American Airlines was Down Under promoting their new Sydney service which starts next month, their joint venture with Qantas (which has yet to receive US government approval), and announcing new service to Auckland, New Zealand as well.
Sydney Opera House as Seen From Park Hyatt Sydney
American AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin was there talking frequent flyer programs, and the Sydney Morning Herald reports on several possibilities for the program.
- Reciprocal upgrades with Qantas “is certainly a topic of conversation”
She said there might be opportunities for shared benefits, such as allowing Qantas frequent flyer members to upgrade on American Airlines flights using points and vice versa
- American would look at co-brand credit card opportunities in the Australia market.
There are 100,000 AAdvantage members in Australia out of 100 million total, and 10 million Qantas Frequent Flyer members.
Currently AAdvantage is far superior for earning and redemption. AAdvantage mid-tier status will provide Qantas lounge access. The reason to credit miles to a Qantas Frequent Flyer account is largely for access to upgrades. Or, put more politely,
Ms Rubin said the Qantas and American Airlines frequent flyer programs were likely to appeal to different customers, perhaps depending on how often they travel to US.
“Depending on your specific travel needs, depending on what you value most as a frequent flyer member whether it is access to redemption seats or the status, it is important to understand both programs and how each one may best serve your needs,” she said.
Take a first class award on Qantas, Sydney – Dallas roundtrip, which I recently booked for 145,000 American AAdvantage miles. That same award is 336,000 Qantas miles.
Qantas A380 First Class
The American AAdvantage program, joint venture or not, can easily make sense for an Australia-based member (unless and until American substantially alters their award chart). There are fewer earning opportunities today Down Under. And AAdvantage elite status does require 4 American flights during the year. So it’s hard to be loyal to American exclusively if based in Australia (or New Zealand).
Down Under American was willing to address a shift in AAdvantage to a more revenue-based program, even though in the US they’ve remained silent on the leaked changing coming to the program.
American Airlines is considering a strategic shift in its frequent flyer program, which is now a relative outlier for favouring points earned based on the distance flown rather than the revenue from the ticket.
US rivals United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have shifted to revenue-based programs. Qantas also did last year, and Virgin Australia has long based its program on revenue.
Ms Rubin said AAdvantage members should expect the program will take into account other shifts in the industry as it advances its program in the future, but she added it wanted to remain a regular winner of customer choice awards. “There are many ways for us to do that,” she said, declining to divulge any details.