Free Heathrow Express first class upgrade for frequent flyers

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

By David Flynn, June 11 2020
Free Heathrow Express first class upgrade for frequent flyers

Perk alert: Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers are eligible for a free Heathrow Express upgrade to the train's Business First class carriage. The popular promotion is continuing throughout 2020, and provides a premium bookend to any business or first class flight into or out of London's Heathrow Airport.

After all, the Heathrow Express is the quickest and easiest way for business travellers 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.

The Heathrow Express makes a 15-minute sprint between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station.
The Heathrow Express makes a 15-minute sprint between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station.

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

Located at either end of the Heathrow Express, these swish 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. So what's the trick to getting a free first class bump on the Heathrow Express?

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

All you need is to hold Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer status with any of Star Alliance's 26 member airlines.

That's a sizeable roster and it includes the higher loyalty tiers at Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, Air China, Austrian, EVA Air, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Turkish Airlines and United Airlines.

Then, purchase a regular full-fare Heathrow Express ticket for standard Express class – it can be either a £22-25 single or a £37 return – but when you board the train, make your way to the Business First carriage and settle in.

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).


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.

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 121

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 468

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 121

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.


22 Oct 2012

Total posts 295

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


03 May 2013

Total posts 603

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

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