Matthewonlive and let's fly

My British Airways Executive Club Dilemma

With the extinction of British Airways' Executive Club days away and a steep devaluation of BA miles feared for North American flyers in the new and still secret "Avios" program, I face a personal dilemma. Should I spend my miles now?

I have been absolutely swamped with award clients over the last few days wanting to use their BA points before 16 November, primarily to book trips to South American on LAN (80K miles r/t in business class from North America) and trips to Asia on Cathay Pacific (100K miles r/t in business class and 150K r/t in first class from North America).

The mileage required for those trips and others will likely increase by at least 100% in the new program so would be wise to book now to just about any region of the world outside of Europe if you can keep your flights on a single non-BA OneWorld carrier.

But as I am booking these wonderful trips to the Galápogos Islands, Easter Island, or South Asia, I keep asking myself what I should do with my own very large stash of BA miles. I've been to South America three times in the last two years and while I would enjoy flying LAN, do not see a need to make a trip next year back to South America. I do have a week open in March that I want to use to travel to Tahiti, but the only option to get there using BA miles is via Easter Island on LAN and there is no award space on those elusive flights between the Easter Islands and Tahiti.

Then there is Asia and Australia--so much still to see there, but with my calendar hazy in the months ahead, I do not want to lock into a trip that I must take within year--I already have trips planned out to Asia on United in January, then a trip to the -stans and a separate trip to the Balkans also on revenue Star Alliance tickets later in the year.

That does not leave me a lot of time for other long trips. While a quick weekend run to Bali in Cathay First may be appealing, I cannot justify dropping 150K miles and $600 in taxes for a weekend jaunt.

The counter-argument is that these miles are going to be worth a fraction of what they once were so I really have nothing to lose by making speculative bookings now. Perhaps, and the $70 cancellation fee is not unreasonable, but if I do not have the time what is the point? My six weeks of paid vacation I enjoyed in Germany this year will not be following me back to law school...

Additionally, the price for European awards from North America will likely remain unchanged and short-haul flights on American Airlines may even be cheaper under the new scheme--two more reasons not to rush into booking. So I am not going to.

To summarize this rather scatterbrain post, if you know you are traveling next year from North America to regions other than Europe and intend to pay for those trips with your BA miles, it is in your interest to book before 16 November. If you are on the fence about travel plans, it still might behoove you to book now. But if you have no time for a trip next year, do not spend the miles just for the sake of getting a "deal."

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Comments

#1
Brad November 12, 2011 at 02:44 am

So cautious Matthew. Unlike you, I jumped right in and booked a Bali trip in CX First. You are much more experienced at this than I am, but I feel you can get much more value on a CX redemption than one on AA. (pajamas notwithstanding). Probably a wise choice, but for me, I fully intended to use my BA miles for CX first all along.

I have a blog on my CX booking process in the works, but I'm enjoying New Zealand too much to keep up with my blogging. (sorry Mike!).

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