American Airlines AAdvantage members and British Airways Executive Club members can finally earn and burn miles on transatlantic flights between the U.S. and U.K. on either airline. Some members, however, may decide to avoid British Airways award flights altogether since you will now be required to pay a fuel surcharge on all British Airways flights, which makes these awards less appealing. British Airways charges a fuel surcharge for all customers, even those traveling on award tickets. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan passes this charge on to the customer and now American Airlines will as well. The fuel surcharge varies by origin, destination, cabin, etc. and often adds a few hundred dollars to your “free” ticket. For example, a roundtrip coach ticket from SFO to LHR would have around a $265 fuel surcharge, not including taxes and fees.
As of Oct. 1, AAdvantage members earn redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles on all British Airways and Iberia flights (excluding flights to Cuba). And even discount coach fares on transatlantic flights will earn 100 percent of miles flown.
American Airlines Executive Platinum and Platinum elite members now earn elite status bonus miles on British Airways flights. Gold members, however, will continue to not earn elite bonus miles because the Executive Club program only has two levels and there is no elite status that corresponds to AAdvantage Gold.
AAdvantage members can redeem miles for travel in coach, business or first class on British Airways but the premium coach cabin is not available for mileage redemptions. Mileage upgrades are also available on full-fare Iberia and British Airways flights (including codeshare flights marketed and operated by either airline) but only if you book your flight directly with American Airlines. You cannot use miles to upgrade from discount coach fares on Iberia and British Airways and systemwide upgrades can only be used on American Airlines flights.
Bottom line: It’s great that transatlantic flights on British Airways can now be booked with AAdvantage miles, but we aren’t too excited about this change since members will have to pay fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. AAdvantage members will certainly enjoy finally receiving miles for transatlantic flights on British Airways. This basic benefit of most frequent flyer program partnerships was a long time in coming. The airlines, along with Iberia, also announced four new routes beginning next Spring as a benefit of the new joint business: New York JFK-Budapest and Chicago-Helsinki (operated by American Airlines), London Heathrow-San Diego (operated by British Airways) and Madrid-Los Angeles (operated by Iberia).