British Airways Knows How to Time a Devaluation: Right after Chase announced a 30% transfer bonus to British Airways Avios, British Airways has emailed many members who have redeemed Avios awards that Avios awards on partners are changing effective May 30, 2019. Curiously, I haven't received my own email yet, despite booking an Avios award within the past couple weeks.
In any case, here's the notice of the change to Avios award pricing for partner airlines:
“From 30 May 2019, we’ll be changing our Avios prices on reward flights with the following partner airlines: Alaska Airlines, Air Italy, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, S7, Sri Lankan and Royal Jordanian Airlines.
The price of Avios upgrades on American Airlines only will also be changing from 30 May 2019. You will pay the difference between the Avios prices of your booked cabin and your upgraded cabin.
Don’t worry if you have an existing Avios booking with one of these airlines. It’s still valid and you can make changes or cancel it if you need to*. Our new Avios prices will apply to any changes or new bookings you make after 30 May 2019.
There will be no change to our Avios prices for reward flights and upgrades with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia or Vueling. The Avios prices for our other services are also unaffected, so you can continue to benefit from spending your Avios on our wide range of hotels, car hire and experiences.”
What Will the New Avios Rates for Partner Airlines Be Starting May 30?
Unfortunately, we don't know that yet–British Airways hasn't made any of the new award pricing available yet, and most likely won't in advance of May 30, 2019.
Aren't British Airways Avios Awards for First Class and Business Class Already Expensive Compared to AAdvantage and Alaska Mileage Plan?
Yes–for virtually all long haul partner premium class awards such as Cathay Pacific First Class, Cathay Pacific Business Class, JAL First Class, JAL Sky Suite Business Class, Qatar QSuites Business Class, etc. Avios bookings are more expensive than AAdvantage and Alaska Mileage Plan, for those oneworld airlines that Mileage Plan partners with. The benefit of British Airways Avios has been that it's been possible to book these awards further in advance, because the Executive Club award calendar opens much earlier than the AAdvantage and Mileage Plan calendars.
While British Airways hasn't explicitly said that the changes will mean an increase in miles, it's safe to assume that, at least for first class and business class awards, the number of Avios required will increase.
I've Already Transferred Ultimate Rewards Points to Avios, Now What?
If you were planning to use your Avios to book with Oneworld partner airlines, I recommend booking awards prior to May 30, 2019. Another good use of British Airways Avios, if you have enough of them yet also have AAdvantage miles, is to secure the Cathay Pacific First Class or JAL First Class award you want, then later, once the AAdvantage award calendar opens, cancel the Avios award and immediately rebook with AAdvantage.
Note that there is a risk with this strategy that the award may not go back to inventory, particularly if it's been a long time since the award was booked with Avios and/or it's getting close to the actual travel dates. Because of this, you should have a backup plan, for example, a Business Class award that you book right before you cancel the Avios award. It goes without saying that if you don't like the risk of potentially losing the First Class award you booked with Avios, you shouldn't try this. That said, I did this recently and was able to rebook my JAL First Class award with 80,000 AAdvantage miles, replacing the 140,000 British Airways Avios award I originally booked.
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