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

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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.

Virgin Atlantic 787-9

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

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 ([email protected]) 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.

Comments (65)

  • Callum says:

    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).

  • Archie says:

    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.

    • John says:

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

  • 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 …

  • Paul says:

    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.

    • Rob says:

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

      • RIccati says:

        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.

    • Callum says:

      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?

    • Raffles says:

      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!

      • mike says:

        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.

  • 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 !

    • Will says:

      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.

  • Ann says:

    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?

  • 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.

    • Kathy says:

      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.

      • Yuff says:

        Well said 🙂
        Comparing illness and having children is like comparing chalk and cheese!

    • harry says:

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

  • Brian says:

    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.

    • DV says:

      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.

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