Tier Point Runs, the reality – Part 1 planning the Phoenix trip

Paul tier point runs man in airport

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This is the first in a series of articles that looks at Tier Point runs from top to bottom –  from the sometimes harsh reality of actually doing one to the planning, buying and tools you need to have a successful one.

In these two articles on the reality of Tier Point Runs, I’m not going to focus too much on particular runs and how to find them etc.  This is more my view on what a TP run involves, both from the planning perspective to what could happen when things go wrong or the airline changes something before or midway through your trip. Oh, and what happens when 45 people go on a TP run together including some of the TLFL team!

Starting out on Tier Point Runs

BA new Club World Catering review

First Wing entrance

I have done many a Tier Point (TP) run in my time, some more sedate than others! So what exactly is a TP run?  To me, it is a trip arranged primarily for the collection of Tier Points that can help you climb the Executive Club status ladder.  It could just be the collection of 5 TPs that you need to push you over the next threshold for status or 1000+ TP hauls to accelerate your status quickly!

So you have decided you want to go on a TP run?  The allure of the First Wing is calling you and you want out of Galleries Club, or perhaps you just want access to early seat bookings, which on large family bookings can save hundreds of pounds.  Whatever the reason, if you don’t fly enough normally you will be looking for a TP run.

There are some great resources out there and we will cover them in greater detail but a good place to start would generally be FlyerTalk where there is already a huge amount of information under specific Tier Point Run threads.

My year to renew Gold Guest List

I renew Gold Guest List (GGL) and my Concorde Room card each year – this requires 5000 TPs within each membership year, so what does that actually look like?

Shangri La Muscat where I stayed

Well, this year it involves the following –

  • 2 Malta Back to Back trips done over 2 days – booked in a previous CE sale.
  • A holiday to Orlando in Premium Economy
  • A weekend break in Inverness
  • A holiday in Muscat in Club World
  • A short break in Palma
  • A weekend in Barcelona (via Madrid of course!)
  • A quick break to Hawaii in First class
  • The Phoenix TP run
  • A trip to Shanghai in First
  • A holiday to Washington DC and then Cancun
  • And several Qatar trips to Asia of varying lengths.
cheap flights shanghai and beijing

Shanghai skyline

There were other trips booked with Avios but as they don’t count towards my TP balance they don’t matter for this 🙂

Top tier point run tips

How on earth did I book all that and find the time? Carefully!  Having GGL affords me upgrade vouchers, and space release vouchers that make it all that bit more affordable. So is it worth all that flying??!  Well ultimately for someone who loves it as a hobby anyway, yes.  The advantages that having GGL status brings as well as the tranquillity of the Concorde rooms and bars around the world make it all that more comfortable.

If you have seen/found a fare and want to take advantage to maximise points, here are a few tips –

  • Most fares allow multiple transfers, some are unlimited and only limited by mileage.
  • The transfers are usually limited to a number in each continent, so a number in Europe potentially, and some in the USA as an example.
  • Look for the longer routes – anything over 2000 miles gets you 140TP usually instead of 40TP (but there are exceptions)
  • Look for Short Haul+ routes within Europe.  Starting in Bucharest as an example gets another 80TP as opposed to say Amsterdam. (see here for full list of 80TP destinations)
  • Make sure you check the booking class – some earn, and some don’t especially on partner airlines.
  • Don’t forget a “transfer” can be anything up to 23 hrs and 59 minutes – useful to see other places along the way!
  • Some allow stopping for over 24 hrs for a nominal cost.

The Bucharest-Phoenix fare tier point run – planning & booking



For any TP run that allows transfers (transferring onto another flight) in the USA, you will want to do the East to West Coast hop.  Put simply London – San Fransisco is 140TP, but transfer in New York JFK and its 280TP.  Add in a quick transfer in Los Angeles for 40TP and you’re already up to 320TP each way! The transcontinental flights have flat beds in business and first plus the service is better than a normal US domestic flight. You can read a review of the business class AA transcontinental flight here. First class will follow shortly.

Just remember coast to coast flights fall just below 2000 miles so be sure to check either on  –

Great Circle Mapper

BA Tier Point calculator

What about Europe?  Well instead of going straight from Bucharest to New York via London, how about popping over to Helsinki on the way?  Another 80TP.

My original booking was the following –

Bucharest – London – Helsinki – London – New York – Phoenix and return the same way.  A combination of BA, American Airlines and Finnair.

The European legs are all Short Haul + routes so earning 80TP each, and the longer sectors being 2000+ miles earn 140TP each.  The total trip cost £1480 and earns 1040TP. My booking exceeded the maximum permitted mileage hence the £200 premium over the normal cost of £1280.  This was due to the added Helsinki legs.

When booking I had no intention to fly directly from New York to Phoenix – as that isn’t as TP efficient as adding in Los Angeles as pointed out above….   but I had booked with American Airlines (AA).  Why?  Because when AA inevitably change your flight times you can be even more creative, and potentially get around fare rules and transfer limits…. A few months after booking they re-timed one of the flights and I called to change (free of charge) my booking to –

Bucharest – London – Helsinki – London – New York – Los Angeles – Phoenix and return the same way.  A combination of BA, American Airlines and Finnair.  But this time earning 1120TP and a much more comfortable seat from the East to West Coast and return!

Stay tuned for Part 2 with more detail about the flights and what really happened on the Phoenix tier point run –  you won’t want to miss it!

7 Comments on "Tier Point Runs, the reality – Part 1 planning the Phoenix trip"

  1. Great introduction to TP’s Paul.
    Quick Q: Been researching TP runs for Silver, need to do 4 x EU runs and found LHR – HEL rtn in CE for £218. I could reduce this price using avios part pay if wanted to.
    Have you seen any cheaper LON to EU runs for 180 tp’s than this recently?

  2. Oops, meant 160tp. Good to know I found the cheapest eu route.

  3. Malcolm Kiely | 6 September 2018 at 3:12 pm |

    Hi Michelle, what website do you use to create an itinerary such as the one you have used to PHX?

  4. James Richardson | 8 January 2020 at 4:20 pm |

    Absolutely brilliant article on using ITA Matrix and Tools; thank you so much. I now have a 1,300tp run for a OTP to HON trip via LHR, JFK and LAX 🙂 🙂 :). I can also say the BA GGL service were brilliant on taking the ITA quote and converting into a fare. Loads of Avios and TPs coming!! A question for you though if you don’t mind regarding Bucharest’s OTP airport: is it possible to walk off an inbound BA flight and straight on to the same aircraft for it returning to LHR (as I’m trying to gauge how much time is needed in Bucharest)? Cheers and thanks again

    • Yes it is possible and both Paul and I have done it but it was in 2017. It depends which gate you get. Usually, you have to go upstairs to immigration and explain what you are doing (they didn’t seem to get it with me for quite a while) and then go through transit security. If there is an immigration queue labelled transit then use that. There is another similar area to this as well if you are at a different part of the airport. Although if you get a chance Bucharest is worth a short visit.

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