Oneworld To Introduce Alliance-Wide Upgrades In 2022

Oneworld To Introduce Alliance-Wide Upgrades In 2022

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It sounds like we should be expecting some new opportunities to upgrade oneworld flights this year.

Oneworld will introduce alliance-wide upgrades

In 2020 it was revealed that the oneworld alliance plans to introduce upgrades as an alliance benefit. Initially the timeline of this was supposed to coincide with Alaska Airlines joining oneworld, though that timeline has been pushed several times due to coronavirus.

So what’s the latest with oneworld introducing this upgrade program? As noted by Executive Traveller, the plan is currently for oneworld to introduce alliance-wide upgrades in 2022. Of course I imagine that timeline could slip again, just as it has already, though we can hope for the best. As it’s described, this “will deliver greater value to member airlines and customers in the future as international travel recovers.”

The concept of alliance-wide upgrades sounds exciting, though personally I think it’s highly unlikely that this will have wide appeal.

The oneworld alliance plans to introduce upgrade awards

How could oneworld alliance upgrades work?

If you’re expecting that this means that American AAdvantage Executive Platinum members (and other oneworld Emerald members) will get free upgrades on all Cathay Pacific and Qantas flights, you’re likely going to be disappointed.

The Star Alliance has offered an alliance upgrade concept for many years, so I generally think we should look at that program to get a sense of what we might expect from oneworld. On the plus side, Star Alliance lets you upgrade with any alliance mileage currency on any alliance airline. However:

  • Upgrades are only permitted from the highest fare classes (in economy that includes “Y” and “B,” and in business class that includes “C” and “D,” and on some airlines additional fare classes are allowed)
  • The upgrade inventory is typically identical to award inventory at the saver level, so it’s not always that readily available
  • Each Star Alliance upgrade award is valid on a single segment
  • The actual number of miles required to upgrade isn’t that steep, and there are no co-pays; as an example, you can see the United MileagePlus Star Alliance upgrade chart here

Just to give one quick example, a roundtrip New York to Frankfurt itinerary on Lufthansa in the “B” fare class of economy costs ~$3,470.

Meanwhile a discounted business class ticket costs under $100 more.

This is purely for demonstrative purposes, though admittedly there’s a bit more nuance to this (there are a couple of other eligible fare classes on some airlines, this doesn’t account for ticket flexibility, it doesn’t account for premium economy tickets, etc.).

However, in general the only circumstance under which I’ve found the alliance upgrade concept to be worthwhile is if you’re a business traveler who contractually has to book full fare economy or full fare business class, and you want to upgrade.

In virtually all other cases I’ve found you’re often better off redeeming miles for an award ticket in the cabin you want to fly (even if you need to buy miles directly from a frequent flyer program), since the inventory out of which those tickets come is the same.

In some cases you can even book a cheaper paid ticket in the cabin you intend to upgrade to, rather than booking a full fare ticket one cabin down.

Qantas’ 787 business class

Bottom line

It’s expected that the oneworld alliance will be introducing reciprocal upgrades by the end of 2022. Initially this was supposed to be rolled out before the end of 2020, though not surprisingly coronavirus caused the timeline to be delayed.

However, don’t get too excited. This won’t mean that any upgrade privileges you get on “your” airline will be extended to other airlines. Rather it’s likely that this would work similar to the Star Alliance upgrade program, which requires you to book a full fare ticket, and also requires there to be award availability for your flight.

Is anyone more optimistic about the potential value proposition of oneworld’s upgrade program than I am?

Conversations (11)
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  1. jetset Member

    From an airline's perspective it really doesn't make sense for them to make this a great deal. If an alliance offered relatively affordable upgrades with a high degree of flexibility in use, think of how many business class seats would get booked with limited financial upside for airlines and at a huge potential opportunity cost could those seats have been booked by paying passengers.

    While we can all hypothesize how much business travel will...

    From an airline's perspective it really doesn't make sense for them to make this a great deal. If an alliance offered relatively affordable upgrades with a high degree of flexibility in use, think of how many business class seats would get booked with limited financial upside for airlines and at a huge potential opportunity cost could those seats have been booked by paying passengers.

    While we can all hypothesize how much business travel will recover and whether airlines will consistently fill the front of the plane internationally over the next couple years, it wouldn't make sense to put in place a program that is too generous. Ultimately because these arrangements involve a lot of negotiation and cooperation, you end up landing with programs that have to incorporate the lowest common denominator in terms of conservative stipulations.

  2. Theresa Guest

    They really should start with upgrading their customer service! That would put everyone in a better mood! Most domestic/international flights I’m on now the stewardess are more unpleasant then ever. Sure, everyone is stretched thin these days, but if you are in customer service, give customer service. Travelers are giving you a pay check! And have you noticed, it seems to be most men who are awarded Key Concierge level!

  3. Patricia Guest

    My experience with One World has to do with my Lufthansa flight, booked through United Airlines. I chose to book with UA for my long-haul flight because Lufthansa was having significant wait times for customer service representatives, which may or may not become necessary but I wanted the insurance that I could handle issues quickly and easily. I contacted Lufthansa today to see about upgrading my ticket and was told that because I booked a...

    My experience with One World has to do with my Lufthansa flight, booked through United Airlines. I chose to book with UA for my long-haul flight because Lufthansa was having significant wait times for customer service representatives, which may or may not become necessary but I wanted the insurance that I could handle issues quickly and easily. I contacted Lufthansa today to see about upgrading my ticket and was told that because I booked a Lufthansa product through United Airlines that there was no possibility to upgrade our seats, period. I cannot use points, and I cannot pay money. That seems absolutely ridiculous to me. I am a Lufthansa member and it is a Lufthansa flight. If a seat is available and I am willing to pay cash for it, why won’t they offer that seat? It truly boggles my mind and does not promote good relations with customers.

  4. Anton Wahlman Guest

    One of the questions I have is whether this would enable an AA systemwide upgrade (Exec Platinum etc) to work on Finnair, British Airways and Iberia. Right now, AA has relatively few transatlantic flights and doesn't cover many cities with nonstops. However, Finnnair etc have many better ones.

  5. Mary S Guest

    @Lucky...

    On the dates you listed for your example, you can fly Turkish for $2489. I would argue there is a 'hidden' copay of $1000+. The difference between the LH fare you listed and a comparable (or even better) business class fare on another *A partner. So upgrading to First on LH would be $1000 + the miles. THAT is expensive.

    1. Max Guest

      You can’t compare real airlines to the unsafe mess that is Turkish Airways. Just check out a avherald.com. Their pilots don’t know how to fly a plane, constantly provoking unnecessary crashes. Your own life should be worth more than 1000$ savings on an airfare.

    2. KATA Member

      You seem to have a bit of a grudge against Turkish Airlines... I'm not a big fan of Turkish but I think saying that flying them could cost you your life seems to be a bit of a hyperbole. Their last fatal accident had been in 2009, and that was due to a system malfunction as opposed to human error.

    3. Max Guest

      There are some airlines like Turkish, Pegasus and FlyDubai that do not adhere to good airmanship and international safety standards. These airlines should be banned from flying to any country that takes safety seriously.
      Unfortunately for political reasons this is not happening. At least smart passengers should avoid these airlines.

  6. Reno Joe Guest

    In the end, it becomes WHEN one can receive an upgrade. Ultimately, upgrade-eligible inventory is in the hands of each airline's revenue management team. Until revenue management release seats as upgrade-eligible, ain't noboby gettin' an upgrade. And, partners would not even see it for award redemptions. I commented on this exact issue in a very recent OMAAT article. And, I wouldn't be surprised if -- as Mike C suggests -- such upgrades must be paid (with points).

  7. Klaus Guest

    1)
    Lufthansa let’s you use their upgrade evouchers also on Star Alliance airlines, also from other booking classes.
    2)
    MileagePlus plus points can also be used for upgrades on Lufthansa, COPA and ANA - also for discount economy (e.g. Q, V, W)
    3)
    Every once in a while I am rebooked by the airline to an eligible full fare booking class due irregularities, so that an upgrade is possible or...

    1)
    Lufthansa let’s you use their upgrade evouchers also on Star Alliance airlines, also from other booking classes.
    2)
    MileagePlus plus points can also be used for upgrades on Lufthansa, COPA and ANA - also for discount economy (e.g. Q, V, W)
    3)
    Every once in a while I am rebooked by the airline to an eligible full fare booking class due irregularities, so that an upgrade is possible or „cheaper“
    4)
    Shown example is extreme - the price difference between „B“ and a discounted booking class often is lower.

  8. Mike C Member

    This will be interesting. Zero chance that AA free upgrades will be part of it, it will probably only be points upgrades. The Qantas internal model allows upgrades from all paid tickets on domestic flights and from all but the lowest tier (of three) of economy fares on international (different points cost depending on the original paid ticket).

    This could be incredibly complex. I can imagine that to claim an upgrade you might need to...

    This will be interesting. Zero chance that AA free upgrades will be part of it, it will probably only be points upgrades. The Qantas internal model allows upgrades from all paid tickets on domestic flights and from all but the lowest tier (of three) of economy fares on international (different points cost depending on the original paid ticket).

    This could be incredibly complex. I can imagine that to claim an upgrade you might need to link your flight to the FF program that you want to draw the points from (and accept that the miles and elite status credits go to that program). That could be problematic if you want to use up points in a program you're trying to move away from. Lets see how it pans out.

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Reno Joe Guest

In the end, it becomes WHEN one can receive an upgrade. Ultimately, upgrade-eligible inventory is in the hands of each airline's revenue management team. Until revenue management release seats as upgrade-eligible, ain't noboby gettin' an upgrade. And, partners would not even see it for award redemptions. I commented on this exact issue in a very recent OMAAT article. And, I wouldn't be surprised if -- as Mike C suggests -- such upgrades must be paid (with points).

1
jetset Member

From an airline's perspective it really doesn't make sense for them to make this a great deal. If an alliance offered relatively affordable upgrades with a high degree of flexibility in use, think of how many business class seats would get booked with limited financial upside for airlines and at a huge potential opportunity cost could those seats have been booked by paying passengers. While we can all hypothesize how much business travel will recover and whether airlines will consistently fill the front of the plane internationally over the next couple years, it wouldn't make sense to put in place a program that is too generous. Ultimately because these arrangements involve a lot of negotiation and cooperation, you end up landing with programs that have to incorporate the lowest common denominator in terms of conservative stipulations.

0
Theresa Guest

They really should start with upgrading their customer service! That would put everyone in a better mood! Most domestic/international flights I’m on now the stewardess are more unpleasant then ever. Sure, everyone is stretched thin these days, but if you are in customer service, give customer service. Travelers are giving you a pay check! And have you noticed, it seems to be most men who are awarded Key Concierge level!

0
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