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.
What is a Tier Point Run?
Like Mileage Running, a Tier Point run is a series of flights you take for the sole purpose of getting British Airways Executive Club 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 years ago was the interest of the mini-documentary that CNN made. Apologies in advance for the my lifeless nature during the filming!
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!!
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.
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, bookmark and monitor this page as deals come and go quickly.)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!