American Airlines has numerous airline partners. There are 22 different airlines – besides American itself – that you can redeem your miles for travel on. But not all of their partnerships are the same. In fact there are (4) basic kinds of partnerships. American lays out what they mean in an internal update for staff.
American Airlines is a member of the oneworld alliance, and that means the ability to earn and redeem miles on other alliance members. It also means priority airport services like check-in and boarding, as well as free checked bags and lounge access, for elite members across the alliance.
But not all relationships with oneworld members are created equal, for instance American has a tighter relationship with Qatar Airways than they do any non-U.S. member of oneworld that isn’t part o a joint venture partnership.
Joint Business Ventures
The closest sort of relationship is a joint business venture, where American partners with some airlines to coordinate schedules and share revenue. In those partnerships they’re also usually able to do a better job protecting passengers in the event of schedule changes, treating a British Airways flight between New York and London as the same as an American flight.
Aer Lingus is part of the transatlantic joint venture. It’s owned by the same company as British Airways and Iberia. And yet most Aer Lingus flights don’t even earn miles in the AAdvantage program. (Ironically you can credit Aer Lingus flights to United, and you can earn British Airways points flying United by crediting those to Aer Lingus and transferring them.)
Joint ventures are one way around limits that governments place on a foreign airline taking a significant ownership stake in a home country carrier. The U.S. will not allow joint ventures with an airline in a country with which there is no Open Skies treaty.
American Airlines and Alaska are partners in oneworld, but they have a deeper relationship than that, even extending extra legroom coach seats and upgrades to each others’ elites for instance. American has a hole in the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest that Alaska helps them fill.
American should even ultimately be forming a joint frequent flyer progam with Brazil’s Gol in which they’ve taken an ownership stake.
Meanwhile JetBlue is not a part of oneworld, but the two airlines coordinate which one flies a given route out of New York and Boston and there are reciprocal elite benefits – providing the Justice Department’s anti-trust case, currently awaiting a ruling after a trial, doesn’t derail things. The federal government had signed off on the deal before going to court to block it.
In American’s internal messaging about their partners this fourth category doesn’t even rate a mention which is odd considering the varied nature of their relationships.
China Southern Airlines is actually part-owned by American, since American took a $200 million stake in the giant Chinese mainland carrier.
Fiji Airways is a limited member of oneworld, with limited benefits so I mostly still think of them as a redemption partner.
Etihad Airways is a bit of an odd one. As with Qatar, they once tried to get the airline kicked out of the country. Yet the ability to earn (non-status) miles and redeem miles never disappeared, though redemption has only intermittently been reliably available on the American Airlines website and many of us have had to resort to calling U.K. or Australia reservations to get seats. Now with American closer to Qatar it’s odd in a different way that their Abu Dhabi-based airline partnership continues.
Hawaiian Airlines is a partner but not between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. That doesn’t just mean intra-island flights, though, you can fly Hawaiian from Honolulu to the South Pacific.
IndiGo applies only to codeshare routes
Air Tahiti Nui gives you a way to use miles to get to French Polynesia (and if you ever buy tickets there, crediting to AAdvantage may be one option).
And then Cape Air and Silver Airways get customers to destinations American doesn’t reach on its own.
Additionally I’d note that JetSmart is pending but AAdvantage is expected to become their frequent flyer program.