Please note: Domestic First Class fares on American Airlines now receive 140 Tier Points. This page will be updated in due course
A while ago I pointed towards a decent deal in Asia whereby you could construct a closed-loop ticket, netting over 1200 British Airways Tier Points. Inside that post I mentioned several times about how North America was effectively the gold mine you should exploit. This post covers the methods you should look out for if planning Tier Point runs there.
First of all, if you have no idea what BA Tier Point runs is, then it's a series of flights you take for the sole purpose of getting British Airways Tier Points. This has a slight difference to mileage running because whereas the latter would typically make you fly as far as you can for a given price in economy class, tier point runs are typically flown in business or first class and not necessarily for long distances. The infamous Amsterdam to Jersey run is an example of where you would do lots of short hops.
With that said, the North American runs, if including a transatlantic sector, can cover enormous distances! To give you an idea of how tiring it can be to do a Tier Point run, my last TP run to Hawaii a few months ago was the interest of the mini-documentary that CNN made. The presentation I made at the Frequent Traveler university about finding these flights led to my friend Theo doing this run too. Read his experience on his blog here (in Dutch).
An acceptable target is £3/TP. A good target is £2/TP. An outstanding target is £1/TP.
We need to remind ourselves of what is required to hit British Airways Gold status:
1500 Tier Points
4 “Eligible Flights “
and what is an “eligible flight”?
Eligible flights are defined as those flights marketed or operated by British Airways and those flights marketed and operated by Iberia.
- ‘Marketed‘ means the flight will have a BA flight number (in your itinerary or on your ticket).
- ‘Operated‘ means the aircraft that you travel on is a British Airways aircraft (including franchises and BACityflyer).
- ‘Marketed and operated by Iberia‘ means the flight will have an IB flight number and the aircraft you travel on is an Iberia aircraft (including franchises).
If you use use Avios to pay for the entirety of your flight, as opposed to using some to upgrade or discount your ticket, then it will not be counted as an eligible flight. You would not get Tier Points for these anyway.
The amount of Tier Points you get for crediting flights to your BA account are as follows:
Short haul (up to 2000 miles):
Business class – 40
First class – 60
Long haul (2000 miles and over):
Business class – 140
First class – 210
Long haul extra (6000 miles and over):
Business class – 160
First class – 240
If you are unsure, you can use the British Airways Avios and TP calculator to see how many you will get. (Though I do know of some bugs in their system)
The trick to piecing together the ‘mega' itineraries which give over 1000TP are:
- Wait for a cheap premium cabin transatlantic sale, where you can get transatlantic business class for under £1200 or so (or between €1500-2000). They are typically held 3-5 times per year.
- You will probably end up going to Hawaii
- Find sectors on US Airways or American Airlines which book into their domestic ‘First Class' cabin, but at business class or economy class prices. It may not be easy at first, but Matrix is the greatest resource to for helping you find which fare class you're booking into.
- You will need to book the flights so that the sectors are marketed by AA or US, otherwise BA flight numbers will be counted as business class.
- You need to transfer somewhere in the east coast of USA, then again in the West coast. The reason being that you need to cross the 2000 miles threshold to get 210TP instead of 60TP.
Here are some routes departing American Airlines' hub in New York JFK airport which cross 2000 miles.
As pointed out above, a super Tier Point itinerary will probably involve Hawaii. If going from Amsterdam, then your journey will probably look something like this:
- AMS-LHR, BA Business Class, 40TP
- LHR-JFK, BA/AA Business Class, 140TP
- JFK-LAX, AA First Class, 210TP
- LAX-HNL, AA First Class, 210TP
- HNL-LAX, AA First Class, 210TP
- LAX-MIA, AA First Class, 210TP
- MIA-MAD, AA/IB Business Class, 140TP
- MAD-AMS, IB Business Class, 40TP
Total = 1200 Tier Points.
If you managed to do all the above for less than around €1700 at the £/€ exchange rate of July 2015, then you are onto a steal!
Reflecting on my experiences in Tier Point running, I feel American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER reverse herringbone seat is far superior to the Ying-Yang arrangement of BA's Club World (though if you can ever get Seat 64A or 64K on a Boeing 747, then that's a nice a private flight!) or even Iberia's new A340 business class. All are lie-flat business class products.
Other ways you can try to target good Tier Point Run fares are to look out for Qatar Airways business class fares (April 2017: latest big sale here). While these often earn at under £2/TP, they do not tend to earn more than 400-560 Tier Points in one go due to the routing rules and only being able to transfer in Doha each way. Still, getting that many TPs at cheap prices and flying in luxury in the world's best business class is not a bad way to go at all! I actually recommend this option for most beginners.
For collecting intra-Asia, Malaysia Airlines and Cathay Pacific are the way to go and you should look out for their deals, especially out of Taiwan. (Bookmark this Malaysia Airlines Taiwan sale page by dragging it into your bookmarks folder). Also check out this blog post from April 2017 which describes a couple of excellent routes currently on offer.
If keeping on top of the biggest TP fares is too much for you, there is a Flyertalk thread dedicated to Tier Point running. The participants (including myself!) will often go wild when there is a sale. Alternatively subscribe to this blog in the box on the right via email, Facebook or Twitter, and when there is a good fare you will receive an automatic notification.
All that's left is to enjoy your Gold card once you've earned it!