This guide looks in detail at the British Airways Executive Club and its mileage currency of BA Avios. This will cover how to earn and make the most of status, the many options to earn Avios and the best ways to redeem them with British Airways, other Oneworld airlines and elsewhere.
Celebrating 100 years of commercial service in 2019, British Airways (BA) is one of the longest-running and most recognizable airlines in the world. The UK flag carrier pioneered long haul flights across the world, was the first airline to fly supersonic with Concorde and, much to the disbelief of fliers today, was a leader in luxurious business class products.
Despite this long history, the BA Executive Club only came into being in 1995. It now has over seven million members and in recent years introduced Avios as its mileage currency. There are some big differences from other airlines in how it operates though, and understanding this is the key to getting the best value!
The British Airways Executive Club
Membership of the Executive Club allows you to earn miles and Tier Points. Miles are awarded as Avios. This is shared with partner airline Iberia, and miles earned with either airline can be freely transferred between them. Note that there is also a separate Avios.com company where miles can be earned separate from BA and Iberia, but this is now in the process of transferring operations to the airlines.
Avios are your mileage currency you can earn and redeem for flights. Tier Points will increase your status level and gain benefits with BA and Oneworld.
Joining the Executive Club is simple and free; just sign up on the BA website. Basic membership brings only a few benefits, but critically it enables you to earn Avios and Tier Points on any flights. It is possible to claim these for flights up to three months before joining the program.
Earning status with the Executive Club
Status with BA is awarded based on Tier Points collected. As with most loyalty programs, higher status brings bonuses and benefits with BA and within the Oneworld alliance.
All flights with BA or any Oneworld partner will earn Tier Points. These depend on the airline, route, cabin flown and booking/inventory code. BA does not publish formal tables of these earning but has a useful calculator tool that allows you to see this.
A minimum of five tier points is earned for any flight with BA. For long haul (to Hong Kong for example) this would increase to a minimum of 20 Tier Points for lowest economy fares, 90 for premium economy, 140 for business and 210 for first class.
Many airlines and hotel schemes are based on earning throughout the calendar year. BA Executive Club is different and is instead based on the year from your original joining date of the program. The number of Tier Points earned in this twelve month period determines your status for the next period.
Status levels and benefits
The following levels are earned:
- Blue – starting level
- Bronze at 300 Tier Points
- Silver at 600 Tier Points
- Gold at 1500 Tier Points
Each level brings increasing benefits with BA:
At Blue, there are no real travel benefits, just the ability to earn Tier Points and to earn and redeem Avios.
Bronze offers some additional benefits:
- 25% Avios bonus on BA flights (also on Iberia and American Airlines flights)
- Free seat selection seven days before departure
- Priority check-in and boarding
Silver adds the following benefits:
- 50% Avios bonus
- Free seat selection from the time of booking
- Access to Business Class lounges
- Additional baggage allowance (generally one bag, but does not apply to BA hand baggage only fares)
And top-level Gold adds:
- 100% Avios bonus
- Access to first class check-in and first class lounges
- Free seat selection includes exit row seats
- Increased award seat availability
There are good additional benefits for those that continue to earn tier points:
- At 2,5000 Tier Points, you are given a voucher for two people to upgrade by one cabin.
- With 3,500 Tier Points, one more upgrade voucher
- And at 5,000 Tier Points, you receive access to the Concorde Room lounges at London and New York whenever you fly. You can also share Gold membership with one other person and Silver with two people.
Status benefits with Oneworld
Executive Club status also offers benefits when traveling with other Oneworld airlines. Note that these benefits apply to all member airlines, including American Airlines. A member with high enough status would receive lounge access on any journey with American within the US. Such a benefit is not offered by American to its own members and is worth considering for members in the US (see our guide to American Airlines AAdvantage program for more).
Executive Club Bronze status is equivalent to Oneworld Ruby status and offers the following benefits:
- Access to business class check-in desks
- Some access to preferred seating (varies by airline)
- Priority wait-list and standby
Silver status is equivalent to Oneworld Sapphire status and offers:
- Access to business class lounges access
- Priority boarding
- Priority luggage handling
- Additional baggage allowance (generally one bag but can vary between airlines)
Gold status is equivalent to Oneworld Emerald status and brings:
- Access to first class lounges
- First class check-in desk use
- Fast track security lane access
- Enhanced seat access with many airlines (often including exit rows)
BA operates a Lifetime Gold program. If you obtain a total of 35,000 lifetime Tier Points, you will receive Gold status for life. Unfortunately, this is not offered for lower tiers, only for Gold.
This is an excellent feature of the Executive Club! Household accounts allow up to six club members, residing at the same address, to jointly earn and redeem Avios. Once separate accounts are linked as a household, Avios are pooled, although each member earns status individually. It is also possible for children under 18 to join such an account, whereas they would not be able to earn on their own.
Avios earned by one member will go to their own account. But when redeeming for an award, Avios are taken proportionately from all linked accounts. Whether this suits you, of course, depends on your circumstances.
The main advantage, of course, is that a particular redemption target can be reached much quicker from the pooled balance. The alternative would be to pay to transfer between accounts.
If you do not set up a household account, then to move Avios between accounts incurs a charge, unless you are a Gold Executive Club member. A member can transfer up to 162,000 Avios per year, but only up to 27,000 to any one member. The following table shows the charges.
Avios do not have an expiration date based on when they are earned. Instead, all Avios will remain in the account as long as there is some activity (any spend or earn activity with an airline or another partner) every 36 months. If this does not happen, all Avios will expire.
Earning BA Avios
There are plenty of ways to earn Avios – both from flying and other activities. The following a summary of the main areas – for a more complete discussion see our full guide to earning Avios.
Earn Avios flying with BA
Avios are awarded per flight based on the distance flown and the cabin and booking code of the fare. Unlike many other airlines, BA awards Avios based on distance, and has not switched to a revenue-based earning system. In general, this is more rewarding, especially for those who fly on lower priced tickets.
All flights will earn a minimum of 125 Avios. The lowest economy tickets will earn 25% of miles flown (subject to this minimum), and this goes up to 250% for business and 300% for first class tickets. See the tables on the Executive Club website for full details.
Executive Club status member will also earn a generous bonus on each flight. Bronze members earn 25%, Silver 50%, and Gold 100%. This bonus is based on flight distance.
Earn Avios flying with partners
Avios can also be earned from flights with all Oneworld airlines.
As with BA earning, partner Avios are also awarded based on distance and booking code. There are tables on the Executive Club website for earnings with each airline. As with BA flights, in general, many of the discount economy fares earn 25%, and this rises through higher economy fares and premium cabins. Note though that some booking codes do not earn miles with some airlines.
Miles can also be earned with non-Oneworld airlines Aer Lingus and Alaska Airlines.
Credit card earning options
Aside from flying, earning Avios through everyday spending on credit cards is one of the best ways to increase your balance. In the UK, the main Avios credit cards are with American Express. There are several options, including:
- Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card. 20k Avios sign up bonus and earnings of 1 Avios per £1. The card carries a £140 annual fee from the second year.
- BA Premium Plus Amex. 25k sign up bonus and earning of 1.5 Avios per £1. Annual fee £195
- BA Amex. 5k sign up bonus and earning of 1 Avios per £1. No annual fee.
There are also several hotel partnered credit cards where points earned could be transferred to Avios (or kept with the hotel program).
Internationally there are some BA branded credit cards available. In the US, Chase offers the British Airways Visa Signature card, earning 3 Avios per dollar on BA and Iberia spend, and 1 Avios per dollar on all other spend.
Earn Avios from hotels and car hire
As with most airline schemes, Avios has partnerships in place with many of the main hotel chains and car hire companies.
Some of the hotel chains where you can directly earn Avios – either per stay/night or based on total spend – include Accorhotels, Best Western, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott. At some others, including Hilton Hotels, it is possible to convert hotel points earned into Avios. Full details are on the Executive Club site.
Avios can also be earned with bookings through several online hotel booking platforms – including Agoda, Booking.com, Kaligo.com, and Rocketmiles. Avios are generally earned based on total spent.
Car partners include Avis, Budget and Zipcar. Earnings vary – for full details see the Executive Club website. These include:
- Avis: 3 Avios per £1 spent, with a minimum of 500 Avios, or 700 for rentals of 3 days or more
- Budget: 2 Avios per £1, with a minimum of 250 Avios
- Zipcar: 1000 Avios bonus when you join and then 50 Avios per booking
Other earning opportunities
Avios is a well-established mileage program with plenty of earning opportunities, and regularly changing offers. Unsurprisingly, many of these are focused on the UK, but there are also some that are offered internationally.
They run an excellent shopping portal, Executive Club eStore which offers spend based Avios on shopping with many partners. These include many high street and online retailers such as John Lewis, Marks, and Spencer, and Selfridges as well as many smaller, specialized stores. Major international groups such as Hilton and IHG hotels are also included. The list of partners, and rates and bonuses offered change regularly, so do check the latest information on the eStore page.
There is also a United States version of the eStore for members based there. Again offers changes regularly, but retailers include Macy’s, Selfridges US, Bloomingdale’s, Walgreens and Apple.
BA has a long-running partnership with Tesco supermarkets in the UK as well, allowing Clubcard points collected from supermarket spend to be converted into Avios. This is a great deal; the rate is currently £2.50 of vouchers converted to 600 Avios. They also run occasional conversion bonuses of 20-25%.
Some of the other earning options outside the UK include:
- Conversion of Heathrow Rewards points (for shopping at Heathrow Duty-Free and other outlets) into Avios.
- Bonuses offers (up to 8,400 Avios) when taking out Economist subscriptions (online or paper). There are also regular bonuses to increase this.
- A 10,000 Avios bonus when taking out a subscription (digital possible) to the Financial Times
Once you have earned a healthy amount of Avios, it’s time to redeem them! Executive Club offers plenty of options for this; flights, hotels, cars and plenty more!
Spending Avios on BA flights
Naturally, the most obvious use of Avios is to use for flights on BA. BA Executive Club operates a redemption scheme different from most other airlines. It can be slightly confusing at first, but it is worth figuring out as there are some excellent value options (as well as some very poor ones!)
In summary, redemptions work as follows (for more details see our complete guide to redeeming Avios):
- Redemptions are priced per flight/segment rather than on a whole itinerary. So a flight for example from Paris to London and onto New York would price as two flights (though would be issued as one ticket for connection purposes and protection etc.).
- Pricing is based on distance, with nine ‘zones’ ranging from 4,000 Avios up to 50,000 Avios in economy
- There are lower rates offered on off-peak dates. Peak dates generally line up with UK holiday periods – these can be checked on the BA website.
- BA adds a ‘carrier surcharge’ to redemptions for its own flights. This can be up to £200 on a one-way flight and can hugely affect the value of redeeming, especially in economy.
- For European flights, BA operates a system called Reward Flight Saver. This reduces the fees, taxes, and surcharges to a single fixed payment of £17.50 per one way flight. This is only available to members who have earned Avios within the past 12 months.
- Booking is possible online both for BA and partners. The search tool is useful and will often show several options and connections.
Spending Avios with partners
Redeeming Avios for an award with any of the Oneworld partners is similar to redeeming on BA flights. The rate is based on the distance flown, and each flight is charged separately. Note that taxes and charges here are generally much lower as carrier surcharges do not apply. There is also no off-peak pricing, with all flights pricing the same as the BA peak rates.
This can work out great value for shorter flights. Short international flights in Asia, for example, can be expensive – but with Avios flights from Hong Kong to many locations (including Taipei, Hanoi and many cities in Southern China) are only 4,500. For 7,500 many more are possible. Most other airline mileage schemes would price these much higher. Note that the minimum for shorter flights in the US is 7,500 miles.
British Airways Executive Club also operates a different redemption rate option for multiple carriers. These awards can be used when two or more Oneworld airlines are flown in the same itinerary, and are priced based on total distance flown. In our experience these often work out more expensive, but there are cases, especially with many segments in premium cabins, where this can be better value.
The following table shows pricing for economy class; premium economy is 1.5x, business 2x and first class 3x the published rate.
Avios changes and cancellations
British Airways Avios award tickets are very flexible and, in comparison to many other airlines, fees are low. There is a fixed fee of £35 to make any changes or for full cancellation and refund of any ticket (compare this to a cancellation fee of $150 with American Airlines!). Cancellations are possible until 24 hours before departure, but tickets are fixed after that point.
Discounts with Avios
There are also two schemes for partial use of BA Avios, which can be useful to know about.
- The first is based on Avios redemptions where, if there is availability, you can use part cash and part Avios to pay. Rates vary but are generally quite good value in World Traveler but less so in premium cabins.
- The second is based on cash tickets. Here you can use a certain amount of BA Avios as part payment for the flights. Options vary and are shown to members during the booking process. The cash terms and earnings from the flight remain the same.
Upgrading with Avios
Another excellent way to redeem BA Avios is for cabin upgrades. Avios can be used to upgrade one cabin on flights with British Airways as well as Iberia and American Airlines. And with the recently announced new Business Class Suites from BA this is even more appealing.
Upgrades are best on flights with British Airways, where any cash ticket can be upgraded to the next cabin with the exception of the lowest World Traveler fares (Q, O and G fare classes). The Avios price is the difference between the cabins using the Avios charts and pricing bands. Most fares can be upgraded online (there is an option in “Manage My Booking”) and pricing will be confirmed then. Note that if upgrading a World Traveler cabin flight departing from London, then the higher APD for premium cabins must also be paid.
Upgrading with Iberia and American Airlines is much more restrictive. The ticket needs to be booked through BA, and only full fare tickets (in economy Y and B for Iberia and only Y for American, in premium economy only W, and Business J, C, and D) can be upgraded.
Redeeming in flight
BA also allows the use of Avios to pay for inflight services, including seat selection in advance and to pay for catering on short haul flights.
Non-flying redemption options
And away from flying there are plenty of other redemption options. The British Airways Executive Club offers hotel and car booking portals where Avios (or part Avios and cash) can be used to book hotels and cars globally. Pricing and value here variesso, always check against alternative prices.
And for something different, the British Airways Executive Club also offers Avios redemption for wine purchases and some interesting ‘experiences’. These include activities in many cities. In London, for example, offers include tickets for attractions and offers for various tours (including Harry Potter, Queen or photography tours of the city). Lots of inspiration for any trip, even if you don’t book with Avios.
British Airways Executive Club is an excellent, well-established loyalty program. It offers good status benefits with BA and Oneworld partners, and there is no minimum spend required to achieve status.
Earning BA Avios is based on mileage, not revenue, as is increasingly common in the industry. This is particularly rewarding for economy travelers. And redemption is easy with an excellent online availability search and booking tool. Although the individual pricing of segments and the often high added fees can limit usefulness for some routes, we find that combining Executive Club together with another program that is better for complex, long haul routes can work very well.
As the main carrier in the UK, the scheme has many special earning and redemption opportunities aimed at this market, but there is plenty of international coverage too.
In summary, some of the main advantages and disadvantages we see in Executive Club:
- Earning for all flights are based on distance, not ticket price
- Low fees for changes and cancellations to award tickets
- Short flights are excellent value with BA Avios
- Use of household accounts allows easy, and free, pooling of Avios for families
- Excellent online system for searching and booking award flights
- Surcharges on BA flights make long haul economy flights generally very poor value
- Reward flights are priced per segment (rather than for a whole itinerary) which can make routes with multiple connections costly
- Non-travel earning and redemption option more focused on the UK market