Is getting airline status really worth the effort? What practical benefits does it give you?
Before we caught the bug of premium air travel, we never thought that airline loyalty programmes were worth the hassle. We would usually find the cheapest way to get from point A to point B. We ended up with pockets of miles and points on different airline loyalty programmes and not making the most out of airline alliances when we travelled. As we became more aware of the benefits of being loyal, we started being smarter about how we boost our points and gain status with frequent flyer programmes.
In this blog, we share our experience of whether it’s worth having Gold or Silver membership on the British Airways Executive Club programme. We have outlined membership from Silver and above, as once you’ve reached Silver, that’s when you start seeing practical benefits (e.g. access to the Business Class departure lounges).
To understand what Blue, Bronze, Silver and Gold offers, visit the British Airways website.
Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire
Gold and Silver are equivalent to Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire statuses, as such you see similar benefits to other Oneworld airlines. Visit the Oneworld website for more information about member airlines.
A nicer flying experience?
As cost-conscious frequent flyers, we’re regularly looking for good value for money when booking flights. So we often ask ourselves if it’s worth paying extra to travel in Business class for a 3-4 hour short-haul flight to Europe? Often, the answer is no to paying premium prices to travel Business. Considering you can barely tell the difference between a Club Europe (British Airways’ fancy name for Business) and Economy seats, we find it hard to rationalise why we would pay more.
We also compare the price of our ticket to a low-cost carrier to decide whether travelling on a Oneworld Airline will be better value for money while giving us a nicer flying experience.
Price permitting, we would always go with British Airways or Oneworld airlines. As British Airways Executive Club Silver and Gold members, we get the perks of travelling Business while in Economy without the hefty price tag! This makes having British Airways Silver or Gold status worth it! Before we list our reasons why, here are a couple of considerations…
Consideration 1: Short-haul vs long-haul in Economy
We have a completely different mindset when it comes to long-haul flights. The difference that premium classes offer vs Economy vary significantly (e.g. the seats, food and beverage, and service are much better), so we take a different approach when travelling long-haul (read our blog on how much you should pay for a Business Class seat). This blog focuses on the benefits we experience while travelling short-haul in Economy.
Consideration 2: We are frequent travellers
We are frequent travellers, so have the opportunity to use these benefits regularly. We don’t advocate you trying to get status if you only fly a couple of times a year, as it will still cost money to reach Gold or Silver membership.
Premium perks while travelling Economy short-haul
On a recent trip from London to Spain, we flew British Airways economy class. Club Europe – British Airways’ fancy name for Business Class – was going to cost ~£200 more, so it was hard to justify the additional cost for a 3 hour flight. Apart from sitting at the front of the plane with an empty seat next to you, the difference is hardly noticeable. Granted that you get complimentary onboard meal and drinks service, but if you eat and drink in the lounge before you fly, you will be fine!
Don’t get us wrong, we would love to travel in Business all the time but it doesn’t always represent good value for money and frankly it’s financially not viable for us. However, with our membership, we are able to:
- Reserve our seats at the time of booking*
- Use the dedicated Business*/First class check-in desks
- Use the fast track security lanes*
- Access the Business*/First airline lounges
- Bring a guest
- Board the plane first – Boarding Group One 🙂
* These benefits are available to Silver members.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the perks you will get. In this blog we’ve outlined the practical benefits we saw on our recent flight from London to Spain while travelling in British Airways Economy.
Getting Oneworld airline status can be done very cost-effectively, if you’re smart. We’ll write a follow-up blog on the cheapest and fastest way to get you status. Other airlines also offer different ways of achieving status. For example, Malaysia Airlines was offering immediate status to Sapphire. As Malaysia Airlines is a Oneworld partner, it’s the same as having British Airways Executive Club Silver status.
Reserving seats at time of booking
Being able to choose our seats at the time of booking means that we always select the exit row seats. With the additional legroom, it provides more space than you would get in Club Europe. The size of the seats in British Airways short-haul aircrafts are the same, so you don’t get extra width in Business. However, you are guaranteed an empty seat next to you, which means you’re not playing elbow wars with your neighbours.
Where possible, if you’re a Gold member travelling in Economy, British Airways will try to leave the seat empty next to you. We are yet to see this benefit in action!
As Gold members, you also get to select seats for your whole party travelling on the same flight. We have reserved seats for friends on other bookings so that we can all sit together. They conditions are they need to authorise British Airways to make any changes, be on the same travel class, and on the same flight.
You also get exclusive access to Seats 1A and 1K when travelling in First, great if you’re flying the B747 as you’re at the nose of the aircraft.
Interestingly, Business class travellers with no status can’t reserve their seats when booking. Which we think is a bit rubbish, especially if you’ve paid quite a lot more than Economy passengers. Which reinforces why having status can be useful!
Using the First or Business Class check-in desks
It might seem like a small thing, but having access to the First or Business Class check-in desks is useful as it allows you to skip the queues. The Economy class queues can often be long (somehow everyone knows to arrive at the airport the same time) and being able to use the dedicated check-in areas gives us more time on the other side. Also – depending on the airport – these areas are often a beacon of calm. It does enhance the whole travelling experience.
Using the Fast Track security lanes
Although necessary, I’m sure you’d agree security checks are annoying. It’s hectic and usually very busy. The use of the fast track security lanes reduces the hassle as it’s less busy than the main security lanes! Just beware as not all airports have fast track security lanes. Do check before you travel in case you were thinking of arriving the airport late and expecting to go straight to the gate.
Accessing the Business or First airline lounges
For us, the greatest benefit of having Silver or Gold status is access to the Business or First class lounges. Whether you want to work, relax or get drunk before your flight, these lounges offer a range of excellent facilities. We often arrive at the airport early so that we start our journey by sipping champagne and gulping wines. Getting us sufficiently lubricated before our flight.
British Airways departure lounges offer a good selection of complimentary food and beverages, shower facilities, newspapers and magazines.
Recently, with the heatwave in the UK, we arrived at the airport feeling hot and flustered so we were really glad that we could use the showers to freshen up! It’s a small thing but really did enhance our travel experience.
As well as having these lounges at major airports in the UK, British Airways has dedicated lounges in selected airports around the world. If one isn’t available, British Airways will rely on a Oneworld partner or other paid airport lounges.
Oneworld departure lounges
We have used our status to access other lounges including the amazing Cathay Pacific lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3. Flying from London Heathrow Terminal 3 gives you the choice of four different Oneworld lounges! We had a lot of fun exploring American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas lounges on a recent trip to Cape Town and loved being able to lounge hop.
However, not all departure lounges are created equal, some are much better than others. Some are terrible. We used the SALA VIP lounge on our recent trip back from Malaga to London (read our review of the lounge here). It’s not the best lounge, but it was quiet and had the added benefit of free-flowing alcohol! That alone, made it worth it.
As lounges go, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse alone was nearly enough to convince us to join the Virgin loyalty programme. It is by far one of the best airline lounges out there, but we were disappointed by our flight so opted not to join. It also doesn’t have the best alliances which reduce our scope of being picky with our flights.
Bringing a guest with you
With British Airways Executive Club Gold or Silver status, you have the added benefit of bringing a guest with you to the lounge. This is regardless of the class you’re travelling in. We flew to Ibiza with some friends recently, and we all had a very enjoyable afternoon in the lounge sipping Bloody Mary’s and Champagne before our flight. We all know how expensive Weatherspoon’s at airports are and you can rarely ever find a table!
First to Board – Boarding Group One
Priority boarding in Boarding Group One is given to passengers with Gold or travelling in First/Business Class. The boarding group system puts passengers into different groups depending on their airline status and class of travel. Read our post about “What is a boarding group?” to find out more about what the different group means.
On a recent flight from Spain to London, we arrived at the gate to be met with a very long queue. Everyone in the queue also had large cabin bags with them. But we had the benefit of being in Boarding Group One.
Finding space in the overhead storage bins in Economy class can sometimes be a gamble. How many times have you arrived at your seat and had trouble looking for a space in the overhead compartment? If you can’t find a space to store your hand carry luggage, you’re faced with walking up and down the cabin.
The cabin crew might even request that you check your bag into the hold. This is a tricky option for us as we have laptops, cameras and fragile items in our hand-carry luggage. We all know how careful baggage handler at airports are <insert sarcastic emoji>. As we usually have exit row seats, we also don’t have the option of leaving the luggage under the seat in front of us.
As one of the first passengers to board the flight, finding a space for our luggage becomes less of a challenge. First world problems we know. Although a small benefit, it’s an important benefit to make our travel experience a little bit more pleasant. By not putting our luggage in the hold, we also skip baggage reclaim when we arrive, saving us time.
BG1 Verdict – Is British Airways Executive Club Gold or Silver status worth it?
Yes! Yo really see the benefits if you’re travelling Economy on short-haul flights. Being a member of an airline loyalty programme really does have its benefits. We can’t fly business all the time, as it simply isn’t financially viable. For us, having status with British Airways Executive Club enhances our flying experience.
Getting to reserve your seat at the time of booking, using the premium check-in desks, accessing the fast track security lanes and priority boarding, are all great perks. But the best perk of all is access to the Business or First class departure lounges!
We’ve benefited from being members, and over the years found that it really does pay to be loyal.