The Complete British Airways Tier Point Runs Guide, 2019 Edition

Introduction

A few years ago I pointed towards a decent deal in Asia whereby you could construct a closed-loop ticket, netting over 1200 British Airways Tier Points. In this post I cover some strategies you should use if you are planning big Tier Point runs.

BA-Gold-card

 

Like Mileage Running, a Tier Point run is 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. Apologies in advance for the my lifeless nature during the filming!

The Targets

An acceptable target is £3/TP. A good target is £2/TP. An outstanding target is £1/TP. There is obviously a huge amount of discretion here because no-one other than you will decide whether to buy a ticket or not.

As a comparison though, take a typical non-stop business route between London and San Francisco. Return flights at ‘normal' prices are about £4300 and earn 280 Tier Points which gives an earning rate of £15.36/TP!!

The Rules

To hit British Airways Gold status you need 1500 Tier Points and 4 “Eligible Flights”. From BA's “About Tier Points” page

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 used 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

Short haul plus* (selected intra-Europe routes on British Airways):

  • Business class – 80

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

For a complete list of ‘efficient' routes here I have written up every Oneworld route that just crosses the 2000 mile mark which can make TP running useful. If you are unsure, you can use the British Airways Avios and TP calculator to see how many you will get.

 

Qatar Airways

One of the most dramatic helping hands in recent times has been the aggressive Qatar Airways business class fares to many destinations around the globe. Historically Tier Point runs were either short haul trips around Europe or Asia, or intercontinental between Europe and North America. But with the arrival of Qatar Airways this has linked just about any two continents together, which makes stringing TP runs together a whole lot easier.

Another key advantage here is that, except for East European, Middle Eastern and Indian destinations, they are almost all above the 2000 mile threshold and earn 140 tier points per sector minimum, and in significantly better seats and in-flight experience than before.

Their fares can often drop to between £900-£1100, and with a connection in each direction this nets 560 Tier Points at between £1.60-£1.96/TP.

If you travel with a group of friends (don't underestimate the size of the Tier Point runner community!) then you could book a Qsuite route, and enjoy a 4-way face-to-face dinner in the sky.

The current routes served by Qsuite are listed here. Most of them feature in Qatar Airways sales (watch out especially for Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm because the Scandinavian region very frequently comes up for cheap business class fares, such as this current one, valid until 16th January 2019.)

Qatar Airways Qsuite

Qatar Airways Qsuite

 

 

To/From North America

While the huge 1200TP journeys are a lot harder to come by now, air fares are still very decent and if you can get your head around Maximum Permissible Mileage routing rules then you can still easily hit over 800TP in one go. This equates to two transfers in North America and another within Europe, so for instance:

Outbound: London – Madrid – Washington DC- San Francisco – Las Vegas

Inbound: Las Vegas – San Francisco – Washington DC – Madrid – London

There are a few general tips I can provide:

  • Wait for a cheap premium cabin transatlantic sale, where you can get transatlantic business class for under £1200 or so (approx €1350 in January 2019). They are typically held 3-5 times per year.
  • 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 140TP instead of 40TP.
  • Check Honolulu or Oahu (both in Hawaii) as destinations during premium cabin sale fares.
  • (And if you are needing to buy a supplementary domestic fare, find sectors on 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, These are sometimes known as “instant upgrade” or “A-UP” or “Y-UP” fares, which were created to circumvent company rules to force economy-only tickets.)

Here are some routes departing American Airlines' hub in New York JFK airport which cross 2000 miles.

Ex-JFK 2000 mile routes

If you are lucky and a sale fare includes both a European ‘Short Haul Plus' and Hawaii as a route, If going from Malta then your journey will probably look something like this:

  • Malta – London, BA Business Class, 80TP
  • London – New York, BA/AA Business Class, 140TP
  • New York – Los Angeles, AA Business Class, 140TP
  • Los Angeles – Honolulu, AA First Class, 140TP
  • Honolulu-Los Angeles, AA First Class, 140TP
  • Los Angeles – Miami, AA First Class, 140TP
  • Miami – London, AA/IB Business Class, 140TP
  • London – Malta, IB Business Class, 80TP

Total = 1000 Tier Points.

If you managed to do all the above for less than around £1000 or €1100, 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 A350 business class. All are lie-flat business class products.

American Airlines 777-300ER Flagship Business Class. From aa.com

American Airlines 777-300ER Flagship Business Class.

 

British Airways Club World. From ba.com

British Airways Club World.

 

 

Around Asia

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).

grom gcmap.com

Two routes to note are between Hong Kong and Jakarta/Bali, and Taipei to Kuala Lumpur, which both just sneak above the 2000 mile threshold and therefore earn the long haul 140 Tier Points. So if flown in Business Class, both of these itineraries would earn 360 TPs.

Cathay Pacific: Taipei – Hong Kong – Jakarta/Bali – Hong Kong – Taiwan

Malaysia Airlines: Taipei – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore – Kuala Lumpur – Taipei.

Other suggest routes are just about any domestic Malaysia Airlines routes, especially between Penang and Kuala Lumpur which involves a quick flight and quick turnaround.

 

Finally

There are too many variants to list and would lead to an even longer blog post. For instance domestic Russian flights, intercontinental flights between North and South America although these tend to be more strict with routing rules and not so easy to string together like the examples above.

But when you finally reach the Gold status, all that's left is to enjoy it!

 

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Comments

  1. If I fly BA, but post the points to Alaska do I get the BA Tier points? I’m assuming they would go towards Alaska status right?

  2. I recall going to your FTU presentation but at that point I already had a plan for 2015 (just reached skyteam elite plus!) Then again, I think I’ll still have time to pursue this this year but more likely for 2016.
    Just to refresh my memory, the BA Gold card equates to the oneworld emerald status, thus giving me privilege to enter any oneworld F lounges?

    • Correct, BA gold is OW emerald. You can even use it to access AA lounges on domestic itineraries where their own executive platinums can’t

  3. New to tier points runs I am curious as to how such complicated itineraries can be booked so cheaply. Certainly not as multi-city or individual flights on on BA or AA sites?

      • Hey Tim, brilliant blog. really informative. Do you know any travel agents that understand the tier points and can find flights? I’m just starting with BA after shifting from Virgin and have paid for a couple of business class flights to KL and Miami from Spain where i live and have around 600 points. I have another 2 trips but am struggling to find reasonable flights. Any suggestions on agents would be greatly appreciated! Best

        • I tend to do all the bookings myself! For the most complex bookings look up Dutch_122 on Flyertalk. He’s usually very responsive to messages.

          • thank you for the contact…. i need to put some hours in:) The US seems pretty straight forward its the Asia side that im having problems with will ask. best

  4. Hi struggling to find a tier point run for gold thats under 10k using your route and using matrix wanting to travel this month. any tips? thanks

  5. I’d love any advice on getting from 1,190 points to 1,500 (i.e. 310 points to go) to get Gold before my year expires at start of June 2016. Looks like a business class LHR to Cape Town (160 TPs each way) is the way forward or a trip to San Fran (same class) plus one short flight. Feeling I am flying just for the challenge though. Peter

    • It will depend on how much time and money you have available, but you could do a relatively cheap business class return between LHR-NYC with a domestic US transfer in one direction, which would get you 140+60+140 = 340TP. Something like LHR-BOS-JFK-LHR would do it.

  6. 1200 TP Run to Hawai. I am new to this.

    Do I need to book all segments separately or can I book AMS to Hawai in on go?

    • You should be able to book all in one itinerary. It may require a call to the BA call centre though as the online system is notoriously hard to book this kind of itinerary.

  7. Do people really go to such lenghts and expense just to achieve silver/gold status??? Seems crazy to me. I fly on business around Europe frequently, usually CE and I occasionaly hit silver but I can’t see how access to a lounge (you can buy access to N1/Clubrooms or similar for a few pounds and they are not so vastly inferior to BA lounges) plus a few other perks like priority boarding and fast track are worth such tribulation? If you fly business or first with BA you get the access anyway. At a rough guess it seems like people are prepared to pay upwards of thousands of pounds just to achieve “priviliged” status. Seriously, flying half way round the world and stopping off as much as possible rather then direct just to get some extra tier points? Or maybe there is more to it and I am just missing something.

    • Hi Marco,

      Short answer – yes people do it!

      For many it is fun to fly intercontinentally and back in a weekend, some of the price goes towards enjoyment of the journey. For others they may be extremely heavy fliers at work but the company policy only gets them just short of Silver. Doing the TP run makes a huge difference in the types of lounge they can visit (the first class lounges are orders of magnitude better than business class lounges in parts of Asia), the amount of Award space they can pay with Avios, and service when things go wrong.

      I for one value my Oneworld Emerald status quite heavily!

  8. Hi Tim,

    If you can clarify one point about collecting Tiers would be great, as I didn’t find an answer so far.
    Lets imagine I have some amount of tiers, today is 1st of August and I’m left to collect 100TP for to get next level and the “Tier Point collection year” end 1st of October. The question is: what exactly need to happen before 1st of October to get next level: 1) book an eligible flight 2)book and pay for such flight 3)not only pay but exactly complete the flight? I mean it’s not clear at what period of time tier points exactly come to my account. Thank you in advance!

  9. Call BA Exec Club on the phone and ask for a few weeks extension to complete your journey and maintain your status.

  10. I thought AAs have eliminated first class fare buckets for most domestic routes a while ago, pnly the premium transcon flights still have them. Or am I missing something?

  11. Thanks so much Tim I’m flying from London so really want do a tier run Do you know any great routes to do if you’re only eccomony ?
    Really enjoying all your blogs thank you so much for posting!

    • Tier Point running is not really viable in economy class at all sadly. That’s just how BAEC is set up. Economy flights would would earn only 5-10 points in short haul and compare that to 40-80 in business class!

  12. Thanks Tim noted and thank you for putting together the runs you can do it’s really appreciated and so helpful !
    Teresa

  13. Hi Tim
    Just booked two business class flights to Malaga for me and the mrs,
    I need 100 points to maintain silver but I’ll only get 80 points leaving me 20 short.
    Can I also claim the points from the wife’s flight?

  14. Sorry fat thumbs … I was just about to ask another question and sent it by mistake !
    Due to my job I’m flying less frequently this year and so now I’m in danger of losing my silver status in a big way (hence the question can you transfer tier points ) as I will be starting off in London for tier run can you suggest one of your fabulous (economical ) runs I need to do it before October and earn over 445 points is this possible oh flight guru !
    Terèsa 🙂

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