A Trick to Get Your Elite Benefits When Redeeming Miles From Another Program

When redeeming miles using one program for travel on another, you’ll generally have the frequent flyer numer from the account you used to book the ticket in the reservation.

If you use British Airways Avios for award travel on American, your BA account number is in the booking. That’s not always desirable. You may have elite benefits with American AAdvantage, or have the American co-brand credit card, and want your AAdvantage number in the profile to take advantage of benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags.

    There’s currently a glitch that’s been reported by many readers, that I’ve been asking American about for the last 6 weeks, where if you book a British Airways award ticket on American then American will not be able to assign you seats — even if you get your AAdvantage number with elite status in the reservation.

    If you call an agent may see an error that it’s not permitted. Hang up, call back. Enough calls, or a message to the @AmericanAir twitter team, should get you the seat you’re looking for.

American Executive Platinum Benefits in Coach: Extra Legroom, Free Food and Drink

American technically wants you to have the account number in the reservation of the miles you used for the ticket, but it’s certainly possible to change this. I’ve historically used either the Finnair or Royal Jordanian websites to pull up the British Airways confirmation number, and then to replace the British Airways frequent flyer number with my AAdvantage number. (Any given site has worked on and off for years.)

You run into similar issues booking award travel on United with miles from a partner program like Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles. I can generally pull up the reservation at United.com with my confirmation number from a partner, but not change the frequent flyer number in the reservation.

However Ron L. reports success,

Use the Lufthansa website to retrieve your booking by using the Avianca record locator.

In “passenger details” change to frequent flyer number from Avianca’s to your United number

Give the computers a couple of minutes to talk to each other. Then log into your United account and – voila! – your reservation is in there.

You cannot change or cancel the reservation. However, if you have any privileges (such as free luggage) based on your status or on your affiliated credit card, you can get them. You can also choose your seats.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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’ve given up on booking AA flights because of the glitch preventing you from booking a seat with status. It’s time consuming to call and you may need to HUCA if you get an agent who is adamant you need to pay $50 per passenger. It applies to revenue tickets on BA stock as well as Avios. Really hope they fix it soon but there is clearly no desire from AA.

  2. @Gary
    Gary, I am facing exactly that scenario, I booked AA ticket with Avios
    AA does not want to change number
    BA I didnt call yet but I suspect they will not be cooperative and in the BA website you can not modify the number
    where in the finnair or RJ site can I do this?

  3. I booked BA using QF points last week. I am QR Platinum. I couldn’t get seats and they wanted money for baggage even in Business. So I simply called BA, asked the agent to change the FF number and bang, seats I wanted for free and no charges for baggage. Sometimes a simple phone call works best. Just be nice, most of the agents are imbeciles and not worth feeding but they do respond to nice

  4. If you understand HTML then it’s not difficult to ensure your statused Avios or Qantas number is in an AAvantage redemption at the time of booking.

    The problem extends to after booking.

    I have a Qantas frequent flyer redemption on an AA flight made last year.

    On booking I was able to select a seat in line with my Emerald status.

    Since mid December I can no longer change it on line, every seat is unselectable

    T class.

  5. I’m a delta diamond. I have used VS miles to book travel on both VS and DL. When traveling on VS I simply logged into the VS website and change my frequent flyer number to my delta one. That gave me instant privileges on VS and no issues changing it. When using VS miles to travel on Delta metal I pulled up the reservation on the Delta website using the Delta record locator and changed the frequent flyer number to my Delta one. The flight shows up in my profile like any other; it just has a 932 ticket number.

  6. I had trouble getting United to switch a reward ticket to my Aegean number last week. Apparently asking them to remove it was a request that they could do and I was able to put it in online. I wish they would make this easier.

  7. Thank You so much for reporting on the BA issue using points for AA flights and trying to select a seat assignment
    Regarding AA seat assignments with Avios Bookings on points
    I called American on the Platinum line and couldn’t get a straight answer out of anyone
    when I tried to escalate it they were condescending and rude to me and it ended up in an argument with agents inventing policies and claiming elites could never book seats on American through partners
    Fared no better with Advantage customer service
    The airline now sucks so bad now its simply shocking.The CEO has brought the airline to the worst customer service performance level in years
    They were great not all that long ago.
    A supervisor told me to complain to Customer relations online
    WTF will somebody please identify the problem and notify the reps?
    Because of their combative stance I suspect American is trying to make all customers miserable
    theirs or One World partners booking on AA
    Just another reason to dump them with their horrible business behavior
    I was able to get a nice AA rep who called the help desk and found a work around
    No explanation but 6 agents later a kind caring individual.
    Americans lack of support for their own agents have turned some of their team into a totally them against us mentality with utter hostility.So So very Sad 🙁
    I was a huge fan of American till Parker came on board and slowly but surely continues to ruin the company one day at a time.

  8. Currently traveling with same BA to AA award on all AA metal. As Gold AA they wont let me select MCE seats within check in period. Charged baggage fees even with AA cards and AA number on reservation. Separate issue but still bad is the newish policy where they won’t through check bags with separate PNR connecting flights. Seems worse everytime I fly AA.

  9. I recently booked some flights on AA and JAL metal using Avios (obtained through CC signup bonus)

    I have no BA, JAL or AA status.

    Is there any benefit in changing the frequent flier number to AA or to JAL? Since these are reward flights, I am obviously not getting any miles for them, but is there any OW member out there, that counts reward flights towards total lifetime flights, or similar?

  10. Here is the Twitter message transcript between myself and @AmericanAir Monday morning US time:
    Thanks for your help and your reply to my tweet. My AA mileage number is XXXXXXX. I cannot give you a booking number because I want to know the answer to my question before I actually book with British Airways Avios. I am trying to book XXX to XXX for myself and my wife using 7500 Avios (each) flying on AA. There is good availability and I have some Avios I want to get rid of. If I use my AA miles, of course I’ll get a free bag, as will my wife, as I carry the Citibank AA Signature platinum Visa card. However, what I am trying to find out is whether I will or will not have to pay for my bag if I book on http://www.ba.com using my Avios to fly on AA.

    In short: will I have to pay baggage, or not?

    (American Airlines)
    Thanks for the info. Your Citi AAdvantage Platinum credit card will allow one free checked bag for you and up to four people traveling in the same reservation with you on all domestic flights within the U.S. For more info, see http://bit.ly/AA_CitiCards .

    And this applies when I book my AA flight with British Airways Avios?
    Just show my card?
    at check in?
    Nothing about 7 days beforehand – having my AA Advantage number attached to the booking?

    (American Airlines)
    If you’re traveling on an American Airlines flight and your AAdvantage number is in the reservation, there will be no charge for your first bag. Per the link provided, “First checked bag free for you and up to four people traveling with you on American Airlines itineraries.” Your card must be active for at least seven days prior to travel.

    Thanks. One final question: how can I get my AAdvantage number in the reservation once it’s made on the British Airways website? Can you do this for me?

    (American Airlines)
    You can add it yourself online, call 800-433-7300, or send us a tweet with your info. We’re here 24/7 to help.

    Now, is this accurate???

  11. I have used BA Avios for AA flights on several occasions the past couple of years for my daughter to travel to and from college on her breaks as the flight can be purchased with 7500 Avios versus 12,500 AAdvantage miles. She often has luggage to check and holds the Barclays Aviator card which is attached to her AA frequent flyer number. I have always called AA to change the frequent flyer number to her AA number and have never had a problem. She is able this way to check a large suitcase for free. I don’t know if explaining my reason for changing the frequent flyer number has made a difference.

  12. In December, I was able to change from an Avianca number to a UA number (booked UA using Avianca LifeMiles) directly on the Avianca website.

  13. Yes, for sure they’ve C*** blocked being able to update an AA flight record with your AAdvantage number, when flight is redeemed with Avios. I used to do it all the time, easily, online, now it requires a call to an agent. Prob spent IT budget adding this ‘glitch’ rather than it being a legitimate bug that needs fixing, to try to increase incidental revenue. Sad!

  14. What a timely post! We just returned from OGG, booked on AA using BA Avios. Flew OGG-PHX-SLC. We could not select seats even after check-in. Arrived at the airport early and asked about changing seat since we were seated several rows apart. Nothing available on the kiosk screen but they said they would check. Also tried to charge us for bags even though we both have AA cards. The problem was the BA FF # which you can not remove online. The agents changed to our AA #’s and no issues after that. I have another BA booking on AA. Tried the RJ trick and didn’t work. Finnair did let me change the FF #’s and it’s updated on AA’s website but still can’t see any seats on the seating map.

  15. Anyone know if this “trick” on AA is now dead? I just booked a flight on AA metal with Avios but have AA Platinum Pro status. Tweeted AA to see if I could add my AA # to the reservation and was told “You’re not able to add your AAdvantage number to flights booked with other airline’s points.”

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