This is the first in a series of posts looking at the three major alliances and how to quickly and efficiently get status so as to not be without the following:
- Priority check-in
- Lounge access
- Priority boarding
Oneworld, unlike the other two major alliance actually has three alliance-wide tier levels (as opposed to just two):
Ruby gives you very little other than supposed priority on waitlists and business class check-in. It does not offer lounge access. Sapphire does offer priority boarding and business class lounge access. Emerald offers this, plus first class checkin and lounge access. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the best way to attain Sapphire status.
So which programme? Oneworld has a number of airlines including American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, LATAM and Qatar Airways (to mention but a few).
For this article, I’m going to focus on the British Airways Executive Club and attaining their silver tier.
A close second would have been American Airlines AAdvantage and their Platinum level, however there are two reasons why for status, it’s less effective than the BA equivalent. Firstly, they have instituted a minimum spend threshold – you’re required to get to $6,000 EQDs (Elite Qualifying Dollars). In addition, if you’re travelling on purely domestic itinerary within North America, you are not eligible for lounge access to an Admirals Club as that’s sold separately.
There are two key concepts with British Airways frequent flier programme:
- Tier points
Tier points are earned from flying and are required to progress through the various levels, starting at blue, then to bronze, silver, gold and finally gold guest list. These can only be earned by flying oneworld airlines and can’t be attained by spending on credit cards or shopping partners.
Avios are the frequent flier currency that can be used to redeem for flights and upgrades. Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus also use the same currency, indeed it’s even possible to transfer Avios between accounts.
To earn silver status, there are two key requirements:
- 600 tier points
- Four British Airways flights
The table below shows this in context with all of the other tiers.
|Attain Status||Renew Status||Minimum BA Flights|
|Gold Guest List||5000||3000||4|
So how many tier points do you earn for a flight? This varies hugely depending on the cabin you’re travelling in and the length of the journey. British Airways have a handy calculator on their website here.
The table below shows how many tier points you’ll earn for a particular type of flight.
|Short-haul||Mid-haul (BA only)||Long-haul||Ultra-long-haul||Australia|
|Economy – low||5||10||20||20||30|
|Economy – mid||10||20||35||40||60|
|Economy – full||20||40||70||80||120|
There are a number of explanatory notes which is why I do recommend using the calculator on the BA website to find out exactly how many you will earn.
- Economy – low, means booking classes Q, O and G
- Economy – mid, means booking classes K, L, M, N, S and V
- Economy – full, means booking classes Y, B and H
- Mid-haul are certain, BA-only destinations in Europe, like Athens, Helsinki and Funchal (to name but a few). Do check BA.com for the full list.
- Long-haul means flights between 2,000 and 5,999 miles.
- Ultra-longhaul means flights over 6,000 miles
- Australia refers to the BA15/16 service to Sydney via Singapore when you’re flying all the way through.
The table above also broadly applies to oneworld partners, however there are a few limited exceptions, such as business class domestic flights in Spain. However I’m not going to cover them in this article.
One of the best ways to get to the requisite 600 tier points for silver status is to fly Qatar Airways from somewhere in Europe to a destination in Asia, for example Bangkok.
For example, I’ve used ITA Matrix to search for flights from a range of European destinations for random dates in February.
The itinerary above would get us 140 tier points for each sector as they are all over 2,000 miles, which is 560 tier points in total. That’s very close to the 600 we need for silver.
Qatar Airways have sales throughout the year from many of their destinations – the one I highlight above is an ok price, but flights can be had for as little as £1,000 to £1,200 during sale times. However they have an excellent product which I’ve reviewed at length in articles here and their new Q-Suites product here.
In addition to this, we need to get a further 40 tier points AND four flights on British Airways. If you’re originating from London, then the logical thing would be to purchase British Airways flights to and from Stockholm to connect with the Qatar Airways flights. For example, the following flights should give you (just) sufficient buffer to connect to and from the Qatar flights.
As they’re in ‘O’ class, they would earn 5 tier points in each direction, plus give you two of the four British Airways flights you need for silver. This now leaves us at 570 tier points!
To tip you over, I’d recommend a weekend away somewhere in Europe. There are so many destinations to choose from, but places like Barcelona, Berlin and Vienna are some of my personal favourite. However, it’s important that you make sure your booking is in the right fare class to earn sufficient tier points. I find the easiest way to do this is to book one-way as Club Europe as this is guaranteed to earn you at least 40. British Airways often have promotional deals and the cost to upgrade can be less than £100.
For example, using BA.com the following itinerary would earn 45 tier points for a long weekend in Barcelona with flights from Gatwick at very slightly over £200 per person. The price per tier point isn’t that great, however for a weekend away, plus providing you the points and flights required it serves the purpose.
In my view, the most effective and most pleasant way of getting oneworld sapphire status is a trip somewhere in Asia, flying Qatar Airways in business class. Adding in the positioning flights with British Airways, and a further weekend away, status can be yours for around £2,000.
There are other ways of getting a greater number of tier points for similar or slightly less money, but I’ve tried to balance the convenience factor in this article so as to make the journey pleasant and coincident to holiday plans, as opposed to going out of your way.
There are many variations on this theme. As and when great deals come up, I’ll write a separate blog post and link back to this article to highlight it.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this article and if you’ve got any suggestions or comments. Please tweet me or comment on the Facebook page.