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Should British Airways Executive Club introduce Lifetime Silver status?

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I ran an article yesterday explaining why I think British Airways should change the Gold Priority Reward.

A reader got in touch to say that a more useful change would be to introduce Lifetime Silver status for long term members of British Airways Executive Club.

Whilst this sounds sensible, I am not totally convinced. Let me explain why.

British Airways Executive Club status cards

British Airways already has Lifetime Gold status

This HfP article explains how Lifetime Gold status in British Airways Executive Club works.

To give credit to BA it is very simple. You need to earn 35,000 tier points. That’s it.

There are no restrictions on where those points come from (BA or partners). Unlike some ‘lifetime’ schemes, there are no restrictions on how many years of Gold, or even consecutive years of Gold, you need to have as well. Hit 35,000 tier points and Lifetime Gold is yours.

Is it worth introducing Lifetime Silver?

If British Airways is happy to give out Lifetime Gold for 35,000 tier points, surely it would make sense to introduce Lifetime Silver at 20,000 or 25,000 tier points?

Perhaps oddly, I’m not convinced.

The case AGAINST Lifetime Silver

Travel generally increases, rather than decreases, as people move up the career ladder. Anyone with a chance of Lifetime Gold will be knocking up 1,500 annual tier points for annual Gold easily. Lifetime status, for many, will only have value two years post retirement when their Gold status naturally expires.

For someone travelling 4-5 times per year in retirement on their own money, they are looking for the following benefits:

  • lounge access
  • free seat selection
  • fast track security and check-in

Lifetime Silver would provide all this, if it was on offer. Lifetime Gold doesn’t provide much on top. For the sake of a handful of flights per year, using the Galleries Club lounge versus Galleries First doesn’t make a major difference. Neither does using the First Wing versus standard Fast Track.

I know that the lure of Lifetime Gold encourages people to keep pushing money towards British Airways.

If these people could hit Lifetime Silver at 20,000 or 25,000 tier points, how many would stop there? Quite a lot, which is bad news for BA. The effort required to earn the extra 10,000 to 15,000 points may not be worth the reward.

Can I get into a British Airways lounge with a Silver card?

The case FOR Lifetime Silver

Of course, this could be outweighed. There will be other people who – if on, say, 15,000 lifetime tier points to date – might start pushing money towards British Airways because Lifetime Silver is achievable, in a way that Lifetime Gold is not.

This isn’t really the British Airways way, however. It has been happy to add extra tiers at the top – Gold Guest List, Concorde Room cards etc – to butter up passengers who, oddly, may never have spent 1p of their personal money on BA in their life.

In the new post-corona world, BA is about to realise that throwing Gold Guest List status and Concorde Room cards at these people counted for nothing. Their employers won’t let them fly and they don’t spend on BA for leisure.

For the next few years, the business class cabins are going to be filled primarily by leisure travellers on attractive deals. Dangling the carrot of Lifetime Silver may persuade some leisure travellers who are nearing 20,000 tier points to book these cabins for the tier points. In reality, I doubt it would move the needle enough.

However …. there is another angle. If BA suddenly announced Lifetime Silver, it would result in an immediate status upgrade for many. A lot of people would jump from Blue (where they had dropped to due to limited BA flying post retirement or redundancy) to Silver.

Having meaningful status again may encourage these people to put leisure spend to British Airways which may otherwise have gone elsewhere. The older you get, the more the benefits of an easy status-led journey through the airport appeal.

Conclusion

If British Airways does make a dramatic tilt to targetting the premium leisure market over the business market, there may some logic in launching Lifetime Silver status. Personally, I’m not convinced.

Comments (71)

  • Journeying John says:

    BA should focus on reliably delivering a competitive product in the market place and changing it’s systems & processes to value the customer alongside the shareholder, rather than debate the loyalty scheme that ultimately loses value as the quality of their offer declines.

  • JK says:

    I wish BA would add a second, independent, means of earning Lifetime Gold. As someone who has been Gold for 15-20 years, mine has sadly come primarily from a back-breaking amount of short-haul trips, whether at the front, or down the back. I imagine I’ve taken more flights in total, than many of those with Lifetime Gold who have earned it via corporate long haul.

    I appreciate revenue etc is very different on short haul versus long haul – but in terms of using the physical BA product and being an ambassador for it – you’ll be hard pushed to find many with more BA experience than us short-haul Gold carders.

    Just any form of recognition for earning gold each year, the HARD way, would be much appreciated!

    • Rhys says:

      Surely you’ll cross 35,000TPs in the coming years?

      • JK says:

        I’m only at ~20/22k… I don’t know how much longer I can keep going. I think I once figured out I’d need to do another decade… Not sure I have that left in me for short-haul! And 10 years of TP Runs to get LT Gold… well, I don’t know.

        We shall see 🙂

    • Polly says:

      But worst of all, a friend hadn’t needed to do the final Y dub trip, not realising the renewal date, as so busy at work, only to see his silver dropped! BA would not budge and grant him status. Really felt for him, appeal fell on deaf ears. Felt his Y contribution was not appreciated of course. Lesson learned tho. Told him to go to JER for lunch next time! And huge date expiry warning signs in the diary in Red. Didn’t argue, knew what l meant.
      Again, it was x 3 things, exit row, J ck in, lounges both ends.
      They matter.
      Now, no flying at all.

      • Jonathan says:

        You have 2 weeks grace to get the tier points if you’re short.

        • Polly says:

          I know, he just didn’t realise the year was ending so soon! It was about a week after the grace period ended, but absolutely no joy from BA. Had been gold for years with usa flights. Bummer.

    • Doug M says:

      20 years of gold is a minimum 30K TP. What you worried about, you’ll crush lifetime gold, and in the meantime be gold each year from all the short haul flights anyway.

      • JK says:

        I just double checked. I have exactly 21,260 LT TPs, so a shade over half way there. And that’s with frequent travel since around 2002 (so not quite 20 years Gold, but not far off).

        So my point remains, still sadly at least a decade or so of a heinous travel schedule to get to LT Gold!

        21k TP’s done on (mostly) short haul, i assure you, is a ridiculous number of flights! Love to find out actually…

  • PJ says:

    Let’s also not forget that once upon a time some of us were “lifetime” gold and now we are not.

    • Stu N says:

      BMI, by any chance? A harsh lesson that “Lifetime” only really means lifetime of the airline/ loyalty scheme…

      • Rob says:

        Or indeed American, who added a new tier about Platinum. A decade ago AA gave Lifetime Plat for (I think) earning 1 million miles of any kind INCLUDING credit card miles.

        • PGW says:

          It was 1 million for Lifetime Gold and 2 million for Lifetime Platinum (probably still is). Not only did credit card miles count but also purchased and transferred miles so it was possible to attain it without any flying at all. That ended a few years ago though.

  • Dev says:

    I don’t buy the argument that lifetime status is not worth it as you are stuck on BA. The beauty of OW FF schemes are that the benefits are almost 100% honored across the board (Dave a few exceptions!) and the truth is that you are stuck on OW carriers but luckily they have a variety of different “quality” of carriers. You can choose to fly BA or AA or CX or JL or UL, and still collect the necessary TPs. BA do benefit as the increasing amounts of JVs mean that even if you avoid flying on BA, they are receiving a slice of the pie.

    I think the BA scheme on Lifetime Gold is generous, and certainly worth pursuing naturally over a working lifetime.

  • James says:

    I absolutely agree with the introduction of Lifetime Silver.

    I have been Gold for around 7 years now, but this is all leisure travel, usually somewhere between 1600-2000 TP pa.

    Gold for life is fine for those jetting off in CW or F on company expenses every month, but for those of us who are loyal at out of our own expense, a longer term recognition would be appreciated.

    I am around a third of the way toward GFL (so it is probably 10+ years away even at my current level of travel), but as this year has clearly shown, even with a track record of Gold renewals, who knows what the future will hold in the future.

    If and when I get to the point in my life of not being able to squeeze 5 or 6 long haul CW rtns in a year (either financially or perhaps health), loyalty will probably go out of the window and cost would become the focus. However, if I were to have achieved Silver for life, that would probably sway my view. A reciprocal gesture after long term loyalty at your personal expense would be most welcome in my view

  • David says:

    I think BA should really make their companion voucher much better to catch up with Virgin Atlantic’s. As a single person, the BA companion voucher is useless to me, plus AMEX is still not accepted everywhere. Whereas, the Virgin Atlantic voucher can be used on (a) commercial or redemption upgrade and the card in a (b) MasterCard, which is accepted everywhere. Finally, the paid version of the card is (c) only £160, compared to BA’s £195. With that, BA should really take a leaf out of VS’s book!

    • Doug M says:

      I’d direct my concern more to whether they’ll be an airline attached to those vouchers in a few months.

  • Doug M says:

    Almost all these thing descend into a ‘what BA need to do is change to suit me’ debate. I believe that the BAEC is an enormous selling point for BA, and drives business to them they may otherwise lose, they tamper with it at their peril, especially in the current environment.

  • Dylan says:

    I could see an introduction of lifetime silver making sense, but only with some of the complexity that lifetime gold thankfully does not have, eg a minimum age or minimum number of years of silver status earned.

    I disagree however with the premise that Gold Guest List and Concorde room do not encourage leisure travel in premium cabins.

    Also I am thankful that BA offers higher tier lifetime status (gold, gold guest list), whereas AA only offers the BA equivalent of lifetime Bronze and Silver. I do wish the status extensions this year included some prorated credit towards lifetime status based on typical past flying.

    • Stu N says:

      I think the number of people who have both the time and the money to achieve GGL for Life via leisure travel will be tiny. 100,000TPs is give or take 500 F long haul F flights, or a return trip in F every month for 20 years.

      • The real John says:

        And if you fly in F the status benefits don’t really matter all that much.

        If you have the kind of money that would make you choose F all the time even when J would be acceptable most of the time, you probably don’t really care about Avios too much or don’t have the time.