club is a fairly standard airline operated loyalty program. Members can earn and redeem miles/points (called Avios) for flights and other ancillary partner products and opportunities. Oneworld status could also be earned by flying and crediting tier points to Executive Club. Ben has written about the various Executive Club opportunities numerous times in the past.

Avios Travel Rewards was originally designed to be more of a standalone points-based loyalty program with some links to, but not closely linked to, British Airways. Avios points could be earned, but no tier points could be credited to Travel Rewards, nor could oneworld status be earned with them.

While Executive Club was primarily for London-based travellers on British Airways, Avios Travel Rewards allowed those customers who may not live in London, or travel regularly, to earn loyalty points primarily through non-travel means, such as shopping portals and supermarket loyalty spending. I’m a member of both and things like my TopCashBack Avios payouts can be credited to either Executive Club, or Travel Rewards at the same rate.

Why Avios Travel Rewards failed

With customers outside London being a target market for Avios Travel Rewards as well as those who aren’t regularly flying and building/enjoying status, using Travel Rewards became less lucrative as having two separate programs didn’t make as much sense.

For those living in regional UK, using Avios for flight redemptions became poor value as British Airways changed its redemption rules in 2015 to be on a per-sector rate, meaning regional Europe to, say, mainland Europe required twice the number of Avios as most flights from London. Where value existed to instead use these for more valuable Avios partner airlines, this value diminished as partners like Monarch went out of business, or were removed from the program.

Not even Gordon Ramsay is worked up about these changes

What happens now?

At some time from late May of this year, if you hold an Avios balance in the Avios Travel Rewards program these Avios will be converted to the British Airways Executive Club program, at a rate of 1:1 (just as they have always been able to transfer at).

Most US-based OMAAT readers will have an Executive Account only so this won’t affect you at all.

There are no changes to the Iberia Plus program, or the ability to transfer Avios between Executive Club and Iberia Plus.

If for any reason you only have a Travel Rewards account, then an Executive Club account will be created for you in due course and the Avios transferred across.

Like most UK-based travellers, I already have both although I primarily use the Executive Club account, as it is linked to my British Airways status.

The redemption options, whether your Avios are held in Executive Club, or Travel Rewards, are virtually the same. That’s about as bad as it will get.

Bottom line

Relax.

I’ve never really understood why IAG continued to persist with two separate programs, especially when they used the same currency. It was confusing to me. Unless you solely focused on a single obscure earning or redemption opportunity, this will have very little change.

This is more of an operational efficiency improvement, if anything. I’m looking forward to the simplicity of only having one balance in one program in the future.

Are you a member of the Avios Travel Rewards program?

(Tip of the hat to: Head For Points)

Comments

  1. So, to be clear, all the redemptions (such as the West Coast to Hawaii deal with Avios) will stay the same after they “Brexit” Avios Travel Rewards, correct?

  2. @ Pat and @ Tommy Trash — no changes to Iberia Plus or transfers between the two — I’ve updated the post to reflect that — thanks.

    @ Lumma — I received an email from Avios Travel Rewards today informing me of the changes to my account which was the basis of this post. The problems with Travel Rewards, and the confusion/duplicity between the two programs has been widely understood, discussed and reported in the UK (where I am based) for some time.

  3. But there is potential downside for transfers from Iberia/EC to EC/Iberia, using Avios portal for holders of household accounts. We cannot directly transfer from Iberia to EC and vice versa, must use Avios portal as in-between point. This move WILL destroy our ability to transfer.

  4. I hate to say it, but I agree with Lumma. This article read like someone had read the Headforpoints article on the Avios/BA changes and then changed some of the words in it.

    I get that the underlying news story is very much in the public domain, but your analysis of the reasons for the changes are very suspiciously similar to Rob’s (HfP’s) and the structure of the article is the same. I hope i’m wrong, but this reads a bit like a university essay that someone has copy/pasted and changed some words in the hope of defeating antiplagiarism software.

    Even if your thinking was inspired by the HfP analysis – which, frankly, I think it must have been – the proper thing to do is acknowledge that.

  5. Agree – At the very least this article has been heavily influenced by Headforpoints.

    Also no mention of other airlines that use avios as a currency e.g. FlyBe, Are Lingus and Meridiana and what happens in terms of transferring points between those programmes.

  6. @Miro
    That was my first thought. Being unable to transfer avios between BA (household account) and Iberia is a big deal.

  7. @Lloyd and @Chris thank you for the feedback. I do appreciate it as I am new to the blogging process!
    I did read Robs (excellent) article among other news sources about this topic as I prepared this post today and have updated it to acknowledge him in the article.

  8. Doesn’t Aer Lingus use the Avios.com platform for its loyalty program?

    The only thing I ever used Avios.com for was to find availability on Aer Lingus, and then called BAEC to book. For some reason, Avios.com charges significantly higher taxes+fees on Aer Lingus flights than BAEC. While BAEC uses the actual fuel surcharge from the revenue fare, Avios.com seemed to make up taxes+fees out of thin air. I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to book Aer Lingus through BAEC with low taxes+fees.

  9. @James – thank you for the reply, I appreciate that (for what that’s worth!). And thank you.

    I’m a longtime London-based reader of OMAAT and am excited to have a London-based addition to the team, so look forward to reading much more from you (although it’s fair to say that my tastes are more “Etihad apartment” than “Ryanair”!).

  10. Thanks for noting that this does not impact Iberia Plus. I hope that this program can stay separate, as I like the way that it often has lower fuel surcharges, plus am happy about the new credit card in the US which is a separate product from the British Airways card.

  11. @ Luke – no changes announced to the card now although as per H4P, I understand they are not accepting new applications

  12. @ Chris – you are welcome. I have a long list of topics I plan to write about on this site (and believe me I prefer premium classes to LCCs too). If there are any UK specific topics you would like covered please let me know!

  13. @ James – the youthful looks of the person in the photo alongside your name lead me to suspect that you may not have first-hand knowledge of the full history of Avios. We olduns have bravely born the several transformations – from the original paper Air Mile vouchers to today’s virtual Avios balances. Originally (more than twenty years ago), there were only ‘Air Miles’. And with ‘Air Miles’ came exceedingly beneficial accrual opportunities; I recall it took only a couple of Sainsbury’s Supermarket trolley-loads of bacon to acquire enough ‘Air Miles’ for myself and a friend to fly BA Business Class from Heathrow to San Francisco and back! Thereafter, the BA Exec Club decided it wanted its own ‘currency’ – BA Miles – with ‘Air Miles’ as the poor relation, retained for use by non-BA Exec Club, bacon-buying members. Later on, BA Miles and Air Miles were all transformed into Avios, at appropriate convertion rates, albeit whilst still being held in separate AirMiles/BAExecClub accounts, with transfers possible between the accounts. Or am I teaching you to suck eggs?
    ps. I left most of the bacon, still in the trolleys, in the Sainsbury’s car-park. I wonder what became of it….

  14. There’s at least one upside and one potential downside I can think of for UK travellers. First the upside. You can currently earn standalone Avios on things like petrol purchases and utility bills in the UK. When the programmes are merged you will easily be able to maintain an Exec Club Avios balance without flying a single BA flight or having to resort to the BA shopping portal. Doing so also means you will have access to the discounted redemption rate for European flights (saving 1000 Avios on a round trip). The downside is currently you can use the standalone Avios for flights on Flybe from some regional UK airports (former BA Connect routes) at a very good rate (similar to BA flights from London so avoiding the BA sector connection penalty). I can’t see BA offering this when the Avios programmes are combined as Flybe is not a Oneworld partner.

  15. @ MikeW – I share your concerns. I sometimes buy Flybe flights between Southampton and Bergerac, for holidays and to visit relatives. I do hope that Flybe retains its links with the Avios programme.

    ps At this stage of an OMAAT post, it is traditional for its author to include a gratuitous insult aimed at one or more of other OMAAT contributors. Please forgive me for not having the metal or inclination to do that.

  16. You keep avoiding the Aer Lingus questions. They have the Avios.com platform as their frequent flyer program. What program is Aer Lingus going to have now?

  17. @ Kevin, @ tassojunior – apologies, I’ve been trying to hunt down the answer for you! Vueling and Aer Lingus will continue to use the Avios platform after Travel Rewards closes.

    There have been rumours for quite some time that IAG Group wish to bring British Airways and Aer Lingus much closer together (with EI potentially even joining oneworld), but this has been happening far slower than expected.

  18. @Kevin, @tassojunior
    The article on head for points appears to answer your question. Extract below:

    “I understand that the avios.com website will remain and it is where ALL members of any Avios-based loyalty scheme (except perhaps Meridiana) will go to redeem their miles. avios.com will be just a platform – it will no longer be a stand-alone scheme in which you can hold an Avios balance.”

  19. @Luke Self : Well, that’s about as clear as muddy water. The implication of the quoted passage is that it will no longer be possible to log in to the BA website to book a flight using Avios/cash. Are you serious?

    @ James : You started this fiasco. Please help!

  20. This is going to make it harder to transfer Avios between programs :(. Also, the Avios.com shopping portal has a few stores that BA eShopping doesn’t.

  21. Is it still possible to transfer BA avios in a household account to an iberia account? I’m trying to help my dad book a flight, and his Iberia account hasn’t been open long enough to transfer the points so I’m trying to transfer from our household account (where I have 0 avios) to my Iberia account.

  22. A word of warning.
    I transferred my Avios points over on the 2nd July to my BA account as suggested by Avios.
    On the 3rd of July BA decided to expire those accounts.
    Avios won’t help me and BA simply said they will ask Head Office if I have have my points back.

    Neither the Avios site or BA warned of historical points possibly being expired.

  23. @Jonathan Phillips, A few years ago, without explicitly informing customers, BA and/or Avios introduced ‘points-expiry’ rules for the programme(s). I found myself having ‘lost’ about 130,000 Avios. A firmly worded telephone call resulted in my account being credited with the missing Avios. The moral of this story is that you have to fight your corner when dealing with business organisations; executives’ bonuses and expence accounts have to be funded somehow!

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