How to Score Yourself Cheap First Class Flights with British Airways for only £500!

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!


These lovely luxury loving ladies also use this great travel hack to fly first class – Angie, Manasi, Ana and Anna.

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…

Brand Loyalty

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!

British Airways American Express Credit Card

  • 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…)

British Airways Premium American Express Credit Card

  • £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) 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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  1. September 23, 2015 / 9:37 AM

    I signed up for an Amex a couple of months ago – really struggling to spend £1000 though since things like council tax/estate agents won’t take Amex and they’re my biggest outgoings! It’s actually really annoying that they don’t seeing as even poundland take Amex?!

    I WILL find a way to spend £500 this month and get my 9,000 avios if it destroys me ;)
    Hannah recently posted…Making Cocktails & Playing with Dry Ice at ABQ London / Breaking Bad Popup!My Profile

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:56 PM

      Haha you will get there Hannah and I’ve sent you a link for a while you can hopefully pay for your council tax…fingers crossed they accept it!
      Good luck

  2. September 23, 2015 / 9:48 AM

    Thanks for mentioning me! I genuinely think executive club is the best invention ever for frequent flyers. It’s incredible what you can save, our first class flights to New York cost £1000 altogether rather than £12,000. I think people may think ‘I’ll never save the avios’, well we’ve actually got a ridiculous amount and our business class flights to Thailand, Singapore, USA, St Lucia and Lima have all been purchased on avios. Great post Kelly, very clear and well explained xx
    Angie Silver (@SilverSpoonLDN) recently posted…The Viceroy Bali: A Little Piece of HeavenMy Profile

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:55 PM

      Exactly Angie!!
      While we pay for our European flights, we don’t pay for our long haul flights now as the companion vouchers are so good and makes flying long haul almost cheaper than short haul!
      More shoes for us clever ladies……

  3. September 23, 2015 / 10:29 AM

    Great tips. I was thinking of getting an Emirates credit card as i’m a loyal customer with them as always try a fly with them if I can. Shame they are not part of this group.

    Leonie ♥ Lo On The Go

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:54 PM

      I think they have some deals going – definitely check out Head for Points Leonie as he’s got great coverage of all the airline loyalty programs and offers great pointers on his website x

  4. September 23, 2015 / 12:40 PM

    As someone else who uses this trick to get good deals on flights, I can tell you the Avios American Express Credit Card is a great deal, and yup it’s scarily easy to reach the necessary limit for your companion flight. It’s really helped me with our travel plans – it ended up costing us something like £800 for a two people return flight to Singapore last year and I managed to use up our Avios points to take the step kids to Barcelona on BA super cheaply. Well worth getting! :)
    Keri recently posted…Five reasons why you must visit the Sagrada FamiliaMy Profile

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:53 PM

      Totally worth getting; we’ve been using these cards for a while plus we both have a hotel visa card which means we rack up points on that and get free nights! Our holidays are rather cheap in the end hehe x

  5. September 23, 2015 / 1:32 PM

    Do you know, this post came at just the right time for me. I need a new pointsy-type credit card for my work expenses, and I’ve been weighing up the various options. I think that, on balance, the BA one does sound like a winner for me so I’ll be emailing you for that referral! And, just because I’m being dense, do you book your long haul flights using points and then get the companion seat for free? Do you ever get into trouble with availability of the companion seat, like you do with the rewards seats?

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:52 PM

      You definitely need to get this BA Premium Card Rachel for your flights down to Australia. You would be able to fly to Sydney and just pay the taxes…and make fly business or first!
      What you do is once you have spent the £10k you get the voucher loaded into your account and then you can go shopping for flights – availability can be a be pants (i will be honest) however if you go off peak you will be able to find more flights – as it’s a companion ticket it will look for two seats together and you only get charged for one lot of avios points so for instance when we flew to Hong Kong say it was 100,000 avios each; instead of costing us 200,000 avios it was only 100,000!
      It’s exactly like reward seats however I think you find they are trying to give more availability as the companion ticket holders are their frequent flyers
      Will pop you the link email if you would still like it xx

  6. September 23, 2015 / 5:30 PM

    AH! you have cought on to travel hacking! Isnt it great!!!! Its the only way we travel! Just cashed in our free nights at Hyatt for a long weekend in Boston!
    Alexa @ thespottedbulldog recently posted…5 Month UpdateMy Profile

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:48 PM

      I’ve been doing it for a few years now…have loads of hotel points to use so will definitely have a splurge on them soon! Enjoy your free nights in Boston, it makes the holiday even more the sweeter! xx

  7. September 24, 2015 / 3:37 PM

    This is really well put together, Kelly – I do try to rack up Avios from online shopping too. As long as you go to the Avios site first then click through to the store in question you can be credited for points so clothes shopping ends up saving me money ;-)
    Suze The Luxury Columnist recently posted…Delicioius Dinner at Gallery Mess, Duke of York SquareMy Profile

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:47 PM

      Exactly…the gate 365 portal is the best invention ever and I rack up the points through it and some of the retailers have 12 avios per £1 spend…we ladies always need new clothes and shoes…x

  8. September 24, 2015 / 10:02 PM

    This is something I’ve been thinking about for ages actually, to do everything through a credit card to get the perks. This is good to know about the BA one. I have an AMEX for work and I’ve never had it rejected so know they are easy to use. Something I need to ponder!! x
    Jasmin Charlotte recently posted…JC Explores: Adventures at Kew GardensMy Profile

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:46 PM

      Do it Jasmin, seriously you don’t need to fly Business or First however it could save you mega bucks flying to NZ so definitely worth it in the long run and it’s easy to collect points after a while. Every time you go on line just check the Gate 365 portal to see if the shop is listed in there and boom instant points…they all add up rather quickly! The premium card is the best as the validity period is longer plus you get 1.5 avios per £1 spend x

    • September 25, 2015 / 7:44 PM

      If you need any help or further clarification please let me know Emily-Ann xx

    • October 3, 2015 / 9:58 PM

      Definitely look into the BA one Andrea…it’s super easy to earn the avios…we earn enough every 6 months for a business / first class flight mainly through our shopping and flying with them or their partners x

  9. September 30, 2015 / 5:28 PM

    This is great, I’m trying something similar with Virgin Atlantic at the moment as I’m hoping to go to Vegas next year *fingers crossed* x
    Leanne recently posted…DW Fitness Festive Fitness ChallengeMy Profile

    • October 3, 2015 / 9:57 PM

      Fingers crossed Leanne for you…I’ve not looked into the VA one however I know how easy it is to get the avios on BA as you can earn so much through their shopping portal…loads and loads!

  10. October 16, 2015 / 8:08 AM

    I’m definitely going to have to get my head around this but it sounds SO clever. So basically, could you theoretically pay rent/utilities with this card, as well as grocery shopping etc? If so we’d be spending just over £2k per month with wages payin off the balance!
    Laura recently posted…7 people having a worse Monday than me (and you)My Profile

    • October 16, 2015 / 11:07 AM

      Yip that’s right…use the card like you would use a debit card and the points rack up really quickly and you would have a few free nights courtesy of paying your bills on the credit card…it’s rather good…there are so many options out there but on find the ihg brand easy to accumulate points to get free nights. Plus if you get the £99 credit card you would get 20,000 points on your first purchase…it could only be £1 but you would still get the 20,000 points and if you spend £10,000 on your credit card in a calendar year they will send you a free night voucher to use at any property. Best thing is the credit card gives you instant platinum status which means upgrades! Xx