There's been huge controversy after the Airmiles flight reward programme was scrapped last week, replaced by Avios. The key change is bookers now have to pay charges when redeeming flights, which were previously free, leading to much anger. Philip Walsh (right), from campaign group Fight the Airmiles Change to Avios, explains below why he's annoyed. See Avios's explanation in the Why we had to ditch Airmiles comment piece.
"Exciting News, we're ripping up the rule book." That's how we were introduced to the change from Airmiles to Avios.
Exciting news is one of the last terms we would use to describe the changes that are being imposed on loyal Airmiles collectors. A lot of them have been collecting from the launch in the 80s.
We are disgruntled at the introduction of taxes, fees and charges, which can be more than 50% of the cost of some flights.
We are disillusioned by the regional airport changes and devastated by the lack of time we have been given to use our Airmiles. We were given fewer than three months to spend them or see them devalued.
In some cases, people paid for Airmiles and will now see them devalue under the Avios scheme.
We feel demeaned by the marketing prior to the change that encouraged us to change our Tesco Clubcard vouchers into Airmiles and to buy Airmiles in a promotion that finished just two weeks before the announcement.
We are frustrated by the media spin Avios is using which has bamboozled us, its once loyal customers.
We are frustrated by the consistent lack of answers despite asking very plain and simple questions, questions such as: "Will I be able to book a flight from Birmingham to Spain." The answer we keep getting from Avios is: "Contracts are not signed yet."
These are the sort of comments Airmiles customers have made in the Fight The Airmiles Change Facebook page and in emails to us expressing total disgust on what is potentially the worst change to a reward scheme in recent years.
With Avios, there will only be six airports that customers can fly from (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and London) in order to get the ridiculously named 'Reward Flight Saver'.
MSE insert: Reward Flight Saver is where taxes are capped at £27 return to European destinations. Avios says it's also available from Jersey.
This is because there are only six regional airports that BA/Iberia fly to and from. If you wish to fly from any other airport you will have to pay full taxes, fees and surcharges.
Avios won't engage with us
With the launch of the new Avios Facebook page it would appear there are many people who feel disgruntled.
Technical problems on the website and a lack of availability during this transition period are leaving many frustrated and angry.
The customer service staff are struggling to cope, as one admitted to us this week when we had to call about a booking. Trying to run the two schemes at once is making their lives very difficult [MSE insert: it's still possible to book under the Airmiles scheme until 16 December].
One thing that Avios has excelled at is not giving direct answers to direct questions and also deleting negative comments from its new Facebook page.
This is an area where if customers want to use their voice they must first agree to share all their personal information with Avios.
No longer will Avios staff answer questions on the news feed as they did on the Airmiles page. Why do consumers have to be treated this way? Why can't we ask questions in the public forum?
Summing up my anger
- More to pay in cash for long haul;
- more to pay in cash for European flights;
- uncertainty about non-BA regional airports;
- unclear availability;
- technical problems on the new site;
- having to share info to join a public forum.
These are just some concerns expressed to us.
Have consumers been given the whole picture about what the future holds or has the rule book been shredded so we can't see what the terms are anymore? Excited? We don't think so.
See Avios's explanation for the change in the Why we had to ditch Airmiles comment piece.
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