These frequent flyers get a free Heathrow Express first class upgrade

By David Flynn, June 6 2019
These frequent flyers get a free Heathrow Express first class upgrade

The Heathrow Express is the quickest and easiest way for business travellers to scoot between Heathrow Airport and London city, or at least Paddington Station – which is a decent place to settle in your hotel (I'm a fan of the hip little Hotel Indigo, just a few minutes' walk away on London Street) or hop a Tube train or an Uber to your final destination.

But for some top-tier frequent flyers, even that fast 15 minute ride can be enjoyed in the relative comfort of the train's 'Business First' first class cabin via a free upgrade from the more crowded standard 'Express' carriages.

Located at either end of the Heathrow Express, these swish carriages offer a little more legroom than in a regular 'economy' carriage, plus wider seats in a more relaxed 1-1 layout, a personal table and even an AC power socket at each seat in case your device needs a fast top-up.

They're also less crowded and therefore quieter than regular carriages. So what's the trick to getting a free first class bump on the Heathrow Express?

You'll need to hold Star Alliance Gold status with any Star Alliance airline, or the more exclusive Gold Guest List card with British Airways Executive Club.

The Heathrow Express Business First upgrade for Star Alliance Gold status

This one's a doddle for frequent business travellers, as it covers the Gold-equivalent tiers of Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, ANA, Thai Airways, Asiana, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa and Swiss, among others.

Purchase a standard Heathrow Express ticket, but make your way to the Business First carriage and settle in. When the conductor passes through, simply show your ticket and your Gold frequent flyer card (or smartphone app).

The Heathrow Express Business First upgrade for BAEC GGL status

British Airways Executive Club Gold Guest List (GGL) status is a loftier reach than Star Alliance Gold, sitting level above BAEC Gold – which is on par with Qantas Platinum and other Oneworld Emerald tiers.

However, unlike the Star Alliance Gold upgrade, having a BAEC GGL card also lets you upgrade a guest travelling with you on the Heathrow Express.

Just buy a standard Heathrow Express ticket, plonk yourself in the Business First carriage and show the conductor your ticket and your BAEC Gold Guest List card or or smartphone app.

Note that the free Heathrow Express first class upgrade applies only to BAEC Gold Guest List members – not BAEC Gold or other Oneworld Emerald-grade frequent flyers.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

This is one of my favourite things. Just a note you will need to be able to show on your device or your card with the star alliance logo on it - just showing a UA luggage tag etc is not enough.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

02 Jul 2018

Total posts 43

Agree with you Dave. Hotel Indigo Paddington is one favourite hotel for me in London.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

14 Mar 2019

Total posts 11

Nice pub a few doors down also and the neighbourhood indian is fine. Paddington is a good place to be based if one is in London just for a few days. Beats the purgatory of taxi's and the tube generally

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Sep 2018

Total posts 2

FWIW, Hotel Indigo in Tower Hill is also a top place to stay, albeit a bit further out.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 404

If the service is there for Star Alliance then Oneworld should be working towards the same.

29 Aug 2017

Total posts 17

Totally agree with you David, although I’m currently staying at the Norfolk Towers hotel which is a 2minute walk from Paddington Station. You can’t beat the location. I always stay in the area when visiting.


12 May 2015

Total posts 6

Agree with others. The Hotel Indigo at Paddington is a great place to stay, easy transport to everywhere (tube, bus etc). Always have at least one meal at the Indian.

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