American AAdvantage Members Can Now Earn and Redeem Miles for British Airways Transatlantic, and Upgrade on BA and Iberia

As noted a week ago, British Airways, Iberia, and American have been working on reciprocal upgrades. They’ve done more than just introduce upgrades as part of their joint business venture, however. I said that they needed to introduce better redemption as well, and they did.

Effective today, American AAdvantage allows members to earn and redeem miles for flights on British Airways between the US and London.

Previously this was excluded from the program, and we always had to use the workaround of flying from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean if we wanted to use BA as part of an American AAdvantage award transatlantic.

Less than the mileage earning, I’m interested in the redemption side of things. And BA award availability is really quite amazing from most US gateways, especially in first class (business class can be trickier to find, but is often most available from Philadelphia, Houston, and Phoenix in my experience).

The downside of the arrangement is that American is now collecting fuel surcharges on all British Airways redemptions. BA charges them to its own members, Alaska Airlines charges them to Mileage Plan members, but American never added these for AAdvantage members when flying BA on those routes where it was allowed (not just Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean to London but also London to elsewhere in the world). This is truly a sad development, I find that a US-London roundtrip with taxes and fees on BA in a premium cabin usually runs about $600 instead of say $150.

Details on the program changes are out. Some other tidbits. Not all discount flights on British Airways earn full miles, AAdvantage Gold members don’t earn a status bonus when flying BA (‘because BA has no equivalent tier’). There’s no redemption option at the moment for American members to use miles for BA premium economy. But you can upgrade from (full fare) coach to premium economy, and from full fare coach to business on Iberia. Finally, American Airlines electronic systemwide upgrades cannot be used on their partner airlines.

Certainly more will come, this is the first round of rollouts as part of the joint business venture integration. The fuel surcharges on BA are sad, especially since they apply to routes that members could redeem for previously with no surcharge. But access to BA transatlantic from the US is a big benefit, though with all the demand from AAdvantage members I certainly expect those seats to become harder to come by.

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. On the flip side, does this also mean that we can now use BA miles to fly on AA from the US to Europe?

  2. Gary, the fuel surcharge is not just sad, its awful!

    It actually kills the value of redeeming AA miles on BA flights for the average guy. I love redeeming my miles for big premium cabin travel, but if you throw in a $500 surcharge, I just can’t make it work.

    I would prefer the old rules. I’m fine with the workaround TATL redemptions and the ability to use BA, free of fuel surcharge, anywhere else in the world.

    Oneworld premium cabin trips to Africa and the Middle East, for example, just got a LOT more expensive, even if you fly AA across the pond, and my AA miles just got significantly partially devalued.

    This is AWFUL.

  3. QUESTIONS:
    (1) Does this fuel surcharge apply to TATL AA flights too or only to BA flights?
    (2) Does this fuel surcharge also apply to TATL BA tickets that involve transfers in London without stopping in London?
    Thanks and great article!!!

  4. Gary, I ride the fence here… As an IAD-based flyer looking forward to IT (Kingfisher) joining the fold in 2011, the real question is “how do I get to LHR?” It’s interesting that for a relatively simple round trip, it’s cheaper to get a one-world award to that region than it is to get an all-partner award. (The one-world 14k-20k J award is 5k miles cheaper than a US-India redemption.) But given the fuel surcharges, you might advise spending more miles for the all-partner award, and back tracking through ORD (from DCA) and buying a separate ticket on B6 or somebody to JFK so I can stay on AA metal.

    Now, I want to do some intra-India flying on IT as well. This will put me firmly in one-world award territory. But given all of the redemption requirements of the award, if I really want to fly IT in both directions, I have to do something I don’t like. (I have to fly two non-AA airlines and I can’t transit a hub more than twice. This all but means I have to find another partner to cross the pond, and both of those partners will only get me as close as JFK.)

    All of these extra efforts will probably bump me up another redemption tier, which is more miles than I really have and a lot of pointless extra flying to boot. At least now I have the opportunity to pay for the convenience of coming and going from IAD (AA through ORD requires a DCA departure, or AA via JFK requires the purchase of a separate ticket on another airline) on a single ticket. No matter how you slice it, the desire to fly IT is going to cost me, but at least now I have options on how to pay for it.

  5. @Dan, I’m not sure if I understand your dilemma fully, but from DCA, you could go DCA-BOS-LHR on AA for fewer miles than DCA-ORD-LHR for that OneWorld award.

  6. Fuel surcharges on awards on non-US airlines has been a fact of life for many. Just be grateful that it’s so easy to earn miles with credit cards in the States. 100k BA miles for doing almost nothing is looking a gift horse in the mouth.

  7. I thought that ALL BA fares (including discount) now earn 100% miles – you wrote that certain discount fares won’t receive 100% if I’m not mistaken

  8. @Alex

    The dilemma is if I want to use a one world award, fly IT in both directions from LHR, and fly IT within India, then I need to add a second partner airline somehow somewhere. If it’s not BA across the pond, on the return, I have to fly someone else, and it simply won’t be as convenient.

    But you’ve given me an idea! I can fly AA in one direction via BOS and BA in the other, requiring that I pay fuel surcharges in only one direction.

  9. There are more worries here with the changes
    one as noted previously award redemption availability with BA could hit an all time low unless the dreaded fuel surcharge turns off enough folks from redeeming
    And will the awful BA seat assignment policies which stopped me from booking revenue seats on their airline creep to the AA side when booking award seats?
    I predicted most of this from the moment I heard all of this was coming down
    The final insult to injury possibility will AA now raise their award chart of which BA’s is currently worse.
    Not looking good out there 🙁
    Its win win lose lose lose

  10. 1. Seating on BA Y is a measly 31″ vs. 32″ on AA. To me makes a big difference.
    2. The fees on BA make some Awards just not worthwhile, unless one uses them on C or F. I am using most of my BA mile awards on other airlines.
    3. However I like the free London stopovers in both directions. Though they cost an additional $60 each way.

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