Avios rebrand causes backlash for AirMiles company

AirMiles’ rebrand to Avios and the subsequent change to the reward scheme’s terms and conditions has provoked an online backlash from furious customers.

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Customers have vented their frustrations online, saying they will now be charged for air and fuel taxes on flights that are advertised as being “free”, which was not the case with the previous AirMiles deal.

The new scheme has also changed the amount of points needed to fly to different destinations, with some flights now needing more points than before. Up to 8 million AirMiles, BA Executive Club and Iberia Plus customers will be affected by the rebrand.

Many customers have said they will now cash in their AirMiles before the rebrand and exit the scheme altogether. The new terms and conditions state that AirMiles not earned or redeemed in 36 months will expire.

Charles Hicks commented on MarketingWeek.co.uk: “I have now lost all brand loyalty to Lloyds TSB [which ran AirMiles promotions] and Avios…this is pure devaluation of our AirMile assets, for their financial benefit. It’s like having a bank steal money from your own bank account!”

MarketingWeek.co.uk commentor John Currie said: “This is an utter con. Another turn of the screw by big business who patronisingly suggest that this is in some way for our benefit…the right thing to have done would be to have honoured customers with existing AirMiles with the original deal. Very disappointing.”

A Facebook group named “Fight the Airmiles Change” has also been set up, urging customers to contact AirMiles, BBC’s Watchdog programme and participating retailer Tesco’s CEO Philip Clarke to register their dissatisfaction at the rebrand.

The company said, when it announced it was to relaunch the service, that the changes will see new customer benefits, such as more opportunities for collecting points and greater flexibility, such as the ability to book one way flights with points.

Rahul Patel, head of brand at The Mileage Company, says: “The changes to the terms and conditions of the programme that have come alongside the new brand launch have raised a lot of questions for customers but we were prepared for this.

“We’ve started writing to all members, we’ve got enough support in our customer contact centre to deal with the uplift in enquiries and we’re engaging in social media platforms to help guide customers through the changes.

“We know that some people are disappointed about the need to remove the taxes, fees and charges from the fare. We’re working hard to help our members understand what the changes mean for them and explain the benefits new programme and brand brings.

“We’re really confident in our programme and don’t believe that customers would be able to find a better value travel reward currency for everyday spend.”

Read Marketing Week reporter Rosie Baker’s view on how AirMiles’ Avios rebrand is “Consignia all over again”

Readers' comments (14)

  • I have just used 70% of my miles on a flight, I had 15k and was aiming for 20k of miles but having seen how they plan to rip you off in November I decided that now was the time to pull out of Airmiles.

    I will be using all my miles before November 16 and will no longer collect miles via Tesco, Shell or any other company as it is not worth it.

    I dont mind change but the changes that you are making remove the reason to collect.

    A Flight to New York costs 5000 miles with no taxes - under Avios I would likly use the same miles but then also have to pay £300 in taxes....... that is not better for me and totally devalues my airmiles from 1 airmile equil to 12.5p then being equil to about .5p.

    Total joke - someone should be sacked over this.

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  • 17 signatures online and 2 comments on here? Massive backlash that one

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  • Hi Morgan,

    You'll appreciate that we could only list a snapshot of some of the comments that have been posted online. Others were not just on Marketing Week in our initial story about the rebrand (http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/sectors/travel-and-leisure/airmiles-rebrands-as-avios-to-meet-global-strategic-aims/3029731.article), but on Facebook, Twitter and in other media (Check out the Metro's front page splash today with comments from Kelkoo, or Money Saving Expert's forums).

    I think it's fair to say consumers have been quite upset (and vocal) about the matter.

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  • Hi Lara,
    I would suggest that you choose your wording more wisely, as when I read your article about the avios expiring after 36 months I was outraged, given how long it has taken me to collect the airmiles that I have.
    However upon reading the actual terms on the airmiles website I soon realised that this only applied to Airmiles/avios ACCOUNTS where no spending or collecting of points has occurred during that time. This compares to the 24 month term on which they currently operate.

    Overall there are drawbacks with the charges for fuel and taxes etc, but again this only applies to flights beyond zone 3 and if you haven't collected points in the 12 months running upto the booking.

    At the end of the day it remains as a scheme whereby you do get something back from doing your usual spending at Tesco's or wherever.

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  • One of the things that is not mentioned in this article is that up until 2 weeks ago Airmiles were running a huge marketing campaign to encourage people to buy or gift Airmiles by offering up to a 20% incentive. This is at a time they KNEW they were going to devalue their product. While this may not technically be fraud it has to morally wrong and I am struggling to get any real answers out of them as to why they thought this was ok!

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  • It is disgusting that the decision was made to give such little notice. Many customers have been saving airmiles for years and exchanging Tesco vouchers that could have been spent in store, for Airmiles that will now be effectively worthless since taxes make up the majority of the cost of a long haul flight.

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  • I agree, It is disgusting that the decision was made & such little notice given. I like many customers have been saving airmiles for years and more recently exchanging Tesco vouchers that could have been spent in store, for Airmiles that will now be effectively worthless! Shame on you!

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  • I am totally disgusted by Airmiles changing over to Avios,i have saved for a long time to build up my Airmiles for a good trip to Australia-now i might as well just pay for it in a travel shop as won't be paying much more-DISGRACEFULL!

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  • Can i ask why Airmiles have emailed me in the last few weeks inviting me to top up my miles balance at a cost of £75.00 and to exchange clubcard vouchers to airmiles when they know that the scheme is changing to something less attractive to members ?
    Surely there is a law in place in instances like this to protect consumers, is there ?

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  • That will be end of Lloyds TSB credit cards for my husband and myself. Luckily we went to Disneyland Paris a couple of months ago by Eurostar with our daughter, son in law and grandson, using up all our air miles. We will not be saving them now. We have always bought everything on credit card (even cars) and paid up each month. Anyone know a good reward credit card?

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