American Airlines will not allow AAdvantage elite members to receive their benefits when traveling on an award ticket issued with a partner airline’s miles. For instance if you redeem your Alaska Airlines or British Airways miles for an American Airlines flight, you’re not supposed to be able to apply your AAdvantage account number to the booking.
In practice though some agents would let you do it, and it’s long been possible to use a workaround to do it yourself.
But what if you have status with the partner airline and you’re traveling on American?
As first reported by Zach Griff, American Airlines has taken away access to Main Cabin Extra seating from partner airline elites. Elite members of programs other than American AAdvantage are no longer entitled to complimentary Main Cabin Extra.
- This matches a change United made many years ago, so isn’t surprising
- But American, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair are supposed to be in a metal neutral joint venture – surely they should treat elites in those airline frequent flyer programs as well as their own
Whether traveling on an award or a paid American Airlines itinerary, if you’re using a partner frequent flyer account number you aren’t supposed to receive extra legroom seats in coach any longer.
Ironically 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). Last month Vasu Raja – who himself now oversees the AAdvantage program – 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. Yet they’re moving in the opposite direction.
This makes the most sense to me though as a (strategically poor) reaction to their closer partnership with Alaska Airlines. For most customers it makes sense to earn elite status with Alaska, not American even if you fly American – but this move is a block against that.
Right now, though, if a Main Cabin Extra seat is open on an American Airlines flight the carrier’s policy (that not all flight attendants realize) is to let you take it for social distancing reasons. So until the pandemic ends everyone can have Main Cabin Extra if there are seats available upon boarding – though for the moment these seats do not come with complimentary alcoholic beverages anymore.