I realise that sometimes I assume a certain level of knowledge when it comes to airline terminology, or a few well-known techniques regarding points maximisation. Occasionally I want to help plug that gap especially where it's not easy to find on the internet.
This post is one of them. Back when I started getting into air miles in earnest, I wondered how I'd ever reach British Airways Silver or Gold. I was informed of the Amsterdam (AMS) to Jersey (JER — yes the one in the Channel Islands between UK and France, not New Jersey in the USA!) tier point run verbally at a Flyertalk do, and having a quick dig around on Flyertalk it's not exactly easy to find for a beginner.
The idea is that you fly the shortest possible segments in regional Business Class (or “Club Europe” in British Airways terminology), and so each sector gets you 40 Tier Points. Do this a few times and you've boosted your Tier Point balance. The requirements to hit BA silver are 600 Tier Points, and Gold is 1500 Tier Points. A simple AMS-LGW-JER round trip will get you 160 Tier Points.
In case you're not aware, a “mileage run” is a flight you do solely for the air miles. The “tier point run” is exactly the same, except due to British Airways' Tier Point system of elite qualification, it's adopted this name. The principle remains identical. Quite handy too, because if someone said “I'm doing a TP run” then you know it's for British Airways points and not any other airline's.
I'd previously posted another fare which could be done as a tier point run, though that involves being in Asia and flying in Cathay Pacific's Regional Business class. The ultimate gold mine of tier points is American Airlines' “Instant Upgrade” domestic first class fares where you can easily grab over 800 or so Tier Points in one go. I'll write about that another time and link it here when I'm done.
So why AMS and JER? Here are a few reasons:
- Conveniently both of these destinations are available from London Gatwick airport, so you don't have the same level of transfer chaos as London Heathrow.
- It's incredibly easy to do turnarounds at AMS and JER. In both cases the arrivals passengers and the departures passengers get mixed into the same (airside) gate, so it's a case of stepping off the aircraft and waiting for it to take off again.
- The inbound aircraft at AMS and JER is in over 99% of the cases the same as the outbound aircraft. So if your inbound flight is delayed, you don't have to worry about. This isn't necessarily the case at LGW though!
- AMS and JER are two of the nearest and cheapest destinations to LON (airport code for London, not just LGW). This is especially important because air fares are calculated by city rather than airport, so the base fare for LHR-AMS and LGW-AMS will be the same since they are calculated as LON-AMS, but because the airports carry different “Passenger Service Charges”, the total cost of the air fare will be different.
- LGW-JER is classed as a domestic flight, so positioning flights to JER are free if you can use a Reward Flight Saver Avios redemption ticket.
- JER attracts no Air Passenger Duty
- They are very short flights, around 30-40 mins flight time (though the taxi to/from the favoured 36L/18R “Polderbaan” runway at AMS is nearly as long as the flight itself!). You can easily complete a few flights in one day.
Not specific to AMS and JER though is the ability to purchase “back-to-back” tickets on British Airways. This means buying at least two tickets whose timings at-least-partially overlap. Don't confuse this with “end-on-end” tickets whose timings don't! Most airlines don't allow this because it circumvents minimum stay requirements, usually something like a Saturday night, but British Airways allows it.
So because of that you can nest two tickets within each other and have some fun. If you buy a AMS-LGW-JER round trip as ticket 1, and an JER-LGW-AMS round trip as ticket two, a fairly realistic itinerary might look something like:
Segment 1: AMS-LGW 10:25 – 10:30 (ticket 1)
Segment 2: LGW-JER 12:05 – 13:00 (ticket 1)
Segment 3: JER-LGW 14:50 – 15:40 (ticket 2)
Segment 4: LGW-AMS 18:00 – 20:10 (ticket 2)
Segment 5: AMS-LGW 10:20 – 10:25 (ticket 2)
Segment 6: LGW-JER 12:35 – 13:35 (ticket 2)
Segment 7: JER-LGW 14:10 – 15:00 (ticket 1)
Segment 8: LGW-AMS 18:00 – 20:10 (ticket 1)
As you can see, the whole of the itinerary of ticket 2 takes place within ticket 1. Alternatively if you swapped the start point to JER instead of AMS, so you have JER-LGW-AMS as ticket 1, and AMS-LGW-JER as ticket 2, you could do:
Segment 1a: JER-LGW 07:05 – 08:00 (ticket 1)
Segment 1b: JER-LGW 08:55 – 09:45 (ticket 1)
Segment 2: LGW-AMS 11:00 – 13:10 (ticket 1)
Segment 3: AMS-LGW 13:55 – 14:00 (ticket 2)
Segment 4: LGW-JER 15:50 – 16:45 (ticket 2)
Segment 5a: JER-LGW 07:05 – 08:00 (ticket 2)
Segment 5b: JER-LGW 08:55 – 09:45 (ticket 2)
Segment 6: LGW-AMS 11:00 – 13:10 (ticket 2)
Segment 7: AMS-LGW 13:55 – 14:00 (ticket 1)
Segment 8: LGW-JER 16:10 – 17:05 (ticket 1)
Times correct as of writing. These might change so be very careful if booking this!
Don't forget there are more flights between LGW-AMS during the weekdays so if you have this flexibility you could complete around 5-6 segments on the first day. In addition you need to factor in the costs, scheduling and time spent in your positioning to AMS or JER.
I personally haven't done this tier point run before, though I pass through AMS and LGW very frequently. I know of people who have, very impressively nested 3 or 4 tickets within each other. Be careful though because if you miss any one flight then you could be in trouble!
You should try to only buy these tickets during British Airways sales, as it normally costs £400 or so per ticket, so aim to get it to around £150-£250 per ticket. At the top end of the scale, ?500 for 320 tier points comes to £1.563/TP so doesn't represent the greatest of value if relying solely on this to qualify (the best TP runs should come in a <£1/TP). It should only be used to knock you over the qualification threshold.
Who best benefits from AMS-JER tier point run?
I can only really think of two scenarios:
1) Regular long haul economy class traveller struggling to hit silver: If regularly fly long haul in economy class you need just over 17 segments at 35TP per segment (over 8.5 round trips) in discount economy class to reach the 600 TP silver threshold. This is excruciating! BA Silver, or Oneworld Sapphire allows free seat selection at the time of booking, double Avios an extra 23kg piece of luggage, fast-track through most airports and lounge access. This can make the difference between an extra holiday per year using all those extra Avios, or travelling in relative comfort in the pre-selected emergency exit row. Based on my crude calculation of the amount of tier points you offset, it's only worthwhile to do a simple JER-AMS round trip if you do at least 6 round trips per year, and a nested JER-AMS round trip if you do at least 4 round trips per year. Of course you'll need to factor in other things like how much you value those extra Avios, the luggage and lounge access, but I doubt it'd do more than knock off another round trip from my recommendation.
2) Anyone within striking distance of BA Gold: BA Gold, or Oneworld Emerald gets free lounge access on all flights, as opposed to American Airlines Executive Platinum holders being denied access on domestic USA itineraries. BA Golds also have the added bonus of extra award ticket spaces and no service charges for booking flights by phone, and no cancellation charges or penalties on refundable tickets (normally £15 per person) or redemption tickets (normally £25 per change). So you can provisionally book a flight somewhere using Avios if the space opens up without any fear of penalties.
So that's all I have to say about this topic. It's an important addition to your mileage arsenal, especially if you need tier points with relative ease. I have provided a couple of traveller types who might benefit from this, and hopefully I've explained with enough detail for the beginner the importance of this itinerary.
For a bit of fun, if you want an idea of just how long the taxi is onto Polderbaan, here's a video to whet your appetite!
Do you have any further questions or comments? Are there any points that are unclear and you want explained better? Please let me know below!