British Airways devalues American and Alaska award flights

British Airways has recently increased award prices for many award flights operated by American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, catching U.S. travelers by surprise. The changes were flagged by AwardWallet, and the new award rates are now visible through British Airways’ search engine.

Previously, British Airways Executive Club used a distance-based award chart when redeeming Avios across its network of partner airlines. For nonstop flights operated by American and Alaska Airlines, the prices started at just 7,500 Avios each way. However, this is no longer the case.

The new economy award rates, which have already taken effect, show relatively large increases on a percentage basis. For example, flights up to 650 miles now require 8,250 Avios, a 10% increase from the previous 7,500 Avios. Flights between 651 and 1,151 miles now require 11,000 Avios, a 22.2% increase from the previous 9,000 Avios. The increases continue for longer distances as well.

First-class award flights on American and Alaska Airlines have also seen significant increases. For example, a flight within Zone 1 (up to 650 miles) now requires 16,500 Avios, a 32% increase from the previous 12,500 Avios. The increases vary depending on the distance of the flight.

These changes have a particularly significant impact on flights from the West Coast to Hawaii, which previously required just 13,000 Avios each way. Now, travelers will need to use 16,000 Avios for a one-way ticket in economy class.

It’s worth noting that these increases are also reflected in Iberia Plus, another loyalty program affiliated with British Airways.

This sudden change is frustrating for travelers who used Avios for American- and Alaska-operated flights, as it was previously a great use of transferable credit card rewards. British Airways Executive Club partners with most major currencies, allowing travelers to earn Avios through various credit card programs. The lack of notice regarding the changes has also been disappointing for those who were saving Avios for specific redemptions.

Interestingly, this change comes shortly after Virgin Atlantic updated award rates on many Delta-operated itineraries. Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club loyalty program also partners with major credit card programs, making it a similar situation to British Airways.

The complexity of the British Airways Executive Club has further increased with these changes, as the award rates now vary significantly depending on the carrier, origin/destination, dates of travel, and class of service. While some loyalty programs are simplifying award pricing, British Airways is going in the opposite direction.

Despite the increased award rates, it may still make sense to book these flights with Avios, especially for travelers who are short on American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan miles. Transfer bonuses from issuers like Amex and Chase to Avios are frequently available, making these redemptions a viable option, although not as lucrative as before.

In conclusion, British Airways has increased the number of Avios required for booking many American- and Alaska-operated award flights. This affects domestic itineraries as well as short- to medium-haul international flights. While the changes are disappointing, Avios redemptions can still be a good option, especially with transfer bonuses from credit card programs.

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