Where Should Frequent Flyers Credit British Airways Flights?

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With the recent news that Alaska Airlines is going to join the oneworld alliance next year, I thought it was worth revisiting why it might make sense for frequent British Airways (and other oneworld) flyers to credit their flights to Alaska Mileage Plan rather than British Airways Executive Club.

The analysis below is looking a the situation as things currently stand – of course, when Alaska does join oneworld you’ll receive even more benefits!

The first thing to say is that you can earn a huge amount of Alaska Mileage Plan Miles by crediting your BA flights to Alaska Mileage Plan, rather than sticking with BA Executive Club (BAEC). Alaska Miles are worth substantially more than Avios too, so Mileage Plan can be a great option. That’s something we have covered many times here on InsideFlyer, but it’s as true today as it ever was. In fact, crediting transatlantic Economy flights to Alaska is even more compelling right now.

Earning lots of valuable miles is great, but there’s something else we need to consider too – elite status.

Many frequent flyers manage to simultaneously hate BA and love BAEC elite status (it’s an interesting psychological phenomenon…), so wouldn’t be at all keen on giving up their shiny BA cards just to earn a few more Miles. Before we get onto the relative pros and cons though, let’s compare how to qualify as an Alaska elite vs qualifying as a BAEC elite.

Note that in all the examples here I’m focusing on actual British Airways flights – it could be perfectly sensible to credit Qatar Airways flights (for example) to BAEC, at the same time as crediting BA flights to Alaska – but that’s a separate matter.

 

Getting elite status

BAEC Status:

  • Bronze = 300 Tier Points
  • Silver = 600 Tier Points
  • Gold = 1,500 Tier Points

Oddly enough, the most efficient way to get status with BAEC is usually to fly with partner airlines like Qatar Airways that require a stopover (unless you’re actually flying to Doha itself of course!), because of the way BAEC calculates Tier Points based on the number of flights, as well as the distance and Class of travel.

We’re concentrating on British Airways flights here though, so let’s use the fairly common example of London to North America in Club World.

BA Club World

If you took a return trip from London to Los Angeles, you would earn 2 sets of 140 TPs, making a total of 280 TPs – almost enough for Bronze status.

Complete two of the above returns (or similar) and you’ll get 560 Tier Points – almost enough for Silver.

Complete six of these return trips and you’ll be on 1,680 – more than enough for Gold.

Alaska Mileage Plan Status:

  • MVP = 25,000 miles
  • MVP Gold = 50,000 miles
  • MVP Gold 75k = 90,000 miles

When you credit BA flights to Alaska, the number of elite qualifying miles (as distinct from redeemable Miles) you earn is made up of the base miles (actual distance flown) and the class of service bonus, as shown below:

For the London – LA example above then (in discounted Business Class/Club World), you would earn 16,368 elite miles for each round trip (GCMap is useful to roughly calculate flight distances).

Two return trips would therefore get you 32,736 elite miles, easily enough for Alaska’s MVP status (25,000 miles).

Three returns would get you 49,104, very nearly enough for MVP Gold.

MVP Gold 75k is more of a stretch, requiring six of these returns (you’d actually be on 98,208 – considerably more than the 90,000 required)

In other words, earning Bronze/Silver status is generally easier with BAEC, but BA Gold/Alaska MVP 75k requires a pretty similar amount of flying.

There is an important caveat to be made here though – if you tend to fly ‘long’ long haul flights direct on BA, then status with Alaska Mileage Plan might work out a little easier than with BAEC; but if you tend to fly ex-EU on your BA long hauls (or connect from the regions), or fly relatively ‘short’ long haul flights, BAEC status will likely be easier for you to achieve.

Status match?

Alaska Mileage Plan has a very generous status matching policy, if you happen to have elite status with a North American carrier (and an address there). Unfortunately, BAEC isn’t listed as an eligible option to match from, but there’s certainly no harm in firing off a quick email to ask: elite.flyer@alaskaair.com

Elite benefits

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so what you personally value most from elite status might well vary, but I would suggest that, in broad terms, the most valuable perks are lounge access and bonus Avios/Miles.

Lounge access

Alaska isn’t (yet!) part of oneworld and therefore doesn’t offer anything like the same Lounge access globally that BAEC elites are used to. That might not be such a big issue though for two reasons:

  1. When flying BA (apart from domestic), MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75k members can access the BA Galleries Lounges at Heathrow Terminals 3 + 5.
  2. Most BA outstation lounges aren’t much to write home about anyway, so could be swapped for a Priority Pass lounge or just buying a drink/snack at the airport bars/restaurants (or arriving at the airport later!). Yes, there’s a cost involved there – but how many times a year do you actually want a drink/snack before flying BA Economy from outside Heathrow? If it’s a lot, consider spending ~£250 on an unlimited Priority Pass (or even better, get the Amex Platinum card), but if it’s not that often, just buy lounge access when you need it, or pay for a coffee somewhere (probably) nicer instead. The point is, lounge access is nice, but the vast majority of people will not realistically lose huge value here.

Bonus Miles

BA Bronze gets you 25% more Avios on BA and a limited range of partners (Iberia, AA and JAL). Alaska MVP status gets you a 50% bonus on almost all of its broad range of partner airlines.

BA Silver status gets you a 50% bonus, whilst MVP Gold offers 100%.

BA Gold status gets you a 100% bonus, but Alaska MVP Gold 75K  gets you a 125%  bonus. Not only that, Alaska hands out 50,000 miles for free, every time you qualify for MVP Gold 75K!

Given that Alaska offers substantially better earning rates than BAEC for BA flights regardless of status too, a MVP Gold 75K member would earn 375% of flown Miles on BA’s cheapest Business Class fares. A BA Gold member would earn ‘just’ 250%.

Cathay Pacific First Class: Only six seats and they convert into 6 foot 9 inch by 3 foot beds. Not a bad way to spend Alaska Miles…

Alaska Miles are (conservatively) worth at least 50% more than Avios too.

For every mile a BA Gold flies in discount BA Club Europe/Club World, they earn 2.5 Avios if they credit the flight to BAEC  – worth about 2.5p. A MVP Gold 75k on exactly the same flight, crediting to Alaska, would earn 3.75 Miles per mile flown – worth about 5.6p+.

In value terms, the Alaska member is getting back easily more than twice as much as the BAEC member on these sort of tickets. If you’re flying enough to earn either BAEC Gold or MVP Gold 75k, that’s a value difference that cannot be ignored.

For example, let’s say you credited the following flights (INV-LHR-ORD / ORD-LHR-INV) to British Airways Executive Club, a BAEC Gold member would earn about 30,000 Avios. I generally value Avios as being worth 1p each, so that’s ~£300 back.

If a MVP Gold 75k credited the flights to Alaska Mileage Plan instead, they would earn about 48,600 Alaska Miles. I value Alaska Miles at roughly 1.5p-1.8p each, so would suggest that 48,600 are worth ~ £780.

(Remember, you only need 42,500 Alaska Miles to fly Business Class on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong one-way with no ‘surcharges’. There are lots of other amazing redemption options too, some of which I covered here.)

Cathay Pacific Business Class

Arguably, you could add on another ~12,500 bonus redeemable Miles from the flight too. Why? Because these discount First fares earn 250% of flown miles as elite qualifying miles – which on an 8,794 mile return trip would mean 21,985 elite qualifying miles. Requalifying for MVP Gold 75k status requires 90,000 elite qualifying miles, so this flight would get you just under a quarter of the way there. When you qualify or re-qualify for MVP Gold 75k, you get 50,000 bonus redeemable Miles to spend. If this flight gets you (roughly) a quarter of the way towards re-qualifying (and you do intend to re-qualify), then it’s reasonable to include the relevant share of the 50,000 bonus Miles into the redeemable earnings from that flight.

Putting it all together (assuming you were an MVP Gold 75k who was going to use the flight to help re-qualify), you could view the flights described above as earning you ~60,000 redeemable Miles, worth ~£960.  Compare and contrast that with the BA Gold who would get ~£300 back in value from the same flights.

The difference in the value of the Avios/Miles earned is enormous – and I think you have to take that into account when comparing the value of earning elite status via BA flights with either programme.

Bottom line

There are other benefits to Silver and Gold status with BAEC that I haven’t gone into here. The value you get from those benefits will depend on your own personal travel pattern, of course, but it could well be worth doing some quick sums to check whether you might be better off crediting BA flights to Alaska.

Crediting your BA flights to BAEC rather than Alaska Mileage Plan could be costing you thousands in ‘value’ in terms of Miles earned each year. Now that Alaska is joining oneworld, Mileage Plan is even harder to ignore.

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