How Much Is British Airways Gold Status Worth?

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There’s no denying that collecting airline/hotel status can be sort of addicting. For a lot of people, the goal is to rack up as many status levels as possible. I get emails all the time from people saying “I just qualified for [airline/hotel] top tier status — what should I go for next?”

Nowadays my answer is typically “why don’t you just enjoy the status you have rather than trying to go for something new?”

And perhaps that’s just my bias, as I’m pretty complacent when it comes to status nowadays. On the hotel front I more than double qualify for top tier status with Hyatt and Starwood each year, but I’m happy with that rather than trying to get top tier status with every program.

And the same is true with American. I’m on track to more than double requalify for Executive Platinum status.

American-Status

And while former me would have probably said “what are you doing?!?” sometimes it’s nice to be complacent rather than constantly seeking out something new. After all, we don’t want to turn this hobby into a chore.

That being said, I’m actually considering going for top tier status with another oneworld program — British Airways. Why?

I’ve been British Airways Gold before

Funny enough, despite never having credited a single “Tier Point” (British Airways’ equivalent of Elite Qualifying Miles) to the program, I’ve collectively been British Airways Gold for about three years:

So I really did luck out there, and have benefitted from BA Gold quite a bit.

Tier-Points

What are the perks of BA Gold status?

American AAdvantage is an extremely lucrative frequent flyer program, and I already have top tier status with them, which gets me Emerald status with oneworld.

So in my situation, what are the marginal benefits of going for BA Gold status?

They’re certainly not as great as this laughably over-the-top video suggests, as it in no way represents what BA Gold status gets you:

BA-Gold-1
I’ve never received an outdoor massage in a cabana as a BA Gold member!

Since I’m already oneworld Emerald, the main benefit of BA Gold status is simple — I’d receive access to oneworld Emerald lounges even when flying within the US.

This means even on domestic flights I’d receive access to American’s Flagship Lounges, located in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York JFK.

American-Flagship-Lounge-New-York-13
American Flagship Lounge JFK

Now in practice I’m not sure how much value I’d get out of Flagship Lounge access:

Frankly I’d probably get the most value out of the Flagship Lounge LAX, which is actually quite nice. And since I’m considering moving to Los Angeles, it would be my home lounge.

Flagship-Lounge-LAX
American Flagship Lounge LAX

But wait… there’s one other huge perk!

Access to the Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles

The new Qantas First Class Lounge LAX is arguably the nicest lounge in all of the US. It’s located in Tom Bradley International Terminal, and features true restaurant quality a la carte food.

Qantas-First-Lounge-LAX-12
Qantas First Class Lounge LAX

It’s actually a lounge where I enjoy spending time. As a BA Gold I could use this lounge even when traveling domestically, which I see quite a bit of value in… at least in theory.

If LAX is going to be my home airport, it would certainly be nice to have access to this lounge whenever I fly oneworld.

Qantas-First-Lounge-Sydney-44
Qantas First Class Lounge dining

That being said, I’m not sure how much I’d actually use it in practice. If I had an apartment in LA, would I really leave to the airport early to have a nice restaurant quality meal? And is it just the novelty that’s enticing about that, or is there long term value in it?

Achieving BA Gold status

Achieving British Airways Gold status requires 1,500 Tier Points.

BA-Gold

I realize this is a complicated system for those of us used to elite qualifying miles, but 1,500 Tier Points isn’t actually that much. British Airways has a Tier Points calculator on their website.

To give an example, British Airways published some very cheap first class fares between Dubai and Austin earlier in the year, and I’m flying one of these soon. My routing is Dubai to Doha to London to Los Angeles to New York to Austin, all in first class.

DXBAUS

Each flight would earn the following number of Tier Points:

  • Dubai to Doha: 60 Tier Points
  • Doha to London: 210 Tier Points
  • London to Los Angeles: 210 Tier Points
  • Los Angeles to New York: 210 Tier Points
  • New York to Austin: 60 Tier Points

In other words, this one-way ticket alone would earn me 750 Tier Points, which gets me halfway to Gold status. I’m sure I could quite easily earn the other 750 Tier Points within my membership year.

So what’s the catch?

Why wouldn’t I go for BA Gold status? Well, because I’d be giving up valuable AAdvantage miles in order to achieve BA Gold status. Not only would I earn more “base” redeemable AAdvantage miles, but American also has some very lucrative premium cabin bonuses this year:

I’d be giving up quite a few American AAdvantage redeemable miles for this. Furthermore, if I earn significantly more Elite Qualifying Points with American this year, I may get further bonus systemwide upgrades.

American-Systemwides

It’s also worth remembering that British Airways Avios are quite easy to earn, as I can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Meanwhile points can only be transferred to American from Starwood Preferred Guest.

Bottom line

I suspect there’s probably not a single right or wrong answer, though I’m curious to hear what you guys would do.

Ultimately the goal with this post is to explain the approach I take in deciding whether to go for additional status. Obviously everyone’s circumstances will vary, which is why I think it would be interesting to hear how different people would approach this.

I suppose this boils down to how much international first class lounge access on domestic flights is worth? What would you do?

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Comments

  1. You mentioned that you could access Flagship lounges when flying transcon first class. My understanding is that you have to actually pay for first class in order to access it, not if you get upgraded. Or is that not true?

  2. I’m part way through this same fare as I type this, stopping over in NYC for the night. I don’t do anywhere near the miles you do, but I’m excited by the fact that this one flight alone is going to get me BA Silver.

    I do however need to make up the 4 BA segments as due to timetable changes Expedia moved me from BA codeshare’s onto AA coded flights. Would the AA agents in the Flagship Lounge be able to switch me back onto BA flight numbers?

  3. I don’t know why you wouldn’t just match to Air Berlin Platinum – solves all the domestic AA lounge access requirements as well as international access if desired, all with a 5 minute email.

  4. I’m actually surprised you’re considering this. I mean, sure, it’s a nice idea to earn top-tier status wtih two of the best programs in OneWorld – but still. Just for the access to the lounges?

    If I’m not mistaken your itinerary will net you just about 57,370 AAdvantage miles – including both elite bonus and the 2015 forward-cabin bonus. That’s about 1030$ according to your 1.8 cents/mile value. Meanwhile with BAEC you’ll net about 27,600 Avios – about 360$ (at 1.3 cents/Avios, again, your value). So that’s close to 700$ to upgrade from the AC to the flagship lounge on a few occasions next year.

    Not taking into account the fact that you’d be giving up on further future miles to gain the other 750 TP, including having to fly paid tickets with BA own metal, and probably giving up on two more (or even four) SWU which value at, let’s say, 300$-500$ each.

    Oh, but wait, with BA Gold you’d also get better CS line, better award availability and access to the spa at Heathrow T5 in times you don’t fly out with BA First class anyway. (:

    Loved the post, though!

  5. I’d say it’s not worth it. Mostly for the reasons you state yourself in the post and for the reasons given by FlyingOut above, but especially since the benefits are only at the margins of what you get already through AA EP.

    If you were going for Top Tier status in an alliance where you did not already have top tier status on a member carrier, or on an independent carrier (ie. Emirates) then it would be a no-brainer.

    Michael

  6. If you want to use the Qantas lounge at LAX on a domestic flight, wouldn’t that require going through security at the Tom Bradley terminal, then exiting and walking over to terminal 4 and going through security again to board the flight (assuming it’s AA)? Seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

  7. I have accessed the QF FCL LAX on a domestic flight. Even skipped the massive queue at security because I was upgraded to F.

    Per QF’s website, access is granted to any Emerald whose next flight is on a oneworld operated and marketed flight.

  8. Lucky, since u r still travelling heavily full time.. look into the possibility of BA Gold Guest List (and the marginal perks over BA Gold.. not sure if AA has marginal perks at highest tier), as well as the possibility of achieving BA lifetime Gold (there is BA lifetime GGL too if i am not wrong but thats a bit far away).

    I think BA lifetime Gold n BA GGL is very attainable in the next few years and u can pick ur sweet spots around the world to do the famous BA tiered point runs. At sweet spots, u actually fly less to achieve BA Gold.

    U shld do this before u wind down n settle at LA. Once u achieve lifetime BA Gold, u also do not need to worry about 4 BA flights yearly. (U wun need to worry about a single flight actually).

    Once u r at lifetime BA Gold, ur domestic lounges are settled. U can go back to earning AA miles n status or can weigh BA lifetime GGL to pursue.

  9. As an existing BAEC Gold with an upcoming trip to both HNL and JFK ex-LAX on AA I’d be very interested in more info on the practicalities of accessing the QF lounge on domestic itineraries – can you provide a bit more detail, for example re need to reclear security and change terminal?

  10. @Alan – Flying out of LAX on AA, you’ll need to end up in Terminal 4. TBIT, where the QF lounge resides, is only a short walk. There is a separate security line with no PreCheck. If you are in F/J on your upcoming flight, there’s an expedited line through security for those passengers.

    In short, yes it requires you to leave airside, re-clear security at TBIT, and then re-clear security again at, presumably, Terminal 4. Is it worth it? If your layover is ~120 minutes or more, absolutely. You can cut it closer than that, but 2 hours is enough time to enjoy yourself and not be rushed.

  11. Thanks, Joshua. One is a morning flight after overnight at LAX so probably not worth going in early for. Other is a connecting flight landing before 6am with next departure at 8am, so over 2h but will need to check QF opening hours and see if there are showers, etc to make it worth it.

  12. @Lucky

    The flagship lounges really don’t excite me, so I wouldn’t be motivated to go out of my way to find a way in there.

    As far as QF F lounge in TBIT goes, do you really think you’ll be showing up early enough on a domestic flight to make switching terminals to be worth it?

    In general, I find lounge access to be most useful for connections, not departures. Getting to the airport early for kicks and grins just doesn’t float my boat anymore.

  13. For me I’m looking at doing this the other way, but I’m not sure it’s worth it to get AA Exec Plat when I already have BA Gold. Should I go for AA if I’m going to be flying AA more often? What’s the value? Or should I stick with BA Gold and enjoy all the free lounge access in the US?

    Plus I’m already comped to UA Gold and AF/KL Platinum so I’ve got the other alliances covered.

  14. Never mind the video not being representative of the true Gold experience, it makes the following statement:
    ‘As a Gold member, you also collect double Avios every time you fly with us, or any of our Oneworld airline partners’
    which is factually incorrect, as you only earn double on BA, IB, AA and JL

  15. I have the exact problem like you but opposite…
    I have an upcoming itinerary with AA in J, which can get me to BA Gold or AA EXP (With Challenge).
    I am currently BA Silver but don’t have all the perks you get from CC.
    One of the sweet spots with BA is the soft landing once you get BA Gold you get soft landing to Silver which is OW Sapphire, which grants you access to AC on domestic travel as well, For someone without the CC perks that can worth a lot.
    As being said before, you can achieve BA Gold using one carefully planned TP Run while with AA you still need sit down for much longer hours on the plane, but that being said, with AA it’s still possible to achieve EXP flying Y while with BA, it’s nearly impossible as TP’s are very low…

    One Question to all of you…
    Let’s say you are BA Gold, can you fly BA, credit to AA but still benefit from the BA Gold perks? Of course this can be the other way around for someone like Lucky who might fly AA and credit to BA but still want all the perks of EXP…

  16. I have BA Gold and will probably reach BA GGL this year (5000 tier points). As Raffles noted, the other main perk is gold priority awards. At 2500 tier points (and other tiers) you receive 1-class upgrades. The interesting thing about the upgrade coupons is that if you book the ticket through a travel agent, there doesn’t have to be availability for an upgrade, just A availability for first class.

    The real perks for BA come at 5000 tier points though (CCR card to access the lounge at JFK, LHR, as well as the newer Concorde rooms/bars at IAD, SIN, etc., though we know you find this to be underwhelming, the F lounge at LHR T5 gets very full), and the joker (pick an itinerary, and as long as no one else has used a joker in that cabin on that flight and seats are not sold out, you and up to four guests can force availability into that cabin at normal award prices). This is the only way I know of to reliably get a group of 5 into F on points, and with a family of 5, we’re looking forward to trying it next year.

  17. I wouldn’t do it.

    As others asked, would you really leave your appartment earlier to have a good meal at the airport? A few times maybe. But after a while you’ll get bored and wish you had earned those AA miles and additionnal SWUs rather than getting BA Gold.

    And it’s not like you don’t have any other lounges to use.

  18. @ Ziv

    You can certainly credit your flights to whichever OW program you like and still enjoy gold benefits for one year and silver for the following year.

  19. Most of the benefits of BA Gold have been mentioned already, but thought I might throw in a curve ball for you. I am not sure how often you redeem miles for flights, but one of the good things about having a BA Avios stash is for internal flight in the US can often be cheaper than using AA. Also the reward savers in Europe are pretty good. One of the best redemptions I have done with BA for example was for 4 First Class returns to Moscow for about £160 and 180k avios (plus an Amex 241). These tickets would have been iro £2500 each. So even if you don’t get all the way to Gold but settle on Silver, its still handy to have an alternative currency for redemptions ( as an example – AA SFO to LAX one way = 12500 points; BA for the same route and date = 4500 and £3 !)

  20. I love my BA Gold as it’s quite easy to achieve as the tier points are not matched with the travelled miles. I’m a regular traveller (germany based) on airberlin. We have a corporate rate agreement with AB which is similar to AB flyclassic. for a return flight in Germany I would get 2100 topbonus miles (2×750 + 40% bonus as platinium member only on AB flights and to reach/keep platinium you’ll need 100000).
    As BAEC member I get 40 tier points for the same flight. the rest is simple math.
    AB platinium: 100000 / 2100 = 48 return flights
    BA gold: 1500 / 40 = 38 return flights
    And as I have travel to London 3-4 times a year I also fufill the EC four flights requirement by flying with BA. This and one or two intercontinental flights per year give me a proper foundation to reach BAEC gold with AB flights in Germany.

  21. The thing about AAdvantage…It’s a very good program….right now. Speculation seems to be changes are coming. IF the program follows in line with DL & UA, where would you bank your miles? If SWUs are only eligible on Y, B, and H fares, would you consider sticking around?

  22. Sorry for this large copy/paste (below) from the AA website which details access to Flagship lounges. I just reached BA Gold/One World Emerald. Reaching Gold/Emerald on BA was relatively easy. I travel for leisure to continental Europe in WT+ and a few flights in Club. It would have been more difficult to reach Emerald on AA.
    How do you interpret the last line? I frequently fly AA LAX-SFO getting credit on BA (and 120 tier points R/T in First for a 45 minute flight). Do I get Flagship access at LAX as One World Emerald on my little flights to SFO? It is the footnote that is confusing.
    I am very happpy with acess to the Admirals Club at LAX and SFO. Very nice lounges. But it would be quite a perk to get Flagship access at LAX.
    The paste:
    Traveling First Class on an American Airlines or US Airways marketed and operated international* flight. Lounge access is also valid on a same-day itinerary that includes a qualifying international segment
    Traveling First Class on an American Airlines or US Airways marketed and operated three-class nonstop transcontinental flight. Lounge access is also valid on a same-day itinerary that includes a qualifying transcontinental segment
    An American Airlines AAdvantage® Executive Platinum customer departing on or connecting to an international* flight, operated and marketed by a oneworld® airline, regardless of cabin flown
    A oneworld First Class international* customer departing on or connecting to a oneworld marketed and operated flight
    >>>A oneworld Emerald customer** departing on or connecting to any oneworld marketed and operated flight, regardless of cabin flown. Access is valid on a same day itinerary
    *For the purpose of Flagship Lounge access, eligible international cities include flights traveling to or from Europe, Asia, Central and South America and Mexico City only. All other international destinations are excluded from this benefit

    >>>**American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum/Emerald customers traveling on solely North American itineraries do not qualify for Flagship Lounge access. North America is defined as U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska), Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

    I am looking forward to the Qantas First lounge next month before my LAX-LHR-MAD flight! And the Gold lounge at LHR.

  23. BA Gold is way better for travel, especially in the States, even if flying domestic. I could get BA Gold at a cost of around £1,2k plus perhaps £400 for positioning flights and 2-3 nights for hotels. There are ways to outsmart the system, just takes the time to search and book. I usually leave it for somebody else to do and pay a small fee for this.

  24. I live in SEA and have always held on to my BA gold status as opposed to going for AA status. Here’s why:

    – I travel to Europe twice a year, so getting the 4 qualifying BA flights is a non-issue for me. On a side note, you can also get those by flying on IB metal.
    – The fact that you can get 210 TP for flying AA metal in F on itineraries longer than 2000 miles makes it easier to rack up TP for a US resident than it would be for any European resident.
    – The on-board benefits on AA are the same, i.e. immediate access to preferred seats including exit rows upon booking, and free food and alcohol in coach. Ditto for First Class check-in, two free checked bags, priority security, priority boarding, and priority baggage delivery.
    – Gold gets you double Avios, which also applies to AA flights.
    – Apart from the Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge access on domestic AA itineraries, your BA gold (and silver) card also gets you unlimited premium drinks in those lounges.

    Honestly, BA Gold beats AA Executive Platinum for a US resident as far as I’m concerned.

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