Airmiles has changed – what’s different?

After 23 years in operation, the travel loyalty scheme Airmiles has changed its name to Avios.

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The rebrand follows the merger of British Airways and Spanish airline Iberia earlier this year, but it isn’t just the name that is different. There have been significant changes to the scheme and the way it works too.

Bob Atkinson, TravelSupermarket’s travel expert, said: “There is nothing that gets consumers more bothered than when retailers shift the goal posts as they seek out a great deal.

And more than 2 million loyal collectors of Airmiles will soon be upset as they learn of changes to their favourite loyalty scheme.”

We take a look at what has altered and what this will mean for customers…

How did Airmiles previously work?

Airmiles was an incentive scheme aimed at frequent shoppers whose members were rewarded with free flights in exchange for spending money at various retailers or by using certain credit cards.

They built up their Airmiles and then swapped them for free flights, which were entirely free as taxes and charges were included.

Airmiles collectors have also been able to exchange their miles for discounts on holidays, days out and car rental - this will not change uner the new scheme.

What’s changed?

Under the revamped scheme, members of Airmiles, BA Executive and Iberia Plus will now come under the Avios reward umbrella.

Points can be earned in the same way as before, although as we explain below you need to spend more points for some flights. And when you come to exchange them for flights, only the fare is include. Taxes, charges and fees will have to be paid on top.

The decision to charge members taxes and fees – which Avios says is partly due to the  UK government’s Air Passenger Duty tax being so high – means members are no longer entitled to free, all-inclusive flights.

Passengers taking flights in Europe will now be charged £27 to cover the cost of taxes, fees and charges. Long-distance flights will be even more expensive with anyone redeeming points having to pay all additional costs.

Retailers participating in the scheme include Tesco, Shell Garage and eBay.

What will happen to my collected Airmiles?

Under the new scheme, all existing Airmiles customers will have their balances multiplied by 10.

In addition, the rate at which points are awarded by retailers will increase by 10 times resulting in customers earning one mile for every 10 points.

However – there is a catch. Customers are going to have to spend more to earn enough points for some flights.

A £350 per month supermarket spend will earn you 10,080 Avios points over the year, enough for a flight to Paris which requires 9,000 points.

However in equivalent Airmiles, this would have only required 7,500 points meaning shoppers are going to spend far more to get the flights they want.

Do I still have time to use my Airmiles without paying the extra costs?

Customers were initially given up till November 14, 2011 to use their Airmiles with all the original benefits. Flyers can still avoid additional costs but will need to be quick.  The deadline is 8pm on December 15, 2011 and bookings have to be made over the phone.

Are there any advantages?

An advantage of the new scheme is that members flying from regional airports to Heathrow no longer have to pay a 500-mile supplement to connect to international flights which they did with Airmiles.

Another benefit is that miles on your old Airmiles account can now be combined with your BA Executive account and while a small number of flights will require you earning more Avios to redeem them, a large number have also had thier number reduced, such as New York.

You can also now earn Avios when paying for your BA and Iberia flight tickets, something you could not do with an Airmiles membership.

Finally, Avios have removed credit charges for all payments made to them.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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