We often get a tiny bit envious of passengers who get that little extra perk. Whether it is skipping the queues at airports or gorging themselves inside the lounges.
This post intends to lay out a few facts on British Airways silver status, before weighing up my arguments and concluding whether it is worth getting British Airways Silver.
TLDR: Yes if you fly a lot, (especially if you fly a lot of domestic American Airlines), No if you don't. For every short Tier Point run you need an additional 2 paid round trips in addition to your normal flying to justify the expense.
How to get BAEC Silver
A quick reminder, you need to hit 600 Tier Points within your membership year, AND also have 4 Eligible Flights.
Leveraging the perks, or genuine money saving?
You need to differentiate between things which you would actually have bought, vs. things which can save time and increase productivity vs. things which are nice to have.
All three of the above will add weighting to their respective value, which you could also compare against the value proposition of short haul business class
What does BAEC Silver get you?
The biggest difference between Bronze and Silver status is the ability to visit any Oneworld lounge if travelling on a Oneworld flight. If, like me, you are someone who just cannot stand duty free shopping then the relative peace and calm of a lounge may just do you wonders.
Whether it be drinks or a meal, I can easily eat through about £30+ worth per visit compared to having to buy the same meal at Wetherspoon or Wagamama. And given my door-to-door travel times of about 5 hours, I would definitely be eating somewhere, whether it's in the airport or a buy-on-board sandwich.
I can also get 1-1.5 hours of focussed work done, and maybe another 30 mins of administrative type work. I could probably do some admin work without lounge access but I certainly wouldn't be able to do the focussed work out there.
My Value: £30 + 1.5hrs of time per visit.
With BA Silver status you can select your seats free of charge.
Being a mid-height male of slender build, I have absolutely no physical discomfort sitting in back-row middle seat.
If I didn't have status I would not even bother selecting seats until check in, where you can get it free of charge anyway. The only exception is Hand Baggage Only fares where you're stuck with whatever seat BA gives you. When they updated the rules a couple of years back, Silvers were once again allowed to select seats in advance for free.
If you are the kind of person to really need to choose your seat though, maybe because you are tall (like, 6'2” and above, 1.88m or so) or because you are pregnant and therefore unable to select emergency exit rows, then you might value this. (And if you are pregnant, don't forget you can suspend your status during maternity leave)
The real annoyance is British Airways charging for Club World and First Class if you are a non-status passenger. I still think this is a joke and would refuse to select it at any price, had I had no status.
My Value: £10 per flight for short haul economy. £30 for long haul economy (prices per passenger, per trip)
Extra Checked In Luggage in World Traveller (long haul economy class)
For many people an extra luggage here or there in economy class won't be a deal-breaker. But if you are frequent transporter of bulky or heavy items, such as filming equipment or mercantile goods then this might be very important for you.
Tip: Always check BA's baggage allowance rules before each trip here, as local regulations in some countries may alter the rules without us knowing.
My Value: £60 for first extra item, £120 for the one after that. Also refer to this page which has the full BA pricing on extra and overweight baggage charges.
Priority Check In, Security and Boarding
This one is very hit and miss, but also one with quite severe consequences!
If you regularly travel with hand-baggage only then you may know just how annoying it can be if you are forced to gate-check an item. The added delay could be just a few minutes for small airports, or up to half an hour for big airports like Amsterdam Schiphol. But the real kicker is if waiting at the baggage carousel makes you miss a train or coach and then you are forced to wait or find an alternative method.
I do put real value on this one. You only need to miss a flight once, or a couple of close calls, to realise the benefits of priority airport experience.
My Value: 30 mins for off-peak flights. Up to 2 hours for peak flights or those with risk of knock-on delays
You get 50% extra Avios points if you fly on BA, Iberia, American Airlines, and Japan Airlines flights. You can put a tangible monetary value on this one. I value my Avios at around 0.7-0.8p per Avios due to the recent slump in air fares so picking up Avios through flying has been some of the lowest in a while. Expect this to keep going while Coronavirus hits Asian tourism. This is a real opportunity cost for Avios redemptions.
My value: If flying short haul economy, about £4 per flight. If flying short haul business class, about £7 per flight. This benefit comes into its own if you are flying long haul World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and above. There you're looking at a minimum £20 additional value per flight.
Let's attempt some maths.
Let's take a regular short haul, economy class traveller who regularly flies for business and never checks in a bag (i.e. buys hand baggage only fares and uses the free seat assignment). While the lounge access gives £30 base value and seat assignment gives £10, the real benefit here is the amount of time he/she can save. This person could get at least 1.5 hours of time back per journey which at business charge-out rates, or personal salary rates could be reasonably earned back within just one 160 tier point run, so £320 assuming you are calculating at £2/TP which according to my guide is a pretty solid deal.
Most readers will be in this following scenario. For a mixed business/leisure traveller the monetary value is probably a bigger deciding factor, as are the extra Avios. Assuming time has no value (i.e. no additional work done with the time spared, and a missed ground transport connection just means waiting around for the next one) then this person would earn back about £40-£50 per flight. Assuming the basic 80 Tier Points per run, and at £2/TP, then this traveller would need to fly at least 3-4 times (two round trips) in addition to this person's normal travel, which would otherwise not have earned Silver. If you spend more on Tier Point running then your total extra flights would need to increase to compensate.
If you are marginally short, say under 30 Tier Points, then it is absolutely worth trying to go for those extra Tier Points. You could do this without going on a Tier Point Run at all, and instead taking a Proactive Online Upgrade, though the circumstances need to be right on this one.
Tier Point running to get BAEC silver is pretty easy if you already fly a couple of times per year long haul. If you're going to need more than about 100 Tier Points to hit Silver though, you'd better make sure you've got several planned afterwards in order to maximise the benefits it gives!