The American AAdvantage and British Airways Executive Club programs have spent years saying they needed government approval before they could complete their seamless frequent flyer partnership. Well, the recent final approval allowing these airlines to codeshare by the Transportation Department would seem to end this protracted gap in arguably one of the most important alliances left on earth.
The truth is — we’re not too sure.
While given permission to codeshare, both airlines agreed not to codeshare on nonstop U.S.-London flights. Hmmm … this seems like yet another excuse and represents more lost ground to members of both programs who, despite promises of the seamless alliance of oneworld, are certainly getting less than the value they would have with other alliances. Even the new Delta, Continental and Northwest alliance will allow members to earn and burn their miles on international flights — including transatlantic.
We think there is more to this story than what is being told. So we dusted off the old file cabinets here at Inside Flyer, which contain nearly 20 years of frequent flyer program material, and searched for answers. Sure enough, when British Airways participated in the American AAdvantage program at the start of frequent flyer civilization, members of that program could redeem their miles for free transatlantic flights on British Airways, something they are told can’t be done today because the airline doesn’t have government approval. Likewise, when British Airways deserted American for the United Mileage Plus program some years later, members of that program could also redeem their miles for free transatlantic flights on British Airways, and earn them as well. Why is it then that for most of the past 10 years, members of AAdvantage have been told the programs are restricted from offering such rewards without government approval? They had such approval (if it was actually necessary) years ago.
While we don’t know yet if the DOT’s approval will get these two programs off the dime and make the programs more frequent flyer friendly, we do know that the oneworld alliance has suffered because of it. The Star Alliance is clearly the world’s best frequent flyer alliance, and while we have always hoped that oneworld would try harder and be number two, it seems that the ever-so-incomplete (yes, another airline strike from Air France) SkyTeam alliance has now inched into the number two slot, especially with news that it has formally invited Continental and Northwest to be members.
And so the oneworld turns with no transatlantic benefits for members of AAdvantage and Executive Club.
The potential good news is that the DOT did approve codeshare for Chicago-Glasgow and Chicago-Manchester for American and BA’s JFK-Manchester service. So if you don’t mind redeeming or earning miles (nearly) to London, this might work.