In Short, if you hold Star Alliance Gold status on any member airline, you will be entitled to a complimentary upgrade from standard to business class on Heathrow express. While this is nothing new, with the promotion starting mid-Feb 2016, I thought it was about time I covered it.

Heathrow Express is the dedicated non-stop train service between Heathrow Airport and downtown London – reaching the city in only 15 minutes.

Making use of the offer is simple. You purchase a standard class single or return ticket. On the train, customers choose any available seat in Business First Class and show both their train ticket and Star Alliance Gold Card to the attendant.

As you will see – this promotion is clearly geared at the business travellers rather than your leisure traveller who can book months in advance.

Heathrow Express & Star Alliance Headlines Rules

The Rules of the campaign can be found here, but the headline terms are:

  • The Promotion operates only on Heathrow Express trains and at London Heathrow Terminal 2
  • To receive this offer you must purchase of a full fare standard class ticket to and/or from London Paddington and Heathrow Airport T2, and show your valid Star Alliance Gold Frequent Flyer card when prompted in Business First Class on the train.
  • You may not use the Offer in conjunction with any other reward, discount or benefit of whatever nature and regardless of whoever provides such other reward, discount or benefit.

Its to be seen though if purchasing a ticket via the British Airways Avios Estore would work in conjunction. Technically it would disqualify you from the offer, however as you would be buying a regular full-fare ticket through the Estore, I am not sure how the system, or the attendant for that matter, would be able to tell the difference?

As you can see, you do not need to show your actual boarding pass, meaning you could be flying any carrier to receive this promotion so long as you have Star Alliance Gold.

Is It Any Good?

Anyone who has visited, or live in London, knows that the Heathrow Express can be really useful or basically useless.

If you have ever travelled on The Express in Rush Hour, you will know how quickly it fills up and in the regular cabin you are unlikely to get a seat on the first departing train – I’ve done in countless times and never have I ever got a seat, although I once got one for 5 minutes by the toilet from travelling between Heathrow Central and T5.

That said its only a 15 minute journey – 30 max if you miss a train and watch it roll out of the platform.

By all accounts though, Heathrow Express Business class isn’t exceptionally glamorous. Amenities in Business include complimentary newspapers and magazines, more legroom, wider seats (3 in a row instead of 4), a personal table, a power socket at each seat and on-board TV.

The difference in saving with the Heathrow Express & Star Alliance promotion is £10. Considering the Heathrow Express has a travel time of approximately 15 minutes your mileage may vary on whether you think it is worth it for a seat.

Do the Costs add Up?

Ummmm…. Well, it depends.

As A Tourist

As above, you must buy a standard full fare ticket which is £22 per adult (or £25 at the station).

As a leisure traveller with time on their hands, it does not add real value. Advance tickets (AKA fixed date singles in Heathrow Express terms) are released 24 weeks in advance. A 90-day advance ticket gives you a £5.50 one-way ticket (75% off), and at the other end, a 14-day advance ticket cost £15.00 each way (a possible saving of £7 over a full-price return ticket). Although now removed under the current pricing structure, a 90-day advance business was only £7.50 each way and being an extra £2 over a 90-day express saver advance ticket it had value after a cramped flight.

If you are price conscious and lets face it £22 for a 15-minute ride is steep, the Elizabeth Line (AKA TFL Rail and before that Heathrow Connect) is only £10.80 in peak times with the downside being that it can take twice to four times as long as Heathrow Express. Depending on if it pans out though (and when in the future you read this) – TFL wants to bring 8 train to Heathrow an hour which should push those wait times down significantly.

If you are not price sensitive

If the company is footing the bill or if you really need to get to the airport quickly then there isn’t a faster option if you are around the Paddington area. There is no reason to turn it down if you can utilise it.

As Heathrow is home to two non-Star Alliance members (British Airways and Virgin Atlantic) the benefit for Star Alliance Gold members is interesting, be it as a minor way to entice corporates to shift from Oneworld and Virgin’s Strong Skyteam relationship to Star Alliance.

And while it is a higher bar to reach, Members of the British Airways Executive Club who hold Gold Guest List status can also enjoy this complimentary upgrade, based on the purchase of a regular ticket.

Considering we’re only talking about a 15-minute journey this isn’t a promotion to get overly excited about, but a free upgrade is a free upgrade and it may come in useful during busier times.

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