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.