British Airways Gives Executive Club a Facelift
||:: Late-Breaking News
(Posted: Feb 28, 2003)
In an effort to simplify and improve the Executive Club program, British Airways has announced sweeping global changes.
Prior to this initiative, Executive Club was one of the most complicated programs in the world. Over 22,000 different rules governed five regional programs.
"We actually had our staff in an almost impossible position where they couldn't understand the program; they couldn't explain even the most fundamental questions to our members because it depended on where the member was from, what their rules were and where they were flying to," said Chris Jansen, Director of Global Marketing at BA. "So now, we've got one global program, and one global training program for our staff."
Jansen says that the new, unified Executive Club is "aimed to take the best parts from all the current regional programs, and to try to (provide) more differentiation based on member value."
Enough marketing-speak. What are the changes?
Exclusivity: Joining Executive Club won't be a simple matter of a few mouse clicks anymore. Beginning on July 1, potential members will need to fly a Y, B, H or premium-class fare (or own and use a BA co-branded credit card) to be eligible to join. Current members will be "grandfathered" in, however, and will remain members as long as they earn miles within 36 months of their last activity. That 36-month "expiration" period, familiar to U.S. members, will become the standard globally.
Tier Status: Tier status is also undergoing some changes. On July 1, members will need 600 points to qualify for Silver and 1,500 points to qualify for Gold. That's a significant drop from the current 700 and 1,700 point levels. The flip side (you knew it was coming) is that current elite members who wish to re-qualify will need to meet these new levels, rather than the current 500- and 1,200-point renewal levels. Anticipating criticism, Jansen said that he hopes "members will find the tier threshold changes acceptable, but they will want time." To that end, BA is honoring the current renewal levels for another 12 months.
Earning: In a perfect example of the differences that existed before this change, UK members had no tier bonuses -- something nearly unheard of in the Americas. Some of that disadvantage was made up by generous cabin bonuses though -- a Club World flight earned a 100-percent mileage bonus, for example.
Now, BA is meeting in the middle. As of July 1, Silver members will earn a 25-percent bonus and Gold members a 50-percent bonus, while the Club World cabin bonus will become 50 percent globally.
The bad news? Well, if you're watching your wallet, note that discount economy fares will only earn 25 percent of mileage flown. This may be a shock to U.S. members -- after all, the land of the free has always been the home of full mileage on cheap flights. To international members, however, this is nothing terribly new.
Upgrades: Miles for upgrades on BA was something that only existed in the colonies. Beginning July 1, all members globally will be able to use miles for a one-class upgrade on full-fare tickets booked directly through BA. All members will also have the One-Way Upgrade option, which, as the name suggests, allows an upgrade for half the miles required for a roundtrip upgrade.
Part Cash Part Miles: A new, and permanent addition to the program is the introduction of an option that will allow members who may be short on an award to top off with cash.
Online capability: At the heart of these changes is BA's IT capabilities -- over the past 12 months, BA has devoted roughly 50 man-years to upgrading its system. So along with the changes to its program, you'll see improvements in its Web presence -- including online award redemption (even with partners), upgrade vouchers available online and a radical increase in the speed of redemptions. The current 10-14 day waiting period will drop to a mere three days.
Householding: Again, this is already familiar to North American members. Beginning in July, all members worldwide will be able to have up to seven members from the same household pool their miles into a single account. This is up from the current four-person limit in North America.
Award levels: Discarding the potentially confusing peak and off-peak awards, BA will be offering one 50,000-mile award from North America to Europe -- an increase of 10,000 miles for off-peak awards, but a decrease of 10,000 miles for peak awards.
What's the impact on you? That depends on your perspective. Several North American members have already begun to voice their displeasure at the changes. Said one angry member: "Could this be the nail in the coffin for those of us who try to remain loyal?"
Jansen, though, estimates that worldwide, 80 percent of current members will see their level of benefits stay the same or actually increase.
These moves have been carefully designed to retain the true "loyalty" flavor that Executive Club was originally designed to promote. And unlike many U.S. carriers, BA is not pursuing loyalty based on price alone. Though it continues to battle RyanAir and EasyJet on the bottom line, BA has clearly refocused its frequent flyer energies on rewarding higher-end spenders. British Airways has our blessings to continue as a true loyalty program, rather than become a "travel rewards program" for just about everyone else's customers.
The overall effect -- still a great loyalty program for a global airline. The most interesting thing we find: they have decided not to move down to the level of price-conscious passengers flying EasyJet or Ryanair, but rather have decided to stay with what they know -- premium services for premium members.
For more information, visit BA online at http://www.britishairways.com/executiveclubchanges.
posted: Mar 14, 2003 at 10:24am (MT)
You have failed to point out a major retrograde step taken by the new BA program. Business and First Class awards used to cost a marginal mileage increment, but now they are stepped up by factors of 2 and 3 over the miles required for coach. A US-India Business class ticket for instance requires just 100,000 miles now, but will increase to 180,000 after the change!
posted: Mar 17, 2003 at 6:43am (MT)
How could you have missed the change in Business Class redemptions? It is unbelievable what they have done to the reward schedule for b. class. Australia in Business class went from 100,000 to over 200,000! That is huge (and VERY disappointing) news.
posted: Mar 30, 2003 at 3:52am (MT)
A great loyalty program you say? Loyalty for premium service comes at an unbelieveable price now. Cabin mulipliers of 2x for Club World, and 3x for First Class! A First Class ticket to South Africa increases to 270,000 miles from 125,000. This is not a great way to reward loyalty.
posted: Apr 7, 2003 at 2:53pm (MT)
Are you really going to let BA get away without criticism of the ENORMOUS increases in mileage required for Club or First rewards? Or at least recommend to your readers that they cash in their mileage before July 1 and forget about using BA thereafter? Come on WebFlyer, pay attention!
posted: Jun 2, 2003 at 2:29am (MT)
With the substantial increases for award miles for Business and First, I've already said good bye to BA. I don't need them anymore.
posted: Oct 7, 2003 at 8:21pm (MT)
BA be aware what you are doing. is this the way to award your best costumers?
i'm a member for many years in your club and from the second year on as a goldy. i never felt treated and honoured so badly. the formerly reason for the moving over to the ba program from lufthansas miles&more was the lousy treatment of their premier costumers. now you already started doing the same way...
you are offering now the possibility of upgrades. so long, bur to get an upgrade from one class to the next higher i have to hold a fullfare ticket and enough miles. but tell me, why to buy a fullfare ticket and give the miles away when a reduced roundtrip ticket in classes A,D,I is lower than the fullfare. makes this scence??? don't think we are stupid, but i recogniced what you are thinking about us and i see, how you treat us for many years of censequentive beeing your partner !!!
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