I wanted my British Airways Silver Elite Status back and this is what I did to get that card!
My weekend packing should have entailed two outfits that fit into a backpack or duffel bag and yet here I was with my ten day suitcase all ready to go. When I pack for a normal trip, I try to squeeze all clothing combinations into the bag hoping for one or maybe two pair of shoes to fit. This time, I felt like the girl in the movies and television show who just throws clothes into the suitcase and easily zips it up. I didn’t need to kneel on top to get every inch of air out to zip the bag. There was actually space to fill with shopping and treats which felt weird. So as you can guess this wasn’t my normal trip, this would be my first status run to qualify for elite status with British Airways. I was going to London for two days over the Memorial Day weekend. No days off for me, I would leave Friday after work, arrive Saturday and then be back at London Heathrow Monday afternoon. Crazy right? My family didn’t even question me this time. Even more crazy is that I flew in Coach Plus and did the trip sans any status which meant no lounge access, no preferred security lines at Heathrow, no business class seat, no wine selection and no priority baggage. I would suffer for my British Airways Silver Elite status (ok, slightly kidding in the #firstworldproblems kind of way). I realized quickly how much I had come to rely on the Silver elite perks over the years – they made my travel life easier (fast track security at LHR, priority baggage, early boarding) and just a bit more sane (quiet lounges). You can’t put a dollar value on travel sanity can you? Maybe I was with this crazy weekend trip.
So how did I decide on this crazy weekend? I got an email from BA with my points balance and realized I was one flight and 140 points away from British Airways Silver elite status. Normally, I’d be mad at myself for not checking this out sooner and planning better. I could have done a cheap flight in November during my hacked flight to London for the flight credit and then credited my U.S. domestic flights on American Airlines. But alas, I was remiss in my loyalty account review as I was in job search mode. After the disaster that was the cruise that never was, I was also itching to get back on a plane and go somewhere.
Mileage runs are usually done (in coach, ouch!) using cheap tickets that have the potential to hit many cities in a short time period (a few days of flying anyone?) in order to accumulate the miles or segments needed to qualify for elite status with an airline. They were popular in the past (that’s how Ben started One Mile at a Time) but now with all of the airline loyalty program changes, it’s hard to do especially as miles are being earned by dollars spent rather than miles flown. But if you found a mistake fare ticket or a cheap ticket to a faraway destination, you could earn a ton of miles, qualify for elite and enjoy all the perks for less. I missed the perks and wanted them back hence my decision to fly to London for a quick two day visit – in coach plus and using the Piccadilly line for airport transit (I gave into my luxury side on the way back opting for a black cab to Paddington and the Heathrow Express because one can only go budget for so long).
A few examples of the benefits I missed and wanted back.
Note: When flying BA or American on an international business class ticket, you get the perks for free, but those tickets generally cost $5,000+ for the expense account crowd.
British Airways Lounges
This weekend when sitting in Heathrow’s general seating area waiting on the gate announcement, my senses were on high alert as there were crowds of people everywhere, loud noises, loud people and of course the babies crying. I put my music on but couldn’t drown out the noise. I really missed the quiet lounge options and the free food/drink. The Philadelphia British Airways lounge is small but also a nice place to get sorted before the flight – they offer a hot buffet for BA ticketholders.
British Airways Advance Seat Selection
When booking your ticket, if you are British Airways Silver Elite you can choose your seat at time of purchase for free online or with a travel agent. The cost to pick a seat varies but for my flights the fees were $75-81 each way in my cabin! That’s ridiculous given the cost of the international ticket already. I currently am Bronze (low level status) so I could choose my seat 7 days in advance but many of the good seats especially in Coach Plus (i.e. – bulkhead row) were gone so I played seat roulette. The BA system has my aisle preference yet stuck me in a middle seat at first. I moved to the last row of the cabin at the window for the overnight flight and luckily no one sat next to me.
Priority Baggage at PHL
My bag is often first off at the carousel so I can easily claim it and leave. I’m home within ½ hour. This weekend, my bag, lacking priority, arrived about 40 minutes after the carousel began. I would have already been at home unpacking but I was still waiting for my bag. It’s really a simple perk that saves me the time.
The One World Lounge Bonus
A Silver British Airways elite will also have elite status on all One World airlines as a Sapphire member in the alliance. Perks include advanced boarding on American Airlines which is nice and using the business class line to check-in (this saved me in Amsterdam when the coach lines were so long I was going to miss my flight). For me the best benefit is access to the lounges no matter what class you are flying. So this means access to the American Airlines lounges in Philadelphia when I’m flying coach domestically or access to One World lounges around the world no matter what class I’m flying. I could have used this perk in Livingstone airport in Zambia as the BA lounge had air conditioning and the general waiting area which was stuffed with people did not. I watched with envy as they flashed their silver cards to gain entry. I want my Silver card back!
Extra Avios Points
Flying BA as a Silver member gets me 1.5x the Avios points for the flights so I can earn points faster. BA still calculates on distance flown not dollars spent. That’s a good perk to add on top of my Chase BA credit card which gives me 3x points per $1 spent with BA. This is how you really take advantage of the airline loyalty credit cards, promotions and status.
There are other benefits such as a free BA lounge guest, extra baggage and/or weight allowance, dedicated phone line, waitlist options, extra guest at fast track security in London and a few others. For me, they weren’t the reason I flew fifteen hours to/from London. I have upcoming trips on British Airways – one with my mom and another due to a business class sale so the perks are already adding up to make this weekend worth the seat in butt, even in coach plus, worth it.
If you ask the points purists, the elite group of travelers who do the mileage runs, they would say I did mine all wrong – I paid too much, routed it direct rather than connections here, there, everywhere, checked a bag (the horror!) as well as stayed in the city to enjoy myself (some runners never leave the airport!). My ROI was still positive and I had fun catching up with friends while staying at a new hotel, The Hoxton Hotel in Holborn, and exploring my favorite places (hello chocolate & cupcakes!).
So have you done a mileage or status run for elite status? Would you do it now? What airlines perks would make it worth it for you?