Travel rewards programme Avios launched last week, replacing Airmiles. The principle change is collectors have to pay charges when redeeming flights, which were previously free. Andrew Swaffield, MD at The Mileage Company, which operates Avios, explains the change. See the Worst reward change in years comment piece for why campaigners are aggrieved.
Many of you reading this will be Avios members and savvy consumers on MoneySavingExpert.com.
You'll also probably know that three months ago we contacted, by letter or email, our 2.2 million customers actively using the scheme to inform them of the launch of Avios, the new UK travel rewards scheme that replaces Airmiles in the UK.
'High taxes made Airmiles unsustainable'
Since we launched Airmiles in 1988, both the industry and consumer travel patterns have changed dramatically. UK Government tax on flying has risen to be the highest in the world, resulting in us no longer being able to subsidise taxes, fees and charges on flights (which we have only done since 2008).
Another big change has been the airline merger of British Airways and Iberia. It is against this backdrop that we have launched Avios, the new, shared reward currency for the British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus and the Avios programme.
In creating Avios we listened to our customers and members have told us that they want new, imaginative ways to save and spend. We have taken these ideas onboard.
You can now collect Avios on BA and Iberia flights for the first time; members can book one-way flights; they can use their Avios to fly in and out of different airports as well as upgrade their flights. We have also scrapped the regional flight supplement from BA-served regional airports across the UK, instead basing fares on the distance you fly.
Members of more than one scheme (British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus and the Avios programme) can also now bring their balances together.
As the vast majority of our members use their rewards to fly to Europe, we have capped taxes, fees and charges at £27 with the launch of our Reward Flight Saver, for regular collectors, on return flights with British Airways and Iberia within zones one, two and three.
Other benefits like Eurostar, days out, cruises, hotels and tour operator bookings, which were always popular with our members, are still available.
We are continuing to reward customers for everyday spending, like buying fuel from Shell, groceries at Tesco and doing your online shopping via over 200 online retailers, as well as other everyday spending on the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios credit cards.
Over the next year we will have more offers and promotions than ever before.
For example, on Avios.com, we are offering five times more Avios than usual for the first three months on the Lloyds TSB Duo Avios American Express credit card. So every £1 you spend you will collect five Avios for the first three months.
On the Lloyds TSB Premier Duo Avios credit card, you'll be able to collect 12.5 Avios for the first three months – 10 times more than usual.
And, from 26 January 2012 to 31 March 2012, you can exchange £2.50 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers for 1,000 Avios, compared to the usual rate of 600 Avios.
'Still the best'
This is the start of a new journey and we know we have to work hard to keep our members loyal.
We will continue to look for constructive feedback and ideas, and we're already reassured that personal finance and travel commentators have acknowledged that Avios is still the best travel rewards programme of its kind around.
See the Worst reward change in years comment piece for why campaigners are aggrieved at the move.
View expressed are not necessarily those of MoneySavingExpert.com.