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”

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