Let’s talk about a first world problem: switching airline loyalty. For one year, you are relegated to flying a little less glamorously than you have become accustomed to if you’ve put in the work to achieve status on another airline. To make matters worse, you have to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of a new points and status system, potentially a new credit card, understand the rules for upgrades, and even get used to a new booking/mobile app platform. It kinda stinks.
If you have been following me for a little while, you have probably heard (or seen) that I have made a decision to move to London this year – yay! With this move comes quite a few adjustments, and I need to start taking into account how it will affect how I travel. I’m projected to be in London full-time(ish) starting this summer, but there are a lot of flights that will need to happen between now and then, and I need to make sure I’m hitching my proverbial wagon to the right horse, so I can have the best experience as a frequent flier.
Currently, I have status on United. And while United has been good-ish to me in the last 7 years that I have enjoyed status, I am switching over to British Airways in 2020. British Airways notoriously doesn’t “status match”, which means I am going to have to put in the work (more like miles) to get back to a status that feels a bit more like my usual travel experience. However, after weighing my options and considering my future plans to the best of my ability, I think this will be the best choice for me.
Disclaimer: I am not a points, status, airline guru. If you want the deep dive on some of these programs, you can check in on The Points Guy, God Save the Points, and UpgradedPoints to name a few. I’m simply disclosing my reasoning for choosing BA among other options, and hopefully these reasons give you some thoughts to consider if you’re looking to make a switch.
BA has 3 daily flights for my most popular route (LHR – BOS)
When looking at my travel plans for the coming year, I’m anticipating to take about 8 round-trip flights from Boston to London, as I will still be running my US-based business, as well. Having three daily flights per day out of both cities ensures I will likely be able to fly the day I need to, or, if I’m more flexible, I can pick from several to find the best fares (see my joint venture section below for even more details on that). Multiple flights per day is also good if you get smacked with a cancellation or heavy delay.
Out of London, they really are the best option for me
Flying out of all three London airports, British Airways has the best punctuality record on flights departing of all the large short-haul carriers in the UK. They have 200+ destinations, and when I look at upcoming travel plans, they fly direct, or one-stop to nearly every destination.
BA’s premium economy cabins meet my needs for red eyes
Based on rankings from Bloomberg, British Airways’ premium economy “hard” product (anything that is physically attached to the plane) doesn’t cut the mustard compared to my other two most popular options for my flights between Boston and London: American and Virgin. Although, Business Insider published a comparison in 2018 that has BA winning out over American. So, online, the jury is still out.
Obviously, I am going to test these conflicting opinions myself, and I flew BA’s premium economy product on my flight to London last month, on a Boeing 787/777-300ER, and felt it was spacious and comfy. Their seats are definitely a bit more padded than the latter two options, which I prefer, and have an increased recline from their first generation of the product. Perfect for sleeping if you can’t quite swing the price tag for business class. Compared to the American long-haul Premium Economy product, I felt that this was quite similar.
Soft product offerings – basically food, drinks, and service – include an upgraded dining experience, improved menu with full bar service, noise-reducing headphones (a win if you forget to pack yours!) and an amenities kit.
They are a part of Oneworld Alliance (which has two of my other favorite airlines)
Deciding to stick with British Airways for as much travel as possible doesn’t mean you can’t have a fling with other airlines, too. This is where airline alliances come in, which is essentially an aviation industry arrangement between two or more airlines agreeing to cooperate in a meaningful way. Oneworld has 13 global airlines, including two that fly to regions that I hope to explore more when living in London: Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific.
Within one year, I project to have Executive Club Silver status with BA (600 Tier points), and Oneworld Sapphire (600 Tier points)
Now, it’s time for a little math. On my flights to and from BOS – LHR, I plan to typically fly red eyes, and for these, I will commit to flying premium economy for a bit of added comfort and space, and to ensure I get some shuteye. According to the British Airways Avios Flight Calculator, I will earn 3,267 Avios points, as well as 90 Tier points (these go to your Oneworld status, as well) when I book Premium economy lowest (E, T). For my return flight, I don’t plan on being as boujee, and just booking Economy lowest (Q, O, G) or Economy low (K, L, M, N, S, V), meaning I will earn, on average, 1,225 Avios points, and 27 Tier points. I am projecting to take 8 of these long haul flights in a year, meaning, I will earn ~36,000 Avios points, and 936 Tier points.
So, what does Executive Club Silver status with BA and Oneworld Sapphire status get me? You can see the full list of benefits here and here, respectively, but my top three perks are 50% more Avios points when I fly with BA, access to BA and Oneworld Business lounges, and an extra baggage allowance.
I can upgrade from Premium Economy lowest to Business with miles (Avios points)
Points-based upgrades are available on most paid BA fares with the exception of the Economy lowest tickets in the Q, O and G fare classes. This is pretty standard of any airline. However, you can only bump up one class, so if you’d like to have a shot at business, you need to be booking your base fare in Premium Economy. Long-haul Premium Economy lowest to Business class costs 50,000 Avios points. From the last section, you can see, I won’t earn that from my long-haul flights alone in one year. Good news: I will have other short-haul flights where I can earn and redeem points for upgrades, and Avios points don’t expire, so long as you fly once every 3 years.
A good note from the God Save the Points squad: “British Airways and other airlines operating in the region are bound by weird cabin taxes, which make upgrading from economy to premium economy (world traveller to world traveller plus) almost always a terrible idea. This is because you pay an increased passenger tax as soon as you move in front of the curtain. If you’re already in premium and want to move to business or business to first it’s much, much better value.”
You can see the cost for any upgrade with Avios on any route here thanks to Head for Points.
If you booked with BA and want to upgrade an American or Iberia flight, you can as well. This brings me to my next point…
American and BA are joint venture partners (and Iberia, too)
In 2010, British Airways formed a trans-Atlantic joint venture with American — along with fellow Oneworld member, Iberia. Unlike alliance or code-share partners, joint venture partners collaborate to set routes and prices, and operate specific routes together as one business with immunity from anti-trust regulations. The joint venture with American is especially good for me because I will have some travel within the US this year, and likely down the road – or should I say tarmac?
What does this mean for you as a flyer? A spokesperson from BA spoke with Business Traveller to break it down: “Joint ventures allow carriers to launch new routes that otherwise would not be viable if only operated by one carrier – for example, some of our recently launched services to the US [San Jose, New Orleans and Austin] are as a result of our joint business with American Airlines. They also ensure better competition in certain markets, which is good for customers.”
Later in the article he explains, “Joint ventures allow customers to mix and match bookings on a wider network to best suit their travel needs. For example, if you are searching for a flight from London to New York on ba.com, it will give you up to 16 choices of flights between BA and AA – this allows you to get the best possible combination of airport, flight times and price.”
Their credit card options don’t suck – both as a US and UK resident
Since I will be starting with a clean slate in regards to credit when I move to the UK (this was a fun fact I didn’t realize until I started doing my research!), I will need to select a credit card that is right for me – ideally one that helps get me all the travel perks. As a UK resident, I’ll have three options via AmEx that I think could be a good fit. I haven’t had a chance to dive into the details thoroughly, but you can do your own comparison here.
Prior to moving to London, there is an option while I’m still based in the US that is a good fit as well. The British Airways Chase Visa Signature card is my ideal choice if I am taking loads of long-haul flights between the US and Europe. Why? According to The Points Guy, “If you frequently redeem Avios for British Airways flights from the U.S. to London, you can also get huge savings in the form of annual statement credits of up to $600 to offset award taxes and fees.” I am into that!
Other perks include a decent sign-up bonus, a 10% discount on all British Airways flights booked before March 2020 (perfect timing for me!), and no foreign transaction fees.