“How to get elite British Airways status quicker than you think”

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Note:  I wrote this article for a magazine recently, but I thought – with a few additions – it was worth a wider airing, especially for newer HFP readers.  It is written in a ‘simpler’ style to most Head for Points articles because it was produced for a broader readership.

Having elite airline status used to be about the finer things in life – skipping the queues at security, heading straight into a luxurious lounge for some free champagne and food before waltzing onto the plane when you felt like it.  This is still true, of course, to some extent.

Today, however, airline elite status also brings more mundane benefits – free seat selection (British Airways charges up to £200 return for the best seats in long-haul Business Class), a reduced chance of having your hand baggage taken away at the gate and a reduced chance of being thrown off an oversold flight.

What most people don’t understand is that elite status is easier to get than you think. I am focusing mainly on British Airways here, but the same principles apply to other airlines.

British Airways Silver card

British Airways requires 600 tier points in your 12 month membership year for a Silver card in the Executive Club.  This brings lounge access, free seat selection and extra baggage allowance.  When you see that a short haul Economy flight only earns 5 tier points each way, however, you may give up immediately.

Don’t.  Look further.  A one-way long-haul business class flight on BA is 140 tier points.  Just two return flights and a couple of short haul trips will get you that Silver card.

But that’s too many for me.  It is 140 tier points per flight so the benefits double when you fly long-haul Business Class on a partner airline and need to change on the way. Fly to Asia on BA’s partner Qatar Airways and you change planes in Doha.  Fly to Los Angeles with BA’s partner American and you could change in New York.  Suddenly you’re doing two flights each way, so 2 x 140 tier points.  That is 560 tier points in one return business class trip.  Your Silver card is virtually in the post.

You can even earn status via short haul flights if you are smart.  The longest flights on the British Airways short haul network, to places such as Malta, Marrakech or Tenerife, each 160 tier points return in Business Class.  Because these are generally leisure routes, operating out of Gatwick and not Heathrow, they are often inexpensive if booked in advance.  Four weekends away over 12 months and, again, your Silver card is sorted.

British Airways Gold Card

If it is airport lounge access you crave, you can get it via a premium credit card.  American Express Platinum comes with two Priority Pass lounge cards.  American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is free for a year and gives all applicants two lounge passes for free.  HSBC Premier World Elite credit cards come with free airport lounge access.

These are usually for third party lounges, but they are often better than airline-run ones.  The calmest lounge in BA’s Terminal 5 at Heathrow is arguably the independent Plaza Premium one.

Even if you fly low cost, you don’t have to miss out on perks.  The easyJet Plus membership scheme (£199 per year) gets you seat, boarding, fast track security and baggage perks.  Combine it with lounge access via your credit card – Luton, Stansted and Gatwick North have good independent lounges – and you will have a similar experience as a British Airways passenger at Heathrow who has a Silver card.

Here are some other tricks:

If you have status with one airline, other airlines may match it to tempt you to switch. statusmatcher.com is a good website where people post successes and failures.

Airlines have lots of partners.  Greek airline Aegean, for example, is the easiest of the 28 in Star Alliance to get status with, although you need to take four flights with them annually.  An Aegean status card is valid across the alliance.

BA lets its top Gold Guest List members give Gold status to one friend per year, and Silver status to two friends.  Got any heavy travelling friends?  Time to buy them a beer.

Finally, don’t get status conscious.  If you always fly Business or First Class, you don’t need elite status.  You get the perks anyway (OK, BA will still charge you for seat selection in Business!).  Feel free to pick the highest quality and most convenient airline for each flight you make.

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Comments

  1. marcw says:

    Status is somehow diluted these days – I think it´s only worth having for “Free” seat selection. That´s why I keep Ruby/Bronze – no more than that (for seat selection on SH flights and occasional LH flight); for everything else priority pass/platinum Amex more than enough. Anything that involves “extra luggage” is pointless, specially with basic fares. And regarding lounges, priority pass is extending their lounges, and now even some Virgin Clubhouses are included in priority pass. Who would have thought…

  2. If anyone out there is a gold or higher BA member, and would like to bestow gold friendship on me for a year, I’d be happy to accept. Trying to build a trip overseas from the US. Can one fly AA and code trips to BA?

  3. O/T but I’ve seen reference to BA launching Manchester-Florence – do we know anything about this?

  4. shd,

    Having to pay to select CW seats at time of booking is a perk for those who have status and can do that for free. It means a bigger choice of seats for those with status – presumably BA’s intent.

    In BA F you pick your seat for free anyway

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