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A little over two years ago I worked out that my yearly quest for American Airlines Executive Platinum status wasn’t worth it any longer and I began crediting my oneworld flights to the British Airways Executive Club.
The Move To The Executive Club
I didn’t make the change to BA lightly. I had enjoyed the best part of a decade as a top-tier AAdvantage member but the rapid devaluation to benefits that followed the US Airways takeover of American Airlines combined with the introduction of minimum spend criteria meant that AAdvantage Executive Platinum status was no longer a sensible option for me. The status cost too much to earn and math just didn’t stack up.
At the time that I made my move across to the British Airways Executive Club I was aware that I would be giving up a few benefits that I had really enjoyed in the preceding years (systemwide upgrades, complimentary domestic upgrades and the chance to earn a currency which, when used correctly, can buy cheap premium cabin fares on some very good airlines)…but that was ok.
With oneworld airlines dominating the airports and routes that I fly most frequently my primary aim was always to keep hold of the top-tier oneworld benefits that AAdvantage Executive Platinum status gave me rather than trying to preserve the benefits unique to the AAdvantage program. The British Airways Executive Club has served me well in that respect.
I have continued to enjoy access to First Class lounges around the world (notably the Qantas lounge and the American Airlines Flagship lounge at my home airport of LAX and the Cathay Pacific and British Airways First Class lounges at my other home airport of London Heathrow), I have continued to enjoy Flagship check-in at a number of major US airports as well as having access to the “First Wing” at Heathrow Terminal 5, I’m still one of the first to board the aircraft so finding space for my carry-on isn’t an issue, and I’ve continued to earn a significant number of redeemable miles (Avios) which, although not as valuable as AAdvantage Miles, I have learned to put to very good use.
Also, on top of the oneworld benefits that BA Gold status ensured I maintained, I’ve had access to a number of new benefits/perks that have proven to be useful or have been nice to have.
- Executive Club Gold members get access to regular-price British Economy Class short-haul award inventory that most other members do not see (this came in useful on a number of occasions last year when I needed to book last-minute flights which would otherwise have cost quite a bit of cash).
- Executive Club Gold members get access to American Airlines Flagship Lounges and Admirals Clubs even when traveling on US domestic Economy Class fares, so my BA status has saved me the cost of Admirals Club membership.
- The treatment I get on board British Airways flights when traveling in Economy Class is often noticeably better than the treatment I used to receive on the same flights when I had Executive Platinum AAdvantage status. Both statuses are ranked equal for the purposes of the oneworld alliance but I now often travel with an empty seat next to me in short-haul Economy Class (BA attempts to block seats next to Gold members in Economy Class where possible) and I lost count of the number of times that my BoB drinks (usually just tea or coffee) were comped by a senior cabin crew member last year.
- The number of long-haul operational upgrades I’ve been given on BA has increased significantly since I got Gold status. In 2019 I had one upgrade from Business Class to First Class (SFO-LHR), two upgrades from Premium Economy to Business Class (both on transatlantic flights) and multiple short-haul upgrades from Economy Class to Business Class.
Most importantly, all of this has come without a ridiculous amount of spending or a ridiculous amount of flying.
In December I qualified for another year of British Airways Gold status and I did it by spending considerably less than the $15,000 that American Airlines now requires its customers to spend if they want to attain its top earnable status and I flew in the region of 75,000 miles.
Also, based on the trips I already have booked, it looks like I’ll be repeating that feat this year – it will cost me approximately $6,500 to earn Gold status in 2020 and I’ll be flying approximately 65,000 miles to hit my target.
Not Missing AAdvantage
Surprisingly, I haven’t really missed any of the aspects of the AAdvantage program that I thought I’d find hardest to give up (systemwide upgrades and complimentary domestic upgrades) because, as it turns out, my needs, my travel patterns and the fares that I book mean that these benefits aren’t really all that important to me anymore.
Systemwide upgrades are very nice to have but with American making them harder and harder to confirm at the time of booking they’re not the amazing benefit they once were and, when you add to that the fact that I make sure all my bookings now originate in Europe where great transatlantic Business Class fares are relatively easy to find, you may start to see why I haven’t actually missed systemwide upgrades at all.
When American changed the way it works out where a passenger should sit on the upgrade list it effectively killed domestic upgrades flor flyers like me (cheapskates) but, as the number of complimentary domestic upgrades I was getting plummeted, I quickly learned that I didn’t really need them half as much as I once thought I did.
I don’t fly on red-eyes, I generally don’t feel the need to eat on domestic flights and I tend not to fly the longer domestic routes, so as long as I have access to a seat in an Economy Class exit row (which my airline status gives me for free) I’m generally ok with the level of comfort on offer at the back of the plane.
I have the luxury of being able to employ a policy which says that I don’t book Economy Class flights on which I can’t confirm an exit row seat so it’s very rare that I find myself in the horribly cramped conditions that a lot of other Economy Class passengers have to fly in and, as such, I don’t really need an upgrade to the frontmost cabin.
My needs are a lot simpler then they used to be 🙂
All In All
I’m not trying to suggest that everything about my move to the British Airways Executive Club has been perfect or that there haven’t been challenges along the way (that wouldn’t be a fair representation of reality) but, overall, I’m happy.
BA.com is a terrible website to have to work with (It has considerably more bugs than any other airline site I use), Avios isn’t a great currency to earn if you’re looking to book long-haul awards and BA call center staff appear to have a lot less leeway to help customers than their American Airlines counterparts…but those are challenges I’m prepared to deal with right now.
No airline loyalty program is perfect and it’s up to individual flyers to decide which program offers them the best return on their investment, the best benefits for their needs and the best overall value proposition.
For me, the British Airways Executive Club works best and, for now, I’m happy with what I’m getting out of it so I can’t really ask for more than that.
No doubt there will come a time when BA makes changes to its loyalty program that don’t suit me and it will be time to revaluate what’s being offered and perhaps it will be time to look elsewhere once again…but that’s something that’s down the line and not something I need to worry about right now.
2 years after giving up on AAdvantage I’m content with what I now have and, as that’s not something that was in any way guaranteed when I first moved over to the Executive Club, that’s a pretty nice position to be in.