At the beginning of October American Airlines quietly took away access to extra legroom seating from partner airline elite members. Elite members of programs other than American AAdvantage – programs like British Airways Executive Club and Qantas Frequent Flyer – were no longer entitled to complimentary Main Cabin Extra.
I pointed out at the time that access to similar seats for elite members of partner programs is a benefit that United Airlines removed years ago, but that it’s a strange thing for American to do now.
- They didn’t just take away the benefit from members of programs like Malaysia Airlines Enrich, they took it away from members of joint venture partner airline programs too.
- American’s deals with airline like British Airways are supposed to be ‘metal neutral’. It shouldn’t matter to the airline, or to the customer, whether they’re flying American or BA – the relationship should be seamless, and the airlines split the revenue.
- Indeed, the airline’s fundamental strategy has shifted to focus more on partnerships, building up not just British Airways’ Heathrow as a hub but now Boston and New York (JetBlue) and the West Coast (Alaska). And last month Vasu Raja – whom the AAdvantage program now reports up to – said that integration of experience and benefits matters to make the airline’s strategy work, and that benefits from one airline to the other need to be seamless.
So as Zach Griff notes it makes sense that American has partially reversed course. They’ve restored benefits for elite members of the British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Japan Airlines programs. As before,
- oneworld sapphire and emerald members receive Main Cabin Extra at booking
- oneworld ruby members receive Main Cabin Extra seating, if available, at check-in
This means that American’s transatlantic and transpacific joint venture partner members will once again be treated similarly to AAdvantage elite members. And it restores some sanity to the notion that Alaska Airlines and JetBlue elites might be treated similarly as well – since that’s core to the strategy that American has laid out.
But it certainly doesn’t guarantee it. While American is pursuing codeshares and loyalty program partnerships with both airlines, they aren’t metal-neutral revenue-sharing anti-trust immunized joint ventures. And joint ventures alone aren’t actually enough to trigger the benefit – Qantas Frequent Flyer members are curiously left off the list. Perhaps another oversight that American will backtrack on?
If Alaska members in particular do gain access to Main Cabin Extra seating on American then for most customers it makes sense to earn elite status with Alaska, not American even if they fly American.