Okay, the accountant in me hates paying full price…if there is some way that I can get something cheaper than I will definitely give it a go. I never thought I would be able to fly first class however thanks to a bit of brand loyalty and spending my money wisely, I was able to score myself cheap first class flights with British Airways to Hong Kong ex London for just over £500 (you only pay the taxes…I lied about the £500…I’m an accountant, we round numbers…it was something like £548) and I’ll show you how you can do it as well!
I’ve heard a lot of travellers dismiss the idea of using just one airline as there is no benefit in the long run and it costs more…hmmm I think paying only £500 instead of £6000 for a first class ticket is the proof in the pudding really.
So what you need to do…I’m going to try and make this as easy as possible and try not to bore your little socks off…are you ready…
This is the game plan that I used with BA. What most travellers think is that you can only fly with BA but they’re wrong…you just need to stick to an alliance of airlines. BA is part of the One World Airline Alliance so if you fly on any of their partners well you earn miles aka avios points (we didn’t get any on our Malaysia Airlines flight like the BA calculator said we would!). Carriers in the One World Alliance are as follows – Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airways, LAN, TAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, SriLankan Airlines.
To see how many avios points and tier points you will earn, I would highly recommend visiting the Avios Calculator on the BA website here.
Apply for a BA American Express Credit Card (BA Amex)
You could just try and earn thousands and thousands of avios points however a more sensible approach and a way of saving thousands of avios points is applying for a British Airways American Express Card.
Why…well if you spend over £10,000 in 12 months the lovely folks at BA will give you a companion voucher i.e. 2 people fly for the price of 1 (you both need to pay the taxes…the taxman always wants his pretty penny…there’s no escaping not even in death).
Now you probably think there’s no way of me spending £10,000 on a credit card….treat it like a debit card and you’ll be amazed on how quickly you race through that £10,000 (if you have a shoe addiction you will get to the £10,000 in a heart beat).
Once you hit the £10,000 mark, your BA Executive Account (you need to apply for one of these and it’s free!) will show a lovely electronic voucher (you don’t get a hard copy!) which means you can use this voucher to book a flight. I highly recommend using the voucher on long haul flights rather than short haul flights to get better value for money hence the reason we flew to Hong Kong in first class.
What BA Amex do you need to apply for?
There are two BA Amex Cards you can apply for and they are both very different!
- No annual fee
- You need to spend £20,000 to get a companion ticket in the 12 month card membership period
- You earn 9,000 avios points if you spend £1,000 in the first three months of card membership
- 1 avios point for each £1 (virtually the website says…)
- £150 annual fee
- You need to spend £10,000 to get a companion ticket in the 12 month card membership period
- You can earn 25,000 avios as a nice little welcome gift to joining the card by spending £3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership
- 1.5 avios for each £1 (virtually the website says…)
- 3 avios for each £1 spent with BA (virtually the website says…)
Overall I would recommend the more expensive BA Premium American Express (surprise surprise) for one reason only…the 2 year validity period of the voucher. The higher avios rate is also a no-brainer to be honest along with the 25,000 avios welcome if you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months (totally doable if you’re booking a few holidays!).
If you do apply for one of these cards…send me a quick email at aroundtheworldin80pairsofshoes (at) gmail.com as I can send you a link which means you could get a few extra avios for signing up (and I might get a few as well as a thank you for recommending you) hence a win win for both of us!
Booking flights can be a tricky so it’s best to book them as far in advance as possible as reward seats book out fast. The validity starts on the day that you receive the voucher to your BA Executive Account.
Nobody accepts American Express
Yes I’ve heard this many times and you’ll be amazed on who accepts American Express Cards these days. Amex is no longer the naughty kid that you can’t take anywhere…you can spank this baby in most places these days including the Post Office, McDonalds (their fries are gluten free and I earn avios), Boden, ASOS, Jimmy Choo, BA…should I go on?
Oh yeah…you can also link your AMEX to your Paypal account so if the shop doesn’t take AMEX but accepts Paypal, make the payment via Paypal and choose your AMEX…it’s all rather simple.
What are Avios Points?
Avios Points are like Miles…the more you earn then the further these babies will take you around the world.
How do you earn Avios Points?
Well you can earn Avios points in various ways…
- firstly by taking flights with One World Alliance partners (not just BA!),
- you can earn them by shopping via the BA Gate 365 portal,
- booking hotels through Kaligo or Rocket Miles,
- filling up with fuel at Shell,
- shopping at Tesco (you convert your points over to avios)
- spending on your BA Amex Credit Card….trust me there is a long list.
If you want to accelerate your avios points then I seriously would recommend checking out the Head for Points website; Raffles is a Points Guru and will have you earning thousands in no time.
You will be surprised on how quickly the points add up…we earn around 100,000 points every 6 months and I’m sure if I spent a few hours working out some more tricks I’m sure I could have a load more.
If you purchase anything online you need to check if the online shop is in the BA Gate 365 portal as you will earn extra avios on your online shopping (sometimes you can get 8 avios points per £1 spent on top of your 1.5 points per £1 avios from using your Premium BA AMEX…which totally justifies the reasoning why I always need a new pair of shoes).
Using your Companion Ticket
You need to be able to do a bit of forward planning with the Companion Ticket…I’m not going to lie. We booked our Hong Kong flights in July way back in February (while we were in Brussels on holiday) – the dates were a tad crap so we had to be flexible to get availability hence we left mid week and came back mid week.
If you’re flexible with dates and times then you won’t have too many issues. School holiday time can be a nightmare plus BA have introduce a new avios pricing system so it costs more avios points during peak times (great for folks who don’t have kids but sucks for parents).
You can play around with the BA Rewards Calculator here to find out how many avios points you would need for a certain flight in different classes.
So what’s a Tier Point
Ok I’ve babbled on about avios points but you’ve probably also heard about Tier Points…they’re the holy grail and the more you have the more perks you get while flying on a One World Alliance carrier i.e. more luggage allowances and lounge access (this is if you’re silver and the more achievable level).
The more you fly the more tier points you will earn. Tier points are valid for a 12 month period and then your account resets to zero and you need to start earning again. And you can only earn them by flying.
Bronze Membership (300 tier points) – lets you check in at the priority counters
Silver Membership (600 tier points) – same as benefits as bronze however you have lounge access, free seat booking at time of purchase and priority boarding.
If you’re flying first class and you’re silver or gold then you’re invited into the mythical Concorde Room where unicorns prance around offering calorie free food…I’m joking…this is what it’s really like…no unicorns! I like to pinch the glossy magazines from the lounge to really get my moneys worth….hahaha <insert evil laugh>
Gold Membership (1500 tier points) – all of the above plus they let you into the special gold or first class lounges if available.
You can check out all the tier benefits in more details on the British Airways website here.
If you want to read about my First Class Experience you can do so here.
We’ve now booked our flights using a companion ticket to Lima in Peru flying Business Class…they don’t offer First Class on this route…saving ourselves more money and flying in style. We’re flying Business Class for less than an Economy ticket to Peru.
Remember (and here’s the accountant talking)…don’t get yourself into debt just for a cheap first class flight and always pay the full amount owing on the card each month.
I hope this hasn’t been too confusing and please let me know if you want to know any more information so I can amend the post. It’s a slightly dry topic however it’s super easy to get yourself some cheap first class flights when you put your mind too it.
Let me know if you get to experience business or first class using these tips!
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