Reciprocal Upgrades Between American, British AIrways, and Iberia Should Be Coming

There’s some great speculation at the Traveling Better forums about expected soon to be introduced upgrade awards using American Airlines miles on British Airways (and likely Iberia), and of course BA and Iberia miles on these carriers as well.

Given the anti-trust approval for the carriers’ joint business ventures, the airlines and mileage programs will certainly become more integrated.

Now, most Star Alliance programs already allow for reciprocal mileage upgrades. Oneworld hasn’t had that. But this subgroup of oneworld carriers almost certainly will.

British Airways offers four classes of service beyond Europe — economy (World Traveller), premium economy (World Traveller Plus), business (ClubWorld), and first class.

So one imagines that an American mileage award would be good for upgrading one class of service. In other words, economy to premium economy rather than economy to business. That’s similar to how you can use British Airways miles to upgrade BA flights.

But at the same time carriers American and Iberia don’t have a premium economy product, so upgrades would be coach to business class. It’ll be interesting to see how they square that circle, Traveling Better’s JonNYC predicts that upgrades from economy to business on American and Iberia with partner miles will require the purchase of higher fare classes than upgrade from economy to premium economy on BA. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the piece that I’m waiting for is this: the ability to redeem miles for award tickets between the US and London (on BA with American miles, and on American with BA miles). The claim had always been that they couldn’t offer reciprocal mileage earning and redemption on these flights because of anti-trust concerns. That was a stretch, though perhaps true for mileage earning and far less reasonable a claim for mileage redemption. But with anti-trust exemption that argument no longer exists. There’s no reason other than American’s desire not to pay for British Airways redemption seats to restrict mileage redemption on flights between the US and London.

British Airways transatlantic award availability is excellent, at least and especially in first class. Now, the non-stop flights from Los Angeles are the toughest in my experience. San Francisco isn’t easy but it exists. Vancouver is outstanding in first class. Dallas and Chicago are pretty good, especially in frist as well. Houston, Phoenix, and Philadelphia availability are out of this world good, in both business and first class. Then there’s Boston, Washington DC, and many other cities.

Once this restriction on transatlantic redemptions goes away – and we all need to call American on it, it’s wholly unjustifiable – these seats will no doubt be a bit harder to get. Great availability nad most of the people who would use it cannot. And it’ll be a real expense for American.

Currently members have to redeem British Airways transatlantic from Canada, Mexico, or the Carribean.. which has been a great workaround for me. It’ll be nice to see that go away.

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. My fear is that award availability will be demolished on BA with their customers/ and One World partners
    AA is a massive OW partner and their customers would be redeeming seats on BA
    who would fly on AA typically when give the choice of BA vs AA
    AA is satisfactory but BA blows them out of the water over the pond IMO

  2. On all those BA transatlantic options with differing availabilty is the F hard product the same? Or should I fight it out to find F availability out of LAX to get a nicer product?

  3. In reading DOT docs re: oneworld ATI, it has been explicitly mentioned that the lack of AA-BA FFP alignment on US-EU/UK is due to the lack of revenue sharing between the carriers.

    Also note that AA and BA publicly announced that they would have revised accrual agreements in place for Q4 (I believe October).

  4. @Derek there is no requirement or need to have revenue sharing in order to offer reciprocal frequent flyer earning and redemption.

  5. @Gary agreed, from a regulatory perspective. however, from a commercial perspective on the (ultra competitive) trans-atlantic market – very different story.

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