Free Heathrow Express first class upgrade for frequent flyers

Your Gold frequent flyer card is also your ticket to a free upgrade on the Heathrow Express.

By David Flynn, January 13 2022
Free Heathrow Express first class upgrade for frequent flyers

Headed to London? Have Gold status with a Star Alliance member airline such as Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Swiss or any of the group's 23 other carriers?

Then a flash of your Gold frequent flyer card is all it takes for a free upgrade on the Heathrow Express to the train's Business First class carriage.

The Heathrow Express darts between Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station in just 15 minutes.
The Heathrow Express darts between Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station in just 15 minutes.

The Heathrow Express is the quickest and easiest way to scoot between Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station, where you can settle into your hotel or hop a Tube train or an Uber to your final destination.

Enjoy a free upgrade to Heathrow Express Business First class.
Enjoy a free upgrade to Heathrow Express Business First class.

And even though it's a zippy non-stop journey, being able to step up from the standard Express carriages to Business First is still a treat.

Business First class on the Heathrow Express.
Business First class on the Heathrow Express.

Located at either end of the Heathrow Express, these swish Business First carriages offer more legroom than the regular 'economy' carriage, wider seats, a personal table and even an AC/USB sockets at each seat in case your device needs a fast top-up. They're also less crowded and therefore quieter than regular carriages.

A standard Express fare costs £25 one-way, or £37 for a return journey, with Business First at £32 one-way or £55 for a return trip.

So what's the trick to getting a free first class bump on the Heathrow Express?

Just buy a Heathrow Express ticket for regular Express class, but make your way to the Business First carriage and settle in.

Enjoy a free upgrade to Heathrow Express Business First class.
Enjoy a free upgrade to Heathrow Express Business First class.

When the conductor passes through, simply show your ticket and your Star Alliance Gold-grade frequent flyer card – or the digital card on your airline's own smartphone app.

Note that the terms and conditions of this Star Alliance offer specify "you must purchase of a full fare standard class ticket to and/or from London Paddington and Heathrow Airport", which may seem to rule out taking advantage of the heavily-discounted advance fares which can be as little as £5.50 one way when purchased 90 days ahead.

However, many frequent flyers have report no issues with claiming their free Star Alliance Gold upgrade to Heathrow Express Business First against an advance fare.

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 122

As a frequent user of the Heathrow Express the value of this is:

(1) being in the front carriage from Heathrow to Paddington and being able to exit the platform swiftly. Sometimes the ticket gates are open and you just walk through*, but other times you need to scan your ticket (again) and you have to deal with people rifling through their bag to find the folded piece of paper on which they've printed their ticket etc etc.

* If you come across a scrum of people, just make a bee line to the LEFT of the main ticket gates and you'll find gates on the side that are usually not used because people just follow everyone else.

(2) being in a carriage with fewer people and having somewhere to put your luggage and sit down. Often the main carriages are very packed. But realistically given it's a 15 minute train ride it's not that big of a deal. Here's a few tips when traveling in the regular carriages when it's full:

- Don't bother stowing your luggage. The train is pretty smooth so just stand in the vestibule area with your luggage for the short trip to and from Heathrow.

- There are actually small fold down seats in the vestibule area which are perfectly fine for the 15 minute trip. Rarely do I see them being used. My usual journey is sitting on one of them with my luggage in the vestibule area which makes for a speedy getaway whilst everyone is getting up from their seats, getting their luggage off the rack etc etc.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 539

Is morning/afternoon tea served in First Class? Kidding, looks good (I should start using it and then Cab/Uber to my hotel/Air BnB host). Thanks David (and traveller99).

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 122

It's a great way to get to and from Heathrow. I typically get an Uber to and from home to Paddington + Heathrow Express.

Normal traffic from central London to and from Heathrow can be a nightmare. With the Heathrow Express you know it's 15 minutes.

Seems to be a very reliable service too -- I've got it probably 20+ times and it's always been good. Sometimes they have a reduced service (perhaps one train each 20 minutes).

Outbound from Paddington get on towards the middle for easy exit at Heathrow.

At Heathrow get on towards the front of the train (just ask someone at the station which end of the platform that will be) to make for a speedy exist at Paddington.

Qantas

22 Oct 2012

Total posts 310

Buy your tickets 90+ days in advance and the single fare is just £5.50

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 663

Considering the national carrier BA is oneworld I'm wondering why BA or ow tier holders dont get the same upgrade on the HEX?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1428

This seems to suggest business class travel is way down, so a way of filling up the first class seats. Do the airlines have to pay anything beyond free advertising of Heathrow express, which must be losing money hand over fist.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 387

This promotion has been in place since before Covid so I don't think you can read any 'business travel trend' into it. It's probably just more that HX wants to try to get people travelling on it instead of the cheaper but slower Heathrow Connect. Certainly nobody who catches the Tube would be swayed to HX by the promise of this upgrade, the pricing is vastly different, but then, how many of those serious business travellers with Gold status would be regularly using the Tube instead of HX or HC?

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 75

I do. Only partly because Tube to Heathrow from Belsize Park is easier than getting to Paddington for the HEx. Only one change; via Paddington is two changes (at very busy stations).

24 Apr 2018

Total posts 9

If you hold a BA GGL (Gold Guest List) card this is a perpetual upgrade for you plus one, even using carnet tickets on the HEX. Anecdotally, flashing a regular BA Gold card works fine too.


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