How To Change The Frequent Flyer Number In Your Reservation When The Airline Won’t Let You

American Airlines has two frustrating, little-known rules for frequent flyers who like to redeem miles in one program and use the benefits of elite status from another – or who want to use their AAdvantage elite benefits while flying American, but earn miles in another partner frequent flyer program.

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

The most common ways you might run into this are,

  • Redeeming British Airways Avios for travel on American Airlines, and wanting to use your American Airlines elite status for extra legroom seats, priority boarding, and free checked bags (or even upgrades)

  • Buying an American Airlines ticket, using your AAdvantage elite status to assign extra legroom coach seats, but preferring to earn miles for the trip in an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account.

While many other airlines let you switch account numbers at will, American’s rule is not to do so. Some agents may do it anyway when asked. But when an agent refuses, they’re actually following the rules.

Mileage Earn and Burn writes about using the Finnair website to pull up a British Airways-issued award and change the frequent flyer number in the reservation. And this reminds me that while I’ve covered this many times over 7 years,/a> it may not be common knowledge.

In the past I’ve had intermittent success with the Finnair website as well as the Royal Jordanian website, oneworld members both. And for similar problems (albeit not the result of such explicit rules) booking United Airlines award travel with programs like Avianca LifeMiles or Air Canada Aeroplan, the Lufthansa website has been useful.

I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to violate program rules but it’s interesting to know what self-serve tools are available on the internet for managing one’s reservations.

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. I routinely use BA Avios to fly my family TPA-ORD (where we have family). I always call the EP desk and ask them to add my EP number and seat us in Main Cabin Extra and I’ve never gotten push back. I’ve done this at least a dozen times in the past 3 years FWIW.

  2. I never have a problem adding my AA number for AA flights booked using BA points. For such BA-issued mileage ticket bookings, what I do is this:

    1) Book the award travel on while selecting the option that indicates that the booking is not for me.
    2) enter all the typical details for the traveler other than frequent flyer program number.
    3) wait for ticket issue email to be sent by BA.
    4) go to BA’s site to manage my booking and add AA frequent flyer number.

    Been doing this for years, including this year, and its not been a problem for me.

  3. As usual GUWonder beat me to it, but the best option is similar
    – add yourself as a friend in your BA household account with the AA number listed on the FF info
    – then when you book for yourself, the AA details get passed on – along with EP privileges
    – I have gotten push back from BA reps nowadays that “it is not allowed”
    – I have also been able to change the number on the BA site itself (and got free bags)

  4. Its way simpler with BA. When you book the award with your miles, you can delete the BA Exec Club number for your yourself and leave it blank and process the ticket. Then when you pull up the award on the AA site, just add your AA number. Literally just did it this morning.

  5. @ Gary — I always call the EXP desk immediately after booking a BA award to add our EXP #s. I always ask them to add them so “I can keep track of the reservation through the American app.” I’ve never had even one question asked. This seems to be a bit of a myth that agents won’t do this.

  6. What can you do if you have booked an AA ticket for cash, put in your BA number so to get OneWorld benefits such as booking exit row for no cost, but now you want to put your AA account back on the ticket because you paid for an upgrade to F so no need for booking the exit row. Is this possible? When I go to the reservation and try to update pax details, the FF box is gray.

  7. I think this is slightly inaccurate. As far as I know, being able to remove your AA number using Finnair or RJ has been disabled. Something about Sabre not getting along with whatever they use.

    I’ve had more success when wanting to remove/replace my AA number using twitter. Check-in agent also an option.

  8. Is any method working? I’ve tried the following with no luck:

    – Finnair and RJ and Qatar get error messages
    – Book for a “friend”. I leave the FF blank or use my AA. In both cases the BA site ends up associating my name and automatically adds my BA EC #
    – I’m unable to edit this number in any site

    Should I try calling?

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