News: BA Executive Club & Avios, Call centres, Pre-check + Global Entry

Alex Crux (Chairman and CEO) (Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways)

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British Airways – that Alex Cruz interview

When I had heard that more news was about to emerge regarding the proposed changes to the Avios scheme I was not expecting it to be in an interview to the South China Morning Post of all things! You may well have seen the interview and commentary on other blogs by now. In my opinion it didn’t really give us much we didn’t already know, other than timescales have slipped. Here is a short summary of what he covered:

  • BA are already trying to be more customer friendly with things like the maternity/paternity benefit and giving leeway on getting tier points by the end of the collection year (it is usually a 2 week extension to the collection year if you ask).
  • There will be more minor type improvements as above throughout 2018.
  • Pay with Avios will be improved to allow you to pay with all or a few Avios, ideally using a slider scale like Hilton. He expects this by the end of 2018.
  • As he has previously said there will be dynamic pricing of Avios meaning that as ticket prices rise and get closer to the time so will the Avios price. He would like every seat for sale to be available as an Avios redemption.
  • He would like to see differently priced Avios seats on the same flight (like Etihad currently do).
  • He would like all extra charges such as seat selection, baggage etc to be payable with Avios by late 2018, early 2019.
  • The changes will be much slower than expected due to developing the required IT capability
  • He is still leaning towards a more revenue based earning rate
  • He completely avoided the question about the changes to status qualification criteria

So overall there is very little new to talk about except maybe the slider and the confirmation that dynamic pricing means what we expected it to. The big question is the numbers involved and will the basic cost of a ticket go up as part of the new system? Watch this space…

HT: HfP

BA call centres reprieved

There has been a lot of speculation that BA were about to close their two call centres in Newcastle and Manchester following a review. It had been believed that Capita would take them over. I hate outsourced non-UK call centres for U.K. companies – it’s not just the language barrier or the fake English names, it is more the lack of empowerment to actually do anything or be able to veer beyond a set script. So although I find the BA call centres range from excellent to indifferent, I welcome this news. It was also revealed that BA would be investing millions in new technology to improve the call centre experience.

BA joins TSA pre check and Global Entry in London – my experience

New US Embassy London

If you travel a lot to the USA you may have considered getting Global Entry which allows you to use special kiosks at the airport and hopefully eliminates queuing. It also gives you TSA pre check for security in the US when travelling on certain airlines. The good news is that apparently British Airways will be joining the TSA pre-check program this summer. It will mean that as Global Entry you will automatically get a separate queue and not have to remove your shoes or laptops and liquids from your bag. For Executive Club members you could get it randomly if you are lucky, although TSA have been threatening to take away the random pre-check for a while but there is no sign of it happening yet.

Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years plus the cost of the UK background check which is £42. I have found the whole process relatively quick with each stage only taking a maximum of around a week. Once you have filled in the online parts you then need to attend an interview which used to be the tricky part. The good news is that they are currently doing interviews at the swanky new US Embassy in London and there was plenty of availability for April still showing when I made my appointment. Interviews are available until 3 May 2018. You can also do the interview on arrival at some US airports or make an appointment in the US city you are visiting. The interview here lasts around 15 minutes and is more about explaining the program and taking fingerprints than deeply probing questions.

I shall be trying out my Global Entry in a couple of weeks time and will report back on whether it was worth it.

You can find more information about Global Entry here. 

13 Comments on "News: BA Executive Club & Avios, Call centres, Pre-check + Global Entry"

  1. K T Krejci | 29 March 2018 at 7:55 am |

    “I hate non UK call centres – it’s not just the language barrier or the fake English names, it is more the lack of empowerment to actually do anything or be able to veer beyond a set script.”
    This is quite a statement. Some time ago, I bought a redemption ticket on IB using BA Avios. After a couple of days, the booking was automatically cancelled and I had to rebook. This happened like three times, the agent at the UK centre repeatedly assuring me that this would never happen again. After the third cancellation, desperate and with the fear of the seats going upon another cancellation to someone else, I called a local call centre in Europe. The agent not just spoke English well (and had no fake name) but after a while found a bug in the reservation which he instantly fixed. The same applies to the US centre which was always helpful for last minute rebookings due to late incoming planes. No need for hate please, one finds competent people everywhere.

    • What I should have said was outsourced non U.K. call centres. I think it is a very different situation calling an Iberia call centre itself in Europe.

  2. Global entry is the best thing I have done in the few years I have been following various frequent flyer blogs! The cost is worth it even for just the odd visit. I probably only travel to the USA a couple of times a year to visit my son who lives in LA but as an example both the last two times on arriving at LAX which can be notoriously frenetic and busy especially if two or three A380s arrive together. Bother the last two visits I have been out of the terminal with all bags within 30minutes!! No immigration queues and you also avoid the baggage clearance queue as you effectively go down the same lane as the airline crews. My son and family normally experience up to 3 hours to get back into LAX from anywhere ( and they travel a lot to OZ and UK and he has a visa but no global entry…. given they are interviewing in London again I would take up the opportunity whilst it lasts. Can’t see the point of trying to do the interview in the States as you will have to suffer the queues to get to the interview! NB also don’t worry if your passport is about to expire as you just need to go to login.gov in the USA and register your new passport when you get it. I just did that this week and done in 5 minutes. I think you also still need to get your ESTA renewed as normal but haven’t had to do that yet as mine still valid till November.

    • Thanks for all the useful info Nick. Sounds like it was a good investment. Yes you do still need an ESTA though but it is an easy process though I notice they now want details of my employer which is new.

    • Global Entry is indeed amazing. One of the best innovations in travel. Wish you could do it when arriving back in UK!

      • I agree would be great if something like that or Iris cam back. Half the time the machine won’t recognise my passport and the rest of the time there’s a massive queue with most gates shut ?

  3. Personally i think giving customers the choice to use avios for seat selection, paying taxes etc is a good idea. For someone who is avios but cash poor its an ideal solution. It will all depend on how much avios they charge for these additional.

    • I agree Adam. I am not one for saying you shouldn’t use Avios for this or that as it’s poor value. It’s up to the person and their circumstances as to what suits them personally to spend them on. As long you understand what options are available you can choose. The more ways to spend them the better. Often people with loads of Avios want to spend them on their existing travel rather than having to travel even more to use them!

  4. I sent to a pm yesterday, did you receive it?

  5. I used your contact us facility, sent you a DM now.

  6. I got approved for Global Entry last week at the US Embassy in London. As you say Michele, it’s a relatively simple process but as always there are a couple of gotchas!

    Was told to join the ‘American Citizens’ queue for the Global Entry program. Go figure?
    Don’t take your laptop with you. I did and I had to take a 2 min walk to a local coffee shop where they have a storage arrangement with. Great. Charged me £10 for the privilege! Taking you phone in and making call on it, texting and Tweeting is absolutely fine though apparently.

    Other than that, it was all pretty smooth.

    Nev

    • Thanks Nevil. I agree the signposting about where to go is odd but I’m guessing it’s because it’s a temporary thing they haven’t bothered. You can take iPads etc in though as long as there is no separate keyboard or keyboard case for it.

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