oneworld Upgrades Expected To Launch By End Of Year, American Elites Could Upgrade On 14 Airlines

Last summer the CEO of the global oneworld alliance – which includes airlines like American, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Qantas and others – was talking up a project to let members of one frequent flyer program upgrade on other airlines in the alliance similar to what Star Alliance has today.

For a decade American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia have offered one-cabin upgrades on paid full fare tickets which I hope never to have to buy. For five years there’s been talk of expanding this between American and Qantas. It was supposed to be close in 2016 as the two airlines announced their expanded joint venture.

However expansion of elite upgrades across partner airlines has gained momentum with American top executives talking up reciprocal upgrades to include Japan Airlines and actually introducing reciprocal upgrades with new oneworld member Alaska Airlines.

Now it looks like we’ll see real upgrades across the full alliance in a matter of months with a oneworld Vice President predicting it will launch by the end of the year. There are, however, still hurdles to overcome,

Oneworld is yet to lock down the mechanics of the upgrade process among its member carriers.

Such agreements were previously expected to have been finalised by the end of 2020, representing a delay to the negotiation process approaching six months.

British Airways First Class

Qantas First Class

We don’t yet know what fare classes will be eligible for upgrade or how confirming upgrades will work, but I’d expect as a first pass that it’ll be similar to how Star Alliance upgrades and existing British Airways-American-Iberia upgrades work requiring expensive tickets out of reach of most flyers, rather than upgrades on any fare for domestic and close-in international the way that American and Alaska offer. However that’s a pre-pandemic mindset and I’m hopeful it might be reconsidered.

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. […] Star Alliance member airlines have let you use miles from one program to upgrade on flights operated by another member for decades. Members of the oneworld alliance, anchored in the U.S. by American Airlines, were poised to roll out this feature two year ago, but the pandemic interfered. Still, the alliance CEO said it would happen around the time Alaska Airlines joined the alliance. That didn’t happen. Then the promise was end of 2021. […]


  1. I really hope this results in EP flyers being able to use SUs on OW airlines in a similar manner to the way 1K flyers can use PP upgrades on LH/CM/NH. This would greatly increase the value of EP in my book since I rarely find reasonable prices on upgradable Y fares on AA metal.

  2. @ Doug – UA 1K flyers still need to purchase high fare class tickets in order to use PP to upgrade on NH and LH !!! Do you seriously think using AA SWU would work on any fare classes on OW partners ? Not a chance !

  3. Maybe they should start with more modest goals like learning how to check luggage through when flying on more than a single OW airline before trying something so wildly aspirational. Otherwise they’re just looking at angering customers on another level through more ineptitude.

  4. @ORDnHKG – While it is true that PP upgrades don’t work on deep discount fares, they only need to be Q or higher on LH (U or higher on NH) and they also work from D to F. I just used PP to upgrade FRA-JNB on a $900 Q fare into J on the outbound and on a $2,100 D fare into F on the return. If similar options were available on CX/QR/JL that would be amazing.

  5. I have a question that is SOMEWHAT on topic. I am gold on AA. No status on BA. Use my AA number on BA segments but with the reduced status requirements on BA, I could get status really quick with some travel in the fall. What should I do? Use AA status (where I will get seat selection 7 days in advance) or bite the bullet and switch to BA rewards program? Bonus, can I use AA to get seats and then transfer back to BA to get status there? Again somewhat off topic but is related based on OW discussion. Thanks in advance!

  6. @kimbray technically speaking you need a UK address to register a BA Account to but if you’re crediting already then I’ll guess you have that covered.

    You will need to fly on BA metal though to get status. You can earn all the Tier Points you like but if you don’t do the flights / segments then you don’t get the status as it’s part of the qualifying matrix.

    You can find out how many are needed by googling it or on baDotCom

  7. Yes I have a BA account. Was just wondering the pros/cons of leveraging AA status as opposed to getting status on BA. For all previous travel I have used AA member # for BA flights but with the lowering of status on BA, wondering if I should get BA stand alone. I travel on BA to UK two times a year usually on BA metal thru LHR unfortunately. So should I use my AA # or go for BA status? Thanks!

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