The Airmiles reward scheme has closed, to be replaced by the Avios programme tomorrow, which will result in passengers having to pay taxes and charges when redeeming flights.
The 2.2 million Airmiles members didn't pay these additional costs previously, which are standard on other flight reward programmes, that can amount to hundreds of pounds per journey.
A return from London to New York will cost £300 plus the points. The hike has been met with anger by many members who will see the value of their rewards drop.
However, there will be a month-long amnesty from tomorrow to redeem under the Airmiles system so those planning on booking a flight with sufficient points should hurry (details below). This option is only available by phone as the Airmiles website has closed.
Airmiles is effectively being merged with the British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus, which are the frequent flyer programmes for both airlines, to form Avios. Most flights available will be on BA, with the majority of the rest on Iberia.
The British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus brands will remain, even though miles will be called Avios miles from tomorrow.
Below, we outline what this means for former Airmiles members and current BA members when redeeming and earning points.
Impact on former Airmiles members
What happens to existing points?
All Airmiles balances will be multiplied by ten and turned into Avios miles to bring them in line with the value attributed to BA miles.
Points will be worth the same, regardless of which of the three programmes (including Iberia) passengers belong to.
What's the impact when I redeem Avios miles?
Passengers will have to pay taxes and charges on flights, which were previously free when purchasing travel using Airmiles. You can only book BA or Iberia-operated flights, not flights with a BA or Iberia code operated by another airline.
On a return from London to Barcelona on BA, the charge is between £70 and £90. On a New York return it is approximately £300.
However, there will be a charges cap of £27 on BA or Iberia European flights for anyone who has collected at least one Avios point in the preceding year.
This is only available from London, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey, Manchester and Newcastle, otherwise you pay full taxes and charges.
A new map of destinations, split into zones based on the number of points required, has also been drawn up. Some will benefit but others will suffer from the new regime.
Avios says that of the current top 20 destinations from London, travellers will require fewer points on five routes, more points on seven, with no change on the rest.
Hurry to book Airmiles flights without paying
You can still book under the Airmiles scheme from tomorrow until 15 December by phone only (on 0844 4933399).
In that period, members can choose whether to use any of their points as Airmiles or Avios miles. You can check availability on the Avios website as any flight on sale for points there can be booked under the Airmiles scheme.
To help you work out what's needed (use the following destinations to calculate miles for other cities of similar distance to the UK), you need:
- 750 Airmiles for a London return to Paris/Amsterdam
- 1,500 to Rome/Barcelona
- 2,500 to Athens/Warsaw
- 5,000 to Dubia/New York
- 6,500 to Chicago/Mumbai
- 8,000 to Cape Town/LA/Tokyo
- 10,000 to Sydney
For non-London departures, there's a 500-mile supplement.
The message to hurry is especially pertinent for trips outside Europe or where the £27 cap on charges does not apply, as costs will soar from 16 December.
Some gain under short-haul changes
Flights departing from a non-London UK airport will no longer be subject to a 500 Airmile (equivalent to 5,000 Avios miles) charge.
Therefore, on some European routes from larger non-London airports you could be better off under the new scheme. As some charges are capped at £27 and the 'non-London' points premium's been scrapped, the loss in cash may be offset where you need fewer points.
To check whether Airmiles or Avios is best for you in case you want to book in the next month when both schemes are available, follow these steps:
- Find the cost in miles and pounds on the Avios website.
- Compare to the Airmiles cost in miles. See the section above for how to calculate the miles needed.
- Remember, you'll need to multiply Airmiles by ten for a fair comparison as one Airmile equals 10 Avios miles.
Other positive changes
- Avios customers will be able to book one-way and open-jaw tickets (eg, London to New York, Boston to London), which former Airmiles members couldn't.
- Members will be able to use miles for cabin upgrades which was also previously impossible.
What's the impact when earning Avios miles?
Here, there is little change.
Existing Airmiles customers will still be able to collect from exactly the same partners, such as by using Tesco Clubcard points or the Lloyds TSB Duo credit card.
The only difference is purely an accounting change whereby the number of miles earned will be multiplied by ten.
So, for example, 250 Clubcard points will be worth 600 Avios miles instead of 60 Airmiles.
Avios customers will be able to earn miles on BA and Iberia flights, which was not previously possible.
Important! Wait to exchange Clubcard points for Avios miles.
Unless you need the extra miles to book before 15 December, wait to convert Tesco points.
From 26 January to 31 March, 250 Clubcard points will be worth 1,000 Avios miles rather than the usual 600 Avios.
Impact on BA members
What happens to existing points?
BA miles won't change in value, but they will be called Avios miles.
What's the impact when I redeem BA Miles?
The major difference is a new zone map to determine how many points are required per flight, which brings mixed benefits.
The number of miles required for most European routes is similar.
Some medium-haul destinations such as Larnaca and Tel Aviv will require 25,000 miles instead of 20,000.
However, anyone going to New York or Washington will need 40,000 miles instead of the current 50,000.
BA members pay taxes and charges on flight rewards. This doesn't change, though they will also get the £27 cap on European bookings as long as they have collected miles in the previous 12 months, which means cheaper costs.
BA members will be able to redeem on many non-flight rewards, such as hotels and car hire, under the new scheme, which they couldn't do previously.
Anyone with a BA Amex credit card will still get a free companion ticket (though they pay taxes) when they spend £20,000 a year on the card and buy a BA ticket themselves.
What's the impact when earning BA miles?
BA members can still earn points in the same way when flying on BA and its partner airlines, plus via certain other partners such as hotels, car hire firms, Tesco Clubcard and some American Express credit cards.
Which scheme is best: Avios or BA?
Avios says its scheme will be better for irregular travellers and the BA club will be best for business or frequent travellers.
While Avios miles are worth the same regardless of scheme, BA members also earn credits that can be used for extra benefits such as the use of airline lounges.
Points on all three schemes will expire after three years of no collection or redemption.
Anyone who is a member of more than one of the three schemes (including Iberia) will be able to move points between them without penalty.