The Avios.com loyalty scheme, one of three separate schemes which use Avios points as their currency has now been expanded to cover South Africa as its second country – previously it was UK only.
Additionally the confusing name of this third scheme, a separate scheme to both BA Executive Club and Iberia Plus, might finally be being addressed!
Back in November 2011 when newly formed IAG (parent company of BA and Iberia) unveiled the Avios name they did some things in novel and sensible ways, sadly they also did some other things in ways destined to create nothing but outright confusion.
Despite owning two airlines, they actually had three loyalty programmes to deal with.
This was because, in addition to running its own loyalty programme (the BA Executive Club – with members in the UK and around the world), British Airway also owned a wholly separate mass market loyalty scheme that operated solely in the UK market – it used the Air Miles brand under a licence.
Despite sharing a common logo the Air Miles schemes that have operated in various countries around the world have generally been separate from each other, just making use of a licensed brand.
What to do with the three schemes:
It was known that BA and Iberia would remain separate operating companies with separate brands.
Many people were speculating that IAG could follow the example of Lufthansa Group, which has used its Miles-and-More loyalty scheme as the frequent flyer programme across all the airlines that it has any ownership stake in – and is also used across some that it doesn’t.
Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Luxair, Air Dolmiti, LOT, Adria, and Croatia Airlines all make use MilesAndMore as their native loyalty programme – a ‘common loyalty programme’ across different airlines.
A Common Currency:
IAG however went down a different route. It let the airlines retain their own loyalty programmes, but introduced a ‘common loyalty currency’ to be shared by all three schemes – Avios points.
People could move any number of their Avios points between their accounts in the different schemes at any time, subject to a couple of restrictions. This let the operating companies retain sovereign control of their schemes but gave the customers the benefits of common ultimate ownership.
In order introduce the common currency, the scheme balances had to be adjusted by a harmonising factor, BA Miles were taken as the base, with Air Miles UK balances being multiplied by 10 and Iberia Plus balances multiplied by 15.
1 BA Mile became 1 Avios point
1 Air Mile became 10 Avios points
1 basic Iberia Plus Point became 15 Avios points
Creating The Confusion:
No doubt wanting to consolidate on their new ‘Avios’ brand for the common currency and also wanting to stop paying for licensed use of the AirMiles brand, they decided to rename the UK only scheme from “Air Miles” to “Avios”.
Yes. Simply ‘Avios’ – the same name as the common currency.
Not “Avios direct” or “Avios collectors club” or anything like that – things which many of us suggested to BA almost immediately after the launch as we instantly spotted the confusion that would ensue.
This scheme also used the standard Avios logo as the logo for the scheme itself – a logo which was now also appearing all over BA.com and Iberia.com and on the new frequent flyer cards being sent out by their schemes, etc – as the logo of the common currency.
What was even worse, the website for this third scheme was changed from airmiles.co.uk to Avios.com and when people landed on that website there was nothing explaining to them that this was a third separate scheme, separate to their existing accounts in BA.com and Iberia.com.
Many people turned up in online forums utterly confused about what was going on. Some thought they should now be able to (or even needed to) login to see their balance of Avios points at Avios.com – despite the fact they actually held them in another loyalty programme.
The programme now found at Avios.com remained limited to accepting registrations from people with a UK address. Thereby further confusing and alarming the people from elsewhere in the world who randomly landed on the Avios.com website – a site that gave nothing away that it was in fact a separate scheme itself.
Why not incorporate it into BA Executive Club:
Some people pondered why they didn’t simply incorporate this scheme into the BA Executive Club, as the currencies had now been harmonised, along with the rules for taxes, etc.
Retaining it as a stand alone scheme allowed BA to retain partnerships that would have clashed with exclusive partnerships for BAEC. The BA Executive Club credit card partner for the UK is American Express UK, who issue BA branded credit cards. The Avios.com scheme has Lloyds bank as its credit card partner who issue ‘Avios’ branded credit cards.
Additionally, it keeps open the option to take the Avios brand beyond BA and airlines, into a more company neutral field. Many have speculated whether BA would attempted to do a ‘Nectar’ with the Avios brand. The Nectar loyalty programme in the UK is the ‘home loyalty programme’ of Sainsbury’s supermarkets and BP petrol stations, and has many other partnerships.
Despite originally appearing as the successor scheme to Sainsbury’s own reward card and the schemes of other founding partners, Nectar is now owned by Aeroplan – the company which owns Air Canada’s loyalty programme mileage scheme. (Air Canada do not own their own loyalty scheme, they sold it off. It is operated by Aeroplan under the Aeroplan brand). A separate nectar scheme exists in Italy (www.nectar.it)
Introducing Avios South Africa and sorting out the name confusion:
When a first time visitor lands on Avios.com, they get confronted with a ‘select your country’ drop down:
If you select other, you get a screen redirecting you to BA Executive Club and Iberia Plus.This is a huge positive improvement. People who know they have Avios points, but know nothing about the third scheme (because it does not operate in their market), get a sensible redirection to the schemes available to them when they visit Avios.com.
People who select either UK or South Africa get a choice of either BAEC or Avios.com:
But the good news is that Avios.com now seems to have its own style of logo (solid blue triangle, rather than framed) and be referred to as the “avios travel rewards programme.
Again, giving this scheme its own reference name and a different version of the logo is a huge improvement, although it still reverts to just saying “avios” and using the old logo style when you login – but it does have a change your country drop down:
Personally, I still think this would be a much better landing page for Avios.com for all visitors:
I will cover the details of the new Avios South Africa in another post, if however you are new to the Avios.com scheme, please note the following important warning about it:
While you can credit flights directly to an Avios.com scheme (“avios travel rewards programme”) account, you will not earn Tier Points. Unlike the other two avios points using schemes, Avios.com has NO CONCEPT of status.
Flights credited to BAEC will earn Tier Points and flights credited to Iberia plus will earn Status Points, but status credits can not be moved between programmes, so make sure you credit flights to the scheme you want to focus on for status purposes – BA Executive Club or Iberia Plus.
More details of the launch offers in the next post…