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What happens to your airline status when you (or your partner) have a baby?

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I have a couple of young children.  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.

Luckily, some airlines are more in touch with the modern world.

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

The Virgin website only alludes to this briefly.  I asked Virgin for clarification 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 Atlantic 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.

I thought that Lufthansa also had a similar policy, although I have been unable to track down any details – perhaps I am mistaken or perhaps they stopped it.

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Comments (67)

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  • Callum says:

    Frequent flyer status is a benefit given to those who fly a lot. No matter how many people act otherwise, it’s not a bare essential for life and I can see no logical reason why mothers should get a special exemption.

  • Leo says:

    I’m pretty much with Quark999 on this one.
    The only area where I see possible debate is around the relatively tight window where existing pregnant status holders are medically advised against and indeed prevented from flying – maybe this period could be added to the status year etc.
    The obvious response to this suggestion however would seem to be why not include other medical conditions in this extension? I don’t say illness because pregnancy is not an illness of course.

  • Ange says:

    Hi Raffles,
    I too have many questions about maternity leave as I will hit 10 years flying gold (VS) on the 1st of June. I should have 300+ (VS flights) tier points even with taking time off in 2010. I let the airline know about my pregnancy and my gold status was retained during the time of stayed on the ground. Problem now is I can’t seem to find out how many tier points have accumulated over 10 years. I emailed flying club and was told that they can’t tell me how many tier points I’ve earned over 10 years but when I reach lifetime gold card status someone in the marketing department will be in touch?!?! Pretty unbelievable, I have no idea how close or how far I am. I’ve requested a contact in marketing department. Should be interesting to hear what they say about maternity leave too, I’ll let you know what happens.

  • sandgrounder says:

    I saw a newspaper article on the prospect of under 21s being bannded from buying alcohol in Scotland the other day and thought ‘that’s a good idea’. I doubt I would have if I was a 17 year old Glaswegian. I’m sure the people with the screaming child in WTP on BA2167 on Monday felt they were perfectly entitled to subject us to the blood-curdling performance in the overheating cabin prior to take-off. I mentally considered the practicalities some kind of secure skycreche arrangement, preferably in the hold. If Virgin are doing this it will be for purely selfish reasons, i.e. to maximise profit. Their informal service appeals to a younger crowd than BA I suppose.

    Moral of the story is to look after yourself, because nobody else could care less.

  • Robbie says:

    What an absolutely ridiculous post this is.

    BA don’t do much right. But this they have gotten spot on. I hope they keep it this way.

  • Simon says:

    I’m sorry but having children is a choice and part of the choice you make when you decide to have children is what impact it will have on you financially, including airline status.

    It is simple: the more you fly, the more you get return. Why should an airline extend someone’s status when they go on maternity or paternity leave when the rest of us who do not have children have to adhere to the rules.

    I am BA Gold and had to work hard to get it. I’ll always be of the opinion that when you choose to have children, you need to understand the consequences and not expect freebies left right and centre.

  • Leo says:

    A friend of mine just posted on Facebook that her toddler vomited in the aisle in F on BA yesterday. I make no other comment..

  • David says:

    The solution to this (if it is a problem) is not grace years, or anything like that, it is a ‘kick start’ setup.

    However firstly, I’m not sure this article does reflect well on Virgin and badly on BA.

    In fact, you could argue the reverse – as VS lifetime gold assumes everyone is in the position to fly for 10 consecutive years. Could be main reasons (illness, injury) why people can’t, not just pregnancy. But BA has an utterly flexible TP system.

    Anyway, if this is a problem – and I’m not convinced it is, other than an imagined one – just allow each status member who drops due to inactivity a ‘kick start’ – which would take the form of giving them 3 months of Gold membership, which would renew for another 3 months, if they fly X within it, then keep that running until the end of their membership year or the point they re-earn gold.

    However I will agree with you on the madness of ‘fixed year ends’, all BA Blue members should have rolling ‘last 12 months’ membership years.

    • Alan says:

      Agree re VS – the consecutive bit is a real difficulty for many, with changing jobs/work patterns, etc. I also thing BA should offer the option of a one-time reset to allow folk to resynchronise their BAEC years with family if they wish.

      • Brian says:

        Yes, but isn’t the point of achieving lifetime status that it should be difficult to achieve and therefore only for the most loyal customers? If it is too ‘easy’, then too many people will get it, which will then lead to a devaluing of the benefits and thus not be good for the REAL frequent travellers. As others have said, this whole discussion is pointless, because the writer of the post is expressing an opinion that it is very difficult to sympathise with.

        • Alan says:

          Agreed re need for loyalty, but almost all others offering lifetime status look at years of status and miles/nights/spend total, not whether they’re consecutive or not. Up to VS though!

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