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British Airways just made some big changes to their Executive Club Loyalty program that are great for high-spend business travelers and terrible for almost everyone else.
The crux of BA’s big changes boils down to another revenue-based mileage program. Starting April 28th, deeply discounted economy fares will now only earn 25% of the flown miles per flight, while the ultra-expensive bookings will earn up to 300%. as an example, last year’s passenger on BA flying the 3400 miles from JFK to London would earn between 3400(100%) and 6800 (200% for first class) miles. Now that span will be 850 to 10200.
The cost to redeem awards is also going up, though mostly for premium tickets.
While BA hasn’t gone so far as to directly award miles based on the cost of the fare (Like United and Delta), the concept is close enough: give more rewards to high-spend business travelers and give fewer to the budget travelers. It’s a trend that’s sweeping the airline world in a race to appeal to the wealthy premium carriers while leaving the rest in the dust.
Perhaps what’s most unique about the upcoming transition though, is the relationship between British Airways and American Airlines, the last American legacy carrier that hasn’t adopted a revenue-based program. As more members of the OneWorld alliance like Cathay and British change their loyalty programs to match the industry trend, there’s no doubt that American will feel increased pressure to do the same.
It’s possible, thus, that British Airways may push American past the tipping point towards changing its program to match the industry. But it’s also possible that the changes from British are simply a precursor to what American already has planned. Both United and Delta are now reaping the profits from a less-expensive mileage program — if American wants to compete, they may unfortunately have to follow suit.
In the meantime, members of British Airways have through April 28th to earn and spend miles under the former mileage program. Those loyal to American likely have the rest of then year. After that, all bets are off.