You can now redeem your American miles on British Airways between the US and UK (sort of)

Have you ever looked forward to something for years with great anticipation? Maybe it was getting married. And then when you actually got married, your wedding ended up like this:

Yeah, I’m not going to lie, that’s kind of how I feel right now.

As many of you probably know, one of the huge downsides of American’s AAdvantage program has always been their anti-trust agreement with British Airways. You couldn’t redeem or earn AAdvantage miles between the US and Europe, so if you wanted to fly British Airways on a transatlantic flight, you’d have to route through Toronto, Vancouver, Mexico City, etc. A really dumb rule, but at least you could, in theory, redeem miles on British Airways without paying the exorbitant fuel surcharges their native members had to pay.

Well, the day is finally here. We can now earn and redeem American miles on British Airways between the US and UK. I’m not so interested in the earning side, but I am interested in the redemption side. The good news is that British Airways has excellent award availability on transatlantic flights, particularly in first class, and we finally have access to those seats through AAdvantage. The bad news is that American is now imposing fuel surcharges on all British Airways redemptions. That’s right, we’re not only stuck paying fuel surcharges on these new flights we have access to, but we can also shell over an additional $300++ in fuel surcharge for routes that we previously just had to pay taxes for. And add those to London’s ridiculous APD of almost $200, and you’re looking at $700 plus ticketing fees for a Los Angeles to London first class award on British Airways.

On one hand it gives us more options, but on the other hand it makes AAdvantage fairly uncompetitive on the redemption side with United, US Airways, and Continental “United.”

I like OneWorld carriers individually, I really do. But they’re just not playing all that nicely together. Let’s briefly analyze award availability on OneWorld carriers. LAN is a great airline for South America, though let’s see what happens to them with their upcoming merger with TAM. This could be really good news for OneWorld or really good news for the Star Alliance, depending on which way they swing. Qantas is another great airline, though premium cabin award availability is quite awful. Cathay Pacific is a great option with generally good award availability (especially compared to their biggest competitor, Singapore Airlines). British Airways is great, but when you’re paying substantial fuel surcharges, seems much less desierable. Then you have Iberia, Royal Jordanian, Finnair, and JAL. All good airlines, though I wouldn’t call any of them world class.

Anyway, let me just clarify, my argument isn’t that fuel surcharges in and of themselves are crazy (although they are, but for all intents and purposes, that’s not my point). While the rest of the world is well adjusted towards them, US consumers aren’t. And when consumers hear that they’re expected to pay $500+ for a “free ticket,” this will be nothing but story after story.

At the same time, I’m sure British Airways Executive Club members are doing the happy dance, because they won’t have to worry about all of “their” award seats being stolen.

(Tip of the hat to Gary)

Filed Under: American, Awards
  1. Huge disappointment. I guess its time to redeem that Chase BA award BOGO before the first class inventory shrinks.I’m glad that I chose to drop AA and keep DL and UA.

  2. Fuel surcharge and taxes are not that terrible to some destinations… I just redeemed the Chase BA companion First Class around Labor Day next year to Italy in First Class, and it was $359.25 all in per person, but if I added a stopover in London, it would jump to over $600 because of the effin APD. Still, $360 is not cheap, but it’s only a couple of hundred dollars than normal and would not stop me from redeeming with BA should I decide to use my AAdvantage miles for it.

  3. Personally as an existing BA customer I have no issues paying the fuel surcharge for redemptions. I still can get a First class flight for less than an economy ticket would cost me. I am also glad that AA will charge the surcharge so at least it’s a level playing field with existing BA customers… doubt it would have gone down to well with BA customers.

    APD on the other hand is a total pain and something that I think should be re-considered. Will be interesting to see how it impacts in Germany once their new tax comes into play next year.

  4. Lucky,

    If LA/JJ leave OW (as I hope), the only decent redemption left will be CX and Kingfisher (when they join). I think Star is already close to being the undisputed “winner” amongst the 3 alliances (from a FTer’s perspective anyway) and this will just seal the deal.

  5. BA is also giving 100% miles and 50% Tier points for discount economy revenue now. I’ll sit in economy on longhaul if I’m paying for the ticket but I’ve avoided BA and the non-stop option from PHX ever since they dropped that to 25% years ago. I get it from a global perspective but when I can fly UA or LH and get 100% miles, what incentive did I have to book BA?

  6. “I’m sure British Airways Executive Club members are doing the happy dance”

    Not sure, they kinda get the short end here. More competition for their carrier’s seats between London and the US, for sure, even with the fuel surcharges. BA is a decent product, I’d sooner pay surcharges for Cathay than for BA! But BA isn’t really a premium product in first by world standards.

    But what do they get in return? Access to American Airlines flights to the US from London. Big deal….

    Though I suppose the irony here is – I assume this hasn’t changed — BA doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on AA redemptions. So AA members get a benefit with fuel surcharges, BA members get a benefit without them. Hah!

  7. abcx –

    While not having a crystal ball, I would be very suprised to see LA leave OW. They have ATI with AA and are in a JV. If you look at the LA/JJ deal it is looks to me as if LAN is taking over management of TAM. Kind of like CO and UA. We all know who is going to be running the new airline, the one with the globe on the vertical stabilizer. (At least unitl the new livery is unveiled)

  8. @Gary BA fliers get 100% mileage on discounted tickets again, and 50% EQM (Tier Points). They’re big winners in this change.

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