American Refuses Elite Benefits When Traveling on Awards Issued By Partner Airlines

British Airways Avios remain a great way to book travel on American Airlines, when award space is available. The British Airways website has a problem seeing the space, here’s a workaround.

They charge 7500 points for a flight segment up to 1150 miles. That includes routes like New York JFK – Miami and Dallas Fort-Worth – Raleigh. For just 12,500 points you can even fly Los Angeles – Honolulu.

Under American’s rules they make you give up your AAdvantage elite benefits if you fly American using miles from a partner frequent flyer program. A 100,000 mile AAdvantage Executive Platinum using British Airways points to fly on American isn’t supposed to get any of the benefits of their status — from priority boarding, to checked bags, to seat assignments.

There are two important and often-overlooked items in American’s frequent flyer rules,

You cannot accrue partner airline miles with your partner frequent flyer number if you have already used your AAdvantage number to obtain AAdvantage program benefits such as First or Business Class upgrades, baggage fee waivers or complimentary access to Preferred/Main Cabin Extra seats. Additionally, you cannot redeem partner airline miles with your partner frequent flyer number and obtain AAdvantage program benefits such as priority boarding and access to preferred seats.

Here are the two rules:

  1. You’re not allowed to switch out your frequent flyer number and accrue miles with a partner after you’ve used benefits of your AAdvantage elite status.

  2. You’re not allowed to use AAdvantage elite benefits when traveling on American through a partner award redemption.

I Might Have Even Gotten Snacks and a Drink on a British Airways-Issued Award Ticket Before

American made big changes to AAdvantage terms in 2015 and this was apparently added at that time.

In practice this is rarely enforced. However I was asked about this on Twitter,

Although surprising to experts even, American’s twitter team is correct about the rules. I’m told that agents are being “remind[ed]..of this policy so our customers have a consistent experience.” Sigh. Although some agents may still help you of course. Ask nicely.

In practice I suggest taking a do-it-yourself approach to swapping out your frequent flyer number.

And to American I’d simply say that your best customers are your best customers every time they’re in the airport and traveling on one of your planes, no matter what currency they used for the ticket. Treating an Executive Platinum or ConciergeKey member poorly because they used British Airways points for the booking — and American and British Airways even have anti-trust immunity to collude on schedules and pricing — is just poor business.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Whenever I book AA flights using avios, I always leave the BA fa section blank and then add my AA number on the aa website. Never had a problem this way. The BA pnr can be used with AA to show you the AA record locator.

  2. Several months ago as an elite I did have issues selecting ANY seat on flights booked using Avios for American Airlines flights, I couldn’t until at the airport, not even at check in time! Nor even buy a seat! Now it makes sense even though none of the phone agents could explain why they couldn’t select me a seat. Part of the reason I dropped flying American as much and thus not trying to earn low level elite status. It’s not worth it. They are totally defeating the purpose of these programs when they do that as you are correct Gary. I used to spend so much more money with American, and now they give such little incentive to do it anymore. I should have been a very profitable customer for them.

  3. BA can change the frequent flyer number in BA bookings for AA-operated flights. And the same goes for BA Executive Club point redemption bookings.

    I book a huge number of BAEC redemption tickets for AA-operated flights, and I’ve always managed to get the AA elite status benefits applied. But I also know how to make it easier from the start so I don’t need to deal with a telephone or airport airline rep to make it happen.

  4. How certain are you that the restriction about using AA status benefits on partner program redemption tickets was added in the terms and conditions in 2015?

    I don’t recall seeing a 2015 archive of those terms and conditions having such a restriction. Do you have those archived terms and conditions from 2015?

  5. What if you have no AA status? Why would you prohibit the change of FF number then?

  6. Not sure why this is an issue – seems like common sense to me. If you want to get your AA benefits due to your status, use your AA miles.

  7. @John – if you have no AA status and its an award booking there is literally zero benefit from putting your AA number into the booking anyway

  8. Last week I flew AA operated flight that I bought as Alaska code share
    Used my AA number to check the bag for free and then asked agent at airport to insert AS number and he happily did that and just got AS credit which is 3 times the AA credit for same flight

  9. @CAKFlyer — I have all my passport/visa/KTN info stored on my AA profile. If I add my AA number, they will apply to the PNR. If not, I will have to manually enter everything. Huge benefit for me.

  10. I put in my AA number so that I can see the flights on, and I don’t get pre-check unless the reservation has my AA number (you can probably get it another way). Learned that one the hard way.

  11. With Trump and The Deplorables, they espouse (and do) a barrage of outrageously wrong stuff, just to move the mid-point their direction. Average dopey American thinks “ahh, you can’t believe anyone anymore, truth must be somewhere in the middle”. Victory Trump, even if its terrible for the country.

    What is AA trying to achieve by doing outrageously wrong-headed stuff with the AAdvantage program? It’s as if they’d like to eliminate it altogether, even if it’s bad for the company.

  12. Hi Gary,

    Definitely off topic for this thread but wanted to point this out as you haven’t mentioned it on your blog yet (I think).
    AA seems to have some sort of glitch in award pricing. For example, an award search from NYC-YYZ for 6/1 shows saver options with a stop in PHL, yet searching PHL-YYZ as a standalone does not appear as a saver award. Just wondering if you have any knowledge of this issue. Perhaps a revenue element is being introduced into award pricing, which would make sense since Delta has done that….

  13. People who use other mileage awards to fly free on my airline are pond scum and should be treated accordingly.

  14. @Gary – Thank you. This definitely takes BA awards on AA metal off the table for such flights…

  15. The ability to work around is so easy that I did it without realizing. I booked AA flights using BA Avios for me and my wife. My BA number populated automatically but her info was left blank. I went and added her AA number to the reservation (she’s a Plat Pro and has Aviator card). Benefits for both of us showed up immediately allowing me to choose any economy seat I wanted. The only enforceability will be keeping agents from putting AA number on the reservation and we’ve seen how well they’ve been able to train all agents up until now.

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