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It has been almost 8 years since I gave up top-tier American Airlines elite status and I’m happy to report that I still don’t miss it.
I gave up on the AAdvantage program when I realised that most of the benefits that I valued were oneworld Emerald benefits that I could continue to enjoy, at a considerably lower cost, by focusing on the British Airways Executive Club.
Since my move away from AAdvantage, British Airways Gold status has been good to me and I’ve come to appreciate it for more than just the oneworld Emerald benefits that it gives me.
In particular, it’s two of the less well known benefits of British Airways Gold status that I have come to appreciate more and more, and while both may appear to be minor when viewed alongside the more visible benefits like First Class lounge access, free access to the best seats in whatever cabin I’m travelling in and an enhanced baggage allowance, one has saved me a considerable amount of money and the other has made numerous journeys a lot more comfortable than they otherwise would have been.
Benefit 1: Better economy class reward availability
British Airways Gold members get expanded access to reward seats in the airline’s Economy Class cabins on both short- and long-haul flights. There’s no additional charge for this benefit so the expanded reward flight options that Gold members can see cost no more than a regular reward booking.
Using Avios for long-haul Economy Class bookings is usually a very poor value proposition so this benefit doesn’t usually come in useful when I’m planning trips to Asia or trips across the Atlantic.
Where it *does* come in useful is when it comes to flying within Europe at peak times of the year.
Most years, Joanna and I fly on a number of hugely popular British Airways short-haul routes on which the standard Avios seats are normally snapped up pretty quickly and on which cash fares can be ludicrously high ($750 – $950 during school vacations).
It’s on these routes that the expanded award availability that my BA Gold status gives me has save me a lot of cash time and time again.
BA makes it very obvious when I’m making the most of this benefit because it flags it up as soon as it presents me with a set of search results in which expanded availability is being made available.
And thanks to the fact that I can use Joanna’s account to see what availability someone without Gold status is offered, I can see just what a difference the benefit can make.
Here, for example, is a reward flight search in which the results that Joanna (a BA Silver member) is shown, tell her that there are no Economy Class reward flights available on her chosen date.
And here’s what my account sees when I search for reward flight availability on the same date:
On 3 out of the 4 flights, I’m being offered at least 6 Economy Class reward seats.
That’s a huge difference and it’s a difference that has often meant that rather then having to spend $750+ per person, we have paid 21,500 Avios + £35 per person.
This probably goes a lot way to explaining why I love collecting Avios so much because even though I usually value Avios at around 1 cent each, on peak dates on peak routes I often get over 3 cents of value.
Avios + this Gold status benefit = a happy life for me 🙂
Benefit 2: BA blocks seats for Gold members in Economy
British Airways, when possible, will block the Economy Class seat next to a Gold member to give them more personal space on a flight.
This works on both long-haul and short-haul flights in Economy Class and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the seat next to me blocked on multiple occasions when flying between LA and London.
The extra space is always very welcome (especially considering the length of the flight) and although this benefit isn’t usually seen in action when flights are very busy, I’ve recently had a short-haul exit row seat blocked when the flight was almost full.
This may not seem like a particularly big deal (and it probably isn’t if you’re only onboard the aircraft for one or two hours), but when you’re faced with hour after hour in a cramped Economy Class cabin, the extra space afforded by a blocked seat can seem like the greatest thing of all time.
And when it happens to me when I’m in a short haul exit row seat, I enjoy it that little bit more in the knowledge that I now have the indisputably best seat on the aircraft 🙂
It’s been almost 8 years since I gave up on the AAdvantage program and started crediting my oneworld flights to the British Airways Executive Club and I continue to have no regrets and cannot imagine ever going back.
All of the oneworld Emerald benefits that BA Gold status gives me (which include access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs when I’m flying domestically) have been very welcome, but it’s often been some of the smaller (but still important) benefits that I didn’t really know about before I moved over to the Executive Club that have made the biggest differences to my trips.