Frequent flying with British Airways
I am not a great fan of Eurostar. I have never been able to really enjoy travelling on their trains. I do have one reason to be very grateful to them though; they indirectly caused me to join the British Airways Executive Club and doing that changed my travel life forever.
Back in November 2006 I needed to make a business trip to Paris for a few days. My first choice, albeit reluctantly, was Eurostar. Looking online I was astonished at the price they wanted for a mid-week return ticket. I then found that using BA from Heathrow was actually cheaper so I decided to fly instead.
Halfway through the booking process the BA webpage asked me if I would like to join the British Airways’ Executive Club (frequent flyer programme) and upgrade the outbound flight to business class for £5.
On the day of the flight I got to Terminal 4 early. For the first time in my life I entered an airline frequent flyer lounge. The British Airways lounge wasn’t bad at all and I relaxed in there for a while with a coffee and some pastries before the flight. The service in Club Europe on the short 50 minute flight to Paris wasn’t outstanding, but I had a comfortable seat and they served me a decent cooked breakfast.
On the way back from Paris I began to wonder how I could do this sort of thing more often and I remembered an internet site that I had seen before about frequent flyer programmes; “Flyertalk”.
When got home I clicked on the BAEC page of Flyertalk. It turned out to be one of the most fortuitous clicks I ever made.
Flyertalk is an internet community forum that covers the loyalty schemes of all the world’s airlines. The contributors are mostly frequent flyers themselves and offer each other a wealth of advice on how to maximise the benefits of belonging to an airline frequent flyer scheme.
The key with the British Airways scheme was how to get and then keep the silver or gold status that enabled you to access lounges even when flying economy class.
The first lesson I learnt from flyertalk was a blindingly obvious one; you had to be loyal to the airline.
Until 2006 I had regarded the flight to a country as an extension of the trip itself. I had tried to sample as many airlines as I could. I few to Casablanca on Air Maroc, to Vienna on Austrian, to Frankfurt on Lufthansa and even to Moscow on Aeroflot. I was the very opposite of loyal.
From November 2006 onwards I started to try to fly only on BA. If I couldn’t use BA I made sure that I was on one of the other airlines in their “One World” alliance.
There were a few other tricks that made it easier to progress quickly through the BAEC too but I won’t mention them on here. Suffice to say I followed all the advice on Flyertalk and it wasn’t long before a shiny silver BAEC card popped through my letter box. I entered the world of permanent priority check in, priority security, and lounge access for every flight.
Then we started to plan our holidays around what were called ex-EU business class flights. A business class return from Europe to the USA on BA for example was often less than half the price of one starting in London.
So we began to plan little European breaks at the start of our longer distance trips and we started to fly long-distance business class for the first time.
In 2007 we went to San Francisco via Oslo
Then in 2008 we went to Tokyo via Milan.
With these trips it was possible to pause for a day or two on the way through London. Effectively we went for a day trip or an overnight trip to Europe, returned home and then set off on the long distance trip a day or so later.
The air miles poured in and by 2008 my silver card had been replaced by a gold one. This effectively meant a better class of lounge and as much champagne as I could drink before each flight.
The system was self perpetuating too. The more miles you had, the easier it was to use them to upgrade to business class. If you were gold the chances of being upgraded anyway, as long as they were short of space in economy, were greater still.
Thanks to Flyertalk and all the advice my travel life changed beyond recognition. In 3 years I went from always being at the back of the queue in economy to being double upgraded once into first class on a flight to the USA.
In 2017 British Airways still has most of my travel business. I remain loyal to them and although the service is not always stellar, I feel safe and happy flying with them. I am now a frequent contributor to the BAEC page on Flyertalk myself too.
I often wonder where I would be now if Eurostar had been a little bit cheaper to Paris back in 2006.