Qantas follows Virgin in allowing ‘status hold’ for new parents …. but not BA

Last year I wrote an article about ‘status holds’ for new parents.  I have a couple of young children and, on both occasions, my wife lost her British Airways status when she went on maternity leave.  I have never been very happy with this state of affairs.

It is especially frustrating with BA because of the fixed tier point years.  If you take a year off to have a baby which straddles part of one tier point year and part of another, it is even worse.

Imagine your tier point year is the calendar year and you go on maternity leave in June.  You didn’t earn enough tier points before you went to retain status.  However, when you return the following June, you don’t have enough time before December to earn it back!  It could take you almost 18 months after you go back to work to get back to your old status level.

I thought that British Airways should launch something similar.  Oddly, most HFP readers who commented felt that they shouldn’t.

Virgin 787

Qantas has just announced that they are taking this route.   Starting this week, any Silver, Gold or Platinum status member can put their Qantas status ‘on hold’ for up to 18 months.

Full details are on their website here.

You have until your child reaches six months old to request a ‘status hold’ (there are different rules for foster and adoptive parents) and both parents can apply.  You are allowed up to two ‘status hold’ periods within any five year period.

Whilst your ‘status hold’ is in effect, you can continue to fly and receive status benefits.  Your flights during this period will also accrue miles and points as usual.  However, at the end of the 18 months, your status will immediately drop unless you have earned the required number of status credits so you will need to restart your flying before the 18 months is up if you want unbroken status.

Here in the UK, Virgin Atlantic is leading the field.

Virgin Atlantic has an impressive policy for new mothers and fathers.

The Virgin website only alludes to this briefly.  I asked Virgin for clarification when I wrote about this last year and this is what they told me:

Due to maternity and paternity leave, Gold and Silver Flying Club members can apply for an extension to retain their Gold or Silver status … The member needs to put the request in writing to Customer Services team ( and provide documentary proof of the maternity/paternity absence. Customer Services can give the member a list of accepted documents.

This is certainly an improvement on the British Airways approach.

If you have Virgin Gold status, there is an additional reason for requesting a status extension if you take maternity leave.  Virgin offers Lifetime Gold status to its most loyal flyers – the details are here.  Lifetime Gold with Virgin Atlantic requires 10 consecutive years of Gold status, so missing a year due to having a child could have long-term consequences.

It is good to see Qantas taking action on this score.  It would be good if BA followed suit.  There is, after all, a risk in having someone lose their status whilst on maternity leave, because when they come back to work status-less they may take the opportunity to shift their flying allegiance.

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  1. Seems less of an issue now you can share leave equally. Though maybe if you’re that keen to get back to regular travel then you probably aren’t into equal parenting?

    If that’s the case I don’t really think airlines should be expected to compensate you. Though you’re quite right, if you return status less maybe you’d defect (even though there’s probably a reason you chose BA in the first place).

  2. I don’t really see the case for this. By the same logic, you could extend this argument to say that status should be put on hold during a period of illness or incapacity. In fact, as illness is less of a personal choice than pregnancy may be, there might be seen as more of a case for this.

    I agree with Callum that airlines (and by extension their paying customers) shouldn’t be expected to compensate you. Holding status with an airline is hardly like other state directed maternity protections or benefits. Just my thoughts.

    • I would support extending status for people who have an extended period of documentable physical inability to fly.

  3. Peaceful Waters says:

    I suspect travel and specifically lounge use etc will be minimal compared to those who will remain in the workplace.

    Therefore cost to the airline will also be minimal.

    Doing this would be seen by many as a great gesture, despite the limited cost.

    And the risk of the customer seeking status elsewhere on their return to work is significantly reduced.

    I can see a string business case for it.

    I wonder how many BAEC members time their breeding patterns to minimise any period of status loss …

  4. sadly in Britain we are not child friendly, and I am not at all surprised that you found most people anti this policy. It’s far too progressive for Britsin.
    Among the worlds airlines BA in particular has a poor reputation for not being child friendly. Like you I have two kids and they have flown premium cabin since they were eight weeks old. BA stubbornly refuse to allow us to align our membership year as a family which one year led to my children guesting their parents into a lounge!
    On board is pretty poor as well with few child friendly products – be it headphones or cutlery. The sight of a four year old trying to watch the IFE whilst Eating a kids meal in First, is truly bizarre.
    Well done Qantas and Virgin for this policy.

    • I love this comment, it is the most “overheard in waitrose” comment I have ever seen.

      • In my opinion, dragging an 8-month old through a long-haul flight, First Class or not is doing them a disservice.

        There certainly will never be a conclusive study on negative impact but as a species, we did not evolve 30,000ft altitude.

    • I just love the sight of someone with airline status holding toddlers bemoaning a lack of progressiveness in society that’s holding them back!

      Can I also take it BA are pro-cancer for not having illness exemptions too?

    • I nearly ran that exact photo – my 4-year old in F eating whilst watching the IFE – last week but pulled it on the grounds of ostentatiousness!

      • Raffles – that is not ostentatiousness – it is fun ! Life is about making the best of things – smoothing of those rough edges where possible – hence the huge success of HfP.

  5. Mikeact says:

    Slightly different, but in a similar vein. When I retired after 40 odd years flying around the world it would have been nice to have had some sort of recognition of many continuous years of BA Gold.(Now a lowly nothing!!)
    At least I achieved lifetime Premium Elite with KL in my last 10 years !

    • This is offered by BA. It’s called lifetime gold. 35,000 tier points. Would be 20 odd years of gold card holding IIRC. Now we don’t know when you retired but it is offered.

  6. As a woman with 2 children my experience is that you work hard for years to build working relationships, networks, career etc. And after a year off you might not have to start from scratch but certainly you play catch up. The moment you get back to a pre pregnancy level it’s time for baby number 2 and you do it all over…
    A company recognising this and helping me in a small way would have my loyalty for a very long time! And in the end isn’t that why airlines run airmiles programmes to start with?

  7. rossmacd says:

    Having children is a choice. A choice that is made and as such the consequences must be taken into account. However, if when someone decides to have children, the thought about airline status should be so low on the decision making scale, it becomes irrelevant. Poor children whose parents care more about their FF status and balances than them.

    • As a child-free woman who intends to stay that way, I know that it is an individual choice – but it is also a necessity for the continuation of society, so I would never begrudge initiatives like this. Why would I? I don’t lose anything from it.

      • +1
        Well said :)
        Comparing illness and having children is like comparing chalk and cheese!

    • Why would caring about your status mean you care less about your children? These are unrelated issues.

  8. Don’t see why you think it’s odd that most HfP readers felt BA shouldn’t introduce this. For me, it has nothing to do with being anti-kids, as Paul’s marvellously down-to-earth comment implies. It’s just that having children is a life choice, in most cases. Having some illness or injury that stops you from flying isn’t. So unless the airlines will do the same for injured/sick people who can’t fly for a period of time, then I don’t see why they should do it for new parents. If airlines choose to, that’s great – as others have commented, it could be seen as a good-will gesture and will foster loyalty – perhaps. If other airlines don’t, I can’t see why this should be seen negatively.

    • It’s really very obvious, isn’t it. Anyone can get ill, but only women have babies. It’s unfair to penalise your female customers when they stop flying. Extending the status is a kind gesture and good business sense.

  9. This will change when some professional offence-taker writes to the Guardian about it claiming discrimination and hurt feelings. Then in a typical display of corporate spinelessness, BA will respond to a couple of ranting newspaper articles and a handful of twitter-warriors with a grovelling apology and a new policy.

  10. I’ve taken a year off work to look after my parents, who are ill. This is obviously a choice on my part, though my parents’ illness isn’t a choice on their part, so one might argue that it’s almost been imposed. As a result of this, I am probably not going to retain Silver status in BA. I don’t really see why I should be allowed to put my status on hold, however – and I see little difference between my situation and that of new parents.

    • I’m actually doing the same thing as you, but my parents don’t live in the UK…

      So instead of losing my Silver status I’m going to reach Gold for the first time!

    • Very good point.
      What about people who lose their job?

      i.e. the question of fariness looks very different depending on whether you compare people who are currently not flying because of new child(ren) to:
      a) Other people not flying for reasons outside their control
      b) The life they might have before and after the neo-natal stage.

      As somebody else wrote, loyalty programmes are a choice by businesses, and should only be expected to exist to the extent they benefit the provider (by providing something for which customers are willing to pay extra, however that extra is hidden)
      The line between recommending how businesses could do it better and an “entitlement” mindset (especially for beneficiaries who do not pay their own way) is a fine one.

  11. Ali Bentley says:

    I certainly do not think that there should be a hold for maternity/paternity leave. All of the posters here appear to have had their Gold or Silver membership financed by their companies and it is unfortunate that BA decided to name its loyalty scheme ‘Exectutive Club’ rather than actually acknowledge all loyal customers. There are some of us who actually have to earn their status by paying for our own flights and this (as you may well imagine) is quite costly and always on a knife edge at the end of the tier year. To allow an extension to the tier year for a company based status to allow for leave is very unfair to us!

  12. It rather assumes that you really do just deserve ongoing “status” for having a particular job in the first place i.e. one where you travel masses at your employer’s expense. I have more sympathy with being given some kind of status credit for a period of time when you cannot fly for medical reasons whether that be pregnancy or illness. It’s not about being anti-child at all – it’s about the assumption that someone deserves continuing preferential treatment because of their job even when they are not in a position to fulfil their part of an agreement (i.e. as an individual with an airline loyalty scheme). Not all of us obtain “status” via travel paid by business expenses (which the article implies by directly referencing maternity leave). What would people suggest to those new parents who have spent their own money on flights to gain status and are potentially not on “leave”? PS love the “overheard in Waitrose” comment.

    • Ali Bentley says:

      Totally agree, Leo (see above). It is somewhat laughable that people are wanting recognition for long term loyalty to BA, when it is often the companies decision on which airline is used and it is the company who are actually footing the bill! As a separate thought…perhaps BA could also introduce a separate lounge area at T5 so that middle management can make their ‘important ‘ business calls and play on their laptops together?

      • Ali Bentley says:

        Apologies for the appalling lack of apostrophe use there…damned predictive text!

  13. The Qantas scheme seems perfectly reasonable to me. BA’s missing a trick on this. BA could even connect it to the soft-landing. “Today, we are announcing two incentives to fly BA more. Here at BA, we understand that sometimes, for a variety of reasons, some of our EC members are unable to fly enough with us or our OneWorld partners to re-qualify for their status benefits. So today we are pleased to announce Status-Drop. If you are unable to earn enough tier points to re-qualify in your membership year, we will give you 12 months’ complimentary membership of the status tier below. Also at BA, we understand the importance of families, especially when there’s a new addition on the way. So we’re pleased to announce Status-Hold too. Status-Hold is available for parents who are taking at least six consecutive months leave from paid employment to spend time with their family. This new family-friendly benefit will give you 12 months’ complimentary membership of your current status tier.* *Please note that Status-Hold is provided as an alternative to Status-Drop.”

    • They could, but you’re then back to the original point – giving frequent flyer status to someone who isn’t flying frequently. Presumably because you feel sorry for them despite the majority of them either actively deciding to become pregnant or actively taking the risk. To be fair you’d then have to open it up to everyone who can’t meet the requirements one year (though I doubt this is about fairness, it’s just PR).

    • I remember I did from such a soft landing, although admitttedly that was a few years ago.

  14. Billy Buzzjet says:

    Oh come on BA ! How about a new Kids play area in the Concorde lounge and some plastic cutlery too!
    Anywho, must dash, got to get that letter off to The Guardian . Happy weekend y’all !

    • The Qatar First lounge in Doha has a good kids area …… and a nanny room, where they can sit as long as they do not leave (assuming they are not F ticketed).

      • Even by HfP standards, that comment is a new low. To hold that ‘nanny room’ (a windowless and featureless L-shaped room with half a dozen chairs) as an asset really does highlight the contempt in which these ladies are treated by their employers. I have witnessed this attitude ad nauseam with those from the Gulf states but to see it now spreading is truly sickening.

        • I seen lower :)

        • The comment is a statement of fact, Adam. However, it wasn’t my intention to highlight it an ‘asset’, just to highlight the rather odd fact that it existed in the first place.

          Our nanny has better work benefits than you, I bet, unless you also have an ‘all J, anywhere’ travel policy and 8 weeks holiday a year :-)

          On the other hand, we have a friend in Kingston who got a Philippino nanny and makes her live in his garden shed (seriously).

          • When I worked in Doha we had a houseboy & I’m ashamed to say I don’t even know if he was Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, I just sort of inherited him when I joined the bachelor house. He slept in a cupboard room under the stairs – earned decent money, never stole from me, good at shirts & cleaning, looked well fed, no doubt on our scraps but the fridge was always clean. Nice fellow.

            Interesting thing about Doha: many of the locals are near-Mediterranean olive skinned as you might expect but lots of others are dark as the darkest Africans you’ll ever meet, might go back to slaves they captured but now they are Doha citizens with a lot of money.

            When I worked in Calcutta as it was then, we had a cook, a houseboy/ sweeper (first 2 lived in), a clothes washer/ ironer and a part time flower girl whose job was flowers. As we went to work in the morning it was: ‘Eating in tonight? Indian or English? How many guests? I’ll need some money’ etc – often the finest beef I’ve ever had.

            • Harry – I could really do with that now ……but the minimum wage just scuppers it !

          • Erico1875 says:

            “On the other hand, we have a friend in Kingston who got a Philippino nanny and makes her live in his garden shed (seriously).”

            They would be no friend of mine ! That is disgraceful anywhere in the world

            • A rather strong comment from someone who presumably hasn’t actually seen the shed in question.

            • The shed has been upgraded :-) It still looks like a shed, of course, and I’m 99% sure it doesn’t have any sort of planning permission!


              1) ‘anywhere in the world’? Of course not, for about 5 billion out of 7 billion people in the world, working for fair pay in London & living in a hut in the garden would be wonderful.

              2) Filippino nanny – she’s not a slave & is free to come & go as she pleases. A shed in the garden might actually be quite pleasant compared to her alternatives. You have assumed ‘bad’ boss has thrown her out of a nice warm bedroom in the house and is so inhuman she sleeps with the rats. Whereas it’s probably perfectly pleasant, with showers in the main house.

            • He’s not a bad boss, he’s a friend of mine and, yes, she is perfectly happy with the arrangement. I was just mentioning it in the context of the other comment which implied that I was somehow doing down the nanny profession when we are generally seen amongst the people we know as the most generous nanny employers of any of our peer group.

          • Genghis says:

            I think you’re being a bit presumptuous of Adam W’s work benefits…

          • Erico1875 says:

            you could paint it pink, put nice curtains up, throw in an oil heater, but its still a shed.
            Ive got a shed, but our dog lives in the house.

  15. whiskerxx says:

    “Not tonight dear……….I’ve got my BA Gold status to consider” :-)

  16. plastikman says:

    took a new job where i don’t travel as much. Lost status. Sure it was a choice, but it’s frankly a disgrace that BA have done nothing to help me.

    • Ali Bentley says:

      Welcome to the real world. Was the loyalty you want to be acknowledged yours or your previous employer’s? One thing to consider is that business travellers who gain lounge access through their job are rewarded with Avios, which they can actually use. People who gain gold/silver tier levels often cannot use Avios only flights as achieving next year’s tier level has to be considered and we have to buy that flight instead.

    • I think BA should have offered you ‘in work benefits’, such as 6 months free Gold just for turning up. Capitalist bar stews.

    • Mikeact says:

      Help you ? To do what ? You must be joking.

  17. Genghis says:

    How middle class are some people. If you lose status for whatever reason, just get over it!

  18. Maybe the compromise is that once a status is earned it can be put on hold for a certain period e.g. 6 months – but during that hold period the person doesn’t get any status benefits.
    1) Ist January Traveller qualifies for gold
    2) 1st June Traveller requests 6 months status hold – this could be because of sprogging, caring, being hiatus between jobs or any other reason
    3) Mid September Traveller takes a OW flight – no status benefits although mileage accrual still given
    4) 1st December Status reactivated for 5 months – previous accrued miles & tier points brought forward and status from May based on those plus December-April travel.

    Obviously there would need to be refinements around frequency of status-hold request in a rolling period but should be fairly easy to manage.

    No-one gets more than the earned 12 months at the earned status. Everyone treated equally.

  19. Lebron James says:

    3 words for this discussion

    first world problem

  20. I think BA do do this, just not published.

    A friend contacted BA and had her status renewed for a year when on maternity leave, then the next year her husband got his renewed for a year after a major operation that prevented him from flying. I guess if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

  21. Nobody needs to get grumpy about this at all, it is a loyalty programme, if it works for you then great, go be a loyal customer. If you don’t get it then ah well doesn’t affect you anyway. If we all get snotty seeing the bonuses and extras other people get then surely we wouldn’t all be in awe of how Rob has earned his points and then goes on to tell us about them 😉

  22. Lady London says:

    I’m quite happy for anyone to have this benefit provided I can ask for the same too.

    Otherwise it’s just unfair. Why can’t we all ask for it, for any reason we like?

    • It would be lovely to see this benefit introduced by BA and kudos to Virgin for pioneering it. I am shocked that so many posters are so negative or ‘why not me’ about it.

  23. Special treatment for us poor parents please.