An email arrived from reader Bill.
He asked the question “Is British Airways Gold status worth it?”.
He was having a crisis of faith.
“I don’t know if many other readers feel the way I do, but I’m beginning to think not.
“Both my wife and I have been Gold for the last five years (we also had some lucky re-timing with BA extending tier years) but what additional benefits have we really enjoyed over our previously Silver status?
“A (slightly) better lounge at Heathrow, First Class check in (if available) and that’s about it. Yes, we sometimes get a nod from the cabin service manager (making you feel important…) and perhaps preferential service on a flight, but an upgrade? The chances of that are just about nonexistent. Having flown trans-Atlantic throughout the lockdowns, we make roughly 6-8 return US flights pa. We have voluntarily been moved from CW to First ONCE.
“BA seem to be missing a few tricks. Having just returned from Nashville, BA changed the plane a few days before from a 3-class to a 4-class 787. First had not been sold, so why weren’t preferential card holders given a better seat? Flying an empty First cabin does not seem to make any sense and it gives such a welcome benefit to their frequent fliers (albeit with CW service) – at no cost to them. This has happened before on this route – you can imagine our frustration when we found out that they had put five Blues and two Silvers in there!! I have also seen BA crew ‘nab’ these seats too.
“Earning zero tier points when enjoying reward flights makes me wonder whether Virgin Atlantic’s decision to award status on miles redemptions was a clever move (I am currently Virgin Flying Club Silver due to two Upper Class return flights). It is certainly making me question my allegiance.
“Having talked to other Gold card holders on several occasions, they are of the same opinion as me, so I feel there is some traction out there!”
So, is Bill right?
What are the benefits of British Airways Executive Club Gold status?
Let’s start with a reminder of the benefits of holding Gold status in British Airways Executive Club when flying on BA. You can read more about what it takes to achieve British Airways Gold status here.
- 100% bonus base Avios on all British Airways, Iberia, American Airlines and Japan Airlines flight, doubling the base Avios earned. Finnair flights earn a 25% bonus.
- Free seat selection at the time of booking for you and anyone else on your booking, including access to Row 1 in Club Europe (blocked to other passengers)
- Free seat allocation for a companion or colleague on a separate booking but on the same flight as you (this can only be done over the phone)
- Whilst not a published benefit, the seat next to you on short haul flights will be blocked until the aircraft reaches a certain occupancy level
- An additional 32kg checked bag per person in all classes, for everyone on your booking
- Use of First Class, Club World, Club Europe or oneworld equivalent First Class or business class check in desks, regardless of your flight class – plus use of the new First Wing at Heathrow Terminal 5 (you can only take one guest through First Wing’s private security channel although your entire party can check in there)
- Lounge access for you and one guest (traveling on a British Airways or oneworld operated flight) to the British Airways Galleries First, Club, Terraces and Executive Club, or the equivalent oneworld first and business class departure lounge
- Use of a British Airways arrivals lounge if you land from a qualifying flight, irrespective of class of travel
- Priority boarding
- Use of an exclusive Gold telephone line
- Reservation assurance on full-fare economy tickets, guaranteeing you a seat even on full or overbooked flights
- Priority over lower status passengers on waiting lists
- Additional Avios reward seat availability in economy
- Gold Priority Reward access, allowing you to book any seat still for sale for double the Avios cost (these can only be booked offline and with 30 days’ notice)
What do we mean by whether BA Gold is ‘worth it’?
We should define exactly what we mean when we ask whether British Airways Gold status is ‘worth it’.
If you are doing enough British Airways flights to qualify for Gold, you would be crazy not to bother joining Executive Club and taking the tier points and Avios. But if you’re reading this site, I think that’s a given …..
Should you be crediting your flights to another oneworld frequent flyer scheme? No, I don’t think so. What’s interesting about BA Executive Club is that almost nobody who is UK based chooses to credit flights to American’s AAdvantage, Qatar Privilege Club etc. None of the other schemes stack up when you factor in the additional benefits of having Avios over miles in another oneworld currency.
When we talk about ‘worth it’, I think we’re really saying:
- Is it worth moving flights from Virgin Atlantic or other carriers to BA if it makes me Gold instead of BA Silver?
- Is it worth doing a ‘tier point run’ (anyone fancy a weekend in Sofia for £225 to earn 160 tier points?) to earn Gold when I already have Silver?
It’s personal ….
Rather like the HfP articles we write on whether it makes sense to pay £575 per year for The Platinum Card from American Express (answer: it depends), this very much depends on you.
Let’s start with a simple fact:
Someone who only travels in business class does not need airline status.
Lounge access, priority boarding, seat selection, extra baggage allowance? It comes with your ticket. A Gold card might you get a better lounge or (with BA) free seat selection or access to Row 1 on short haul but nothing truly substantial.
The key benefit for many is not on the official benefit list
Whatever your views on the added value that BA Gold brings over BA Silver, there is one fact that is uncontroversial.
The fact that a BA Gold is guaranteed a soft landing to BA Silver is a good reason to have the status.
Having BA Gold effectively means having two years of status – one as Gold and then, irrespective of how few tier points you earn – a guaranteed year as Silver afterwards. This means two years of lounge access and free seat selection.
Making an extra push to get from ‘almost Gold’ to Gold is, in the long term, worth it just for the two years of status unless you are 99% certain that you will retain Silver under your own steam.
Which benefits of British Airways Gold status (over BA Silver status) do I value the most?
I’ve listed below the 14 benefits of British Airways Gold status as I value them. Your list is very unlikely to be the same.
From most important to least important:
- First Wing – we have got very used to this at Heathrow Terminal 5 but (because we’re a family of four) it only works for leisure because my wife is also BA Gold. A family of four with only one member who is BA Gold can’t use First Wing security or the Galleries First lounge, unless booked in First. We also tend to take taxis to Heathrow so can be dropped in the right place – arrive on the tube and you might find the walk to First Wing a drag. I can usually get from taxi to lounge within five minutes.
- Row 1 seat selection – I fly Club Europe whenever possible and I’m tall, so Row 1 suits me. If you don’t fly Club Europe or don’t like being in Row 1 (my wife dislikes it because she is forced to stow her handbag) then this won’t bother you, and a BA Silver gets free selection anyway.
- Galleries First lounge access – it’s an improvement on the Galleries Club lounge I could access as a Silver, but not hugely so. I wouldn’t push for Gold over Silver if this was the key benefit.
- Use of the Gold telephone line – I do value this although I don’t use it often. Even (especially) in the dark days of covid it seemed to work. I had to call BA this week about upgrading an Avios flight and my call was answered immediately.
- Additional Avios reward seat availability in economy – it is hard to know how useful this is because BA does not make it clear when a reward seat you are booking is from the ‘extra’ allocation. I do value the fact that I can book these seats for anyone even if they are not Gold.
- Seat blocked next to you on short haul – little value as I am usually in Club Europe but this does pay off on occasional flights from London City where all rows are 2×2
- 100% bonus base Avios on all British Airways, Iberia, American Airlines and Japan Airlines flight, doubling the base Avios earned, plus a 25% bonus on Finnair – this clearly has some value but I prefer ‘physical’ status benefits and am not short of Avios
- Gold Priority Reward to book any seat for double the Avios – I used to love this benefit but it was devalued beyond belief when BA only let you book the ‘£1 fees’ pricing option. 39,000 Avios for an economy return flight to Amsterdam? I think not. Even for February half term ski flights this is no longer a slam dunk bargain but never say never, because it is still better than paying £500 cash.
- Priority boarding – only useful on the odd occasion when I am not in business, but it’s not worthless
- Additional 32kg checked bags per person – never been an issue because we’re a family that takes lots of small cases (make the kids do some work ….) rather than a couple of large ones. I haven’t checked a bag on a solo trip for at least 20 years.
- Free seat allocation for a companion on a separate booking – never done this, although I accept that it could have value in some scenarios
- Use of a British Airways arrivals lounge – zero value as I don’t fly long haul in Economy or Premium Economy and so would have access anyway
- Guaranteed ticket availability if I pay full fare in economy – never bought a full-fare economy flight and am not planning to start now!
- Priority over lower status passengers on waiting lists – no value to me
This is my order of priorities, what is yours?
The order above is the order I value the perks of BA Gold. I’d be slightly worried if anyone agreed 100% with my ordering!
And what should you ‘pay’ for BA Gold if you have Silver?
There are two types of ‘pay’ I’m thinking about – sacrificing money and sacrificing comfort / time.
If you are switching a flight from a more luxurious airline to British Airways solely to secure Gold status, then you’re not losing money. You’re just losing a bit of comfort, in return (arguably) for receiving more comfort on future BA flights.
If you are planning to spend real money on additional flights to hit British Airways Gold, you need to have a proper view about what Gold means to you. Free seat selection is a cash saving, but you get this as a Silver member. Arguably the extra Avios availability in Economy is a cash saver if it means you don’t need to pay for certain flights.
Many of the other benefits of Gold make your life easier but have no cash benefit – accessing Galleries First over Galleries Club lounges, using First Wing security etc.
Thoughts welcome in the comments below …..
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.