So some of us were lucky to get in on the British Airways business class fare sale from cities in the US to MAD, BCN and HEL last week. I booked two tickets to spend New Years on a culinary excursion there.
I’ve been debating whether to credit my miles to American or Alaska. American is running a promotion which nets you 25,000 AA miles for every paid transatlantic business class ticket you fly on them or joint venture partners (Iberia, British Airways and Finnair count too if you credit to AA). This, plus the class of service bonus of 150% would net me roughly 43000 AA miles, and 18,800 EQPs, which would normally be great, but I’m splitting it over two years (New Years Trip). And AA miles are decently valuable, so I could have stopped there.
But I’m also MVP Gold on Alaska, which is a partner of BA and AA. Sadly Alaska doesn’t have a similar promotion, so I’d only earn roughly 25000 AS miles (which I value more than AA, but not 1.7x more) and I’d be really close to requalifying for MVP, but again with the problem of the year split.
But a friend turned me on to a third option, which I originally wrote off — credit to British Airways!
Now Avios aren’t the most valuable currency out there, but this is why it works for me:
I’m Rich in Alaska and American Miles, but Not Avios
I have a couple hundred thousand AA and AS miles, so an additional 43000 or 25000 is nice, but doesn’t give me access to any awards I can’t already redeem for. I was speculatively putting several QF F award tickets on hold this week from both accounts with abandon.
By contrast, I actually transferred 30,000 Chase Ultimate Award points to my BA account to use for the “Pay with Avios” promotion that dropped the price down to $315. This is a classic example of maximizing opportunity cost because I immediately redeemed the points after transferring. I still have a healthy Chase balance, but would usually prefer to use them on more lucrative partners like Korean or Virgin Atlantic.
So, by crediting to BA I get a shade over 40,000 avios.
But here’s the kicker:
British Airways Is Generous with Tier Points for Premium Cabin Travel
What are tier points? It’s a scheme that British Airways uses to mete out status by approximating revenue. It’s not dollars spent per year like United and Delta, but if you buy Premium Economy, Business or First tickets, you accrue status very fast.
Well, I booked this one ticket. My routing is SFO-JFK-BCN-LHR-LAX on AA (with BA connecting BCN-LHR). By this chart, I will earn 140+140+40+140 = 460 tier points (TPs).
What status does that get you? Well you get Bronze (equivalent to Oneworld Ruby) at 300 TPs and Silver (equivalent to Oneworld Sapphire – Lounge Access domestically and abroad) at 600.
So at 460 Tier Points, and only 4 months into my membership year (BA uses a rolling 12 month year for qualification, based on when you opened your account, mine account resets in July), I have a decent shot at hitting silver if I take a few transcons or two short premium cabin flights (say SFO-LAX)
What’s crazier if I had known this when booking, I would have booked three and (going against all of my principles) would have made status runs to Europe to get very close to BA gold for <$1000. With soft landings, that’s two and a half years of lounge access since I’d be at silver for the second year.
But what about the segment requirements? BA requires all status holders to fly at least 2 flights with BA flight numbers for bronze and 4 for silver or gold. Since I’m flying AA, would I still need to go back to Europe over the next year? Nope! Because it’s an international itinerary and I booked on BritishAirways.com, all four segments have BA flight numbers, making them eligible flights for the status requirement. What’s more, I’ll hit Bronze in Barcelona and likely credit an additional 25% bonus on the BCN-LHR-LAX legs.
So rather than spreading the ticket over two years, I actually net out way better using a program I had largely written off as solely useful for niche (shortfall economy) redemptions.
Other kickers, most domestic F travel on AA and AS count as First Class, not Business (look at the chart…), and we’ve been seeing very reasonable deals from the West coast to Central and South America and to Europe (even $2000 is a great deal without all the rebates).
So while they don’t give out much for economy travel, if you’re getting in on paid business class fares and value lounge access, it might make sense to check them out.
My friends and I have been playing with other speculative tier point runs and we’ll report back on whether any of them make sense to pursue (SFO-MIA-PTY rt for 500 TPs for $743). I’m REALLY not usually a huge proponent of status for the sake of status (redeem for the cabin you want), but when a deal like that comes along, it can be worth it. Or you can just get a credit card… 😉