/ Travel & Leisure

Without free flights, will you say “adios” to Avios and Airmiles?

british airways plane in sky

Airmiles have influenced my spending habits over the last 20 years. The credit cards I’ve taken and the shops I buy from have led to one goal – more Airmiles and so more free flights. But it’s not free anymore…

I’ve collected Airmiles since the scheme’s early days and have some fond memories of cut-price flights I bought as a result. I never managed a completely free flight, but I did once get a flight to Ghana for almost nothing.

So, I’ll be sad to see the Airmiles name go when the scheme is revamped into Avios in November.

New name, new rules

However, it’s not just the name that’s waving goodbye. The new name brings new rules, which means the goal of a free flight will never be achievable.

From 16 November, passengers who redeem the points they have collected will pay taxes, fees and charges on their flights.

Under Airmiles, a short-haul flight to somewhere like Rome would have needed 1,500 miles. Under Avios, it will need 15,000 Avios points. A longhaul flight to Sydney would have needed 10,000 miles. Under the new scheme it will need 100,000 Avios points.

At first sight, it seems like it’ll be a much tougher job to collect enough points. However, when the scheme changes, Airmiles collectors will have their balances multiplied by ten to compensate. Is that enough when there will now be extra fees to pay?

Airmile changes aren’t popular

Airmiles argues the change was necessary because rising costs meant it had become untenable to offer completely free flights. It also says the switch brings it in line with other loyalty schemes.

However, the changes haven’t gone down well, with one Conversation reader emailing us:

‘If it ain’t broke why fix it? There will no longer be such a thing as a free flight. A slap in the face for customer loyalty! Well done Airmiles.’

What do you think of the changes? Will you keep on collecting? Or will the move to Avios see you saying “Adios Amigo” to the scheme?

Barbara Ford says:
7 October 2011

I have just tried to find flights from Edinburgh to Paris direct expecting the airmiles to be 750 no chance 1250 airmiles are required. Going London Heathrow to Paris direct 750; try Aberdeen to Amsterdam it’s 1250 for direct flights. Are we in the same zone or not? Try finding airmiles flights from Shetland to the UK mainland even September 2012 and all you get is:- “There is no availability in your chosen cabin class for the dates you selected”.

There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding about the difference between AIRMILES and BA MILES. They are two quite different schemes but it has always been possible to change Tesco Rewards into ‘airmiles’ for either scheme. The BA scheme was only publicised by Tesco when they started their Reward scheme so fewer people are aware that there are two choices. It has always been more effective to use BA miles for long haul and AIRMILES for European flights. Of course you can also collect BA MILES when you pay to fly with airlines in the same group as BA.

Paul Welsh says:
30 October 2011


I do not expect anything in life for free and living within 1 mile of the Airmiles offices at Birchwood in Warrington I do know people who work there. Unpredictably, people who work there, friends of mine, have spoken candidly about disappointed callers.

I agree BA have made a fatal error and undermined customer confidence. I too have collected and spent Airmiles on trips to the Far East, Europe and North America. I understand some of the logic applied to these changes, but AVIOS or AIRMILES/BA do not take it for granted I will carry on collecting when shopping at Aldi/Lidl as opposed to Tesco means real savings each week – savings which mount up considerably.

Interestingly and by coincidence I have been continually emailed by Ebay, Currys, Hotel Chocolat – amongst others and mailshot/emailed by Tesco offering special points deals because I have turned away. I hardly use my Lloyds TSB Airmiles DUO card.

I should imagine customers of these outfits will cotton on too and eventually the companies concerned will withdraw. It is inevitable and tragic.

Richard M says:
21 March 2012

New scheme is barely worth it. For long haul you now have pay ‘taxes, fees and charges’ which adds hundreds of pounds to the cost and you may be able to get a cheap flight elsewhere.

For Europe/North Africa there is a ‘Reward Flight Saver’ where you just pay a flat £27 to cover taxes, fees and charges on top of the points. However on many routes you may get the flight cheaper on a budget airline once you count the cost of collecting the points, so it’s only worth it in very high season or on a route with high fares and little or no competition e.g. Tunis, Tirana, Moscow

Gill says:
13 April 2012

IT begins to look as though I will never use my Avios points. I collected them as Airmiles and from time to time I have spent them on flights from Glasgow to Orkney, Shetland, Outer Hebrides; & from Manchester to Guernsey. But NOT on flights to European destinations or further afield. I now have 39000 avios and a voucher for a further 3000 . I live in Cumbria. I want to fly to Orkney, from Glasgow but it is impossible to find out if this is still possible with Avios. Similarly, I would like to use my Avios to fly from Manchester to London; or Manchester to Jersey. But there seems to be no way to find out if this is still possible. The Avios website is useless.
Any answers , please? or any solution?

Alaric says:
6 June 2012

It was obvious when BA announced the outsourcing of BA Miles to Avios points that the IAG (BA) management had grown bored of BA miles as a marketing ploy. Having experienced these types of hand-offs before it is no surprise to see the real value of the residual points to be diluted.

The bad news for BA is that I always punish such management duplicity by withdrawing my custom by demoting BA in the list of vendors. In my case it will cost BA a great deal more than they save with this cost cutting measure and their competitors will gain. My gold card business can easily go elsewhere on most flights. I’ve seen this from hotel chains in the past and they lost as a consequence.

Business managers will continue these games for as long as the bulk of consumers and business customer continue to let them get away with it.

Gill says:
12 June 2012

In the past I’ve used airmiles for short domestic ( and therefore relatively expensive ) flights – eg to Outer Hebrides or Orkney or Shetland – all from Glasgow.
Since Avios took over I haven’t looked at the situation closely, because I haven’t needed domestic flights recently; but I did notice how difficult it was , on the Avios site, to get info about such flights.

Paying a small amount is not a major issue – when I first used Airmiles I had to pay some sort of tax, I remember; it’s only recently that money didn’t come into the equation. But I want to fly where I want to fly – which is not necessarily where Avios is prepared to take me. So I will now investigate more closely and if Avios are not giving me the benefits for which I joined airmiles, I too, like others, will be walking away.

Who cares how many loyalty points we have with BA? When you try and convert them to free flights or points plus money flights there is virtually nothing available. It’s just a silly con.

David Bekham says:
9 September 2016

We are now boycotting the organizations that offer Air Miles. Perhaps a Class Action lawsuit would force Air Miles to do the right thing?