Yesterday, I wrote about the British Airways Avios devaluation and how I didn’t think it was that terrible, mainly because of the following:
1. Short-haul partner award redemptions are staying the same, while the introduction of off-peak awards makes some British Airways redemptions cheaper.
2. The devaluation largely affects premium cabins, which are cheaper to book with partner reward programs anyway (i.e. American AAdvantage and Alaska MileagePlan for Cathay Pacific flights). Premium seats on long-haul British Airways flights incur hefty fuel surcharges, making Avios a bad choice to begin with.
3. While novelty awards like Cathay Pacific Vancouver – New York in a flatbed First Class seat are becoming less attainable post devaluation, we’ll live. A product that is so widely lauded is best enjoyed on a long-haul segment, don’t you think? Plus, nobody needs a flatbed seat on a 5 hour flight and if you absolutely do, then book JetBlue’s Mint class product. In some instances, it’s cheaper when booked with Barclay Arrival Miles or even TrueBlue points. Plus, if you’re not from Vancouver and using additional miles to fly there just so you can fly Cathay Pacific First to New York, you’re wasting miles and travel time.
This brings into question whether the higher redemption rates for premium cabins increases the value of the British Airways Travel Together ticket. That depends on the distance you’re traveling and whether you’re flying Business or First Class. Most people put the Travel Together Ticket to use on First Class fares.
Starting April 28, a roundtrip First Class flight between San Francisco and London will require 200,000 Avios and $1,250 in fuel surcharges. In order to earn enough Avios to cover the flight and fuel surcharges, you’ll need to put $160,000 in manufactured spending on the British Airways Visa Signature card and $56,250 on the Barclay Arrival Plus card. Add another $56,250 in Arrival Plus spend to cover the taxes on the companion ticket and you’re looking at doing $272,500 worth of manufactured spending for two First Class tickets. [UPDATE: The standard earning rate on the British Airways Visa has decreased from 1.5 Avios per $1 to 1 Avios per $1. Thus, the amount of required spend mentioned in above has increased.]
How does that stack up against what other airlines require? Compared to the amount of spend required by most other frequent flyer programs, the British Airways Travel Together Ticket often ends up being pricier:
- 250,000 miles on American Airlines ($200,000 – $250,000 in manufactured spending)
- 280,000 on British Airways ($225,000 – $280,000 in manufactured spending, plus fuel surcharges)
- 250,000 miles (200,000 – 250,000 in manufactured spending + fuel surcharges on British Airways flights)
- 230,000 miles on United ($153,333 – $230,000 in manufactured spending)
- 280,000 miles on partner airlines ($186,666 – $280,000 in manufactured spending)
- 250,000 miles on partner airlines ($200,000 – $250,000 in manufactured spending)
(Note: the low-level manufactured spending required for Alaska, American and US Airways awards are based on Starwood Preferred Guest Amex spend and transfer bonuses. United’s is based on the 1.5 miles per $1 earned through the United MileagePlus Club Card)
Keep in mind that it takes $30,000 of spend each calendar year to earn the British Airways Traveling Together Ticket. Yes, that $30k also gets you a minimum of 37,500 Avios, but it’s still a substantial amount of spend to put on a card in exchange for a premium award ticket that comes with hefty fuel surcharges.
If you’re earning your miles through Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll have to do a bit more manufactured spend than if you were earning your Avios through the co-branded credit card. The exceptions are transfer bonuses like the current 40% bonus offered by Amex Membership Rewards. With such a bonus, your Avios earnings rate would increase to 1.4 Avios per $1 spent. Another thing to take into consideration are the taxes and fuel surcharges tacked onto British Airways awards booked using American, Alaska, or US Airways miles.
The SFO – LHR award mentioned earlier is just one example of when the British Airways Travel Together Ticket may not be such a good redemption option. Hopefully it gives you an idea of how to determine whether redeeming a Travel Together Ticket with the new Avios award chart is a good value – specifically, if you’re earning your miles through manufactured spending. You might also want to reference this chart, outlining the amount of manufactured spending required for first class travel on various airlines across different regions when doing your own calculations.
So back to the original question: Does the Avios devaluation make the British Airways Travel Together Ticket more valuable? If you’re primarily redeeming Avios for travel in premium cabins and this currency is more readily available to you, then you’ll appreciate the Travel Together Ticket for discounting these redemptions. If short-haul flight redemptions are your game or you can book First Class awards with a rewards currency that doesn’t impose fuel surcharges or high redemption requirements, then the Travel Together Ticket won’t matter.
In light of the upcoming devaluation, how do you value the British Airways Travel Together Ticket?