Profile: Jeremy Gilley

The man marketing world peace

Will Airmiles users bid adios to Avios?

The relaunch of Airmiles as Avios creates a global loyalty scheme that allows it to service the expansion plans of its partner International Airlines Group (IAG), according to the scheme’s operator.

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The Mileage Company has attracted criticism for announcing a name change at the same time as starting to charge customers forair duty and fuel taxes on flights advertised as “free”. There were no such charges with Airmiles.

The Airmiles brand is owned by Groupe Aéroplan, with the Mileage Company owning the licence in the UK. Different operators run the scheme in various territories under different terms and conditions.

Creating a brand that offers the same terms and conditions in all countries will offer customers a consistent international scheme that allows it to grow with IAG, says Andrew Swaffield, managing director of the Mileage Company.

IAG, the airline formed by the merger of British Airways and Iberia, has said that it intends to take in another four airlines.

It is “inconceivable”, according to Swaffield, to have “as many reward currencies as airlines” so creating a global travel reward currency for all customers of IAG was necessary.

He adds that because the Mileage Company does not own the Airmiles brand, a long transition, backed by an awareness campaign was not possible. He says: “Once we had made a decision that we needed a global brand we needed to choose a brand, and move to it immediately in a clean way. If we had complete ownership we would have been able to take people on a journey. We can’t do that.”

The new name creates a distinct brand that stands out in a crowded loyalty market, Swaffield argues. He says customers are often confused about what people are collecting, as customers of other carriers use the term “air miles” as a generic term.

The changes, however, have been met with anger by customers complaining about the additional cost. Customers posting comments on MarketingWeek.co.uk say they plan to cash in their Airmiles before the rebrand and leave the scheme. Swaffield, however, says that it is “untenable” to carry on subsidising rising charges, taxes and fees.

He says the company has instead made a “massive” investment in the value of redemptions, making it the most valuable scheme in Europe.

Changes include more scope to collect points and greater flexibility.

The Avios brand has beenco-created with Interbrand. A full campaign will start on 16 November developed by the creative company 101.

The campaign embracing TV, outdoor and print advertising, along with social media, digital and PR activity will continue the Airmiles positioning of “rewarding travel”.

Avios will keep its commercial partnerships for points collection with Tesco, Lloyds TSB and Shell.

Both BA’s Executive Club and Iberia’s Iberia Plus programmes will remain as separate brands.

Readers' comments (6)

  • The real problem is that the Government taxation of air passengers is so excessive as to be prohibitive. What is all that tax being used for?

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  • I have cashed in all but 2000 miles and will be using them all before the change over as I will not allow Airmiles to devalue my air miles, I converted vouchers with a face value of £2.50 onto vouchers so I could get free flights not so that they would be devalued by up to 90%

    I have now signed up to fight the airmiles change group on facebook and on their website as this should not be allowed to happen

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  • Having nearly saved enough Airmiles for 2x "free" flights to America I was somewhat upset at the move to charge the taxes.
    Still I will now use them to buy rather a lot of wine from the site instead, so for me at least it will be adios to Avios!

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  • This spells disaster for long haul travellers!
    Join Fight the airmiles change on facebook to voice your concerns!

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  • I have around 2000 paper voucher airmiles which I have been collecting for quite some time which will become invalid on 30th November therefore I have to spend the vouchers or let them expire. At any rate I would never fly with BA again and they will loose out in the longer term. Not very good PR

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  • I agree with the first comment - that it's the government and the high level of taxes being put on air travel being the catalyst to these changes. If you have an airmile collection you need to read up and see if you will be better or worse under the new scheme and act accordingly:

    http://www.loyalty-program.co.uk/airmiles-avios

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