Has elite airline status become obsolete for families?

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Although we at TPG UK love airline status perks such as lounge access and free seat selection, many families find the downsides of chasing airline status — extra money and time — too costly. In case you’re on the fence, we put together a few reasons why your family may want to let your airline status lapse this year.
Heathrow Terminal 5 Family Check in
(Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Getting the best deal for family travel

Many U.K.-based families are using low-cost carriers more frequently to grab the best bargains. By not having any airline status, you can be airline agnostic and pick by the least-expensive tickets at the best times for your family, rather than filtering by Star Alliance, Oneworld or SkyTeam. Not having loyalty opens you up to the best deal for your family, which is critical during school holidays. Read the TPG U.K. guide to flying Ryanair with a baby or toddler here.
(Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Lounge access through credit cards

A top status perk (silver with British Airways or Gold with Virgin Atlantic) is being able to feed your family for free before a flight in an airline lounge. However, The Platinum Card from American Express U.K. and The Business Platinum Card from American Express U.K. come with access to Priority Pass, which offers access to more than 1,000 lounges in more than 500 airports. Many families now use their credit cards to gain entry into lounges, rendering airline lounges obsolete.
My children in the Plaza Premium Lounge (Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen / The Points Guy)
My children in the Plaza Premium Lounge. (Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
Many airports offer free play areas, which can help families with children younger than 7 run around and do not require any airline status. Another issue with most airline lounge access through elite status is a strict one-guest policy, while you can obtain a supplemental card or membership through Priority Pass.
(Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen / The Points Guy)
Play area at Heathrow Terminal 5. (Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Seat allocation roulette

While free seat allocation from the time of booking can save a family substantial amounts of money, so can simply not paying for seat allocation. Since our family stopped having Silver status on British Airways, we have always been sat together. You can also book tickets with an airline such as Virgin Atlantic, which includes free seat booking with Economy Classic tickets. Even Ryanair allows families to book childrens’ seats for free with a paid adult seat. Your seat allocation benefits from airline status may not be as lucrative as you imagined, always do the maths.
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Household accounts

With Virgin, one of the benefits of its Gold status is a family pooling account. However, with British Airways, you can pool as a family with any status as soon as you sign up for Executive Club. Even if the airline you fly with keeps childrens’ points and miles separate from adults, you can keep them from expiring.

Use other ways to boost miles

Another helpful perk of airline status is the points and miles bonus you gain on any miles you fly. With most families flying deeper discounted tickets with a fare class that earns just a percentage of the miles flown, most families are not going to obtain the bulk of their points and miles by flying. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club offers a Miles Booster programme that can be more lucrative than status bonuses. How most families earn their miles, however, is through their spending. There are two Virgin Atlantic cobranded credit cards available in the U.K. Both of which come with sign-up bonuses and good earning rates:

Do you really need all of that baggage allowance?

Yes, families bring a lot of stuff with them travelling. But will your family of four need to check the eight bags Silver status with British Airways or Gold with Virgin Atlantic will grant you? Many families find they only need to check one bag per person or can fit a lot in their carry-on. Once again, make sure that you’re travelling enough to take advantage of the perks. Just booking two large cases may cover you all, when considering that most bulky child items (car seat, pram, booster seats) are free of charge.

Bottom line

It only takes one member of your family to achieve status and then everyone on the booking reaps the benefits. However, with family obligations, it may not be prudent to earn British Airways Silver by jetting off to via Doha in Qatar Airways for the weekend.  Even families like mine that travel frequently may not find chasing elite airline status worth its pursuit with the alternatives available. If your family flies enough or one of the adults travels a lot for work, elite status on an airline can be a no-brainer.
Featured image by Getty Images

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.