/ 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?

Comments
Guest

Avios is a damned stupid name, and the times by ten is a pure ploy so they can say ’20 avios’ rather than ‘2 air miles’ and have people think ‘Oooh, that’s more’. Are people really that stupid? (Probably, yes, but I hate the marketers thinking I’m one of ’em!)

I’ve a lot of airmiles, and recently needed a flight… could I spend ’em on a flight I actually needed? Could I heck… though I could pay in something called ‘pounds’. The scheme already had be disillusioned before this change.

I collect via the tesco clubcard scheme, auto-converting. I’m thinking I may well stop doing that after not being able to spend my airmiles.

Profile photo of osseo
Guest

No more free flights? – but there haven’t been any for years. You’ve had to pay the tax, which is a fairly hefty proportion of the cost of a flight. Not really much difference – just rather more expensive now (hardly a surprise)…

Profile photo of Victoria Pearson
Guest

Firstly I’d like to say that this is a personal comment – not a Which? opinion.
I’ve had plenty of airmiles flights through the BA scheme but not one of them has been free – we’ve always paid taxes which can add up to hundreds of pounds. (I always thought it was 100,000 miles to go to Australia, not 10,000 but perhaps it is a different scheme?)
There is a distinct skill to getting the best out of an airmiles scheme.
My husband travelled a lot for business for a number of years and we found that if he also took out a BA American Express credit card he accrued miles much quicker – more importantly every time you hit a certain spending level they send you a ‘companion voucher’ – entitling you to an equivalent flight without spending air miles – just as long as you travel together and pay the taxes. (the only problem is that there are only about three places worldwide that take AMEX, so you need a second credit card as well).
There is absolutely no point using airmiles for shorthaul flights – the taxes mean you might just as well book a low-cost carrier flight. But you can give yourself a really special experience if you save your miles up to fly longer haul – we’ve enjoyed 1st class trips to San Francisco, club to Barbados and Miami, economy to Shanghai and saved a fortune on a trip to Hawaii by booking the flight over to San Francisco with airmiles, then getting a low cost airline onto Maui. There is no way on earth we’d ever pay to go 1st with our own money – but to travel in 1st for less than an economy class ticket is a real buzz!
To be honest we’ve decided to go on some holidays simply because we could go there with airmiles – you need to book early to get the best choice and there are some destinations that we have never been able to book – Australia is always fully booked whenever we looked.
Our next airmiles trip is club class to Arizona – it had been a while since we’d spent a companion voucher and the price of the taxes came as a bit of a shock, but the fuel surcharge was even worse.
I’m sure we’ll carry on collecting airmiles – as long as you use them wisely they can be a lot of fun – just don’t depend on getting anything for free.

Guest
peter c says:
9 October 2011

I agree, seems most people do not understand, BA miles should not be compared with Airmiles as it has always bee a different scheme.
BA Miles, soon to be Avios ARE NOT CHANGING, just the name change.

Guest
Paul Welsh says:
30 October 2011

You mention your husband has used cards on business and how points/miles can be accumulated. I hear a lot of business people complain nevertheless collecting points or miles on the back of work travel. In the public sector it is forbidden to collect points like this.

Guest
NHaynes says:
3 September 2011

My husband and I collect airmiles via the Tesco clubcard scheme. We have taken short haul flights so far around Europe on BA, but have ‘saved ‘ enough miles for a totally free return flight for 2 people to Barbados on British Airways, where we were going in May 2012. Had our plans not changed 3 weeks ago (we have booked to go to Florida via another airline and paid full fare) our airmiles BA free flights would have been booked and hopefully secure. So – what happens now. Looks like we can still book the flights to Barbados (probably now 2013) but will have to pay taxes and charges which may come to £500. I suppose this is better than £1200 +, but still not what we have been aiming for. I only shop at Tesco and use their Credit Card because of the airmiles offer – if the airmiles scheme becomes unattractive, Tesco and their credit card will certainly lose my business and I suspect they will also lose the business of thousands of current customers. I will reserve final judgement though until I have seen full details of the new scheme. If necessary (if there is a cut off date) we will cram in an additional holiday long haul before the scheme changes, although annual leave from work would have to be worked around. Not good news.

Profile photo of patmiddlengland
Guest

I too have used airmiles collected painlessly via Tesco for many years and had quite a few holidays and flights from them. I originally got 80 miles for 250 points, but this was reduced to 60 and my recent statement further reduced this to 50, so they are not such a good deal as originally offered. I was peeved that there was no notice about these reductions from Tesco.

I think the idea of multiplying the number of points is ridiculous and only being done to confuse and cover up reductions in benefits. Do they really think we’re that gullible?

Guest
Wardley lass says:
3 September 2011

I too collect via Tesco and their Credit card. I have just been on the ‘Avios’ site to find out what the extra charges would be a return flight to LA. Guess what – I couldn’t get an answer from them. I have used airmiles for this journey (visiting family) right from the start and have always managed to avoid paying any cash at all. This means that I won’t be going as often and very possibly will start to take rewards instead of miles, and save on my shopping instead.
You’ve shot yourselves in the foot BA whatever you call the scheme.

Guest
Disgruntled says:
3 September 2011

I would be most interested to know how you got a flight to Ghana for almost “nothing” as the 40,000 Airmiles still necessitated payment of taxes which still amounted to £200 plus on a ticket costing £500 in March 2011.
The payment of taxes from November is therefore not strictly correct…as for BA they have dropped an almighty one here

Guest
Gerry says:
4 September 2011

It wouldn’t have been 40,000 Air Miles because the maximum ‘fare’ is 10,000 AM. It would probably have been 5,000 AM but Ghana is currently not an AM destination.

At present the taxes and fees are included so Air Miles flights really are totally free, which is why the forthcoming Avios changes are so unpopular.

Guest
P Hughes says:
3 September 2011

I have collected Airmiles for over twenty years and have used them for free flights to Europe, Thailand and Australia. I have collected these through my dual credit cards with Lloyds and previously with Nat West together with Tesco Club Card +. Tesco reduced the ammount they gave back in Air Miles last year and cut in half the points on fuel and BA decision I feel will be the final straw or “Adios” as stated earlier.

Guest
B777FLY says:
3 September 2011

i only fly BA enough to keep a Silver card for lounge entry as the service is so ‘hit and miss’. With the latest change, I see the future (sadly) with the Tesco of the skies – Emirates.

Guest
brian crofts says:
4 September 2011

It’s a pity that about half the people replying on this forum don’t know what the airmiles scheme is. You DON’T pay taxes and charges at present making the flights completely free. Last weekend for example I flew to brussells for absolutely nothing, so your correspondent is completely wrong when she says it’s not worth using them for European flights. I’ve previously used the scheme for a number of European flights as well as those to J’burg and Seattle. Why is there no clarity on the website about exactly how much the new flights will cost and how many of the new points will be given as rewards, apart from the initial 1 to 10 conversion?

Guest

Maybe there is some confusion between “Airmiles” – a means of accumulating miles via credit card purchases, store loyalty schemes, petrol purchases etc…you do not pay any taxes or charges with this scheme and “BA Miles” a means of accumulating miles mainly by purchasing flights on BA, flights with this scheme you do pay taxes and charges . Both schemes are to become Avios. I have not heard from Airmiles yet but have received an email from BA Miles advising of the change.

Profile photo of Rich Parris
Guest

I have some concerns over this distinction between Airmiles and BA miles as well – particular as Executive Club BA Miles don’t seem to be getting the 10x multiplication that Airmiles are getting when converted to Avios. This is from BA’s Executive Club website:

“BA Miles have been the familiar currency of the Executive Club. However, in November, we’ll be renaming them as Avios points, which will be the currency for all loyalty and reward programmes owned by British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group.
We’re sure you’ll welcome Avios points. Their value remains the same, so 1,000 BA Miles will become 1,000 Avios”

So if you need 10x as many Avios points as you would have done for the equivalent route before this change, I’m wondering if that leave Executive Club members shortchanged?

Profile photo of Chris Gray
Guest

Thanks for all your comments. Just to clarify that the move to Avios affects both Airmiles and BA Miles, which are very differnet schemes.
Airmiles gives miles in return for every day spending with more than 200 companies including Lloyds TSB, Tesco and Shell. This is the scheme that at present gives people the opportunity of a free flight without having to pay taxes, fees and charges.
BA Miles is the reward scheme for members of British Airways’ Executive Club. Members earn miles when they take qualifying flights with British Airways or any of its Oneworld Alliance partners. They can also top up their miles through everyday spending or by using selected hotel and car rental companies, and by using a BA Amex credit card. This scheme has always made members pay the taxes, fees and charges.
The schemes also have different levels of points that need to be earned for each destination. For instance Airmiles requires 5000 miles for a free flight to Dubai. BA Miles requires 50000 miles to pay only taxes, fees and charges.

Guest
Gerry says:
4 September 2011

Just for the record, the taxes and fees were free for about 15 years after the scheme first started back in 1985 or whenever. Then they introduced charges, but it still meant that I managed to fly to Sydney in 2007 for 10,000 Air Miles and only £108 in taxes etc.

Early in 2008 or so the taxes and fees became inclusive again, and that’s still the case right now: 10,000 Air Miles gets you a totally free flight to Sydney.

However, for Sydney they quoted 100,000 Avios with charges totalling a massive £479 so the new scheme will be a total waste of time. Worse still, thousands of people will now NEVER get the free flight of a lifetime for which they’ve been faithfully collecting Air Miles for years. What a disgraceful breach of trust: it should surely count as false pretences !

Needless to say, I’ll soon be cutting up my Tesco MasterCard and be shopping at Waitrose and Sainsbury’s instead of Tesco.

Guest
B777FLY says:
4 September 2011

Gerry has a good point. It’s a bit like collecting 25 books of Green Shield Stamps in the 1980s, only having them cut in half when claiming benefits.

Emirates must be delighted.

Guest
Paul Welsh says:
30 October 2011

I agree with Gerry’s comments – not only Emirates but Qatar, Etihad and even the more established BA/Iberia competition.

I am suspect about airlines like the above that are ‘nationalised’ and surely propped up by their emirate owners who must provide state assistance. I understand BA/Qantas/Air France-KLM are suspicious of those airlines.

It perhaps explains how come airlines like Emirates and Etihad are (for the time being – perhaps until opposition is neutralised), offer chances to travel/fly and on line shop. I have managed to get upgrades with Emirates.

I think it is key to the UK economy the airline taxes are reduced – this would be beneficial and in return the airlines should look at how best to fill empty seats and mould a user friendly rewards programme.

Guest
Gerry says:
4 September 2011

Air Miles says that “the switch brings it in line with other loyalty schemes”.

So they admit openly that they are operating a cartel?

Guest

Have been collecting Airmiles via Tesco credit card for several years and have had a number of free flights within Europe. This has been the whole reason for having a Tesco card and shopping in Tesco. Will now start shopping in Waitrose and will apply for a John Lewis card.

Probably will not fly BA either. Pity the airmiles scheme is being altered. Lots of people will miss out.

Guest
Sorcha says:
5 September 2011

Guys, there is a team fighting the change, checkout the Fight the Airmiles Change page on Facebook, and their website fighttheairmileschange.co.uk http://bit.ly/nvgupL http://on.fb.me/pWHmvb

Profile photo of tony mc
Guest

I am a member of Airmiles and regularly take flights between London/Johannesburg, London/Paris.
Using the dates 9/11 and 5/12 I have costed return trips on the BA website.

London/Johannesburg £591,83. At present by Airmiles this would be 8000 points for a completly free flight. Value 13,50 Airmiles = £1. Under the Avios scheme this trip will cost 50000 points (equivalent to 5000 Airmiles) + Airline taxes, fees and surcharges of £351,83. From the ticket cost of £591,83 the remaining amount is £240. Value 19.70 Airmiles = £1. In this example your Airmiles will have been devalued by 45.70%.

London/Paris £103.50. At present 750 Airmiles for a free flight. Airmiles value 7.25=£1. Avios points 9000 points (equivalent to 900 Airmiles) + £27 standard fee. In this example the 900 Airmiles have a value of £76,50, or 11,75=£1. A devaluation of 62,20%.

I will now discontinue collecting Airmiles, but will be using my existing points prior to the closing date to avoid this horrendous devaluation and I shall also be looking carefully on whether I continue using the merchants I presently use for collecting.

Guest
Simon says:
9 September 2011

Collecting airmiles has significantly affected where I shop for a number of years – e.g. Tesco and the credit card I use.
The change in adding taxes etc. to flights will undoubtedly mean I will spend less, as will many others, at Tesco or with my airmiles credit card.

I wonder how these companies will feel if this hits their business?

Guest
Dancoopbron says:
10 September 2011

Hello.

We collect about 15,000 Airmiles a year. Had free flights every year for many years. I really like Airmiles but am a little concerned about the change. If you check there website its not like for like points. eg.
Return flight to New york. 5,000 Airmiles.
Return flight to New york with Avios = 40,000 Avios points (equal to an old 4,000 Airmiles)
So it is less but plus Airline taxes, Fees and Surcharges and usually taxes are quite a bit!

So it does seem overall it will cost you more with Avios. However Nectar is the worst scheme out there. Barlcaycard rewards are poor.

What else can we collect to substitute Avios / Airmiles?

Something is better than nothing?

Will avios do a deal when they launch so wondered if its worth holding on to my 20,000 Airmiles or get rid of them quick……

Guest
peter c says:
9 October 2011

Airmiles and BA miles are totally different and should not be compared. The confusing is calling BA airmiles. These are collected according to how many miles you have frown with THEM BA. Tax has always been paid when using BA miles. Other good way of collecting BA miles is via British Airways American Express Credit card, all the major super markets take and many others these days. If you pay the Amex fee for the Plus card you get 1.5 BA miles for every pound spent. If you spend £3,000 in the first three months you get bonus miles and if you spend £10,000 in a year you get a free companion flight in any cabin, in additon to the miles earned, tax as always has to be paid.

Guest
Steve R says:
13 September 2011

When i first read the email about the switch to Avios i thought it was a good thing because with Avios i won’t need to pay the 500 compulsory airmiles to fly anywhere other than London. I’m local to Manchester and this seemed like a ridiculous charge to have to pay 500 of my miles before i went anywhere.

After reading this thread though maybe the switch isn’t such a good idea, i would hope to save up and get a free flight at a later date, i don’t mind paying £100 or so for a long haul flight but nearly £500 is obscene for such a scheme.

Guest
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”.

Profile photo of patmiddlengland
Guest

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.

Guest
Paul Welsh says:
30 October 2011

ADIOS to AVIOS

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.

Guest
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

Guest
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?

Guest
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.

Guest
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.

Profile photo of Samjames
Guest

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.

Guest
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?