Details: American & British Airways Reciprocal Upgrades

Details: American & British Airways Reciprocal Upgrades

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American Airlines and British Airways have just rolled out reciprocal upgrades as of today, and I’d say this is a pretty exciting development. This was first reported last week by @xJonNYC, and is now live.

American systemwide upgrades usable on British Airways

It’s now possible to use American Airlines systemwide upgrades for travel on British Airways:

  • This is only valid for tickets that have at least one American Airlines marketed segment on them, so the tickets need to include travel on both American and British Airwasys
  • The upgrades are valid for one class of service, from economy to premium economy, premium economy to business, or business to first (within Europe it would be from economy to business)
  • You can only upgrade transatlantic or intra-Europe British Airways flights, so you can’t upgrade British Airways flights to & from other destinations
  • It isn’t possible to waitlist upgrades on British Airways, so there needs to be confirmable space
  • British Airways is using its typical award fare buckets for these upgrades, so for first class there needs to be “Z” space, for business class there needs to be “U” space, and for premium economy there needs to be “P” space
  • All published fares (including basic economy) are eligible for upgrades, but award tickets aren’t
  • You can’t use systemwide upgrades issued to Alaska Mileage Plan elites for upgrades on British Airways

Just to give some examples:

  • If you book an economy ticket from New York to London on American and London to Milan on British Airways, you could upgrade both flights to business class with a systemwide upgrade
  • If you book an economy ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco on American and San Francisco to London to Milan on British Airways, you could upgrade all the flights by one cabin (first class on Los Angeles to San Francisco, premium economy on San Francisco to London, and business class on London to Milan)
Upgrade British Airways flights with American systemwide upgrades

British Airways elites get upgrades on American

This isn’t just a one-sided agreement, as there’s something for British Airways Executive Club members as well. Effective immediately, British Airways Executive Club Gold members receive two systemwide upgrade equivalents that can be used for an upgrade on American Airlines:

  • This is only valid for tickets issued by British Airways
  • The upgrades are valid for one class of service, from premium economy to business class, or from business class to first class; there are no upgrades from economy to premium economy (which is because American doesn’t offer that for its own members either)
  • You can only upgrade itineraries including transatlantic travel, so you can’t upgrade itineraries to & from other regions
  • It isn’t possible to waitlist upgrades on American Airlines, so there needs to be confirmable space
  • American Airlines is using its typical upgrade fare buckets for these upgrades, so for first class there needs to be “A” space, and for business class there needs to be “C” space
  • All published fares (including basic economy) are eligible for upgrades, but award tickets aren’t
Upgrade American flights with new British Airways systemwide upgrades

This is an exciting development

I’m really impressed by the execution of this, especially when you consider that this is presumably just the first step. American and British Airways are part of the oneworld transatlantic joint venture, which in theory is supposed to create as much metal neutrality as possible.

Up until now, not a lot has been done on that front with reciprocal upgrades, though. Now both American and British Airways elites have opportunities to upgrade on the other airline. The rollout here isn’t perfect — upgrades can’t be waitlisted, there are limits on the routes you can upgrade, and there are limits on the classes you can upgrade — but still, this is pretty well done.

We also know that oneworld is planning to introduce alliance-wide upgrades soon, though I suspect that’s unrelated to this development.

Personally this won’t impact me one way or another, even as an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member. I don’t actually earn any systemwide upgrades with American anymore, as I select different options as part of the AAdvantage Loyalty Choice Rewards program. American doesn’t have enough confirmable upgrade space, and I don’t want to chance it and end up in economy on a long haul flight, when I can book alternatives with miles.

Hopefully this opportunity evolves over time

Bottom line

American Airlines and British Airways have rolled out an impressive reciprocal upgrade program. American Airlines systemwide upgrades can now be used on British Airways, while British Airways Gold members now receive two systemwide upgrades annually that can be used on American.

This is the kind of reciprocity we should see as part of a joint venture. I’m pleased with this, though given the lack of confirmable upgrade space, this is going to be tricky without the opportunity to waitlist.

What do you make of this American and British Airways reciprocal upgrade development?

Conversations (14)
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  1. Tony Guest

    As a very frequent BA flyer I think this stinks.

  2. Judith Walter Guest

    I just flew on American Airlines/British Airways partnership flights. It was American Air out of Boston to Heathrow and then Heathrow to Rome the return flight was in reverse Heathrow was a nightmare and both American Airlines and British airlines had awful business class service and accommodations.
    It was a bit confusing for people that you had to give your flight information to because you were flying American Air you had American Air flight...

    I just flew on American Airlines/British Airways partnership flights. It was American Air out of Boston to Heathrow and then Heathrow to Rome the return flight was in reverse Heathrow was a nightmare and both American Airlines and British airlines had awful business class service and accommodations.
    It was a bit confusing for people that you had to give your flight information to because you were flying American Air you had American Air flight numbers but it was also British Airways
    I’m not sure there are really perks in this arrangement

  3. Ryan Guest

    Are these searchable on AA.com per the usual “systemwide upgrade” label?

  4. Sam Guest

    I've seen nothing about the new upgrade vouchers for BA golds on the website or anywhere else. Am gold with BA and curious to spend.... can someone help me please?

    1. Sam Guest

      Ben just followed up w BA about this

      The BA gold upgrade vouchers are NOT for all gold members. They are ONLY for gold members who attain 2,500-3,500 tier points in a calendar year (well above the gold threshold of 1500 or so)

      The announcement is confusingly worded so I get the confusion, but thought it would be helpful to clarify.

  5. Ben Guest

    Not a fan. As an Exec Club member, I couldn’t care less about getting American upgrades but don’t want less availability on BA (which is usually very good, especially short-haul).

  6. Christian Guest

    What Loyalty Choice awards do you choose?

  7. TranceXplant Member

    Executive Club members get an upgrade from Y to J on AA, while AAdvantage members only get Y to PE on BA? That's not most people's idea of reciprocal...

  8. Russ Member

    But if there is never any confirmable upgrade space on AA, how would this ever matter? Maybe that is part of the agreement? Maybe... not holding my breath though.

  9. OCTinPHL Gold

    @Ben, can you explain why you think this is "exciting" and that is an impressive reciprocal agreement? Honestly?

    Because this isn't really that impressive: it requires a mix of AA metal and BA metal - so the AA flight is transatlantic. SWUs were already valid on those flights. All that is being added is the connecting flight. Which is nice, I guess. But exciting and impressive. Still can't use SWUs on BA metal across the...

    @Ben, can you explain why you think this is "exciting" and that is an impressive reciprocal agreement? Honestly?

    Because this isn't really that impressive: it requires a mix of AA metal and BA metal - so the AA flight is transatlantic. SWUs were already valid on those flights. All that is being added is the connecting flight. Which is nice, I guess. But exciting and impressive. Still can't use SWUs on BA metal across the Atlantic based upon what you wrote. But it sounds BA fliers can use on AA metal? So fewer upgrades for AA elites? Or can I use an SWU on transatlantic BA metal if I have an AA segment in the US? And buy PE?

    Listen, it's nice that if I am flying PHL-LHR-BER on AA/BA and use a SWU, I get J class from LHR to BER. But as you repeatedly point out, intra-Europe J class isn't that great. Blocked middle seat. (That said, recent AY and BA J flights had food much better than anything that AA, DL, or UA offer domestically.)

    I just cannot figure out why you think this is so good?

    1. Petri Diamond

      In his example, Ben pointed out that you can use BA metal over the Atlantic as long as you have domestic connecting flight on AA.

  10. Holly Guest

    Am I reading this correctly that upgraded are NOT available for award tickets?

  11. fod Member

    “you can’t use AAdvantage miles to upgrade on British Airways”

    Yes you can from some of the higher fare buckets.

  12. rjb Guest

    Like most things in life it's not great but it's better than a sharp stick in the eye

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OCTinPHL Gold

@Ben, can you explain why you think this is "exciting" and that is an impressive reciprocal agreement? Honestly? Because this isn't really that impressive: it requires a mix of AA metal and BA metal - so the AA flight is transatlantic. SWUs were already valid on those flights. All that is being added is the connecting flight. Which is nice, I guess. But exciting and impressive. Still can't use SWUs on BA metal across the Atlantic based upon what you wrote. But it sounds BA fliers can use on AA metal? So fewer upgrades for AA elites? Or can I use an SWU on transatlantic BA metal if I have an AA segment in the US? And buy PE? Listen, it's nice that if I am flying PHL-LHR-BER on AA/BA and use a SWU, I get J class from LHR to BER. But as you repeatedly point out, intra-Europe J class isn't that great. Blocked middle seat. (That said, recent AY and BA J flights had food much better than anything that AA, DL, or UA offer domestically.) I just cannot figure out why you think this is so good?

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Tony Guest

As a very frequent BA flyer I think this stinks.

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Judith Walter Guest

I just flew on American Airlines/British Airways partnership flights. It was American Air out of Boston to Heathrow and then Heathrow to Rome the return flight was in reverse Heathrow was a nightmare and both American Airlines and British airlines had awful business class service and accommodations. It was a bit confusing for people that you had to give your flight information to because you were flying American Air you had American Air flight numbers but it was also British Airways I’m not sure there are really perks in this arrangement

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