British Airways is one of the world’s largest airlines, and has often been a pioneer in the field of aviation. BA was the first airline to offer a fully flat business class seat, and the last airline to retire the Concorde (October 2003). Additionally, the location of London Heathrow makes it a great transit option for virtually anyone in the Western hemisphere.
While in recent times BA has become something of a joke when it comes to its product offering, I’ve found BA’s frequent flyer program, the Executive Club, to be quite rewarding. Unlike the US3, BA’s program is still distance-based, allowing for some great value fares.
Before I dive in, I’d like to note that BA (unlike many other airlines) has a great breakdown and explanation of the different tiers within the Executive Club on their website.
The Executive Club has 4 tiers including the introductory Blue tier. The three status tiers are Bronze, Silver, and Gold (and translate directly to OneWorld Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald respectively). BA also has an “upper echelon” within its Gold tier that it calls Gold Guest List.
Note: Gold Guest List status has a variety of caveats, so I will cover Gold Guest separately at the end of this article.
BA awards status based on tier points. Tier points are awarded based on distance flown (per segment) and cabin travelled (per segment). The easiest way to calculate how many points you will earn on a particular trip is to use the calculator on BA’s site here. Since everything is done per segment, you will need to enter each leg of your trip individually and add it all up; similarly, since it is all distance based, just double the numbers to get a round trip value (note that BA counts two cabin first-class in the US as a business-class fare).
The requirements for each tier are fairly straightforward:
- Bronze: either 25 eligible BA flights, or 2 eligible flights and 300 tier points
- Silver: either 50 eligible BA flights, or 4 eligible flights and 600 tier points
- Gold: 4 eligible flights and 1,500 tier points
As you can see, the values are fairly straightforward, with Gold being harder to attain than both Bronze and Silver combined. I’m also clarify that an “eligible flight” is essentially a revenue fare on either British Airways or Iberia (both of which are owned by parent company IAG). If you want BA’s exact wording, here it is:
- British Airways operated flights, including franchises and BA CityFlyer.
- British Airways operated flights, including franchises and BA CityFlyer.
- Flights operated by Iberia, included franchises, with an IB flight number.
One of the best perks with elite status is lounge access. I cover BA’s lounges pretty extensively in my article evaluating status, so I’ll just briefly outline the levels of access different tiers have:
- Bronze (Ruby): No lounge access
- Silver (Sapphire): Business class lounge access regardless of class of travel on any OneWorld carrier (including access to Admirals Club lounges, even on purely domestic itineraries with American Airlines)
- Gold (Emerald): First class lounge access regardless of class of travel on any OneWorld carrier (including access to Flagship First and Admirals Club lounges, even on purely domestic itineraries with American Airlines)
If you want a better idea of OneWorld lounge access, you can visit the OneWorld site here. I’m also going to go ahead and point out that Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First and Al Mourjan Business lounges in Doha (DOH) and Qatar Airways’ Premium Lounges at London (LHR) and Paris (CDG) are excluded from the above.
One of the great things about attaining elite status in a frequent flyer program is the ability waltz past everyone and minimize the time spent waiting in line. Each of the priority benefits below are applicable across all OneWorld carriers, regardless of class of travel.
Bronze and Silver members enjoy access to business-class check in, while Gold members have access to first class check in. Depending on your airport, this can either be great or virtually useless. Note that if flying out of London City Airport, Bronze members do not have access to priority check in.
Priority Security and Immigration
Silver and Gold members have access to fast track security and immigration, though this varies significantly from airport to airport. I’ve often been in “priority” lines that take longer than the standard line, so if you do take advantage of this perk, make sure you are actually getting a “priority” experience.
Bronze, Silver, and Gold members all enjoy priority boarding. While I personally disagree with this as it often leads to overcrowded and chaotic priority boarding, this can be great if you like getting on the plane first. Note that even passengers on domestic itineraries with American Airlines on Basic Economy fares will enjoy priority boarding, making this a great perk if you do a lot of flying within the US.
Additional Baggage Allowance
Unfortunately, Bronze members have no additional baggage allowance. However, Silver members (and everyone on their booking) are allowed two pieces with 32 kg (70 lb) per piece when traveling in economy. Gold members (and everyone on their booking) enjoy an additional checked bag regardless of class of travel, along with a weight allowance of 32 kg (70 lb) per bag.
As is fairly standard in the industry, Bronze members enjoy a 25% Avios bonus on miles flown while Silver members enjoy a 50% Avios bonus on miles flown. Gold members, however, enjoy a 100% Avios bonus (compared to most airlines giving about 75% for top tier elites). While BA doesn’t have separate expiration deadlines for the different tiers, it has a fairly generous policy when it comes to Avios expiry:
“Your Avios stay with you as long as you collect, spend, purchase or share at least one Avios every 36 months — any longer and your Avios will expire and be removed, so remember to take action before those three years are up.”
If you want more details, check out their site here.
Unlike many rival programs, BA only guarantees economy seats to Silver and Gold members who have purchased a full fare economy class (or higher) ticket at least 24 hours prior and have checked in at least 1 hour prior to the flight. Bronze members are out of luck though.
Bronze members can select their seats for free up to seven days before departure, as compared to 24 hours prior for Blue members. Silver and Gold members have free seat selection from the time of the booking.
Gold members have a few additional benefits over and above those outlined above. These include free Avios transfer (up to 162,000, and you can pay to transfer another 162,000) and additional reward availability in economy. Gold members also have the option to do “Priority Reward” bookings.
Priority Reward bookings allow Gold members to pay double Avios (compared to the award price) in order to convert and purchase a revenue seat. Additionally, all booking and service fees on Priority Reward bookings are waived. Note that Priority Reward bookings are only available for economy seats.
Lastly, Gold members also enjoy benefits with partners beyond OneWorld; free room upgrades at the Mandarin Oriental at check-in (subject to availability), complimentary membership to elite Voyager status with Langham Hotels, and complimentary Avis Priority Rental Service in London Heathrow (your rental will be delivered directly outside the T5 Arrivals Hall).
Gold Guest List
As I mentioned earlier, BA maintains an upper echelon within its Gold tier. However, unlike “regular” tiers, Gold Guest List has different requirements for different benefits; I’m going to try and outline them all below in a simple manner:
- 2,500 tier points: Upgrade for 2 voucher – this voucher can be used for a complimentary upgrade into the next cabin class (subject to reward availability) for yourself and a companion
- 3,500 tier points: 2 Upgrade for 1 vouchers – these vouchers can be used for complimentary upgrades into the next cabin class (subject to reward availability) for either yourself or a companion
- 5,000 tier points: Access to the Concorde Room, as well as the ability to gift up to two Silver and one Gold Executive Club membership to anyone
As I mentioned before, BA has a great chart comparing their tiers on their website if you want to compare benefits at a glance. Overall, BA has a very solid frequent flyer program, and of all the ones I’ve seen, I really like the Executive Club. That being said, it isn’t for everyone – stay tuned for my upcoming article outlining who all can best benefit from the Executive Club!