“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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  1. cheshirepete says:

    Nice article Rob, if a bit clumsy at the end.

    “If you always fly Business or First Class, you don’t need elite status. You get the perks anyway”

    Well not really, you don’t get free seat selection, get to sign a guest in, or get any priority wait listing, to name but 3! But I think you know this, so perhaps your final dumbed down summary was aimed at the broader audience it was originally written fo!

    • If you fly airlines **other than BA** you might well get free seat selection with business class tickets even if you don’t have status. You do with QR.

      • Roger1* says:

        … and SWISS, at least when booking our recent biz trip to South Africa. Can’t change afterwards, though. 🙁

        • luckyneil says:

          and cant select the ‘throne’ seats either… (unless you pay)

      • Brian says:

        Seats come free with KLM and Air France too in Business Class. It comes with the fare. They do block out seats for Elite Plus members which is fair enough. BA is a bit of a rip off on this one.

      • to tell you a secret – even in SAS Plus I was able to select and then change the seats on my recent booking from LHR to LED via ARN and the ticket was 33% cheaper than pathetic BA direct economy flight!

    • AndyR says:

      You can guest someone in on a biz or first ticket.

      • Stu N says:

        You can take a guest into the lounge (F or Concorde Room) with a First ticket but you don’t get any guesting rights with a business ticket.

    • cheshirepete says:

      All the above points are correct, ie other airlines, however this article is obvouosy highly oriented to BAEC status, as the title even includes the words elite & British Airways!

  2. Chris says:

    I have 600 tier points from flying Qatar long haul recently. Sadly my silver card is not in the post as BA requires 4 BA coded flights to qualify. Doubt I will do that before July when points are reset so I will start from zero again.

    • Genghis says:

      I think the dumbing down has made it too factually inaccurate. I wouldn’t want people to follow this advice only to be disappointed.

    • palcsaky says:

      Now’s the time to go on a segment run. Would be daft to let the status slip away when it’s within easy reach.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Start in Manchester or another UK city? Also Iberia flights count so connecting Spanish city?

    • the real harry1 says:

      There were Economy flights to AMS for £11 mentioned the other day

    • Craig says:

      Have a good look around, depending where you start you could probably do 4 internal flights in a day for less than £200 all in. It would be a long day, but I think worth the rewards. I just had a quick look and LGW-GLA return was around £75 on some days.

      • the real harry1 says:

        Depends how often you fly in a year, I guess. You can get a 10-shot Priority Pass card for just over £110, so perhaps weigh that & its multifold lounge pass entries regardless of airline travelled on vs Silver status & only Oneworld lounges when travelling Oneworld (is that right?!) ?

        • the real harry1 says:

          Oh & somebody pls confirm: so you have a cancelled Gold card. Can you continue to use the Lounge Pass card associated with it after the Gold card cancellation for lounge entries @ £15 a pop? Which is perhaps more useful that the 10-shot PP (only allows main cardholder lounge entry) if you usually travel together with ANOther/s.

        • Polly says:

          The increasing problems with PP is you are more,likely to be turned away, unless you have pre registered,your place for a fee of £5. This now needs to be factored in, if you want to be assured entry. Lounges now reserve lots of empty tables for airlines offering entry as part of their promos. ESP at LGW. It’s a cat fight these days to gain entry. Long queues waiting to enter.So it’s worth getting silver if that close. But you are correct, you are restricted to OW, and BA don’t always have access in Europe.

        • the real harry1 says:

          Yep we only just squeaked in @ No1 T3 at half term, the people in front got turned away but I said we (myself + 3 kids) could sit anywhere incl Cinema room & didn’t need to be together & that we’d be out by 12 noon (bit of a fib 🙂 ) & smiled a bit, so the dolly on the door let us in.

          But she did first ask if we were paying cash or using a card. That can only imply one thing: that they’d be happy to find spaces if you’re paying the walk-up price (£40 for adults = over 11YOs) – but if you’re on a card such as PP (= £15?), you’d get turned away, greedy lot. But understandable, they’re running a business.

        • Polly says:

          No Harry. LP is gone once the gold is cancelled. That lounge pass is a 2 entry pass only, once for 2 pax together or holer 2 separate entries. It has no bearing on any further entries. So you would have to gain your entries by your bank! Or via PP.

        • Chris says:

          Priority pass lounges are generally a step down if you fly from large airports. No champagne, and having to PAY (!) for prosecco ????

        • the real harry1 says:

          @ Polly – Nope you can definitely use LP any number of times @ £15 a pop after the 2 free ones have gone, at Xmas I got 4 of us in which included the 2 free ones and 2x £15 (they never charged us for the 2x £15!).

          I just wondered if, after the Gold Card has been cancelled, whether LP still allows further entries @ £15? I know the free ones die with the Gold card cancellation, but what about paying £15 to get in?

        • Lumma says:

          You can’t use the Lounge Club card after you cancel the Gold Amex as it charges the £15 to the Gold card.

        • the real harry1 says:

          @ Lumma but is that a fact, though? Certain things can still get charged to a cancelled Amex card, same as refunds will go back on a cancelled card. I just wondered if LC fell into that category.

        • Polly says:

          Was replying as if you had cancelled the gold card. You could always chance it and see if you are charged belatedly. Good for you if it works too..l had something just bounced and an email from amex informing me that card is cancelled. So maybe not so easy to back charge in that case. Refunds we get ok.

        • the_real_a says:

          I have relied on priority pass for short haul since i stopped chasing status about 15 years ago. Either the £200 unlimited pass of via Amex platinum – in hundreds of lounge visits i have been turned away only once at Gatwick. In that time lounges have transformed from a room with biscuits and instant coffee to places that you can enjoy a decent meal and spend a few hours doing some work and winding down. If you live in the regions its pretty much the only way to get a premium airport experience.

    • My silver has just lapsed after achieving it via the Qatar return business class to Asia method. At the time I was 15 tier points and 1 BA flight short of the silver threshold but I found a same day return flight from LHR to GLA for £66 which I think was great value for money with all the seat selection and lounge access I’ve had since.

    • Polly says:

      Chris, why not 2 x quick cheapo HBO return flight lunch dates somewhere in the uk? Or weekend day trips ? Hope you can fit them in. Such a shame to waste that opp. Would mean you keep Silver for another year, and then drop down to bronze.

    • Surely worth a quick weekend jaunt shorthaul? My folks had 600 form QR trip – wee trip from Edinburgh to Lyon and Silver card is literally in the post!

    • I was in a similar situation, had the tier points etc, but lacked the BA flights. I shelled out @£70 for a return day trip to Newcastle the day before my year ran out. Worked a treat, straight in to Silver. Consider a domestic flight or two.

    • Plus two weeks extra time to qualify if you call BA. Return day flights to Bordeaux can be bought for £20 to £40 each way. Amsterdam £40. If you’ll be flying BA next year, and value a lounge visit at £15 a go (plus additional bonus Avios per flight) then 4x BA segments is worth it – especially if instead of doing a ‘segment run’ you turn it into 2x mini breaks.

  3. Kipto says:

    BA charge £100 to select a seat upstairs on a 747-400 in Club

    • Mike L says:

      And it’s £100 per seat on the upper deck of the A380

      • Kinkell says:

        Wow! The last time I paid for seats was to secure upper deck on our first 747 trip , and I grumbled that it was £50 a seat, but it was nice. I am silver, so already booked upstairs on a 747 Denver to LHR and recently did a return a380. Dread to think what I might have paid for seats over the past few years. And I do like the facility to bag my seat at booking. Looks like next year I’ll be bronze, unless I can fly and gather 350 TPs before April!

      • Lady Londonh says:

        Is anyone actually paying these ridiculous British Airways seat selection charges in Business? Or is this just another thing British Airways hands to corporate customers for free, whilst gouging ordinary people.

        • Genghis says:

          I guess it’s important to some. I would never pay as you can normally get something decent even at t-24. e.g. a couple of weeks ago, wife (no status) on a separate booking to me got 64B at t-24 and then at t-3 or so at airport I moved from 62B to 64A as it was free to be with her. We’ve no problems sitting apart though.

  4. Tom Cook says:

    Might also be worth mentioning that you can, if there’s availability, book at long haul flight in PE and bump up to Club with 20k avios. The same from CW to F. CW to F would render 210 tier points for each leg as opposed to 140.

    We hit silver this year with the help of doing of this.

    • But if you upgraded a cash flight using Avios, you’d only earn the tier points of the originally booked class?

      • Polly says:

        Yes that’s correct. The avios upgraded leg doesn’t change the tier points or avios earned.

      • Tom C says:

        Not our experience – twice we have had cash flights booked in PE / CW in the last 6 months, used avios to upgrade and both times got the additional tier points.

      • Jonathan says:

        Correct although sometimes there’s an IT glitch which ends up crediting Avios/TP’s for the upgraded cabin. Can’t remember details but there is a scenario where this is more likely to occur.

        • @mkcol says:

          The IT glitch has been so fantastic to me that I’d booked 2 Club returns LHR-MIA a couple of years ago using Avios entirely & a 2-4-1 voucher.
          Not only did we earn TPs we also earned Avios. BA’s IT is a funny old thing.

          As a friend of mine says “You could fall in the Clyde & come out smelling of roses”.

      • Rebecca says:

        I upgraded from PE to CW using avios and got CW tier points and avios. Was pleasant but I’d just booked a tier point run trip to push me over the silver threshold (for year 2) and turned out to be unnecessary!

    • Polly says:

      Tom, you must have benefitted from a glitch in the system. As mentioned the upgrades with avios don’t usually change the TPS or avios earned! Well done there…

      • Tom Cook says:

        Cheers – we used your suggestion of the CW to F on a return flight from JFK at Xmas and got 210 TP, and then just recently we had a cash return to Abu Dhabi in PE and we upgraded one way to CW using avios and got the additional TPs, but then paid for a CW upgrade coming back.

        That said, both of these trips were booked through BA with hotel included – maybe there’s a glitch in the holiday sale system…

        • Polly says:

          Now there’s a thought. It has been reported the odd time, that if you change your booking involving avios, it can affect TPS and avios earned. Now you mention it, it could be the BA holiday side of things. But very very useful to know, and great you got them. Glad you enjoyed your avios UG to F back from NYC. It’s amazing and a no brainier.

        • the real harry1 says:

          There was a time about 10 years ago when we were getting TPs and flight mileage awarded on our Avios redemptions 🙂 Just put in BAEC membership details, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, very flaky but bank error in your favour is always welcome lol

        • Mikeact says:

          Once again, some things are better left unsaid me thinks.

    • It’s now 24k Avios plus £53 for the one-way upgrade

    • May happen if you’re lucky but it’s not meant to and no recourse if it doesn’t work (which it usually doesn’t in my experience).

  5. Stu N says:

    Shame the Tallinn via Helsinki fares are no longer around. 280TPs from Edinburgh for £320 and Tallinn is a beautiful city.

  6. I have made well over 150 EasyJet flights in the past 12 months. Work pays for my EasyJet plus card and I have PP through Amex plat.

    The two destinations I travel to every week I could use BA if I chose to – but the flights are always 3x more expensive. Although it’s not my money ethically I just can’t justify it, and with the combination of EJ+ amd PP I don’t feel I’m missing out.

  7. Nicholas says:

    Sharing your Gold Status with a friend for a year?/Silver two friends? I didn’t know you could do this (beyond bringing guests into the lounge). How do you do this?

    • You need 5,000 tier points in a year I think in order to do this.

      • Nicholas says:

        How about sharing Silver? I’m actively trying to get my wife Silver this year but won’t bother if I can share mine!

        • Alex W says:

          No only GGL can share status. But your Mrs will get your silver benefits when travelling with you.

    • Mikeact says:

      I could do with a friend for a year, if anybody’s offering ?

  8. Lumma says:

    I’m currently silver (which expires July 2019), would I be better off dropping to bronze, then trying to get silver again quickly afterwards, to get 18-20 months of status, rather than just another 12?

    Hopefully there’ll be some decent Qatar deals in the autumn next year 🙂

    • Genghis says:

      Makes no difference?

      • Interesting article I think me an the wife may have picked up BA silver by accident. Flying to economy to Rome via Heathrow from Manchester return with BA(cheaper than direct with Ryanair )in August and then followed by business tickets to Auckland with Qatar in November .
        If this correct I am hoping to convert the rest of my miles into a bunch of Flights with LATAM in South America does anybody know weather LATAM recognise BA silver re lounge access etc?

        • Lumma says:

          Latam are part of Oneworld so you’ll get silver benefits when flying with them. Good use of the points too as their cash prices are high. Paid £250ish to fly one-way from La Paz to Lima with them a few years ago, it was either that or a couple of days on buses.

          Annoying I actually had the avios to use points for the flight, but didn’t know I could back then.

      • Lumma says:

        If I get 600 tier points in the next 12 months I’d retain silver until July 2020, but if I quickly got the 600 points after next July I’d then get silver until 2021, with just a few months back at bronze. Or am I misunderstanding the rules?

        • Genghis says:

          If you have a limited number of opportunities to earn TPs and qualifying flights, as you say you are better off taking them post July 2019.

          But dropping to Bronze does not really make a difference.

        • Whether you fly 600+ TPs before or after the upcoming BAEC year end most certainly does make a difference to the expiry date of the status you’ll earn.

          In that sense it’s not the dropping to Bronze as such that makes any difference, but flying TPs quickly in a new status-earning year gets you status for a year longer than if you were to have flown towards the end of the existing year.

    • Technically yes – if you were planning a big holiday using a Qatar Airways business class flight to Asia in June 2019 you might want to move it to July 2019 so the TPs fell into your new year!

    • Lady Londonh says:


    • Lady Londonh says:

      Unless you have any use for Gold in the meantime, which would get you a longer soft landing.

  9. Ben E says:

    Echoing some of the points above about eligible flights, I made 920 tier points last ‘card year’ but only 1 eligible flight. So with 2 weeks to go I was looking at madcap last minute routings to get 3 eligible flights as cheap as possible. (for those that are interested it came out at LHR-MAN-DUB-LHR @ £170, 10 day’s notice).

    Luckily, I realised I could claim status extension for having a kid, and after sending birth certificate was granted an additional year 🙂

    Actually, to further comment on the triangle routing above, annoyingly that included a segment or two on Aer Lingus. BUT one leg on Aer Lingus cost £25 through them and £80 through BA. Little annoying.

    Still, year’s reset now and back to scheming!

  10. I would love elite status, but the high cost of tier point runs are outweighed by it being cheaper just to pay the seat booking fee.
    I’m just a working guy with humble travels, so 1 x long haul and maybe 2 budget short hauls per year. My long haul tend to be a redemption flights, so no tier points to be earned.
    If anyone can suggest a tier point run to achieve silver for under £500GBP, I’d love to hear about it.

    • Q: How much are you paying (Avios and cash) for that one long-haul redemption flight?

    • Lumma says:

      If you only have say 3 return flights a year is status actually worth it? I’ve loved being silver since I got it for the first time last November but I’ve flown at least once a month on BA since.

      Qatar ex-eu is the best way to get it in my opinion, especially if you were planning on going to the destination anyway. If you’d pay £500ish for a economy return and you can get a Qatar flight for around £1100-1200 then you’re paying £600-700 for ststus, plus you’re going to get around £200 worth of avios back and you’re getting to fly in one of the best business class cabins out there. You still need the 4 BA segments plus 40 points (the shortest BA flights would only get 20 points) but you can get 2 segments with cash tickets to your departure point.

      • Genghis says:

        “the shortest BA flights would only get 20 points”
        Not 40 per segment in business?

        • Dr Tom says:

          Within the UK, I believe business is only 20 tier points per segment.

        • Since BA rolled out “Club Europe” on UK domestics in April 2017, you earn 40 TPs

        • Lumma says:

          I meant 4 cheapest economy tickets on BA would only get 20 tier points in total, which would leave you short of silver still

  11. O/H and I have decided to let our silver lapse and we won’t chase it in the future. I’m not knocking it if it happens to come my way again but ultimately I found I was trying to achieve the 4 eligible flights via BA short haul economy, solely to get status for when I was flying short haul economy i.e. to get the status benefits – if that makes sense. It made it all seem a bit circular. If I fly long haul it’s usually paid J so I’d rather not be forced to use OW (and certainly not BA) and thus be free to find the cheapest fair. If I fly short haul I’d also rather fly EZ for usually less cash. I also like that you can buy the extra legroom and priority boarding easily, rather than wait to see if the exit seats will open up on BA. If I end up on a QR or CX flight in the future that gets me nearly to silver I’ll think about it, but I’ve realised that unless you achieve status very easily it can be a bit of a trap. I don’t redeem in CW or pay for it, so I don’t benefit from the saved seat reservation fee.

  12. 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…

  13. 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?

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

  15. 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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