British Airways Looks At Scrapping Reward Booking Fees

A number of loyalty points reporters have noticed something new from British Airways (BA). It appears to be trialing new Avios redemption prices with almost zero cash to pay. This could mean that Avios redeemers can pay almost nothing for a flight, but it may also mean they are getting less value for their points.

A319 landing at Heathrow Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways
A319 landing at Heathrow Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways. Image Source: BA

Head for Points finds that flights to Chania in Greece from the UK normally cost 20,000 Avios points and £25. Instead, the headline price is 25,000 Avios and £0.50. There is also another option, to spend 22,500 Avios points and £12.50 in cash. The additional Avios spend means a return of £0.49 and £0.50 respectively per Avios point.

In general, Avios points can be redeemed for a value of up to £0.70, so this is low. That said, spending a lower cash value means that if you need to cancel the flight, the fee is either the standard £35 or the amount of cash paid. Paying £0.50 cash means that a cancellation fee for the flight would also be £0.50.

The Points Guy looked into the discovery, finding that when searching from the US, the same flight still had a price of 20,000 Avios points and standard charges of $40, equivalent to the £25 when booked from the UK. It concluded the new headline choice at 25,000 and £0.50, equivalent to $0.65, is poorer value. And, the reporter found similar pricing on flights from Heathrow, London, to Athens in Greece. But not on Heathrow to Berlin Tegel, Germany.

A trial for UK members?

The pricing looks like it could be limited to BA Executive Club members from the UK and perhaps a limited amount of flights. It could be a test of the new options. And, it’s worth noting that BA can’t charge a zero cash fee, hence the low amount with the maximum points option.

Less value? It depends on your situation

Spending more points, and less cash, but getting less value for those points is technically a worse return overall. However, if you have lots of points or simply less cash, the new pricing gives a very near free flight.

BA Avios earning
BA Avios earning – economy and premium economy. Image Source: BA

It all depends on your situation, why you are using your points, and how you feel about it at the time. It could also depend on how you earn Avios points. As they can be the result of conversions from other points programs or BA partners.

BA could be actively looking to slim down redemption values or reduce the cash costs to benefit travelers. The exact motivation or whether the new pricing will appear more often is not yet clear. BA is certainly doing something with regards to reducing reward booking fees, although it’s not able to scrap them entirely.

In other BA news, its brand-new Airbus A350 aircraft will debut its latest business class cabin. The new suite will be rolled out for BA’s fleet from 2023. It can be fully enclosed and has a 79-inch lie flat bed and five storage compartments.

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