HomeAirline LoyaltyThis is how much top-tier airline status costs me each year

This is how much top-tier airline status costs me each year

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I gave up on the AAdvantage program and Executive Platinum status as soon as American Airlines introduced Elite Qualifying Dollars and the concept of a minimum spend requirement, and since then, I’ve been using the British Airways Executive Club as my primary airline program.

Now, a few years on from my decision to abandon AAdvantage, it’s interesting to see just how much it’s costing me to earn/retain oneworld emerald status, and as I’ve always said that I will be transparent with how much my trips cost me, it would seem to make sense to share how much my elite status costs as well.

A bit of background

Before I made the move over to the Executive Club, I thought things through quite carefully, and these were the key reasons why I ended up dumping AAdvantage:

  1. Most of the AAdvantage program benefits that I valued highest were also oneworld Emerald benefits which I could enjoy by holding British Airways Gold status.
  2. AAdvantage systemwide upgrades which, at one time, had been one of the greatest elite benefits around, were getting harder and harder to use and no longer provided me with a strong reason to stay with the AAdvantage program.
  3. Most of my domestic flying was on relatively short flights, so the promise of space available domestic upgrades wasn’t really a big enough reason to stick with the AAdvantage program – I was happy enough with an exit row seat in coach.
  4. British Airways didn’t have (and still doesn’t have) a minimum spending requirement for elite status, and after working out what flights I would have to take to earn BA Gold status and how much those flights were likely to cost me, it became apparent that I should be able to lock in BA Gold status for considerably less than AAdvantage Executive Platinum would cost me.

But was I right?

Well, the past four years haven’t exactly been typical flying years for most frequent flyers (thanks Covid!), but the numbers still make interesting reading, and they give a good indication of how good (or bad!) my decision to switch to chasing BA Gold status was.

The cost of Gold

Things to keep in mind:

  • The costs that I show are not just the costs of earning the 1,500 Tier Points needed for British Airways Gold status. The costs that you’ll see below represent the cost of all the flights taken in a given year that I credited to the British Airways Executive Club.
  • The costs I show do not include the cost of flights that didn’t earn me tier points (e.g. award flights and flights on airlines not aligned to the oneworld alliance).
  • I have deliberately set up my flying schedule to ensure that my bookings for travel between the US and Europe (by far and away the trips I take most) originate in Europe so that I can make the most of the great Business Class fares that are often on offer from cities like Stockholm, Dublin, Paris, and Madrid.
  • My elite status earning year runs from 10 December to 9 December.


In 2019, I earned 1,695 Tier Points at a cost of $6,089.

Most of my Tier Points earning trips were Business Class transatlantic trips that originated in Stockholm and that included more segments than I needed to take to maximize the tier points I earned from each trip. There were a few intra-Europe Economy Class trips as well, but they didn’t contribute much to my overall Tier Point total.


This was the first year of Covid but because I had a business class trip between Europe and LA in December 2019, a short-haul Business Class trip in January and a Business Class trip between Europe and Vietnam (via Doha) in January as well, I had earned 1,030 Tier Points before the coronavirus locked us down.

In the end, 2020 saw me earn 1,425 Tier Points at a cost of $6,195 and because BA extended my elite status, it didn’t matter that I didn’t hit the 1,500 Tier Point target.


2021 was the second year of Covid and because BA had locked in my Gold elite status for another year, I used 2021 to burn through some of my miles and points balances and, when possible, to fly with a few airlines from outside the oneworld alliance (e.g. Air France and Virgin Atlantic).

In 2021 I only earned 360 Tier Points at a cost of $1,555.


There was no elite status extension from BA this year, but the target for Gold status was dropped from 1,500 to 1,125 Tier Points.

Early in my elite year, I locked in 880 Tier Points in a single Business Class trip that took me from Sofia to LA and back again via London and New York, and I ended the year with 1,160 Tier Points at a cost of $3,164.


The travel world was a lot more ‘normal’ last year, so I was back to flying as much as before Covid.

I managed to combine a trip back to LA (from Europe) with a trip to Hawaii to rack up 930 Tier Points over the period of 5 months from one single Business Class booking, and most of my other tier points came from great Business Class fares between Dublin and the West coast.

Overall, I ended my elite year with 1,775 Tier Points at a cost of $5,979.


We’re not even out of January and yet I already have a good idea how many Tier Points I’ll end the year with and how much I’ll end up spending.

At the time of writing, I have nearly 700 Tier Points in my account, and I have a further 520 on the way from bookings that I have already made. I know that I’ll pick up a few more tier points here and there from the short haul flights I have planned, but it will be another transatlantic Business Class booking for later in the year that should see me across the Gold status finishing line.

Right now, I estimate that I’ll end the year with at least 1,595 Tier Points at a cost of ~$6,000.


As you can see, when a deadly virus isn’t shutting things down, I usually spend in the region of $6,000 to lock in British Airways Gold status, and compared to what AAdvantage Executive Platinum status would have cost me, that’s a bargain.

In fact, not only has my move from AA to BA meant that top-tier elite status is costing me a lot less than it would have done, it has also freed up both time and money and allowed me to travel with airlines outside of the oneworld alliance and to see what they have to offer.

Overall, I don’t miss American Airlines or the AAdvantage program one little bit and I’m enjoying life with the Executive Club. Of course, that could all change if BA gets infected with ideas from across the pond and makes earning elite status considerably more expensive than it is today … but that’s a bridge that I’ll cross when I come to it 🙂

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  1. Depending on pattern of travel with Oneworld, BA Silver may be so much cheaper than BA Gold to acquire/retain that it may make sense to settle for BA Silver and save the money for other purposes than going from BA Silver to BA Gold.

  2. You don’t really mention what benefits you like to get with top tier status. Lounge access all the time? First class check in? Baggage allowance? Priority boarding?

    What about Alaska’s program? Could it provide most of those benefits?

    • That’s a good idea for another article, but for now I’ll answer the Alaska Airlines questions:

      I like Alaska as an airline, but apart from the fact that there are a few useful benefits that I get from BA Gold that Alaska top-tier status wouldn’t give me, much more importantly, Avios is the airline currency that saves me the most money year after year (on select short-haul routes), so as I prefer to use my Chase earnings for Hyatt and not Avios, I get most of my Avios from flying and crediting to BA, and that would be hard to give up.


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