What is a tier point run?
Here is my BA tier point run London to Las Vegas. Let me explain what a British Airways (BA) tier point run is and why people do them. BA tier points are part of the British Airways executive club who use them to determine status levels. The more tier points you have the higher status they give you, more status means bigger and better perks such.
Normally you have to fly a lot to get any significant amount of tier points from them. For example a return trip to New York in club class will set you back around £2000 but only give you 280 tier points. But there are some route possibilities that its turns out you can earn some decent amount of tier points for a reasonable amount of money. The downside is having to change planes rather than fly direct. So in the end you are giving up some of your holiday for lots of tier points. Or a fast flight to your destination for fewer tier points and more expense.
If you are based in the UK it is significantly better if you start your tier run outside of the UK for tax reasons. Popular starting points are Dublin or Amsterdam both of which have many flights daily from London to them. The reason for starting outside of the UK has to do with how the British government has their tax systems set up. They quite heavily tax air travel especially long haul and higher classed tickets such as those in business or first. I normally start my tier runs in Ireland, easy to get to and price is pretty reasonable.
For my run I started in London Heathrow, which for me is the closest hub airport. I then flew to Dublin Ireland. This flight was on a separate ticket to my long haul flights and included the finial flight of my trip that would take me back the UK. I stopped in an airport hotel overnight, there is a Radisson Blu at the airport with a free bus to and from both terminals. Next morning I started my tier run properly with the long haul part of my trip these flights were on a separate booking to the flight I took yesterday. Flew back to London Heathrow, then on to New York JFK and then on to Las Vegas LAS. These three flights were in club, club, first. The route with setup flights looked like the following:
LHR(Booking1) >[DUB>LHR>JFK>LAS>JFK>LHR>DUB](Booking 2)>LHR
There is quite a bit of two and fro especially the London/Dublin legs. You may wonder as to why I didn’t just stop in London after I got back from New York rather then fly on to Dublin only to fly straight back to London. Well that has to do with BA and them not liking it when people do that. I have heard of people who have cut sectors out then BA finding out and removing the Avios and the tier points from all flights in the booking. Which would be painful as that is a lot of points to loose. As there is free food and drink in the airline lounges while I waited for the next flights I was ok with doing all the flights in my booking.
For this run I ended up with a gain of 790 tier points plus around 25000 Avios points.
2×210 for the JFK> LAS in first
2×140 for LFR>JFK in club
2×40 for LHR>DUB in club
2×5 for LHR>DUB in economy (set up flights)
This run was enough to take me from no status ie Blue all the way to Silver.
My run begins at a reasonable time in the morning I had travelled down to the Renaissance hotel next to Heathrow the day before. I always like to travel down and stay in a hotel the night before a trip if at all possible. It may cost around £170 but it means I am not at the mercy of traffic trying to get the airport and I can also leave my car in the hotels carpark while I am away. Skipped hotel breakfast and just checked out of the hotel and hopped on the now expansive transfer bus over to terminal 5. The bus now costs £9 for a return ticket L I like to arrive at an airport with plenty of time to get though all the checks and to get a rough idea of gate and it location in their terminal.
Well my first lesson was learnt pretty early on. Heathrow now uses automated gates to let you though to its security screening area. Well me as the trip leader had copies of other travellers boarding passes as well as my own loaded onto on my phone. I wander up phone see my location ad tried to be helpful and pops up a boarding pass onto the lock screen I opening it and scan what I think was my boarding pass it takes my picture and lets me though. The next traveller in my group steps up and tries to get through. It scans his pass and he looks into the camera but red lights start flashing. He gets told to go see the one security guards at the end go the machines.
Twenty minutes later it got sorted and the correct facial pictures were with the correct boarding passes. Heathrow security is one of the better ones are we were though pretty fast.
As at this time I didn’t have any airline status and I was only flying in economy to Dublin I had no access to the BA lounges. Luckily I have an American Express credit card that as one of it perks gives you a Priority Pass card for free. This card gives you free access to many airport lounges around the world, including the Aspire lounge located in T5. The Aspire lounge is tucked away up in the north corner of terminal 5. It has a unusual shape kind of like a J shape where all the seating is on the outside and the food and drinks are on the inside. It is a nice little lounge and gets you out of the bustle of the main terminal. So waited in there for flight and had a bite to eat and some coffee.
The first flight of the day was a short hop from London to Dublin tucked in away economy I did get exit row seats so there was massive amount of leg room. The only downside with those seats are that you are not allowed to store your second bag under the seat in front so it has to also go above into the overhead bins which can be an issue on busier flights. The flight is so short there is hardly time for a snack and a drink before the flight crew are tiding up and we are preparing to land.
My first impression of Dublin airport was that there are no air bridges from the planes. So off with steps then walking to terminal over apron. To me terminal 1 of Dublin looks old and out dated. I didn’t go inside terminal 2 but from the outside it looked much newer and better. There are some food outlets in terminal 1 above the departures check in area and as we were too early to check into hotel we popped up there for a bite to eat.
The Radisson in Dublin airport has a courtesy bus that runs every 15 minutes from the thermals to the hotel, the pickup point is just outside the terminal near the other bus stands. Another benefit of American Express card is it will give you status with Club Carlson, who own Radisson Blu so I managed to get free room upgrade, chocolates in room and a free desert with evening meal. As tomorrow was going to be a very long day I took a nap as soon as I got the room. Woke up after a few hours went down for dinner and the free desert, then back to bed.
The next morning I started very early and was up and out by 04:30. A nice thing Radisson do is provide a sort of grab and go breakfast for it early leaving people. In the foyer they have snacks and drinks set up that you can take with you as you leave the hotel. The airport was already crazy busy even at that time of the morning. I made sure that I scanned the correct boarding pass this time at the facial recognition gates. Security was busy but was flowing fine.
One though it was time to use Priority pass card again. Just after security and up some stairs is the DAA executive lounge. It was such a difference in here compared to all the people rushing about downstairs. There are comfy chairs free wifi and some drinks and snacks available for free. The gates BA seem to use in Dublin are a long way from the main terminal. It means quite a long walk to them from the lunge. The flight back to London was just as fast as going but as being in club this time they severed a hot meal with proper china and cutlery.
Back in Heathrow again, through the purple internal flight connections sections reasonably fast. Thought I would take a peek in the BA north lounge as I now had a club ticket and that was the closest to where I passed through security. Well that was a mistake got in fine but the amount of people in that lounge is crazy. There was no way could you have found a seat it was so busy. So I just turned around walked straight back out. As my flight to JFK was leaving from the B pontoon of terminal 5 I took the transit train over to it now.
BA also have a lounge in this section of the terminal which to my amazement was practically empty. Grabbed a coffee and one of their famous bacon rolls and sat back used the free wifi and waited for my flight. Even though there are lots of flights for JFK a day it looked like it was going to be a busy flight looking at the number of people waiting at the gate when I arrived. The staff did sort of mess up the calling of sections, once they called people with first or high status it seemed like all the people go up and joined the queue to get on.
The club seats on the 747’s are nice. Especially if you manage to get an outside one next to a window very spacious and private feeling. The meals on BA club are always excellent I did limit myself to one glass of champagne then swapped to coffee. After the food was done I made the chair more comfy then sat back watched a couple of movies.
British airways use terminal 7 at JFK another terminal that is starting to show its age. Especially considering the amount of traffic that flows through it. I did see a news article that BA have renewed the lease on it so perhaps they are going to spend a little bit of money on it to make some improvements. Immigration was very slow. Unfortunately we had managed to get there just after a whole plane of little Asian school children. This led to a massive queue. When I did make it to the front of the queue the immigration guy asked what seemed like hundred questions. Questions like where are you going, how much money do you have, do you have any food.
My next flight was with American Airlines so I needed to swap terminals from terminal 7 to terminal 8. JFK do have quite a nice system for swapping terminals in my option much better than trying to find a correct bus. They use a little monorail train that is on a loop to connect the terminal buildings. Hop on train, move one terminal round to 8 them hop back off so simple no need to purchase tickets to use it either.
As I managed to get all boarding passes on phone and am hand luggage only I could skip the bag drop lines and go straight to security. I tool a look at my pass to see that it has priority on it so I get in that queue. I look to the left and see the massive queue of people that priority puts you in front of and feel grateful and a but guilty.
You don’t get lounge access with AA on transcontinental even though I have a first class ticket. So instead I just slowly walked to gate and waited there. I did notice that the AA gate boards are quite a bit better than what most airports seem to use. It displayed all kinds of helpful information. Such as countdown to when boarding will start. Information about your destination and upgrades and waitlists. I was disappointed with American Airlines first class seats when I did get on the plane. No individual IFE no fully flat seats either. It may have been because it was an old plan and not one of their newer ones. It did make for a long flight from New York to Vegas. The bright side was that the cabin crew were some of the best I have ever travel with. Funny, helpful, they are asset to AA.
As soon as you step into the Las Vegas terminal you know you are there as you can see slot machines. This is another airport where you have to take a transit back to main terminal from a satellite one. I walked past all of the baggage collection carousels and out of the door that I needed to find my pre-booked hotel transfer. My first impression of stepping out into Las Vegas air was wow hot hot so hot especially as it was already around 20:00 local time.
Going back after the five night’s holiday in Vegas was pretty much the same just in reverse. I did get to use the Amex Centurion lounge that is in Las Vegas Airport. It may have been because it was still early in the morning but food selection seemed a little poor. At least there were plenty of comfy seats to relax in. I manged to sleep for roughly five hours on the flight from New York to London. Red-eye flights are great for avoiding jet lag when flying east. I waited for them to give the bottles of water and the amenity kits out. Then put blind up, changed the seat into bed mode eye shade and blanket on and I was out like a light.
The BA arrivals lounge in Heathrow is nice. It is outside of the secure zone, you exit customs turn round and go up two levels. They have a good selection of food on offer and loads of space to relax in. There are also showers and the Elemis spa. Back through security yet again flight to Dublin. Two hours in Dublin them back to London. Finally was back in UK and time to drive home. It was long a trip back. I left my hotel in Vegas at around 05:00 Monday. I got home around 00:00 Wednesday. On the flight back I did manage to sleep so I didn’t have any jetlag at all.
Overall a very nice holiday and a nice tier run. BA did send me the Bronze membership pack with card and luggage tags not long after I got home. Then less than a week later then sent me the silver welcome pack with its card and luggage tags. Oh well at least I wont run out of luggage tags now.