Within the aviation rewards community, it is surprising to see how integrated American and IAG (the parent company to British Airways and Iberia) are. When it comes to redeeming miles, Not only are they integrated with their business rewards program – On Business – they are also integrated (to a certain degree) with their consumer rewards program. A little-known fact among the AAdvantage, BA Executive club and Iberia Plus program is how you can upgrade British Airways & Iberia flights with American Airline miles.

Redemption Page on American Airlines Website

When going to the Redemption page on American Airlines website you can see there is a link that leads to Upgrading with miles on partner airlines – the only partners being British Airways and Iberia Airlines.

To / FromTo / From Full-Fare Economy to Premium EconomyPremium Economy to BusinessFull-Fare Economy to BusinessBusiness to First
North America Europe 12,500 12,500 25,000 35,000
Europe Europe 10,000 20,000
Europe Asia Region 1 22,500 22,500 45,000 5,000
Europe Asia Region 2 17,500 17,500 35,000 45,000

Sample table – full table found on American Airlines Website


Requirements

According to the American Airlines – Only full fare World Traveller (Y, B class) and World Traveller Plus tickets (W class) can be upgraded using AA miles.  Whilst it says ‘full fare Club World’, it also says it includes C, J, D and R booking classes. Fortunately, no co-pay is required.

Additionally, to be able to use AA miles you must either

  • Book your BA ticket via American Airlines in order to be able to upgrade it using AA miles; or
  • There must be one AA flight (which can be a codeshare, but must have an AA flight number) in your booking.

Benefits

3 for the Price of 1

One other benefit (admittedly less useful if you live in the UK) is that AA lets you upgrade up to three flight segments per upgrade ‘fee’ whereas BA would charge you for each leg separately if you upgraded with Avios.

Negatives

Is it Cost Effective?

In some cases it may actually cost more to buy one of these tickets compared to purchasing a discounted business class fare that doesn’t require an upgrade.

Cabin Configuration plays a part!

If you are familiar AA and their standard 3-cabin configuration you may not be aware that British Airways operates a 4-cabin configuration on most international flights. This coupled with the fact you can only upgrade a maximum of 1 cabin may work against you if you want to reach Business class as a standard economy ticket – a full-fare standard economy ticket no less – would put you into premium economy.

Practical Issues!

Furthermore, one of the best uses of miles is to upgrade from Economy or Premium to Business class (configuration permitting). But if your intention is to buy a BA ticket and upgrade to Business via AA – how does one book a fare that AA themselves do not normally sell?

Additionally, where AA operates an upgrade wait list system, neither BA or IB operate do meaning that upgrades are only available as and when an award seat is released.

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