Airmiles customers are set to lose their free flights in a shake up to the rewards scheme.
The scheme currently offers millions of members the chance to earn points while they shop, which can then be converted into free flights to anywhere in the world. But that is all about to change.
From 16 November, the scheme will be rebranded as Avios to reflect the merger of British Airways and Iberia and bring both their rewards scheme in line with one another. But in the process customers are getting a pretty raw deal.
Under the new scheme, passengers who use their points to get flights will have to pay taxes, fees and charges. On return flights to New York, this will mean the 'free' flights will cost at least £300 per ticket. Given that it's possible to get a standard return ticket to New York for £385 this certainly takes the shine off the Avios scheme.
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However, regular miles collectors - anyone who has collected at least one point in the last year – will have their fees and charges capped at £27 for flights within Europe.
The changes "will come as a real blow to Airmiles loyalty programme members," says Chris Nixon, managing director of Kelkoo Travel. "What was previously seen as a fantastic free perk could lead to members deserting the new Avios scheme for other loyalty programmes with better benefits."
These new charges will bring the rewards programme in line with other loyalty schemes. The Mileage Company, which runs the scheme, says the changes are unavoidable as rising costs mean they can no longer keep the flights free.
"Airmiles customers have enjoyed a great deal for a long time now, but it was inevitable that the programme would have to move more in line with the industry norm," says Nixon.
In other changes, the points themselves will change. On 16 November all Airmiles customers will have their balance switched into Avios points. While points will still be earned at the same rate – one point for every £1 spent – and the value will stay the same, the currency is being multiplied by 10, so that 900 Airmiles that will become 9,000 Avios points.