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.