I’ve had a BA Executive Club account for about 18 months. During that time I must have been on perhaps 15 BA flights – some UK domestic, some within Europe, some to the US. For quite a while I’ve also had a BA-sponsored American Express card, which pays miles into my Executive Club account. I’m not flying on BA all the time, because I find that pretty hard to do – basically I wouldn’t pay extra to fly with a particular airline, and usually it’s hard enough to find flights that go to the right place at the right time anyway. Overall I certainly fly more than most people I know. I’ve collected roughly 30000 miles up to now – is that much? I don’t know.
Today I thought I’d look into something that I’ve never looked into before: see whether it makes sense to upgrade a flight with those miles. I’d tried before to use the online function to do that, but every time I’d been told there was some sort of problem and I should contact my "booking agent". Flight booked online, sometimes even through BA directly, so wtf is that about the booking agent? Why no proper information about what the problem is? Hm…
So I took the time to call them and spend 20 minutes in a phone queue. Of course it was the wrong phone queue – even though I’d taken the number from that online error page, there’s a different, Executive Club specific number I should be using. Okay, got transferred. Other girl, same problem, transferring me elsewhere again. Finally somebody who knows what to do, he looks at my booking and goes "well, that’s not the right kind of ticket". What? Kind of ticket? "Yes, you should have a ‘flexible’ ticket so you can change it later. When booking online, there’s a choice between a cheap and a flexible ticket." Ah, how stupid of me.
I ask the guy if I could theoretically get anything useful for my 30000 miles on my flight to Orlando and it turns out that 25000 miles will buy me an upgrade to World Traveller Plus. Wow! Hallelujah! Just 18 months of careful airline selection and already can I afford 10 additional centimetres of leg room! So he goes, "I’m going to call our sales guys and ask them what the upgrade to a flexible ticket would cost for the trip." Comes back, and it turns out that upgrade costs about 420 quid. I say hey, that’s a bit expensive, isn’t it and he replies "no, and that’s just for one leg of the trip because <weird stuff here> – you can’t get the upgrade on the way back, but for the one leg it’s just 12500 miles".
Phew. That’s it, is it? Pay around 3 times the price for the London-Orlando leg of the trip to get a flexible ticket, and then 12500 miles to upgrade to the next, almost identical, class of travel. Frickin’ unbelievable.
Now, people tell me there’s more to frequent flyer programs – for instance, when you fly enough within one year, you get into a higher class and then you get all sorts of benefits like 150% miles on the mile (What’s the idea with "miles" anyway? The miles I get credited don’t have any similarity to the distance between the start and end of my flight.) and free upgrades to higher classes. Well, BA do 125% and 150% miles, yes. Other benefits available here (or probably not, because you have to be a privileged person with your own login in order to see this). But as far as I can tell they never give me any free upgrades, whatever I do. And most importantly, to be a better Executive Club member than I am today, I need to collect Tier Points. Now wtf are Tier Points suddenly? Check my account – I have ZERO of them. I need another 600 and 4 qualifying flights to get to Silver membership. Hm…
Looking around, I see where to get Tier Points from. Obviously I don’t get them from the kinds of flights I always use, otherwise I’d have some. But there’s a wild list stating that depending on the class and area I fly in there are 20 different fare classes (yes, really!) and all of them collect Tier Points (no further details). For some reason apparently I manage to travel outside these classes all the time – no info on that either.
Now how to figure out what fare class a ticket is in? Oh, easy: look at your boarding card. Yes, that card you get at the airport to carry around for an hour. And yes, the info is on that part of the card that gets ripped off and taken away from you when you board your plane. If you have some form of printed ticket that nobody uses anymore these days, it might also be on there. E-Tickets? Nah, not on there. Well, go figure.
Eat shit, Executive Club.