Airmiles alters free flights scheme
Airmiles customers will no longer be entitled to completely free flights under the new terms of the relaunched reward scheme.
Those flying outside of Europe will face paying hundreds of pounds in airline taxes, fees and surcharges, on top of the loyalty points they have cashed in. Active members of the programme will be subject to a flat £27 fee for flights within Europe.
The rebranding from Airmiles to Avios on November 16 follows the merger of British Airways and Iberia to form IAG. Avios will also become the currency for the British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus.
Andrew Swaffield, managing director of scheme operator the Mileage Company, said: "We have made a series of changes, including the removal of the completely inclusive flights with Airmiles.
"Unfortunately it's been untenable for us to be able to completely subsidise this. We had been unique in offering that. But taxes and fees have increased a great deal, so customers will have to pay money on top of their points.
"However, 87% of customers use their points for redeeming on European flights, and that's why we have capped the cost for regular users at £27. We believe that makes Avios the most valuable travel reward currency available for European flights."
There are currently 2.2 million active members of the Airmiles scheme. Each Airmile is to convert to 10 Avios points, and customers will continue to be able to accrue points by spending with other brands including Tesco, Lloyds TSB and Shell.
Chris Nixon, managing director of Kelkoo Travel, said the news will come as a "real blow" to Airmiles loyalty programme members, adding: "What was previously seen as a fantastic free perk may lead to some members deserting the new Avios scheme for other loyalty programmes.
"In this tough economic climate, the Airmiles programme probably provided a lifeline to some cash-strapped travellers, enabling them to enjoy cheaper travel."
He added: "However, it's not all bad news, as members will enjoy more flexibility under the new scheme. They'll be able to collect points on BA and Iberia flights, which they'll be able to use on both one-way and return flights."