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Beware the BA airmiles ‘free flights’ scam

Most readers will know that BA (formerly but no longer the ‘World’s Favourite Airline’) runs a loyalty scheme whereby the more you fly, you more points you collect theoretically to be exchanged for free flights or upgrades. I think the BA scheme used to use ‘Airmiles’ but now BA calls them ‘Avios Points’.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, my better half and I did a 6-month round-the-world trip with BA/Quantas and clocked up a surprisingly modest number of BA’s Avios points considering the distance we travelled. This week, I decided to use my depressingly few Avios points but was confounded by what looks like a massive scam being run by useless BA.

I had two problems:

1. The ‘you can’t upgrade’ scam First I rang Trailfinders to book a BA long-haul flight and tried to use my BA Avios points to upgrade us from monkey class to premium monkey class. No luck. I was told I would have to book my flight direct with BA to use my points for an upgrade. So I rang BA.

After 16 minutes expensively listening to the BA theme tune, I finally managed to speak to a human being. I tried to make the booking and do the upgrade with my points. But I was told that to upgrade from economy to premium economy, I would have to book the most expensive economy ticket – over £300 per person more than the ticket with BA that I could get from Trailfinders. I agreed anyway.

Then I hit the next obstacle. The BA agent claimed that all the possible upgrades with Avios points were already sold out, so I couldn’t use my points to upgrade anyway. Please note that I was looking to upgrade on a long-haul flight on any day in March 2015 – almost a year away! Yet, apparently the upgrades on all the 31 flights I could have taken were ‘sold out’!!!!

So, no luck with my upgrade. Back to Trailfinders where I managed to book premium economy seats with a rival airline for less than the price of economy class seats with BA.

BA scam

2. The ‘free flights’ scam Being rather stupid, I had another brilliant idea – use my pathetically few Avios points to book my better half and I on a week’s holiday to Nice. On the phone again. This time only 15 minutes listening to the BA theme tune before contact with a BA booking agent. I found the flights from Gatwick to Nice, made the booking and was feeling pretty satisfied till the booking agent said I’d have to pay £170 in ‘taxes’. Now, I realise that taxes on flights are quite high. But before ringing BA, I’d looked at the EasyJet website and found that I could fly the same Gatwick-Nice route with EasyJet for £150 for two of us including flights and taxes.

So, I asked the BA booking agent how the ‘taxes’ on a supposedly ‘free’ BA flight could be higher than the full cost of a flight including taxes on a rival airline. First she claimed that EasyJet didn’t fly from Gatwick. Lie. Then she claimed that EasyJet had lower taxes because EasyJet was a ‘charter airline’. Lie. Then she said that if I wanted to discuss the matter further she’d put me through to ‘Customer Services’ and cut me off.

Conclusion – Having flown every week for over 20 years when I was working and having reasonable experience from more than 1,500 flights on various airlines, I’d say that the BA Avios points scheme is a massive scam.

You have been warned.

7 comments to Beware the BA airmiles ‘free flights’ scam

  • Tough up North

    Same experience here. I had loads of avios points, i flew BA business transatlantic for over 2 years, full fare ( company expense) and racked up loads of points.

    Now I’ve tried for 18 months now to find an bus class avios flight to either Maldives or Caribbean, nothing, nada, zip, ever. Oh I tell a lie, there was one, leave uk Tuesday and return Thursday, same week! To the Maldives,

    In every destination, a cheaper flight can be found direct from manchester, for less money than BA without the avios. All Ba fights involve 4 hour stopover in Heathrow.

    The only thing we use the Avios points on are Hotels in London but that burns through points like shopping in waitrose! Not collecting any now.

  • Let me just say what a huge con BA avios are!! I have done the exercise many different ways and no matter how you look at them they are the biggest con!
    I looked at booking flights to Dubai, the first thing I did was log in through my BA account and I currently have in excess of 90 000 avios. This what they came back with: for 4 people 50 000 avios and £1895.00. I then went on and tried to book the exact same flights without logging in to my account in other words not using any of my air miles and they came back with a total of £1650.00!!!! Why on earth then would I want to use air miles and pay more!!!! It is the biggest sham, we especially got a credit card affiliated with BA and it has been a huge con!!

  • Alex

    Hi Dianne,

    Exactly the same story for me. Tried to book a flight to New York from London with 50,000 avios: 795GBP (for 2). Same flight (same days and times) without avios and not logged in to BA.com was 650GBP (for 2) !!!

    Avios reward program is the biggest scam on earth!!

  • Dave

    Ditto. Every leisure flight I have tried to use my points on comes back, no flights available. You spend ages clicking tabs for alternatives and still no flights.
    Complete con.

  • Florin

    Now is even better! Try to book anything on the avios site scam and site stuck in please wait searching for flights (or hotel). Been waiting 30 min and no luck 😛
    got shit loads of points but never can use them. Biggest scam ever 🙁

  • Chulinho

    Same here. Travelling for many years for business, in excess of 90,000 avios that I can use to book a flight for the same price or worse than without avios.
    I could also “buy more avios” for a ludicrously high fee, more expensive than the price for booking the full flight without avios.

    The whole BA/Iberia experience is a total disappointment. “To fly, to serve”… give me a break. They only “serve” their customers in business class, and even then most other companies do it better.
    Wake up BA, this won’t last forever. Hope Easyjet takes over all your flights soon.

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