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Change Is in the Air for British Airways Redemptions on Partner Airlines

May 9, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Travel
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An announcement by British Airways about its Executive Club program is stirring fears that a future change will make rewards flights more expensive. If that’s true, it could affect even those who don’t normally fly across the Atlantic.

The airline has announced that the number of British Airways miles, called Avios, needed to book a flight on a partner airline will change as of May 30, 2019.

The affected partners are Air Italy, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, S7 and Sri Lankan. Also, Avios upgrades on one of those airlines, American, will change.

Expect to pay more Avios

British Airways explains the upgrade change this way: “You will pay the difference between the Avios prices of your booked cabin and your upgraded cabin.”

We won’t know for sure until May 30 what the new redemption rates will be. But trends suggest British Airways redemptions will cost more Avios, meaning the average value of those Avios will go down.

This doesn’t just affect British Airways frequent flyers. Anyone who collects Chase Ultimate Rewards® points could be harmed, too, because Chase points can be converted to Avios. If those Avios are less valuable, that makes redemption options less attractive for owners of cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

A devaluation of British Airways Avios could also have an impact on travelers who collect points with American Express, Marriott or any number of other loyalty programs. That’s because many programs let you convert your points to British Airways Avios, albeit sometimes at a rate less attractive than Chase’s 1:1 point transfers.

Eyeing a flight? Grab it now

If you’ve been considering booking a flight with Avios, it’s probably smart to book it now. (One valuable award redemption that could be in jeopardy: Flights on partner airlines from the U.S. West Coast to Hawaii in economy for 12,500 Avios.)

But if you can’t book now, don’t despair. Assuming the distance-based reward chart remains, you’ll still be able to find some sweet spots after May 30. They just might not be quite as sweet as they were before.

These changes come just weeks after United Airlines announced it will be ditching its chart of standard, zone-based redemption prices and replacing it with a more complicated, less-predictable pricing system. Some United flights are expected to cost fewer miles, others are expected to cost more.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
British Airways Avios: A worldly way to fly American
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
Redeeming miles on United just became less predictable

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