Time for something about flying.
Last year, I had a mileage balance with Star Alliance (as a Lufthansa frequent flyer) of 98,000 miles. In economy. This wasn’t all of the flying that I did, but just the flying with Star Alliance. There were other flights which were with different airlines, which don’t count towards this. It is a lot for economy. Even within the sphere of frequent flyers, doing this sort of mileage in economy commands a little respect.
The 98,000 is relevant because for Lufthansa the tiers of status within their scheme are 35,000 miles and 100,000 miles. The next tier would have meant increased chances at upgrades and better availability to spend all of these miles. I wrote to Lufthansa to see if they would make a exception and grant me the status. They turned me down. Them’s the rules. It seemed a little harsh to me, given that I had the flights booked to make up those miles within the first two weeks of January. For this reason, I started to look around, and decided to concentrate of BA instead.
Right now, I am sat in 19G on a Boeing 747-400 on my way from LAX to LHR before flying on to MAN and home. I started my journey at MRY – Monterey.
19G is Club World, with a fully reclining seat, which turns into a bed. I have just slept for six hours. Why am I in Club World (the business class product)? Well, BA have four levels of service. World Traveler (Economy), World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy), Club World (Business) and First. The budget that my client gives me is enough for economy, so dipping into my own funds, I can fly in Premium Economy. This is a good product on BA. The seats are larger than economy, they have more recline, and there are fewer seats across the cabin. I flew to Hong Kong recently in this cabin on one of BA’s newest aircraft, and was extremely impressed. I arrived rested and relaxed – not really something that I get flying economy on such a long flight. For me, this is worth the difference in price, but I am flying a fair amount so the whole airport experience becomes rather tiresome. I am also quite tall. However, I don’t think that for once a year flyers, off on holiday that anything other than economy is necessary (unless it is your honeymoon, or you have money to burn).
What is wonderful about this cabin though, is if there is availability you can use miles to upgrade to business class. This is how I am now sat in Club World. I managed it on the way out as well as on the return – which required a certain amount of effort. The images are from the seat on the upper deck on the way out. A daytime flight, I barely slept, so enjoyed the champagne hospitality perhaps a little too much!
With British Airways, I didn’t have any status, so was back at the bottom of the pile. I am, however, now already at tier one (bronze) with tier two (silver) within grasp. With that comes business class lounge access, even on economy tickets and premium economy tickets. As it is likely that not all of my long haul flights will be upgraded, this makes the experience far more pleasant. For example, today I came directly from a hot and dusty bike festival after a day in the sunshine, to Monterey airport, then flew to LA with a short 1.5 hour connection. The TSA (security in the USA) were living up to their reputation as being extremely slow, so that when I got to the lounge, they were already calling the flight for boarding. Thankfully, the British Airways representative there arranged for me to be brought to the head of the queue to have a shower (there are 8 private bathrooms for the lounge) so that I could be fresh for the flight. In and out within 10 minutes. It is for this kind of service that lounge access and status (or even a business class boarding pass) come into their own.
For the short haul, flying from Manchester to Germany mostly, there is a choice of Lufthansa into Frankfurt, or their low cost carrier GermanWings, into Cologne. It is the latter option that I am taking – sure, there is no lounge access, but the money saved can be used to pay towards the long haul tickets, where any discomfort lasts so much longer. The experience isn’t quite as pleasant as Lufthansa – and Cologne Airport’s facilities are less good, but it makes sense.
So far, I am really glad of the switch and have had a very positive experience with BA.