British Airways kills redemptions on AA and Alaska (again for the very first time)

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Evidently, they’re still a little sore about the whole Independence Day thing on the other side of the pond. Overnight, British Airways seems to have completely destroyed its award chart for flights on AA and Alaska Airlines within the US, in some cases raising prices by almost 50%. BA already took a mallet to those awards in late-2023, so domestic US flights under 3,000 miles now cost between 50-100% more than they did last Summer.

Although we always hate to see devaluations like this with no notice, this one actually won’t make much of a difference for most folks who want to use their Avios domestically – BA wasn’t the best Avios program to use for these sorts of awards anyway. That would be Qatar or Finnair. So far, prices in those programs are unchanged.

New Pricing for AA/Alaska using BA Avios

British Airways has drastically increased the pricing of all award flights on Alaska and American that are under 3,000 miles in distance AND have origins or destinations within the US. In practice, that affects almost all flights within North America on both carriers, the exceptions being Hawai’i and Alaska to some Midwest and all East Coast destinations. Here’s a summary of what’s happened:

Length of Flight (in miles) Economy Award Price (before/after) Business Award Price (before/after)
1-650 (non-US flight) 6,000/no change 12,000/no change
1-650 8,250/12,000 16,500/24,000
651-1151 11,000/16,000 20,500/32,000
1152-2000 14,500/18,000 29,000/40,000
2001-3000 16,000/20,000 42,000/50,000
3000+ Unchanged Unchanged

Quick Thoughts

These increases are astonishing, especially given that they occurred with no notice AND after these same awards already increased in price a few months ago. Last July 4th, you could get a business class ticket from Chicago to Los Angeles for 22,000 Avios. This year, it’ll cost you 40,000…almost double.

The new prices will make British Airways completely uncompetitive when booking North American awards – which appears to be the point. However, for folks with pockets full o’ Avios, the sky hasn’t fallen. BA wasn’t really the best option for Alaska and American redemptions previously, as either Qatar or Finnair had equal or better pricing on most (maybe all?) routes. Luckily for us, neither one has changed. Yet.

A flight from Seattle to San Francisco will cost you 16,000 Avios in economy and 32,000 in business when you get it from BA. That same flight is still pricing at 9,000 Avios in economy and 16,500 in business when booking via Qatar:

While BA is now charging 20K to get from the West Coast to Hawai’i, Qatar will still sell you a ticket for 13K:

Since Avios are easily transferable between programs, it already didn’t make sense to use BA in most of these situations. Now, we can just ignore it completely.

I do have some concern that these massive price increases from BA over the last few months will bleed over to Qatar and Finnair sooner than later; the disparity in pricing is now quite pronounced. If/when that happens, we’ll truly have reason to shed some tears. But for the moment, we can celebrate knowing that there’s still safe haven for American flights within the Avios program, despite this all this British aggression.

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Alex

Just booked a domestic AA flight with Qatar Avios. Qatar forces you to put in a passport number, even for a US domestic flight. Everyone traveling had a valid passport, so no big deal this time – but anybody know what to do if somebody in the group doesn’t have a valid passport? Can you just put in an old/expired number with a future date, or even a random number?

54austin

I can confirm that 30k Finnair Avios will get AA domestic first class (Z), if you can find it. Just booked JFK-SFO.

Sam

“despite this all this British aggression.”

Not the first time the british have been aggresive 😉

Last edited 14 days ago by Sam
Brian

Been booking domestic flights with avios every month. But it looks like we’re unable to book domestic US AA flights with Qatar every airport AA flies to which is possible with British Airways avios. Only the few US airports that Qatar has a presence.

Kevin C

So as a Chase BA card holder who only uses Avios for AA domestic, my ~150,000 Avios are now 2/3rds what they were? Nice BA… I remember when they were 4,500 each way. Probably time the BA Chase card benefits improved if they intend to keep offering it as right now, it’s probably the worst award card out there. My Southwest card with Chase does more.

Last edited 15 days ago by Kevin C
Mark

I know this article is about Avios, but Alaska is the cheapest of them all. Last month I booked a short AA flight for only 4500 Alaska miles.

Jim Lovejoy

Yes if you have a good source of Alaska miles.
The big advantage of Avios was that you could get them through all of the transferable currencies. Was, because at the new prices it probably doesn’t make sense using those currencies any more.

Alex

I use BA Avios to book AA domestic a lot, so this hurts. On a first look at using Qatar Avios for AA domestic, I see Qatar has a $10 fee (per booking, each way, covering $5.60 security plus a little more), and the cancel/change fee is $25. BA Avios charges just the $5.60 and has no cancel/change fee. The Qatar fees are not enough to offset the new higher BA rates, in my opinion, but do shrink the difference.

Alex

Thanks, Tim. And yes, I hadn’t realized that QR rates were already cheaper than BA and I am now kind of glad for this devaluation (and your post) to force me to look at QR. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your QR cancel test, will be good to know if QR has the same approach as BA.
Now the question (as you point out in the article) is how long Qatar will hold the line…

Mo Sh

This is a total scam! Devaluing miles for redemption is just another way of BA screwing over loyal customers. They should be sued for this!!!

SUPERFANBRIAN

Are you a loyal BA customer or a loyal Chase CC customer

Andrew

The Labour Party comes fresh off their election victory with the novel idea to make Americans pay more Avios abroad instead of raising taxes locally!

Joking aside, I’m curious how the Avios alliance works as far as influencing partner airlines. British Airways and Iberia were the original airlines that merged into IAG but the largest shareholder is Qatar. Can BA really try to force the other airlines to match it’s award chart?

Brian

Astounding overnight devaluation. i’ve been booking every few weeks including yesterday. Never tried Qatar

Andrew

Wow… literally just booked yesterday… thank god… also Latam bookings on avios got devalued last week.

Christian

Tim seems a lot more cheerful about this than I feel.

Lee

And, then there are certain routes on which AA never releases award inventory to any partners. What’s the (stinkin’) point of an alliance?

Last edited 15 days ago by Lee
CJH

I can generate BA Avios easier than AA miles because of Chase UR. I will have to work on understanding Qatar program.

AndrewDTX

You can transfer BA Avios directly to Qatar’s program because it also uses Avios.

K L

How do you make this transfer? from your BA log-in or Qatar? Sorry, new to this.

AlexL
CJH

Thank you for this information. I will attempt on my next short haul domestic flight.

Chad

The difficulty is that Qatar’s search engine can be hit and miss for a number of flights, requiring you to call, and they’re not terribly competent.

Big Jeff

How do you find AA flights with Finnair Avios? Every time I search for an award flight within the US, Finnair’s website tells me there is no availability. Even for flights that are available with BA Avios.

Popcorn

I’ve tried four times to book AA flights using Finnair and not once have they seen availability, and they were available on all other partners. Tried calling and chat. They saw Alaska flights only, no AA.

JEREMY

I was successful but had to chat and give dates, route, time, and flight numbers. They must be using old Sabre software or something.

Popcorn

I gave them all that as well. Nonstop flights also, still nothing. I even asked if they had ever booked AA flights using avios and they said yes. I’m not sure what was going on, but I’ll keep trying in the future.

Chad

I had to chat, took forever. When they said they couldn’t see it I told them to piece together the individual legs and then suddenly they could.

Jason

Me too, no AA availability on 6 different dates.