British Airways and American Airlines announced a reciprocal upgrade system but American Airlines elites draw the short straw.
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British Airways and American Airlines Announce Reciprocal Upgrades
This week British Airways and American Airlines jointly announced a program to utilize systemwide upgrades handed out to elites of both respective programs. These systemwide upgrades will allow the best customers of both programs to access premium space as if it were their own carrier.
American Airlines details the program as follows:
Enjoy a confirmed upgrade from most Business fares to First, from Premium Economy to Business, or from Economy to Premium Economy when flying transatlantic on British Airways.
Systemwide upgrades can be used for one-way travel for up to 3 flight segments on British Airways marketed and operated flights or British Airways operated flights marketed by American. At least one American marketed flight must be in the itinerary to be eligible.
AAdvantage® status members receive a choice of rewards, including the option to select systemwide upgrades, upon qualification for AAdvantage Platinum Pro® status and flying 30 eligible segments.
Loyalty Choice Rewards
- Million Miler members get 4 systemwide upgrades when you reach 2 Million Miles and for every Million Mile level after
- Systemwide upgrades are credited to your account within 48 hours of being earned
- Upgrades will expire 1 year from the date deposited. Systemwide upgrades can be used for travel beyond the expiration date – the upgrade just needs to be confirmed before the upgrade expires.
- You can share your upgrades with anyone you choose, whether you are traveling with them or not. Call your AAdvantage® status service desk in advance to request the upgrade.
- If you cancel your trip prior to travel, call your AAdvantage® status service desk to reinstate your upgrade(s) for future use
Systemwide upgrades aren’t available when you’ve booked:
- Codeshare flights, including flights marketed by American and operated by other airlines, except for flights marketed by American Airlines and operated by British Airways
- Government or military fares
- Basic Economy fares – only AAdvantage® status members can upgrade from Basic Economy fares
- Fares ineligible for mileage credit (like award tickets)
British Airways Gold elite members will earn (2) systemwide upgrades upon achieving or re-qualifying for the status level and can use upgrades in the same manner but with a few noted caveats:
- British Airways customers get to skip premium economy in upgrade lists
- All fares are eligible for British Airways customers including basic economy, while only American Airlines elites can upgrade from basic economy (excluding assignees)
Of note, this does not allow the upgrades on reward flights using British Airways Avios which are handled separately. If upgraded, the new class does not result in additional tier points for British Airways members.
How Does This Affect American Airlines Elites?
On the surface, American Airlines elites should rejoice at the exapnded ability to utilize systemwide upgrades. However, it’s not quite an equal deal for American elites.
- Because American Airlines doesn’t upgrade from economy to premium economy using systemwides, British Airways travelers can move from coach to business class, but American elites would have to buy premium economy on British Airways to move into business class. Upgrading from premium economy to Club World (business class) is certainly worthy of a systemwide upgrade, but without securing the upgrade confirmed in advance, many American Airlines customers may pay for premium economy but never receive an upgrade adding unnecessary costs.
- The product for American Airlines customers in Club Europe on British Airways flights is not remotely close to American Airlines domestic business class and first class with the exception of flights so short that a premium class isn’t even offered. Upgrades to business class in Europe are simply coach seats with a middle seat blocked. There’s not a wider seat, cabin separation, or even more leg room – just an unoccupied middle seat. Even American’s E175s offer a superior product to British Airways anywhere within Europe for which the upgrades are permitted.
- The connecting market in the US is so much larger and varied than what British Airways permits. The rules permit itineraries operating with a trans-Atlantic segment but that leaves a big opening. If an itinerary included London-New York-Los Angeles-Honolulu, the six-hour segment would allow a British Airways upgrade all in a premium cabin (if available) for another five-hour segment (in lie-flat business class) and another five-hour flight in business class or first class. That puts BA customers booking as low as basic economy is contention for upgrades in competition with American Airlines customers.
The products simply are not comparative. Without a doubt, a move from premium economy “World Traveler” is a bigger move than Club World to First Class, but London to Istanbul, for example, wouldn’t even compare to American’s worst possible first class hard product. Upgrading British Airways flights for the trans-Atlantic segment is great, but the “last mile” to a European destination isn’t even a better seat than the exit row on the same aircraft.
On some routes, like New York JFK – Los Angeles LAX is already highly competitive, but adding another group of frequent flyers to the mix isn’t helpful.
Some positive elements for American Airlines Executive Platinum members are that they receive twice as many systemwide upgrades (4) to use as British Airways Executive Club Gold members (2.)
American Elites also outnumber British Airways elites and there are far more point-to-point UK to USA flights now eligible. For example, British Airways flies to Austin, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Tampa, and Orlando while American does not fly to London from cities (other than Raleigh-Durham) that British Airways does not.
After switching to United Airlines due to the lack of usability of systemwide upgrades and quality of service issues at American, the one drawback I have noticed (outside of redemption rates) is that systemwide upgrades (Plus Points) often require a more expensive fare to secure. This is what this upgrade essentially emulates for access outside of American Airlines flights. For American Airlines flights there is now more competition for upgrades not only trans-Atlantic but other flights as well. The upgrades for American Airlines passengers in Europe are in no way comparable to American Airlines’ first class or trans-continental business class. Additional options to upgrade your flight might look good at first, but when competing with BA’s elites for first class seats elsewhere in the network will not be as welcome.
What do you think? Is American Airlines/British Airways reciprocal systemwide upgrade arrangement an enhancement or a drawback for American Airlines elites?
This not surprising, this is a general trend I see.
The US government more interested in taking care of Europeans than Americans. The liberal governments in the US taking care of illegals than their own voting constituents. American politicians and businessmen seem to have a penchant of taking their own constituents for granted. It must be how they have succeeded in making their constituents powerless that they dont feel threatened.
There are two things that this post plainly ignores- the sheer volume of AA elites and the substantial ground benefits that come with business class tickets in Europe. Sure, the BA lounges aren’t particularly good, business class check-in isn’t super quick, and the fast-track security at LHR T5 is basically the least fast of its kind in the whole of Europe, but the Y pax have to endure huge queues and agonise as to whether they will make their flight. and an upgrade saves one from all that heartache.
I have said it in similar comments on Matthew’s reviews: even with a poor in-flight service, questionable catering, lack of IFE etc, European business class absolutely makes a material difference to the travel experience for pax who don’t have benefits through elite status. The only real question is how much of a premium (whether in cash, miles, or upgrade vouchers) one is prepared to pay for it.
Basically service levels that one expects under socialism while dealing with all the stress and heartache that comes with capitalism. We have managed to get to the worst possible solution.
I think it’s just a case of expectation management. Airlines tend to market business class as a luxury service (‘fine dining, well-appointed lounges, carefully chosen wines, personalised service’), whereas it really is a way to avoid the poor experience, and sometimes borderline inhumane treatment, Y pax have to suffer through.
My last two departures from CDG (both shortly before the pandemic) left me in shock after realising just how bad most pax have it. One was as a Y pax on AF without status, forced by them onto an overnight connection after they had cancelled the direct MAN-AMS that I was going to fly the previous evening. They didn’t even allow me to join the security queue as my hand luggage exceeded the permitted weight. They would just not accept the argument that the same bag had been tagged as permissible by their MAN colleagues the previous night, nor take into account the fact that the excess weight could be attributed to my CPAP machine. They sent me to the check in desk where I was told I couldn’t even pay to have it checked in as they had closed that flight. A supervisor relented when I asked him to confirm that it is AF policy ti discriminate against passengers who suffer from medical conditions, and I was taken to the queue and just about managed to board on time.
The other time I was flying LH with *G status and there was an issue with my reservation being classed as ‘economy light’ as opposed to ‘economy classic’ (which my TA had assured he had booked for me) meaning that the check in staff were seeing my allowance as zero instead of two pieces. I offered to pay thinking that I could subsequently sort it out with the TA and the airline, at which point they discovered that they were unable to take payments and just checked my bag in for no extra charge.
Both incidents took place during low season, at times when the airport/airlines weren’t facing any disruption to their operations. I have never had anything similar happen to me in hundreds of flights as a ‘premium’ passenger (whether in C class or having *G status on ‘normal’ Y tickets).
I think Kyle and Matthew should try a side-by-side comparison of the facilities in a few large hubs- first going airside like a regular Y pax, then going out and trying the Goldtrack/Skypriority route. To paraphrase a famous quote, this is less about aspiration and more about perspiration!
Also… as BA Gold Card Holder, allow me to clarify a few things.
The upgrades are not available to all BA Golds, only those who earn over 2500 tier points and earn a Gold Upgrade Voucher (GUF2). Normal Gold qualification is 1509 tier points, so this will be for a subset of a subset. Whereas any American emerald status holder will get the SWU validity on BA flights, making it harder for us to avios to upgrade flights if we don’t earn a GUF.
Further and as is presented incorrectly here, the BA vouchers are only valid from a booked AA Premium Economy Fare to AA Flagship Business, not basic economy as is sensationalised here.
@Sam – You say “Further and as is presented incorrectly here, the BA vouchers are only valid from a booked AA Premium Economy Fare to AA Flagship Business, not basic economy as is sensationalised here” which doesn’t comport with what is written on the quoted line from American Airliens website. Also, because American doesn’t sell premium economy domestically, it’s only possible to upgrade from economy (including basic economy for BA customers but not American customers) to business or domestic first.
Kyle, AA’s announcement, and what is currently on the AA website, applies only to AA’s elites upgrading on British Airways, not BA Golds upgrading on AA.
Perhaps do some verification before publishing sensationalist nonsense.
It is clear on the below links that upgrades are only available to the next class of travel and are only available to those who earn over 2500t tier points. Not every platinum, platinum pro, and executive platinum that can spend enough on a credit card.
Head For Points is normally a reliable source for the Execuitve Club uninitiated. If they’re not creating content about it being a great new benefit for BA flyers, it’s not a significant change.
“The product for American Airlines customers in Club Europe on British Airways flights is not remotely close to American Airlines domestic business class”
I’m currently at cruise in Club Europe on BA385 (CAI>LHR) which I believe is the longest flight with the Club Europe product. Sure, the seats stink, but the meal, drinks, and service are far far superior to what is offered on AA. All in, I think both products are comparable, and for me personally, I’d prefer the higher quality in-flight products on BA than a bit more legroom on AA.
I love this new development, and welcome BA Golds to the competition for upgrades.
Agreed, I’d take Club Europe over most AA domestic first flights every day of the week. Food is better. Service more predictable – the range of cabin experience on AA is unreal. Leg room on most AA first cabins isn’t great. I do generally agree that the new system sets up better for BA given AA simply has a wider network. Honestly, this pieces completely misses the most important variable: IT. BA’s is truly bad and getting upgrades booked will almost certainly be a mess for most. AA is a horribly run business but booking technology is one of few things that’s decent.
Kyle, unless something has changed to contradict the wifey reported details of the SWUs that BAEC Golds receive, you are incorrect about their ability to upgrade from economy to business on AA.
The majority of reporting to date, as well as leaked announcement re: BA which is available on Flyertalk and Twitter, explicitly notes that BAEC members will be able to upgrade one class ONLY, i.e. from PE to J, or from J to F. Same one-class provision as for AA members upgrading on BA.
However, BAEC members would. It be able to upgrade at all from Y to PE (which AA elites would be able to do on BA), because there is currently no mechanism on AA’s IT to process Y to PE upgrades. You say BAEC members can skip PE upgrade lists on AA. But there ARE NO PE upgrade lists on AA, because there are no instrument-supported upgrades from Y to PE on AA.
Again, if there has been updated reporting or an official announcement, I’m happy to be corrected. Outside of that, I think you are actually misinterpreting and giving wrong information, and an assessment based on incorrect information.
Ugh typos… “widely” not “wifey” and “would not” not “would. It”