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Update 05:50PT: The British Airways press release is now out and the information within it appears to suggest that what I’m seeing on BA.com (and what is discussed below) is not how things are meant to be. I’ll post more information as I get it.
Update: 09:00 PT: Mystery solved. Apparently, the surcharges that a BAEC member will incur on award costs are now based on where the member’s account is registered and not where travel originates.
British Airways appears to be pushing through some big changes to its loyalty program today and because we haven’t yet had a public announcement from the airline, it’s not yet clear what all the changes will look like.
Unlike some, I’m choosing to remain very cautious about what I say about these changes until I’m comfortable that what I *think* is happening to Avios redemptions is what is *actually* happening (there’s already a lot of incorrect information being published), so, what follows is just something that I’ve observed.
Has BA lowered surcharges for US departures?
Apart from the fact that BA award surcharges have been obnoxiously high for a very long time, a big annoyance has long been that British Airways charges more in surcharges for travel originating in the United States than it does for departures out of the UK.
Today, however, something *may* have changed.
Overnight, British Airways appears to have added more price points to its long-haul award bookings (you can pay more Avios to reduce the surcharges) but on the routes that I have been looking at, BA also appears to now be charging the same surcharges regardless of where travel originates.
Note: The added price points are only viewable if you have earned at least 1 Avios in the past 12 months.
When I go to book an off-peak Business Class award for travel between London and Chicago, this is what I’m offered:
More price points are available than before, but the standard cost that I’ve been used to seeing (50,000 Avios + surcharges) is still an option.
Now take a look what I’m offered when price up an award that originates in Chicago:
The pricing is identical, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case before.
Here’s another example using the London – Los Angeles route.
For a one-way off-peak season Business Class award originating in London, BA offers me this:
And here’s what I see for LAX – LHR:
Again, more price points are now showing, but the historic price point (62,500 Avios + surcharges) is still available and regardless of where travel originates, the surcharges don’t change.
As importantly, the £420/~$515* that I’m being quoted for travel out of LA is definitely lower than what British Airways used to charge for a one-way Business Class award on this route.
For reference, here’s what I’m now being offered by BA.com for a round-trip off-peak Business Class award originating in Los Angeles:
The historic pricing of 125,000 Avios + surcharges is still available, but the surcharges of £840/~$1,030 are lower than the surcharges being charged just a few days ago.*
*British Airways can sometimes show incorrect pricing on this page, but I’ve progressed these bookings right up to the point of payment and the surcharges have not changed.
Update 05:50PT/09:00PT: The press release that BA has now published suggests that the surcharges should still be varying by origin but that’s not actually how things are working anymore.
Following this latest change, it would appear that surcharges are now based on the country that a BAEC account is registered to so they are not tied to the origin of travel.
This explains why I’m seeing identical surcharges for awards originating in the UK and the US, and it means that BAEC members with accounts registered in the US will still be paying more in surcharges than someone based in the UK.
What’s written below has now been superseded
On the face of things, this is definitely cause to be happy, but I remain cautious for three reasons:
Firstly, because my BA account is registered to my address in the UK, I can’t get BA.com to price up these awards in USD, and that concerns me. Are BAEC members with accounts based in the US seeing something similar to what I’m seeing or not?
Secondly, we still haven’t heard anything from British Airways so this could still be a work in progress and what I’m seeing now may not be what BA.com shows in a few hours/days’ time.
Thirdly, American Airlines is still quoting high surcharges for BA awards on the routes that I’ve discussed above…
…so the paranoid part of my brain tells me that what I’m seeing on BA.com may not be correct.
Yes, it’s possible that AA.com hasn’t caught up with BA’s changes or that American Airlines thinks that it can continue to charge super-high surcharges for awards on BA, but what if that’s not the case?
Let’s face it, the British Airways website is notoriously buggy so it’s not inconceivable that AA.com is correct and that the world’s worst IT department has screwed up for the billionth time.
Aside: If, by some miracle, the reduced surcharges are here to stay and they are mirrored on AA.com, that will make AAdvantage Miles considerably more appealing than they are right now (assuming that AA doesn’t increase the number of miles to book these awards).
Updated: Yes, British Airways has slashed the surcharges that it adds to award bookings for travel originating in the US, but only for BAEC members that have accounts registered outside of the US.
We know that BA is pushing through some significant changes to Avios redemptions right now, but the extent of the changes remains unclear.
Based on what I’ve been seeing when playing around with a few award bookings, it looks like BA may have slashed award surcharges for departures out of the United States without increasing the number of Avios required to book. Until we have official confirmation of this, however, I remain nothing more than cautiously optimistic that this is the case.
I suspect that all will become clearer in the next 24 hours and I’ll post more updates here on TFM as and when things get confirmed.