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It looks like American Express is starting to feel the pressure from the recently introduced UK Barclaycard Avios cards because it has just announced an unexpected improvement to the Companion Vouchers offered by its British Airways co-branded cards in the UK.
With immediate effect, all Companion Vouchers (2-4-1 vouchers) that have been earned since September 2021 can be used to halve the number of Avios needed for a solo traveler’s trip.
The way the Companion Vouchers earned by the UK-issued British Airways American Express® Credit Card or the British Airways American Express® Premium Plus Card work for two people traveling together is not changing – two people booked on the same reservation and using a Companion Voucher can still fly for the cost (in Avios) of one person – so this is simply a new additional option to make the voucher considerably more useful for people who do most of their traveling solo.
The last set of major changes that were made to the way the UK-issued Companion Vouchers work came into effect in September last year and it’s only vouchers issued since those changes came into effect that can now be used for solo travel as well as companion travel. Companion Vochers issued before September 2021 cannot be used to halve the number of Avios needed for a solo traveler’s trip.
As a reminder, these are the key rules that now apply to UK-issued Amex Companion Vouchers issued from September 2021 onwards:
- British Airways American Express Credit Card Companion Vouchers can only be redeemed in economy cabins.
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card Companion Vouchers can be redeemed across all cabins.
- Companion Vouchers can be used to:
- Either book one journey for 50% of the Avios required (plus applicable surcharges) or
- To halve the number Avios needed for two travelers booked on the same flights and in the same cabins (plus applicable surcharges for both passengers).
- Companion Vouchers can now be used for travel originating outside the UK.
- Extra availability in Club World (long-haul business class) is now available for those using a Companion Voucher either as a solo traveller or travelling with a friend.
Overall, the rules governing the use of UK-issued British Airways companion vouchers are now much better then they once were. By no longer being restricted to flights originating in the UK they’re more flexible, by opening added award availability they’re more useable (applies only to vouchers issued by the premium BA co-branded card), and by now offering a 50% Avios discount to solo travelers they will now appeal to a considerably larger pool of people.
The fact that this latest change from Amex has come just a few months after Barclays UK introduced its new Avios earning cards (which offer valuable cabin upgrade vouchers) is probably not a coincidence. I strongly suspect that American Express has seen a steady stream of cardholders jumping ship in favor of the new Barclaycard products and what we’re seeing now is an attempt by Amex to stem those losses.
We’ll have to wait to see if Amex succeeds in it aim but for now, one thing is certain – competition among card issueers is clearly a very good thing.