InsideLook: British Airways

InsideLook: British Airways

British Airways is the flag carrier of the United Kingdom. Dating back to just after the First World War with air service between London and Paris, the airline now flies to more than 170 destinations in 70 countries worldwide.

A founding member of the oneworld global airline alliance, in 2011, BA launched a redesigned Executive Club program featuring a new currency called Avios. Avios is a coalition program, offering members of the frequent flyer programs of British Airways, Iberia, FlyBe and Meridiana, thousands of ways to earn and spend Avios.

Earning Ability
Executive Club members earn two types of currency–Avios, which can be redeemed for awards, and Tier Points, which advance members to elite status. Avios are earned when members fly British Airways, oneworld and other airline partners. The amount collected depends on which airline you fly, how far you fly, the cabin you fly in, the type of ticket and your Executive Club status.
When flying British Airways, you earn 100 percent of the miles flown in economy, 125 percent in Premium economy, 150 percent in business class and 200 percent of the miles flown in first class. A minimum 500 Avios are awarded on qualifying BA flights.

Earnings on oneworld carriers’ flights are similar with a few differences (such as, you won’t get 500 minimum miles on American Airlines flights unless you an Executive Club elite member). The easiest way to see what you’ll earn for a flight is to use BA’s online flight calculator.

Executive Club members can also earn Avios with hotel stays, credit cards, car rentals, holiday packages, parking, foreign currency exchange, shopping and more.

Tier Points are earned when flying British Airways and oneworld airlines. As with earning Avios, the amount earned depends on your ticket type and class of travel with more Tier Points offered for longer, premium class flights. The online flight calculator displays the Tier Points you’ll earn for your flight.

Award Choices
Members can book award flights on British Airways and oneworld airlines. Award flights on British Airways vary depending on the zone flown and the cabin flown. Roundtrip economy flights range from 9,000 Avios in Zone 1 to 100,000 Avios in the top Zone 9; Premium economy ranges from 13,500 to 150,000; business/Club from 18,000 to 200,000 and first class from 27,000 to 300,000 Avios.

An economy class roundtrip ticket between London and Paris is 9,000 Avios and business class is 18,000 Avios; and roundtrip between London and New York City, economy is 40,000 Avios and business class is 80,000 Avios.

Awards on partner airlines may vary from British Airways, depending on the route and distance traveled. Avios & Money awards are available when you would like to combine cash and Avios to redeem a flight award. Reward Flight Saver awards are offered in award Zones 1-3 (within Europe and southern Africa), with the ability to pay a flat fee for roundtrip economy (35 pounds/42.50 euros) or business class (50 pounds/60 euros) instead of the taxes, fees and carrier charges, which offers members a savings.

One-way awards are available at 50 percent of the cost of a roundtrip award ticket.

Upgrade awards are offered on British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines flights, and the amounts vary by route and airline. The formula of Avios required for a one-way upgrade is: Avios for the cabin you wish to upgrade to, minus the Avios for the cabin you make your booking in, equals the Avios required.

In general, the lowest priced economy fares cannot be upgraded with Avios and more fare classes are available for British Airways flights than Iberia and American flights.

British Airways Executive Club members can earn and spend Avios on 16 oneworld member airlines as well as Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Meridiana and OpenSkies.

Executive Club members can earn Avios through stays at more than 8,000 partner hotels worldwide with hotel partners including Accor, Carlson Rezidor, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Langham, Marriott, Shangri-La, Starwood and others. Most stays earn 500 Avios but the offers vary. Some hotels, including Accor, Carlson Rezidor, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Jin Jiang, Marriott, Shangri-La and Starwood, offer points conversions to Avios, generally 10,000 hotel points to 2,000 Avios. Rocketmiles is also a partner where members can earn Avios for booking hotel stays.

Members can earn Avios with credit card spend with the no annual fee British Airways American Express Credit Card and the 150-pound annual fee British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card. The Premium card offers three Avios for every pound spent on British Airways flights and holidays and 1.5 Avios for every pound spent elsewhere while the no annual fee card offers one Avios per pound spent, along with varying benefits depending on the card, including companion flight tickets when reaching spend thresholds.

Avis is the sole car rental partner and members earn three Avios per pound spent, with a minimum 500 Avios on one- or two-day rentals and minimum 700 Avios per three-day or more rental. Zipcar users can earn Avios–1,000 when joining and 50 Avios for every reservation.

Members earn two Avios for every pound spent on British Airways holiday packages, one Avios for every pound exchanged with Amex currency exchange and one Avios per every pound loaded or reloaded on the Executive Club Multi-currency Cash Passport. Members can earn Avios with airport parking and Heathrow Express. Shopping can add to members’ Avios balance with Chic Outlet Shopping Villages, Heathrow Rewards, Gate 365 – the online shopping portal, Tesco Clubcard, High Life Shop and others. American Express Membership Rewards, Rewards for Thoughts and e-Rewards are just some of the other partners.

Elite-Level Program
Executive Club features three elite levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Bronze is attained at 300 Tier Points and offers 25 percent bonus Avios for British Airways flights, priority check-in and boarding and free seat selection seven days before departure. Silver status is attained at 600 Tier Points and offers all Bronze benefits plus 100 percent bonus Avios, seat selection from time of booking, access to business lounges and additional baggage allowance. Gold status is attained at 1,500 Tier Points and offers all Silver benefits plus 100 percent bonus Avios, first class check-in and boarding, access to First lounges and additional award flight availability. All levels of members are offered member-only offers.

Lifetime Gold is offered when you reach 35,000 Tier Points.

Rules and Conditions
Avios do not expire as long as a member collects, spends, purchases or shares at least one Avios every 36 months. You can buy between 1,000 and 27,000 Avios each year for yourself or another member and you can transfer up to 27,000 Avios to another member each year. Executive Club offers a Household Account, which allows members to pool their Avios with up to seven people who live in the same household. Members must be at least 18 years of age to join Executive Club unless they are members of a Household Account, which allows for members under 18.

Free stopovers and open jaws are available when booking awards. If a member cancels an award ticket 15 days or more before departure, 100 percent of their miles will be refunded, 14 to 8 days before–75 percent, 7 to 4 days before–50 percent and up three days before, there will be no refund. Upon the death of the member, all Avios, Tier Points and Lifetime Tier Points will be cancelled.

Service Support
You can contact customer service for Executive Club locally in the U.K. daily from 6am to 8pm. In the U.S., customer service is open daily 7:30am to 8pm ET. Members can also email via the form at

Our call to the U.S. customer service was answered by a competent and professional representative who was able to answer our questions. Generally, members report being pleased with the customer service they receive as Executive Club members.

Online Services
Members can book award flights on British Airways and partner airlines, claim missing credit, buy miles, read the terms and conditions of the Executive Club program, manage their membership and check out the latest news and offers. Members can also see how far their Avios will take them through the handy online Flight Finder.

Plus Features
With Executive Club’s zone concept for flight awards, there are some flight bargains available for members. For example, Boston to Dublin on partner Aer Lingus is just 25,000 Avios one way in business class, something Lucky at One Mile At A Time says is an “outstanding value, especially since there are no fuel surcharges.”

The Household Account is a great feature–especially for families who travel with children. Airport lounge access is another plus and it is available starting with second-tier elite status.

Minus Features
British Airways’ claim to fame, and often the members’ biggest complaint, is the airline’s high surcharges added to award flights–“free flight” it’s not when the taxes, fees and carrier surcharges add into the hundreds and up.

Program Rating
Overall Score 7.36
Earning Ability 7.5
Award Choices 7.5
Partnerships 7.5
Elite Level 7.5
Rules & Conditions 7.0
Service Support 7.0
Online Services 7.5

Program Information:
British Airways Executive Club
PO Box 1125
Uxbridge, London

U.K.: 0344 493 0747 opt. 3
Outside U.K.: +44 191 4907901 opt. 2
U.S.: (800) 452-1201