British Airways has removed a bizarre rule which prevented Australian and New Zealand residents from joining its Executive Club frequent flyer program.
For many years, Australian and New Zealand residents have been technically excluded from joining the British Airways Executive Club program. The rule was a hangover from the time when Qantas and British Airways had a long-standing joint venture on flights between Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
At that time, it was thought British Airways prevented Australians and New Zealanders from joining their loyalty program to encourage them to join Qantas Frequent Flyer instead. One theory behind this policy was that Qantas wasn’t happy about Australians joining British Airways Executive Club instead of Qantas Frequent Flyer in order get around its joining fee.
But in the other direction, Qantas has never imposed any restrictions on UK residents joining Qantas Frequent Flyer. (In fact, Qantas has always waived its membership fee for overseas residents.)
Qantas ended its joint venture with British Airways in 2013, replacing it with a new partnership with Emirates. And Australians can now easily avoid paying the Qantas Frequent Flyer joining fee by signing up via Woolworths or using a “free join” link. Yet, British Airways bizarrely retained its ban on Australians and New Zealanders joining its loyalty program… until now.
If you visit the British Airways website in Australia, you’ll now see this message displayed prominently on the home page:
A similar message now appears on the New Zealand version of the British Airways website.
So now, if you list an Australian address on the British Airways Executive Club registration form, the website shouldn’t decline your membership application.
A small number of Australians are already members of British Airways Executive Club. It was easy enough to get around the old rule by listing the address of an overseas friend or relative on the registration form.
Some Australians even cheekily misspelled “Australia” when signing up to Executive Club. Although British Airways does sometimes send mail to members who achieve status with the program, these members have reported that their mail has been automatically redirected from Austria with a surprisingly high success rate.
There are a few reasons why some Australian frequent flyers have opted to join British Airways Executive Club. Some even use it as their main frequent flyer program instead of Qantas Frequent Flyer. Both Qantas and British Airways are part of the Oneworld alliance, so status earned with either loyalty program is recognised by both airlines.
Some key benefits of British Airways Executive Club include:
- Lifetime Oneworld Emerald status (equivalent to Qantas Platinum) available at a much lower threshold than Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Generous Gold Guest List (GGL) benefits for top-tier frequent flyers
- Short-haul awards cost fewer Avios than equivalent Qantas reward flights
- Unlike Qantas, British Airways doesn’t penalise members with significantly lower tier points (equivalent to status credits) when flying with Oneworld partner airlines
While it’s unusual for a frequent flyer program to ban members from certain countries, it’s not unprecedented. In fact, Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program only allows members to join if they live in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Christmas Island or Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: How to join British Airways exec club from Australia?