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The Rapid Traveler is eager to see how far he can stretch his 18 remaining British Airways miles when they become the new Esperanto of the travel world, Avios (see these posts on the BA miles credit card windfall and experience burning them). The last 50,000 of his and Mrs. Rapid Traveler’s combined stash went to Mother-in-law of Rapid Traveler for Cathay Pacific (tip: type SHA on the BA website and though it does not recognize the airport initially, it can still book Shanghai Hongqiao rather than the remote Shanghai Pudong. This works for many other unrecognized airports, too.). No member of this BA ‘household’ has ever flown BA and had no desire to redeem miles on BA metal for more in surcharges than other airlines often charge all-in.
Reports around the travel blogosphere, such as from Matthew at Live and Let’s Fly are that many travelers are similarly unloading their miles at the last minute. BA summarized the changes here, excluding all the details that would be useful. Hints and speculation have been that anyone who enjoys trips to South America, Asia or not paying outrageous surcharges will do best by cashing out now. Those interested in US domestic, trans-Atlantic or intra-Europe travel may do ok and in some cases, benefit.
It is worth reminding the Americans in the audience that British Airways is indeed British and may begin November 16 according to GMT. Those procrastinating until US nighttime of November 15 might later wish they had not.
The Rapid Traveler is relatively new to the miles outsourcing game. Just when he got a BA windfall he had to unload them to get the trips he wanted. He was about to learn about Air Canada’s AeroPlan, long popular with savvy travelers, but recent mileage chart changes and now surcharges (see last updates from View from the Wing and One Mile at a Time) render that program considerably less attractive. Perhaps, after reading Online Travel Review’s excellent post for those new to this game, he should alight on the Aegean backdoor to Star Alliance elite benefits.
This turmoil brings into sharp focus the advice of beaubo and others at the recent Chicago Seminars: “be loyal to yourself.” Miles and points rarely appreciate in value, so stockpiling them excessively can be a fool’s game. A modest stockpile is good insurance for family emergency’s, job interview travel, etc but building beyond what one can reasonably use in a year or two is putting more faith in travel companies than they deserve. Credit card-based programs with multiple transfer partners like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are flexible but also vulnerable to devaluations as well as loss of partners, such as Membership Rewards recently losing Continental Airlines. Be opportunistic and do not hesitate on great deals.
British Airways’ program changes motivated The Rapid Traveler to see (or book through 2012) the following destinations:
- Argentina, including Iguazu Falls, with side trips to Uruguay and Paraguay
- Chile, including Easter Island
Looking back, he is darn happy he burned those miles and should have done it even if British Airways’ consultants had not tried to confuse itself with a car rental company.