The Most Difficult ‘Travel Hacking’ Dilemma I Have Ever Faced…

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Although my usual aim is to enlighten readers about many aspects of loyalty programs or “travel hacking”, I find myself with the most difficult dilemma I can recall facing. Perhaps writing it all down will help…  (and hopefully entertain at the same time).

The Situation

British Airways Executive Club is my main airline loyalty program within the Oneworld alliance. I currently have Silver status, with an August 8th year end for collecting Tier Points (meaning that my status is valid until September 30th- 2022 at the moment, in the absence of any further extension). As many readers may know, BA’s Silver status is equivalent to Oneworld Sapphire.

Due to my Hyatt Globalist status, however, I am signed up for an American Airlines AAdvantage fast track. Click here to re-read my original article.

As it happens, I will be travelling from Europe to Argentina in December; my flights are in Premium Economy. Without going into all of the details, this one trip could therefore get me:

  • Platinum Pro status (Oneworld Emerald) with AAdvantage, valid until March 31, 2023
  • 210 Tier Points with British Airways Executive Club

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Shouldn’t the Decision be Obvious? Emerald > Sapphire

Perhaps…  Oneworld Emerald status valid until March 31, 2023 versus Oneworld Sapphire status valid until September 30, 2022 (but likely 2023 if I manage to pick up the required Tier Points).

It would seem smart to upgrade to Oneworld Emerald status, but it’s not quite so simple as that…

Renewing my AAdvantage status in the future will be close to impossible

I have recently written about the changes being implemented by AAdvantage. Because there is no prospect of me getting a co-branded AAdvantage credit card over in Europe, I would have no chance of earning the whopping 125,000 Loyalty Points I would need to renew my Platinum Pro status. Even the 75,000 Loyalty Points needed for Platinum status seems highly unlikely.

So, why make the switch over to AAdvantage when I’ll have to move back to British Airways Executive Club in 2023? (having lost my BA status in the process).

Or will Hyatt and American Airlines continue to offer fast tracks to elite status?  If one strategically-booked Premium Economy long haul is enough to earn and (hopefully) retain Oneworld Emerald status, AAdvantage / Hyatt is definitely where I would want to focus.

Is Oneworld Emerald even worth it?

Several years ago I realised that it wasn’t worth making a huge effort to retain my BA Gold card. For those who regularly travel from London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 (where the majority of BA’s flights operate), the First Wing and First Class lounge can be very valuable benefits.

But, alas, most of MY British Airways flights are back to operating from Heathrow’s Terminal 3 where:

  • There aren’t really any check-in lines to worry about
  • Fast track security is available to Silvers and Golds equally
  • My favourite Oneworld lounge at T3 – Cathay Pacific, when open – offers a great Business Class lounge (only the champagne is noticeably better in their First lounge)
  • At nearly all non-London outstations, there is no difference (lounge, check-in, etc.) between Silver and Gold

What about redeemable miles / Avios?

Due to my existing BA status and the quirks of the fare classes booked, I could earn nearly 25,000 Avios from this one trip.  Due to my lack of status with AAdvantage (at least starting out), I would only pick up 17,000 AA miles. I do think that AA miles are worth more than Avios on average, but 25,000 Avios is surely worth more than 17,000 AA miles.

Besides that, I’ve previously written about how a healthy stash of Avios is crucial, while AA miles are not very useful for short European trips. Nor, for what it’s worth, are AA miles particularly useful for award flights between Europe and South America (one of my typical routes) – transferring Avios to Iberia Plus is the clear favourite there.

However… by becoming a Platinum Pro member, I would start earning an 80% bonus on any paid Oneworld tickets. In addition, I would start earning AA miles on my Hyatt paid hotel stays, a bonus only available to AAdvantage elites. Tempting, but who knows how this will ultimately translate into money-saving award flights.

What is British Airways Executive Club going to do?

During the pandemic, British Airways has managed to frustrate many members with elite status. Status extensions have been applied slowly, and only to certain members. Right now, members whose Tier Point collection years were due to end on (or before) March 8, 2022 have seen their status extended for 12 months.

Moreover, even though my account clearly says that I require 450 Tier Points to renew my Silver status, the BA website actually states…

…we’ve reduced the amount of Tier Points needed to reach each Tier by 25% for those aiming to retain or reach a Tier up to June 2022.

With my year end falling in August 2022, this is unclear.  Do I actually need to pick up those 450 Tier Points before June 30, 2022, or is my BA account correct?

So, if I simply credit my Argentina flights to British Airways Executive Club, I might end up…

  • Actually receiving a status extension for free, so those 210 TPs could wind up as unnecessary
  • Finding out in July 2022 that my target has reverted to 600 Tier Points. I would certainly be furious to be scrambling for 150 TPs on such short notice

And don’t forget lifetime status…

Perhaps only the most frequent of flyers pays attention to British Airways Lifetime Gold. This requires 35,000 Tier Points over the member’s lifetime. Although I’m nowhere close at the moment, it’s also within the realms of possibility that I can reach lifetime Gold at some point in the future. But that would clearly require remaining loyal to BA’s Executive Club, instead of moving over to AAdvantage.

What to decide?

I still don’t know, but I will have to make a decision before that first flight. The status quo I know (British Airways Executive Club)? Or jump to something that ought to be better, but might not be?

What do you think? Would you simply remain loyal to British Airways Executive Club? Or would you also contemplate making a big change?  Let us know in the comments section…