What Is Tier Point Running?

May 10, 2019

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Status with airlines unlocks many valuable perks that airlines usually provide to their premium passengers, such as lounge access, fast track security, priority boarding and premium check-in desks as well as likely better support in case things go wrong with your flight. Some airlines even drive their most elite passengers in cars between lounges and the plane.

American Airlines Concierge Key car from lounge to plane
American Airlines Concierge Key car from lounge to plane. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Airlines in the US first introduced the concept of a frequent flyer programme in the late 1970s, with British Airways following suit in 1982 by launching the Executive Club. Airlines don’t offer these programs and perks to be nice. Most airlines are very pleased with the loyalty their frequent flyer programmes create with travellers. So while it might seem that the travellers earns perks and value along the way, the airlines usually benefit from increased loyalty, and thus higher or more frequent spending. Provided both sides are happy with this deal, it’s a win-win.

Status in such frequent flyer programmes is usually earned through flying. It either directly relates to the number of flights or miles flown or, as we have seen more recently, how much money a passenger spends annually with the airline. British Airways awards passengers Tier Points based on length of the flight and cabin flown, and status is determined by the number of Tier Points earned each membership year. These differ from Avios, which is BA’s currency that can be earned through flying (and other means) and can be spent on flights and other things (i.e. making a redemption). To read more about Avios and Tier Points, click here.

Given the value of some of the elite perks, it may make sense for some to go out of their way to chase such status, even if their normal flying patterns wouldn’t qualify them. That’s where mileage running, status running or, in the case of British Airways, Tier Point running comes in.

A Tier Point run is a trip where the main purpose is collecting Tier Points to achieve British Airways Executive Club status. Typically, the goal is to achieve the lowest pound per Tier Point cost. As a reminder, Tier Points count toward status, and there are four different status levels:

  • Blue — The level where everyone starts
  • Bronze — Achieved after 300 Tier Points earned in a membership year
  • Silver — Achieved after 600 Tier Points earned in a membership year
  • Gold — Achieved after 1,500 Tier Points earned in a membership year.

Like some other airlines, the British Airways Executive Club also has two additional levels of status that aren’t published:

  • Gold Guest List — Achieved after 5,000 Tier Points earned in a membership year and maintained in subsequent years by earning 3,000 Tier Points in a membership year
  • Concorde Room Card — Achieved after 5,000 Tier Points or more in a membership year.

Recent and decent examples for travel from the UK include London to Malta for £240, earning 160 Tier Points, or slightly more adventurous from Inverness to Las Vegas for just more than £1,000 return, which, if routed creatively, would earn 700-800 Tier Points.

The key with British Airways is that flying more sectors earns more Tier Points. That’s especially true if they are all long-haul sectors of more than 2,000 miles — thus earning 140 Tier Points for the sector, rather than 40 if less than 2,000 miles.

For example, a flight with British Airways from London to Los Angeles in business class earns 280 Tier Points return. If routed London to New York and then Los Angeles, the same trip will earn 560 Tier Points return (and likely cost the same). Because of the bonus Tier Point earning, it’s important to keep sectors of more than 2,000 miles where possible.

Sometimes it makes sense to just adjust the routing of an existing trip to maximise Tier Points. A tactical extra stop on an existing trip can double Tier Points. For example, the 560 Tier Points mentioned is almost Silver status, which requires 600 Tier Points, in one trip. Some dedicated flyers have even been able to achieve British Airways Gold status in one trip — though that’s not easy to do.

On other airlines, it’s the miles flown that count. So with United for example, the extra stop in New York would not boost elite earning, so it doesn’t make sense.

picture created with Great Circle Mapper
Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

Earning Tier Points toward status is good. But add in the value you get from also earning redeemable Avios, and you could help offset the cost of the cash paid for the ticket. As an added bonus, Tier Point runs can be great fun if you enjoy flying and travel, helping you to see some destinations you might not have otherwise been able to visit.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of Tier Point runs, note that there are also mattress runs. Or, booking a night in a hotel for the sole purpose of hitting certain loyalty programme targets. But that’s another topic for another day.

Featured photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy.

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