Why I’m (Stupidly?) Thinking Of Going For British Airways Gold Status

Filed Under: British Airways

I’d like to think I’m a numbers guy, which is part of the reason that the direction that loyalty programs have taken drives me nuts. I like to do research before deciding on what programs I’m loyal to, but unfortunately there simply isn’t usually a right answer anymore. That’s why at this point I’m considering going for British Airways Gold status, even though I’m not at all a fan of the airline. Let me explain.

I’m a lost (loyalty program) soul

I love loyalty programs, but I’m at the point where my brain is pulling me in several different directions when it comes to which program to focus my efforts on. Here are the conflicting feelings I’m having:

  • I feel like I should give up on airline status altogether and just be a “free agent,” flying whatever airline makes the most sense with each trip, especially as first class has largely become more reasonably priced, and upgrades have become tougher
  • I just started a Delta Platinum status challenge, and had considered going for Diamond with Delta, in spite of the loyalty program; instead I respect Delta as an airline, and find them to be the best operationally
  • As frustrated as I am by the direction American AAdvantage has taken, I’m already on that hamster wheel, and it’s fairly easy for me to requalify without really trying
  • I feel like I should go for status with British Airways and double down on flying American, because when you combine the perks that can be “stacked” between the two programs, I might still have the best all around experience

Why I might want to go for British Airways Silver status

I explained this in a previous post, but with American opening refreshed Flagship Lounges, those who have oneworld Sapphire status through any program other than AAdvantage get access to these lounges whenever they fly American, even if it’s domestic. Having access to these lounges when flying domestically would make a difference, as they really are quite good.

While only two Flagship Lounges are open so far (in Chicago and New York), several more are opening, including in Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, and Philadelphia. If the Flagship Lounges maintain their quality, it would make up for the bad food American serves onboard, since the lounge food is actually decent. Having access to great lounges makes a big difference, so this is tempting.

American Flagship Lounge Chicago

One of the things I like about Delta over American is that SkyClubs are better than Admirals Clubs, but they sure aren’t better than Flagship Lounges.

American Flagship Lounge Chicago

But if I go for British Airways Silver, I might as well go for Gold

As it pertains to flying on American domestically, there are two perks to British Airways Gold over British Airways Silver.

First of all, British Airways Gold is oneworld Emerald status, meaning you get access to oneworld Emerald lounges even when traveling domestically. The only real lounge where that would matter for my purposes is the Qantas First Class Lounge LAX, which is fantastic. I fly in and out of LAX quite often, so I guess the question comes down to how much I’d be willing to pay for what essentially amounts to a Qantas First Class Lounge membership.

Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles

Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles

There’s one other perk, which maybe isn’t actually that valuable, but is worth mentioning. Oneworld Emerald members can use American’s Flagship First check-in facilities, which are exclusive, if nothing else. Given that I have CLEAR I’m not sure I’d get much value out of it, but…

American Flagship First Check-In

How tough is it to earn British Airways Silver or Gold status?

Maybe it sounds crazy, but this is something I really love about British Airways Executive Club. I feel like US loyalty programs are so boring nowadays, given that they’re revenue based, that you earn a certain number of miles per dollar spent, etc. It’s just boring, as there’s no gamification to it.

British Airways, on the other hand, uses Tier Points. Earning Silver status (oneworld Sapphire) requires 600 Tier Points, while earning Gold status (oneworld Emerald) requires 1,500 Tier Points.

This calculator will show you how many Tier Points you earn for each segment, based on the airline, fare class, route, etc. Given how many cheap premium cabin oneworld fares there are, it’s actually quite easy to rack up these Tier Points. To give a few examples of how many Tier Points you earn for one-way flights:

  • Los Angeles to San Francisco in American business class — 40
  • Los Angeles to New York in American business class — 140
  • New York to London in British Airways business class — 140
  • New York to Doha in Qatar Airways business class — 160

Tier Points accrue at a much slower pace for economy, but then again, my plan would be to mostly earn them on discounted business class tickets, which are fairly easy to come by. For example, my upcoming ~$676 roundtrip ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to New York would earn me 600 Tier Points, which is enough for Silver status in one swoop (update: I also need four flights on BA to qualify, though I can easily do those). There are plenty of other cheap tickets that could get me all the way to Gold status without spending too much.

But then there’s another side to that. I could also credit those flights to American rather than British Airways, and then my upgrade priority would be higher on the revenue economy flights I take on American, since EQDs are the deciding factor after status when it comes to upgrade priority.

Bottom line

On one hand I want to give up on American altogether. On the other hand, I feel like I should double down, because maybe American is in fact the best domestic airline if you always have access to Flagship Lounges. But if I go that far, is it worth putting in the extra effort to go for Gold, and get Qantas First Class Lounge access at LAX as well?

See how lost I am? 😉

  1. If you go for Gold now then you don’t have to worry about it for 2 years as if you don’t make Gold the next year they ease your bump down by giving you Silver for the next year

  2. You’ll also need 4 BA coded segments as well to qualify. Transatlantic joint venture agreements count too.

    As to you being mad? I see it as diversification. Nothing’s wrong with that.

    And for those last minute redemptions, Gold is *very* helpful

  3. I think one of the greatest benefits of Gold is the soft landing to Silver the following year. Avios is easy to earn through flights and transfers. You can use gold priority rewards for double the amount of Avios when booked over 30 days in advance. I used to this to get family to JTR from LHR instead of paying $1200 per ticket. Definitely worth going for Gold.

  4. if you want oneworld top tier status without dealing with American, why not consider other OW FF programs as well ? QF, CX, QR etc should all be in consideration instead of just BA.

  5. Hi.
    You need a minimum of 4 BA flight a year to get the status. On top of the tier points you earn on other One World flights.

  6. Don’t forget you have to fly 4 segments either on BA Metal or booked through BA (with a BA flight number) before you get any status regardless of tier points.

  7. Hi Lucky,

    As a BAEC user, I should remind you that for silver status you need four qualifying BA or IB flights. These can be any duration and any class, but must be revenue based (i.e. not reward flights) on BA or IB, in addition to the 600 tier points. No matter how many points your upcoming SGN – JFK flight gets you, you won’t get silver until you’ve boarded BA or IB metal four times and paid for them.

  8. It’s perfectly fine to be a free agent and still get status selectively based on what works for you. Not a lot of joy left in status but get what you can from it.

  9. Go for it. BA First is pretty bad but the tickets are also relatively cheap, usually(if you have even a little bit of flexibility) not much more than a normal business class on other carriers.

  10. For your particular situation it seems the only real benefit is the QF lounge in LAX. I think you are better off doubling down on AA to improve your upgrade odds. Also what if you keep up your DL pursuit, that could reduce the amount of flights you are taking on AA out of LAX, reducing the times you could access the QF lounge

  11. You are flying a lot more than most of us. I wouldn’t benefit from having O/W Emerald via two different avenues. To me I would credit those flights to AA so when I do travel domestically on economy tickets I would always be near or at the top of the upgrade list. I would also value the additional SWUs if you were closing in on those. Flights on AA metal to HKG are dirt cheap and there’s almost always space to upgrade via SWU. I’ve also had two SWUs clear this year coming home from LHR-LAX on the 777-3. One of those flights there was easily 15+ empty J seats.

  12. Lucky – I agree with you that the emerging Flagship Lounge quality and availability makes this compelling.

    A couple questions: 1) Can you book an AA flight, upgrade it with an SWU and then change to BA for credit after the upgrade but before the flight? Does it still earn tier credit (on original purchase, of course)? 2) If you have BA Silver but do choose to fly AA with your AAdvantage number, can you still get Flagship Lounge access?

    Thanks for all you do!

  13. @ AZO_Tim — Yep, you can upgrade with a SWU and then credit to BA, though you’ll still only earn miles based on economy. You can also get Flagship Lounge access when you have your AAdvantage number on the reservation. Just show your BA Silver card.

  14. Iberia flights is also fine. Thats why I do a trip to Spain every year (from Sweden) to get atleast 2 of those 4 without flying the British Crap…

  15. Can you get all three – AA Exec Plat, BA Gold, and Delta Diamond (or at least Platinum)? If so, maybe go for it and see how things play out next year. If you don’t end up using the Qantas lounge as much as you planned, or end up flying SkyTeam much more than OneWorld, etc., at least you’ll have BA Silver in 2019 as a consolation prize!

  16. isn’t it better to just directly redeem for Qantas F if you’re in love with their F lounges as opposed to tons of unnecessary flying like SGN-JFK ? Do you actually care about visiting SGN or is it simply because it’s the cheapest point for QR departures while maximizing BA tier points ?

  17. If you have the means and are willing to buy premium cabin discounted fares air travel and lounge access is about as good as its ever been IMO. I wouldn’t leave AA for BA – perhaps there are better One World options out there?

  18. A question for @Ben and everybody: As an AA/EP I have the same “devaluation” feelings, and thus my “loyalty level” is now fully down. As I have enough flights (& EU/BA segments), I’ve considered adding the BA option, largely for the AA USA Admirals Club (&/or Flagship) lounge entry when I’m in USA domestic coach. So the question is sorta about the “doubling” as follows: Most of us would still use our AAdv# on domestic coach flights, for the possibility of the somewhat occasional upgrade. But if we want to enter an Admirals Club, must our BA Silver/Gold FF# be on the Boarding Pass (deleting the AA upgrade possibility), or would carrying the newly well-earned BA Silver or Gold Card# suffice for entry?

  19. Is Tom Bradley even connected to the other terminals post-security at LAX? I guess if you’re flying out of Terminal 4 it isn’t too far away even if you have to clear security twice. But if that’s your home airport you shouldn’t be getting in too early as to have time for a proper lounge visit.

  20. I have said this for a long time, that you should try for BA Gold, and you may end up with BA GGL even, and probably lifetime BA Gold even faster than you expect. (and with that, no more requirements to have 4 BA flights yearly once u hit lifetime levels, but you can still try for BA GGL lifetime?!)

    Reaching BA Gold is easy for you, even if you do not fly AA as much domestically. And I do not think you need to like the airline, you just need to like Oneworld Alliance.

  21. Reply to @OfTheWorld – I have been granted entry as BA Emerald to Admirals Club even though my ticket was coded to my AA ExPl #. But as you well know, Admirals Club agents can at times be flexible, or just may well be a bit confused on the rules, so I can’t confirm if it was due to my qualification, or they just let me in.

    A larger question to those on the board, and Lucky, I fly enough revenue in Internat’l F to qualify for top tier on more than one carrier, and completely echo your lack of desire to be loyal to just one program, so what are your thoughts re: qualifying for top tier on either Cathay or Qantas? Is BA’s program better? Perhaps its a dumb question, but I appreciate everybody’s thoughts. There may well be something I am overlooking – thanks!

  22. @ OfTheWorld — No need to have the BA number on the boarding pass. Just having the card (or number) does the trick.

  23. @ henry LAX — Well there’s a difference between being able to use the QF F lounge before every single flight, even domestic ones, and only being able to use it before international ones. As far as SGN goes, it was a great mistake fare. Since I review airlines for a living, the purpose of the trip is really to review the flights. I’ve reviewed EY and EK J between the US and their hubs, and this will be my first review of QR between the US and their hub.

  24. Love the idea of diversification – although, I would vote going Alaska, Delta, or United personally. But, I understand you have a very different flying pattern than me so I say go for it!

  25. What are the lifetime requirements? I’m a recent AA EXP but pretty disappointed that the farthest my loyalty will ever take me lifetime is Platinum at 2 million miles. I’m considering United because I might someday get lifetime GS, but lifetime Oneworld Emerald through BA (if they do that) would be pretty sweet too (though it’d probably come at the cost of AA status, and so no domestic upgrades…)

  26. Why don’t you use your exec plat to Status match to LATAM Pass Black? Equivalent of OW Emerald and will get you into QF F lounge at LAX? That is what I did recently but from BA gold mind you. I just use it for the upgrades when flying LATAM within S/C America.

  27. Agree with @tom: stay with AA and DL and increase your upgrade chances. Not worth losing that just for not-so-great lounges.

  28. I actually seeing this as diversifying your investment (read: you arent lost), and honestly, if I were in your shoes, its the approach I would take. You are already invested in AA, you might as well make the most of it. Get all you can out of the AA/BA OneWorld connection. The only thing you’ll have to “suffer” is four flights on BA metal.

    Along these lines, once you have secured BA Gold, could you do something similar for other OW carriers like Cathay or Qatar?

    I hope you do this, as I am looking forward to reading how it goes.

  29. You can increase tier points dramatically by splitting flights – eg, instead of London-Tokyo direct (160 tier points in business), take QR (and Qsuites!) via Doha. Each leg earns longhaul points, so 580 for the return trip (not just 320), and at the end of week 2 of my new membership year I’m already over 1/3 of the way towards requalifying for Gold/OWE. Based in the UK, the 4x flight requirement on BA or Iberia is easy.

  30. @Lucky. Not seeing how QR Biz Promo class for SGN to JFK yields 600 Tier Points on BA ? BA Exec agent quoted me 140 Tier/1-way or 280 /RT for QR fare class/Biz Promo on this route.

  31. BA Gold sounds a bit odd just for Flagship and QF LAX lounge access if one isn’t going to be flying BA much if at all. Is the improvement from AMEX Centurion lounges (in most of those airports, soon to come to LAX) to those OW lounges REALLY worth having to worry about status/requalifying in another OW program? Seems like a very marginal improvement at best to me.

    If I was buying the kind of F/J fares regularly that you were, I’d probably be using this heuristic:

    – Am I flying one airline a lot? It makes sense to be elite in that program. Why? IROPS. Waving elite status cards in an allied program in the alliance when doing the DYKWIA dance isn’t as effective as in the home program for the airline. “Hey, I really am a loyal customer who buys a lot of your tickets in premium classes, can you do me a solid?”

    – You almost never seem to have a lot of IROPS though, and it’s almost always a situation where “I gotta get home” never happens, and your airline travel is getting more eclectic/mixed over time, so in that case… free agent, AMEX Centurion lounges/Priority Pass all the way, bay-bee, and put the miles in programs where dollars and cents say you get the most bang for buck. Midlevel status in multiple places/alliances MIGHT actually make sense. If BA Gold is actually more achievable than AA EXP and Avios+those benefits might not actually pencil out too terribly… why not drop AA down a notch? Why not give Delta some of your travel share inside the US such that you might have (say) Delta Platinum/AA Platinum/Alaska MVP Gold instead of (say) AA EXP/AS MVP75K?

    The airlines seem to want to make the loyalty program relationship transactional. Why fight it?

  32. @ AlisonW — If you take a look at the calculator you’ll see the Doha to New York credits 160 tier points, while Ho Chi Minh City to Doha credits 140 tier points.

  33. I’ve doubled down since 2015 on AA EXP AND BA Gold. Its worth it for the Qantas 1st class lounge. I spend more time in there than any other lounge as I always use LAX as connecting airport. Bit harder to get to Gold since AA now classes two cabin as coach and business vs first. Used to get 60 tier points each way between LAX and Sacramento, now its 40. Big difference though is if flying long distance domestic 1st, say to Hawaii which which used to earn 210 points now its 140.

  34. OW Emerald and flagship checkin…hmmmm

    MIA is only for 1st… they changed it last year and were very rude when I (exec plat 20 years) travelling Business Class to LHR tried to check in.. last 3 times was a NO.

  35. @LAXlife

    I can’t speak to The QF program but I am both BA and CX elite and it’s far easier/lighter on spend to earn both Silver and Gold tiers on BA than the equivalent Gold and Diamond on CX Marco Polo. Both use a tier point system but CX accrues much more slowly, for example a round trip LHR/HKG in discount business accrues 180 points on CX Marco Polo but 280 points on BAEC, I believe, while the overall points required for the elite tiers are similar in both programs. The difference is even more dramatic for transatlantic flights which CX awards very few tier points for.

  36. @Jason Its LAX man- if you dont get there early u dont get on your flight. Traffic on the 405, traffic just to access the terminals, long ass security lines at TBIT…by the time you’re airside its been 1.5-2 hours. If youre there early like you should theres 1 hour to kill at the lounge to decompress before flying. LAX is a hit or miss. Ofc since I always fly American (they have their own terminal) im in through security airside in 30 minutes or less. Its great. But I still get there early cuz traffic.

  37. Just got off AA193 an hour ago. The food was terrible for business class. You can eat better quality pre-cut fruit from Trader Joe’s! Also they didn’t serve breakfast with tea or coffee, had to call attendant and ask for it.

  38. Lucky, are you positive that Qantas F lounge will let you in with BA Gold as opposed to AA EXP on domestic flights? My understanding was the check-in agents there refused entry to emeralds unless on international itineraries (even though that’s against OW policy). Why would BA Gold be different than AA EXP? BA is willing to pay for their members to access on domestic flights but AA is not?

  39. @ Mitch — Yep, positive about it because I’ve done it before. The reason American flyers aren’t allowed in is explained in the oneworld access rules”
    “American Airlines AAdvantage® members, regardless of their tier status or class of travel, are not eligible for lounge access when travelling solely on North American flights within or between the U.S., Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.”

    So yeah, BA is willing to pay for it but AA isn’t.

  40. Ah, good to know Ben. I must have missed that that rule applied to all lounges, not just Admirals Clubs. Thanks for clarifying! (Though I agree with the others, that I don’t think there’s enough reason to go for BA gold.)

  41. I don’t see how lounge access makes one airline dive from the top to the bottom. At least AA agents treat exec plats like exec plats, whereas as 1K on united I constantly get shamed by phone agents for being ‘stupid’…

  42. There seems to be a lot of BA bashing that goes on in these posts and comments. As a regular traveller based in London with a preference for legacy carriers, BA is my chosen airline. I’m not far off making Gold for the first time after having been Silver for many years so I’m quite excited about that. I understand why some don’t like Club World but I actually find the seats more comfortable for sleeping than Qantas business for example. I have for the most part encountered very friendly, professional crew who don’t hesitate to top up the champagne and who are always up for a chat. I feel safe with their pilots at the helm and I feel like there are a lot of perks with the Executive Club as well as the BA Amex card.

    I know many of you bemoan the Club Europe seating, but at least they can adjust availability according to need: when I flew from Mykonos to London in August, they had configured the business cabin to hold 48 – that’s right – 48 seats. The crew were working non-stop but one of them said with a smile how much she loved her job and wouldn’t change it for the world. In my view, the most important thing above all in flying is a safe aircraft and happy, motivated crew who are in control and love what they do.

    Go for Gold, Lucky. Who knows, it might help change your mind about BA?!

  43. I was EXP for 12 years and now I rarely fly and credit to AA. All my flights get credited to BA as the gold status and especially GGL status with Concorde card gets me all the benefits I can use plus getting treated as a CK on AA. I fly a lot of point-point routes in Asia to and from HK and in Europe to and from LHR and in the US to and from LAX. The ability to use the best first class lounges in each city makes it worthwhile for me. The cheap BA redemptions are a huge plus. PVG to HKG only 7500 pts in coach and being a GGL, oft times Cathay will upgrade me to business on an economy ticket. I don’t fly AA a lot less than I used to, it’s just that I get treated better by AA as a GGL than I do as an EXP. The lack of award space is the killer, so at least I can get to LAX early in the morning and work all day in the lounge which has fast internet, great food and super attendants then catch an economy ticket for short hops (ORD, DFW) or a quickie to SFO and Jet Blue to NYC. The most useful route to GGL for me is a couple of 1st class RTW tickets starting in Japan with enough legs left over for a few AA miles.

  44. @Chris is the complimentary bump down documented anywhere? BA Silver is the ‘best value status’ IMO. I’m currently Gold, having been Silver the two previous years. Gold is great, but I only achieved it through work flights, whereas I can usually get Silver quite easily with my normal travel (a couple of long haul premium between my Europe and Asia bases). BA Silver makes a lot of sense.

  45. @ vand

    I can’t see it on BA’s site, but it’s just what happens; whatever status you earn in Year 1 is what you get for the start of Year 2, when your tier points counter us reset to write. You can go higher in Year 2 if you then earn enough points in that year. Otherwise you either requalify at your current level (and that’s the tier you then continue with for Year 3), or you don’t earn enough (or any!) – in which case for Year 3 you slip down to the tier below. And so on.

    It’s a pretty generous system. But that’s reflected in the sheer number of people occupying the lounges at LHR.

  46. Five “words”: LHR T3 CX F Lounge

    Seriously, though, the OWE lounges can be really good, but the reason I maintain Gold is because they take care of me, as do the other OW carriers generally. Flight delay/cancellation/etc at 2 in the morning? One tweet, and I’m getting a phone call to sort me out. I was 50 tier points short of retaining status this time and thought I had to book a short haul J flight somewhere during the grace period to get the points. Turns out they renewed me anyway. I’ve never been at this status level anywhere else; so I’ve nothing to compare, but it’s the service levels that keep me coming back (which I let them know)

    As for getting status, I like the Tier Point system. If I were to book a LHR-JFK-ORD trip in J, most airlines would just give me credit based on how much I spent on the ticket. BA gives me 140 for the long haul leg and another 40 for the short haul. If your’re taking a short haul trip in Europe you can sometimes find Club Europe for not much more than economy. There’s an easy 40 TP.

    The classic case is the trip I’m taking to east Asia next month. If I flew BA out of LHR I’d get 280 TP. By flying QR via DOH for the same price I get double that, as BA will credit you 140 for each segment of that routing. I don’t think any other airline lets you gain status by being clever and flexible the way BA do. Sadly that model won’t last much longer, but I’m appreciating while it does

  47. Yep, I’m going for BA Gold this year as well, Nearly there,

    The requirement for 4 flights on BA metal is easily and cheaply achieved from London – just take a RT to Jersey and another to Amsterdam. You could do it all in a day if you had to.

  48. aha, thanks for clarifying @Paul .. I think i have been requalifying on flights alone since getting Silver so I never realised. good to know!

  49. Interesting topic,
    I’ve been lucky to acquire AA lifetime platinum which has given me access to one world lounges in all corners of the globe especially in cases or delay or rendezvous I’ve taken great comfort in having OW access on many occasions.
    At Heathrow T5 it’s been really nice up until the last two years. The lounge there for BA business class is nearly always heaving with travelers. It’s often just a busy as the terminal and so much more noisy then ever before. Even their quiet areas are loud.. I often find myself going to that outdoors area of the lounge just to drowned out the sound of someone else’s Skype call out loud quoting details I don’t care about. I think the concept of lounges is and has always been a nice perk of flying premium class and frequent flyer loyalty. A few airports I’ve been to really get it right! Hong Kong for example has some of the best OW lounges in the world. With access to their Cathay lounges as well as their Qantas it makes HKG a no brained for a nice long transfer space. LAX has some of the nicest newest lounges due to their new and improved Bradley Terminal. But, I think with so many credit card offers and so many other ways besides flying that people can access lounges,it has caused the quality to go down especially domestic US air travel. The best solution I’ve seen is how JetBlue has taken to making its’ terminals more like huge premier lounge areas especially JFK and BOS and LAX.

  50. Well, I guess this is getting you into trouble with Ford … but other than this, I think BAEC is well worth considering 😉

    BAEC is a well managed program. Yes, this can be harsh in some cases, because it does focus on loyalty (e.g. with the requirement of four segments on BA/IB). But it’s not outright rude, like LH M&M (which is e.g. requiring the lifetime status years need to be exactly between 50 and 60 years of age). So you can expect being treated fairly, but no gifts will be handed out either!

    If switching to BAEC you should not forget that, while the program does not make any publicly available status matches, there are numerous GGL members out there who can match you into Sapphire or Emerald. Most of them are only using part of their slots for their loved ones …

  51. @Lucky — For 1/ONE routed BA tix (JFK/DOH/SGN) ? Called BA Exec Club again and agent quoted me “140” for QR Biz promo fare fm LAX/DOH/SIN. He said its 140 (or 160 x2 for your higher class fare), flying LAX/DOH/SIN. I hope you’re right and BA is wrong!

    RE: Yr replied: “Calculator: Doha to New York credits 160 tier points, while Ho Chi Minh City to Doha credits 140 tier points”. Did you buy two QR biz tix, JFK/DOH & DOH/SGN?

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