The close partnership between American Airlines and IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, offers surprising benefits for members of their rewards programs. Members of AAdvantage can upgrade British Airways and Iberia flights using American Airlines miles, and vice versa.
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On the American Airlines website’s Redemption page, you’ll find a link to upgrade with miles on partner airlines, specifically British Airways and Iberia. To use American Airlines miles for upgrades, you must either book your British Airways ticket through American Airlines or have at least one American Airlines flight (with an American Airlines flight number) in your booking. American Airlines also allows you to upgrade up to three flight segments per upgrade ‘fee,’ which is a unique advantage compared to British Airways’ separate charges per leg.
Eligible Fare Classes
Eligible fare classes for upgrades include:
- Full-Fare Economy with published fares booked in Y or B on British Airways or Iberia
- Premium Economy with published World Traveller Plus fares booked in W (unrestricted fares only) on British Airways. Doesn’t apply to Excursion fares.
- Full-Fare Business with published fares booked in C, J, D, or R on British Airways or Iberia
Upgrading Segments and Fare Conditions
When upgrading your flight using American Airlines miles, keep in mind that a maximum of three segments in one direction may be upgraded, and all segments being upgraded must be on the same ticket. The fare conditions of the original purchased fare will still apply even after the upgrade.
Tickets upgraded using mileage upgrade awards will accrue miles based on the original purchased fare. To be eligible for an upgrade, the flights must be operated by American Airlines, British Airways, or Iberia, or be codeshare flights marketed and operated by any of these three airlines. If your reservation is booked through a source other than American Airlines, it must include at least one flight with an American Airlines flight number to be eligible for an upgrade. This includes codeshare flights operated by British Airways or Iberia but booked as an American Airlines flight number.
Benefits and Drawbacks
However, there are some drawbacks to consider. In some cases, purchasing a discounted business class fare may be more cost-effective than buying a ticket eligible for an upgrade. Additionally, British Airways operates a 4-cabin configuration on most international flights, limiting your upgrade options to a maximum of one cabin. This means that upgrading a full-fare standard economy ticket would only get you to premium economy, rather than business class.
Moreover, the process of booking a British Airways ticket to upgrade to business class with American Airlines miles can be confusing since American Airlines doesn’t usually sell these fares. Furthermore, unlike American Airlines, neither British Airways nor Iberia operates an upgrade waitlist system, meaning upgrades are only available when an award seat is released.
American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades on British Airways
It’s now possible to use American Airlines systemwide upgrades for travel on British Airways. This feature provides AAdvantage members with even more flexibility when redeeming their miles for travel with partner airlines.
Although the ability to upgrade British Airways and Iberia flights using American Airlines miles offers greater flexibility for AAdvantage members, it may not be the most cost-effective option for all travellers. Before upgrading, consider the fare classes, availability, and cabin configurations to determine if this option is the best value for your trip. For some corporate travellers restricted to certain fare classes, using miles to upgrade to a higher cabin may be a valuable option. Nonetheless, it’s essential to weigh the benefits and drawbacks before deciding to upgrade your flight using American Airlines miles on partner airlines.