Frequent Flyer

Devaluation Alert: British Airways Executive Club

On February 2, British Airways will raise the price of some short-haul award flights by 67 percent. So book your flights now, or face sticker shock later.

If you’re one of the many travelers who took advantage of British Airways’ uncommonly generous series of credit card sign-up offers, you may be sitting on 100,000 or more Executive Club miles. I know I am.

If you’ve contemplated using some of that mileage windfall for free flights, however, you’ve almost certainly discovered just how difficult it can be to find award flights that are even remotely close to free. The fuel surcharges British Airways imposes make many award flights truly awful deals.

But there was at least one bright spot in the Executive Club award charts that offered solid value, especially for U.S. members of the program: short-haul flights on American or Alaska Airlines, available for as few as 4,500 miles, with no fuel surcharges. Enjoy them while you can, because on February 2, 2016, those prices will rise. A lot.

With the new award pricing, a short-haul coach-class award flight that now costs 4,500 miles will cost 7,500 miles, a 67 percent increase. That’s inflation!

Prices for business- and first-class short hauls will increase as well, from 9,000 to 15,000 miles for business class, and from 18,000 to 30,000 miles for first.

This is hardly the first time British Airways has devalued its Executive Club program. Earlier this year, for instance, the earning rate for discounted coach fares was cut, from 100 percent of flown miles to just 25 percent.

Of course, British Airways isn’t alone in devaluing its program. It’s an industry-wide phenomenon, with periodic award-price increases and earning-rate adjustments inexorably eroding the value of earned points. And it serves to underscore one of the most important (and least followed) rules of loyalty-program participation: Use miles sooner rather than later. A frequent-flyer mile redeemed today will be worth more than a frequent-flyer mile redeemed a week, or a month, or a year from now. Hoarding miles is a sucker’s bet.

In the case of British Airways miles, the next value hit comes on February 2. Plan and book award travel accordingly.

Reader Reality Check

Got Executive Club miles? How do you plan to get solid value for them?

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.