Why I’m ‘Switching’ To British Airways – A Strategic Take On Their Easy Status Match

One Mile at a Time is ditching American AAdvantage for British Airways Executive Club. He took advantage of the current British Airways status match offer to get 6 months of Gold status and he plans to keep it.

  • He didn’t have an eligible status – BA won’t match against American Airlines (or Alaska Airlines) Gold status
  • So he did a match to Delta, and used that to match to BA
  • He needs to take a roundtrip transatlantic business class trip to keep the status for a year, otherwise he loses it after October 14.

Since American Airlines upgrades are really tough to come by for most customers, on most routes, most of the time, and their lifetime status is much weaker than competitors, he doesn’t see a reason to stick with American AAdvantage for elite status compared to keeping it with British Airways.

He figures he can keep his status easily buying domestic first class tickets:

  • BA Silver requires 600 tier points per year and four British Airways segments. That’s 15 short haul American Airlines premium cabin flights for the tier points.
  • BA Gold requires 1,500 tier points per year and four British Airways segments. That’s 38 short haul American Airlines premium cabin flights for the tier points.

A cross country business class flight or longer earns 140 tier points instead of just 40. If you’re a premium cabin flyer, earning status on tickets, BA is easier to hit than American status. However you don’t have the same contribution of activity other than flying towards status.

Honestly I’ve thought about this, going more for BA Silver than Gold. The value of BA Silver, to me, is use of American Airlines Flagship lounges when traveling domestically.

In practice, though:

  • I don’t live in a city with one of these. I only use them when connecting in a hub that does, or departing from one of those cities. My connections usually aren’t that long and I don’t often get to the airport super early.
  • I had two Flagship lounge passes over the last year and didn’t make great use of them – brief stops in the Dallas Flagship lounge, largely because they’d have expired if unused. It’s right next to the Capital One lounge, too, where I find the food to be better.

DFW Airport Flagship Lounge

If you don’t care about upgrades or Loyalty Choice awards (I generally just take the miles), then British Airways Gold is pretty much as good as American AAdvantage Platinum Pro status which is also oneworld emerald.

For me, though, American status is pretty easy to earn. I earn it naturally on travel spend out of Austin plus I do have American credit cards. I don’t like to spend money on those cards that would earn more valuable points on other cards, or earn more points with other cards (earn in an accelerator category on a transferable points card versus just one mile per dollar with American). But one of my American cards is coded as debit on a tax payment site meaning I can pay quarterly and year-end taxes due for just $2.50 with the card, versus paying a percentage of the payment if using a different card.

Still, I decided I wanted the free option on Flagship lounge access so I decided to take advantage of the status match offer for 6 months. Six months of Flagship is better than none!

  • I could have gone for BA Gold, and followed a path like One Mile at a Time (status matching my American AAdvantage Executive Platinum to another airline, such as Virgin Atlantic, and then matching from there to BA Gold).

  • But I had an even simpler route, since all I care about is BA Silver – I already get oneworld first class lounge access with my existing Executive Platinum.

    Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney

  • My Bilt Rewards Platinum status now comes with Air France KLM Flying Blue Gold status when transferring 10,000 points from Bilt to Flying Blue – so I pulled the trigger on that.

Now I’ll match my Air France KLM Gold status to British Airways Silver, which means six months of Flagship lounge on domestic itineraries – which was admittedly a nice perk when I traveled as a ConciergeKey member.

I already have Admirals Club access via my Citi Executive card. That’s not an incremental benefit to this status, though if I were making the true switch I’d no longer need that card anymore.

American Airlines Admirals Club DCA E Concourse

We’re just 1.5 months in to the American AAdvantage status-qualifying year and I’m 90% of the way towards Platinum Pro status, thanks to travel, card spend, shopping portal and the loyalty point bonuses from the Citi Executive card. I’m just not worried about re-earning Executive Platinum, and the requirement of 4 British Airways paid flight segments is annoying enough for me that I don’t really see BA Gold as easier. I could do it if I wanted but I’d have to go out of my way for it. (This is a legacy oneworld rule, that American decided to ignore last year and now Alaska Airlines doesn’t require flights on their carrier either.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — It is better to earn your OW Emerald status with Alaska, even with their severely devlued miles.

  2. @Gary —> The requirement of four PAID flight segments on BA is a pain in the a$$ for those of us who do not *regularly* fly to Europe. At best, I go to Europe once a year (and even that is certainly “a first world problem”), and typically fly in Business on points to go there. Now I’ve going to have to pay to fly BA??? I would think for most people, this offer is a hard “thanks, but no thanks.”

    OTOH, maybe it’s just me, but I find it easier to achieve “Sapphire equivalent” status on Alaska (MVP Gold) than it is on American (AAdvantage Platinum).

  3. @Gene – meh, when I can pay quarterly taxes on an AA card for $2.50 I think I’ll stick with AA emerald but BA status has a role since I’m no longer CK

  4. @Gary – I just recieved my BA Gold Tier match this morning, following the same route as OMAT.

    Last year, I bought my way into EP status for this year.

    When I look at improving my travel experience, the American Express lounge and the AA Flagship lounge are two things that often stand out in my mind. Domestic upgrades to AA First really aren’t what they used to be.

    Since I’m in Denver, flying AA usually means two hops rather than direct, so that meas Flagship lounges and other emerald lounges become available whose doors were closed to me before.

    Since domestic carriers seem to be racing to the bottom (EXCEPT on their international routes) then it makes sense for me to uncouple my program earning from them.

    Right now, it feels freeing: no longer trying to get to 4 systemwides that rarely get used.

    The part that is disappointing: 1MM on NWA (DL), then 1.6MM on AA… and now I begin the lifetime run on BA starting in my 60’s.

    Looking forward to finding my Biz class flight using ITA old Matrix to lock in Gold

    New options. New adventures.

  5. @ Gary — If one COULD pay quarterly taxes for $2.50 with an AA card, I would do same.

  6. My son is based in Europe for school for the next couple of years and it was fairly simple to get him BA Silver. Being in Dublin, I start all his flights there or the continent, route through London, then to the US. Reverse booking in Prem Economy or Business is way cheaper than starting in the US, so four BA flights in cash is easy. And BA Silver is fairly easy to get plus is OW Sapphire – it’s the sweetspot of status.

  7. Gary, that’s what I wanted to know. I’m lifetime platinum, not much butt in seat paid miles, will that status match path work?

  8. “pay quarterly taxes on an AA card for $2.50”

    Is it some kind of no fee debit card?

    Usually there is a percentage.

    Please elaborate.

  9. If I am both Gold and Plat Exec, is there a way to “game” things on domestic flights to get access to the AA lounges (via Gold) and the first class upgrade list (via Plat Exec)?

  10. @c weston – i posted recently about one of the tax payment sites that was classify certain credit cards as debit for fee-purposes

  11. @ C Weston — Don’t waste your time. Gary got very randomly lucky on this. I wasted an hour trying a dozen MC and got nowhere.

  12. @ Nick — I think it is more a combination of disposable income, size, experience, and skill, than just “income.”

  13. We have has AA EXP status for close to 20 years now and stick with that. While it is not what it used to be, the EXP line has been very helpful for us over the years, even recently. Others’ experiences may be different, but I can only speak to ours. Also, getting SWUs as Loyalty perks has worked, even if not as easily as in the past.

    We have also had BA Silver (Sapphire) status for maybe 6 years now for FL access. One thing I’ve found about BA status is that crediting partner status (AS, for sure) is very painful with BA. Since FL can now be had for 15K miles, we’ll likely discontinue that and just stick with AA EXP.

    One nice perk is that upgrades on AS 9we are west coast and fly them a lot) work very well.


  14. I’ve had AA gold for many years-
    fly BA to LHR twice a year-for some odd reason BA does not recognize my AA status-any suggestions?

  15. Does the transatlantic flight need to have a BA# or can I use a current AA flight that I have booked and credit BA?

  16. I’m very late to this conversation, but do you need to have your BA frequent flier number on your ticket to get the lounge access on domestic AA flights? Or can I just show my BA gold card while still crediting the flight to AA?

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