How I earned British Airways Executive Club elite silver status in just one trip to Greece
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Elite status with your favourite airline comes with all sorts of fantastic perks that can make your travel much more comfortable and stress-free. These can differ from programme to programme (and status level to level) but generally include:
- Free seat selection
- Priority phone support
- Priority check-in
- Increased luggage allowance
- Priority luggage delivery
- Lounge access
- Priority boarding
- Increased points earning for your flights.
While you can easily obtain elite hotel status just by having the right credit card, it’s much harder to earn legitimate status with an airline. You will usually need to earn a certain amount of Tier Points, or Status Credits which can only be done through flying that airline, or their airline partners.
Unless you’re flying long-haul premium cabins cash fares it usually means you will need to do a LOT of flying. For example, say you have to fly from London (LHR) to Frankfurt (FRA) every single week return for work on British Airways (except Christmas). That would be around 100 flights per year between these cities. If you were booked in discount economy you would only earn 5 Tier Points per flight, so 500 Tier Points per year.
To earn British Airways silver status, which is also oneworld sapphire (a mid tier status where the benefits like lounge access really kick in) you would normally need to earn 600 Tier Points every year. This means even if you flew between London and Frankfurt every week of the year discount economy you would not earn enough to reach silver status.
Now, being TPG U.K., there are of course tricks and shortcuts to earn status with British Airways. For starters, you will earn far more Tier Points travelling in business class than economy. That 5 Tier Points Frankfurt flight in discount economy suddenly becomes a much more generous 40 Tier points in Club Europe business class. BA also awards Tier Points per flight, not per journey so if you are connecting, you will earn more Tier Points than for nonstops.
Before the pandemic, the easiest, and most comfortable way to earn British Airways Executive Club status was by booking an ex-EU Qatar Airways business class flight to South East Asia for under £1,200 return. Not only would you be travelling in what is probably the world’s best business class, but Doha’s (DOH) geographical position is perfect for Tier Point earning as each flight to and from Doha in business class earns 160 Tier Points. You would normally need 600 Tier Points to reach Silver status so booking Berlin (TXL) – Doha (DOH) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL) // Shanghai (PVG) – Doha (DOH) – London (LHR) as I did back in 2018 would give you 560 Tier Points, which would be very close to earning Silver status in just one trip. You also need to fly at least four BA segments on BA itself which was easy to do through normal flying each year anyway, living in the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately the pandemic quickly put a stop to the idea of hopping around Asia like this.
The good news is that it is now easier and cheaper than ever to earn British Airways status by flying British Airways themselves thanks to two very generous offers from BA.
The first offer is that British Airways has reduced the Tier Points needed to reach elite status levels by 25% for a limited time only. For Executive Club members, the qualification levels are now as follows:
- Bronze: 225 Tier Points (reduced from 300) or 18 eligible flights
- Silver: 450 Tier Points (reduced from 600) or 37 eligible flights
- Gold: 1,125 Tier Points (reduced from 1,500)
The second offer is that you can earn double Tier Points for flights on British Airways booked through BA Holidays, provided your holiday is at least five nights and you book either a hotel or car hire for the duration of your stay, and the journey commences in the United Kingdom, for travel until 31 March 2022.
So with this in mind, I looked at the cheapest and easiest way to earn my beloved British Airways status which I enjoyed back in 2018.
Playing around with different dates and city pairs I saw that Edinburgh (EDI) to Athens (ATH) were among the cheapest. I adore Greece and seeing the weather was still warm, I booked a return flight in Club Europe on British Airways with six days car hire for around £800. This is much cheaper than the Qatar Airways option to Europe a few years back.
While I don’t live in Edinburgh it’s super easy to get to – you can fly there from London from as low as 4,500 Avios thanks to BA’s great deal Reward Flight Saver.
To make my journey as comfortable as possible I stayed the night at the Moxy Edinburgh Airport, using Marriott Bonvoy points. With an early flight the next morning (so I could connect to Athens same day) it was an easy five minute walk to the terminal the next morning.
Booking this trip in Club Europe was a great preview of many of the status benefits I would receive with my new status after this trip. There was no wait to check my bag in the priority check-in queue and the staff in the British Airways lounge were lovely – there were clearly plenty of regular commuters down to London and beyond that the staff knew by name.
Onboard the first flight down to London, while Club Europe isn’t the most exciting seat in the world (it’s just an economy seat with a blocked middle seat). While it doesn’t look like much, I am a big fan of the hot ham and cheese croissant they often serve on breakfast flights to and from Scotland. It’s packed full of ham and very tasty. I was impressed with how quickly the crew could serve a hot breakfast on such a short flight.
During my transfer in London I chose to visit the British Airways Galleries North lounge as it was closer to my gate and usually a little quieter than the larger South lounge. Transferring from a domestic flight to an international flight at Terminal 5 is a really great experience as you are not required to pass through security again so you can be in the lounge minutes after you step off the plane.
The much longer flight to Athens (ATH) featured a leisurely lunch service. Crew were happy to offer champagne even though it was just before midday. I recommend the salad’s BA serve on these flights as the DO & CO catering is excellent – well presented, full of flavour and fairly light. The passenger across the aisle who chose a carb-heavy tomato pasta dish looked at mine with envy.
Athens is a wonderful city to visit though as I spent some time there last year I decided to hop on a ferry for some quiet island beach time. I went past the car rental desk to give them my name and advise them I didn’t need the car I had booked as I was heading to the islands. They didn’t care, as it was prepaid and saved them the time and paperwork of preparing the contract and other documents.
I chose the island of Ios which was very quiet and peaceful as I got a great deal on a fantastic hotel room with a lovely pool. As the tourist season had just finished it was very quiet on the island to the point where most restaurants and bars were closed though it meant I could take long walks on the beach without seeing anyone.
For the return journey it was back to Athens – BA do have a lounge available for Club Europe passengers though note this is a Priority Pass lounge and it wasn’t amazing. Once again, a leisurely lunch was served on the nearly four hour flight to London with cheery crew and a big, full Club Europe cabin.
The business class cabin stretched so far down the plane, I managed to score an exit row with extra legroom.
Back at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 again for a short transfer I once again chose the Galleries North lounge. Arriving from an international flight and then transferring to a domestic flight you will need to clear security at Heathrow. My fourth BA flight was another lunch service and I was offered the exact same three main course options as the previous flight – fortunately they had enough options that I didn’t have to have the same dish twice in the same day.
What I did happily eat on three of the four flights was the apple crumble dessert which I highly recommend!
Back at Edinburgh I completed my journey and jumped on a cheap and cheerful EasyJet flight to make it home to London on the same day. Edinburgh is a wonderful little airport to connect in – very easy to navigate.
My flights quickly credited to my Executive Club account though only at the single Tier Point level, not double which left me well short of reaching the desired silver status. I waited a few days but there was no adjustment so I found some advice on Flyertalk which suggested emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with details of the booking, my Executive Club details and explaining about the missing Tier Points.
Sure enough, within 48 hours of emailing, the double Tier Points were credited, and my Executive Club status was upgraded to silver. I have already seat assigned my future British Airways flights for free which is one of my favourite benefits of this status.
I also earned almost 6,000 Avios for the trip.
This was an easy and enjoyable way to earn valuable airline status in just one trip. I could have taken hundreds of discount economy flights over the course of a year and still not reached silver status. Greece is always a fun destination to visit – thought its getting quite chilly now there are similar deals to Bulgaria and Albania.
The dual double Tier Points and reduced status level thresholds are a very generous offer from British Airways and I would not expect them to last far into next year as travel quickly resumes, especially with the United States opening up in less than two weeks which is how some Executive Club members earn their status in non-pandemic times.
Next time you see a BA or oneworld lounge, or a priority queue for status members, remember its easier than you think to join it.
Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy
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