Should you start crediting BA economy flights to American Airlines AAdvantage?

If you are still crediting your British Airways economy tickets to British Airways Executive Club, it may be time – for some people – for a rethink.

The Avios changes at the end of April were pretty brutal if you fly on discounted British Airways economy tickets.  For tickets booked after that date (earlier bookings are protected) you now earn the following:

Avios earning chart 2

On the cheapest tickets, the earning rate was slashed by 75% and you now earn just 25% of miles flown.

I expected all of the BA partner airlines to follow.  Most have.  American Airlines, however, has not.   This is the current earnings rate if you credit British Airways flights to the AAdvantage scheme – you still earn at least one mile per mile flown:

AA screenshot

Let’s summarise what these two tables mean:

You will earn 400% more miles crediting Q, O and G economy tickets to American

You will earn 200% more miles crediting K, L, M, N, S and V economy tickets to American

You will earn 10% more miles crediting E, T and W World Traveller Plus tickets to American

Since this is the frequent flyer game, nothing is quite that simple.  Let’s imagine that I was about to fly to Los Angeles on British Airways with a cheap economy ticket.  I could earn either:

2,722 Avios points return, or

10,884 American Airlines miles return

But …. you also need to consider some other factors:

If you have British Airways status you would also get a class of service bonus based on the full mileage.  A Bronze gets 25% (2,722 Avios), a Silver gets 50% (5,544 Avios) and a Gold gets 100% (10,884 Avios).  Bronze and Silver would still earn more Avios in American though!

You won’t earn any BA tier points if you credit to American.  That said, a cheap return to LA is only 40 tier points anyway ….

You would earn American Airlines status points – but you would need to look more closely at the American scheme to see if it was worth building status with them.

If you go for it, you then find yourself with a pile of American Airlines miles.

The good news is that you can redeem AA miles for hotels.  The value jumps around a bit but 0.5p per mile seems acheivable.  This means, from your LA flight above, you would be choosing between (10,884 AA miles @ 0.5p) £50 of free hotel room or 2,722 Avios.  AA wins.

Flight redemptions are trickier.  In Europe you will be paying full taxes and charges instead of the £35 Reward Flight Saver fee.  As BA has now removed fuel surcharges from short haul flights, this has less of an impact than it did.

AA also treats Europe as one zone.  10,000 miles gets you from London to Paris but it also gets you from London to Athens.

There are some excellent long-haul deals with AA.  Using AA miles to fly BA to Dubai, for example, costs 60,000 AA miles in Club World.  With Avios you are now paying 100,000 Avios off-peak or 120,000 peak.  AA is also a partner with Etihad so you have another redemption route to the Middle East on top of Qatar, BA and Qantas.

AA does not charge fuel surcharges on anyone except British Airways.  This means that using their miles for redemptions on oneworld partners will often be cheaper than using Avios.  Flying to the US using American Airlines will not incur any fuel surcharges.

All of this assumes that you will earn enough AA miles for a redemption.  American is not a Tesco partner, an Amex Membership Rewards partner or a Heathrow Rewards partner.  There is a UK credit card which is currently offering 15,000 miles as a sign-up bonus.

And there is another snag ….

There is a widely accepted view in the market that the American Airlines scheme is due for a big devaluation soon.  It is far too generous compared to what Delta and United currently offer.  The reason it has not changed is that the merger of AA and US Airways was a bigger priority over the last couple of years.

Change is likely to be coming.  Even if it doesn’t arrive for a while, AA could still change their earnings rate on British Airways flights overnight.

What should you do?

If you are only taking a few BA short haul flights, I would stick with Avios and keep it simple.  If you have BA status or want to earn it, stick with Avios.

On the other hand, if you have a few long haul discount economy BA flights coming up, you might want to think about the AA route.  First, make sure you have a plan in mind for how you would use the miles and how you would top up your account if necessary.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

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Comments

  1. darrenf says:

    “You will earn 400% more miles crediting Q, O and G economy tickets to American”

    nitpick: the move from 0.25 to 1 is not “400% more” – it’s 400% total, or 300% more. Similarly for KLMNSV, 0.5 to 1 is 100% more not 200%.

  2. It’s always sensible to have some AA miles handy. U.S. Domestic availability in coach is almost non existent with BA and avoid but plentiful with AA. Where avoid availability is available its first Class and 4 times the coach price
    I just wish the AA programme was clearer about how you earn status with a calculator per route etc. that and family accounts would make me switch in a New York minute.

    • I agree about the status issue. I just can’t fathom out how to get to OW Sapphire etc.

      • Guesswho2000 says:

        Really? It’s fairly simple, AA PLT=OWS – 50,000 EQM, 50,000 EQP or 60 segments. http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/eliteStatus/main.jsp

        • I can’t work out the miles bit. I can read the basic info.

          • Guesswho2000 says:

            Ah of course they don’t have a calculator https://www.webflyer.com/travel/mileage_calculator/

            That should give you the distance, more or less, which should equate to the number of EQM earned.

            AA class all EQM on actual distance (adjusted per the percentages in their award chart, based on fare class, some earn 50%/25% of actual, such as discount Y flown on QF).

          • Cheers. So if I were to fly Qatar for example in business, I would work out the actual miles of my trip and then add 25% to get the EQMs?

          • Oh hold on that would be 1.5 points EQM for every actual flight so I would end up (actual miles x 1.5) = EQM? I’m not strong on maths obviously.

          • Guesswho2000 says:

            Not quite – you can’t mix and match EQM/EQP/Segments – you accrue all three simultaneously, but qualify for status based on the one hitting the threshold first.

            So with Qatar in J, for simplicity, flying 1,000 miles would get you 1,000 EQM (class of service bonus of 25% would get you another 250 miles, which are redeemable for flights, but don’t count towards status), 1,500 EQP or however many segments you flew.

            If you fly premium cabins a lot, you’ll hit status a lot quicker based on EQP than EQM, but you don’t need to pick which one you’re using (if that makes sense).

          • Yes! That does make sense! Thank you.

    • Trevor says:

      No Avios availability? Odd… when I looked end March for early April, there was plenty, but wasn’t sure I’d be there. As it turned out, I got award tickets for 4 on Virgin 2 days in advance of the flights, so knowing that availability was plentiful, I didn’t book my JFK-BOS redemptions for 4 until 2 days in advance either (once I knew when I wanted to fly) and it was no problem.

      • There are problems with AA availability showing up on ba.com at the moment. You can use the AA website to check availability – if ‘sAAver’ level seats are showing, BA can book them.

  3. sandgrounder says:

    AA also give 100% for most Etihad discount economy fare classes. If you pay for cheap long haul economy tickets AA is much better at the moment. The off peak 40k return to the US with reasonable cash element is a big attraction if you usually sit in the back.

    But will they devalue soon?? ……

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      And 80k one way to Australia/ NZ in first is an absolute steal!

      But yes, devaluation is likely at some point in the future. I burned 200k in anticipation of this!

      • sandgrounder says:

        Wise. Holding miles long term is a bit like keeping money in the bank. In Greece 😉

  4. Jonathan says:

    OT, but does anyone know the airmiles you are eligible for crediting to AA when flying Y on Cathay?

    I had been looking at crediting to Air Asia (100% credit) or Avios (25%), but presumably AA is an option.

    I’ve got a LHR -HKG – SYD – HKG – LHR trip later in the year.

    Was hoping to upgrade a sector or two but Carthay upgrades appear messy also!

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      If it’s definitely Y (or B/H) then 100%, other economy fare classes get nothing http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/earnMiles/airlines/cathayPacific.jsp

    • Jonathan says:

      Typos everywhere! Please switch Air Asia for Asia Miles and Carthay for Cathay.

      Now off to get a strong wake up coffee!

    • You would get 21,150 Asia Miles, or if you Joined Marco Polo club for 50USD and get priority check in and boarding then 21,150 club miles and allegedly free upgrade travelling on ones birthday. One World Bronze is 30,000 Club miles, which for now allows lounge access (MPC will make changes and its rumored to remove this plus extensive benefits that AA members receive via their FFP). There is an extensive thread on Flyer Talk on possible MPC changes.

      Going OT Here but maybe useful to some Asia regular travelers.
      This year all of my long haul to China and beyond has been on CX using the not so new MAN-HKG route. Previously with BA, the classes I travel just allowed me to make OWS with a few tier points to spare. At the start of this year I emailed CX (cathay) with flight history with BA for 2 years and got matched to OWR within 24 Hours. Explaining that the MAN-HKG would give excellent connections into mainland China with Dragon Air (basically CX in different colours). So starting as a OWR and doing 4 returns plus a China-Singapore return via HKG I have a CX Gold in 5 months for new flight classes that on BA I would be only half way to getting half what I got before.

      CX have been very kind in giving me 4 free upgrades and most recently for a MAN-HKG-ICN trip, It was double op ups for both sectors, and to compare CX J and Club World (BA have double op-up’d from WT also more than my luck should be). Its certainly superior and does not feel as crowded in the cabin.

      Raffles, maybe there could be a bit more on the site about BA vs MPC for travelers to Asia, most stuff on here is over the pond or trips down to Dubai. Its taken a few years of traveling out to Asia to know which Airlines to use to maximize points etc as with BA, once you land in PEK or PVG, the mileage earning stops. I think any mention of CX stopped with the end of the free MPC gold card given with AMEX PLAT. There are plenty of redemption opportunities flying out of HKG and at certain times a return there from the UK in WT or WT+ can be value on BA to use Avios. Example: Hong Kong to Bali KA360 13 Dec -361 20 Dec 75,000 Avios and £26 Dragon Air Business class for a 5 hour flight.

  5. Lee Thornton says:

    Off topic, but Iberia are offering 1,500 bonus Avios on new bookings:
    http://pointsandoffers.com/airlines/1500-bonus-avios-on-iberia/

  6. Even more so if you can take advantage of the premium fast track as posted on loyaltylobby this week. Platinum at 12k EQM, Exec Plat at 30k

    Sadly wouldn’t allow my account to register

  7. Trevor says:

    Semi-success story… In anticipation of a devaluation soon, I recently burned 160k AA miles for 4 to Hawaii return, in econ as that’s exactly the miles I had. The booking is for next Easter and I had to start looking and holding flights in pairs (not enough redemption availability at the cheapest rate for more people) from the day they became available. Due to the BA surcharges, I was adamant not to fly them either way. This saved about £500 outbound. I think I got the only 4 AA redemption seats available at the MileSAAver Off Peak level the whole weekend, but it does mean we fly out separately – about an hour apart.

    Coming back was also tricky to book and not fly BA (I think AA tries to force BA redemption availability as it wants cash or higher point redemption levels for its own seats), but the “taxes” difference is something like £162 vs $5.60 each, so well worth going for!

    Currently, in economy, I think this is the best use of miles with AA. Due to the ability to take an onward domestic for free, one-way you are paying 20k miles from LHR to Hawaii – halfway around the world – yet domestically you’d burn 22.5k miles just for the LAX-HNL leg at the same time of year! This is because while High Season in Hawaii, it’s still Low Season to Europe, so it’s charged at Low Season all the way – rather strange, but certainly to my benefit (AA seasonal burn rates differ depending on destination and time of year). In summer the burn rate is more, and at Xmas the holidays are too short and availability isn’t there. Sure it would have been nice to go for longer in the summer, but it would have cost 50% more miles that I didn’t have and had no way of earning (I got half from 2x MBNA special of 35k), plus it ain’t a cheap place to holiday. So it seemed to me that Easter was the best option for the most time on the least points. If you don’t fly BA metal: 40k + £132 ea return!

    No trying to earn more AA points to burn on inter-island flights – at 5k each, it’s the cheapest of any redemption option I’ve looked at.

    You can view the award charts and seasonal details here:
    http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/redeemMiles/american-airlines-award-chart.jsp

  8. Cheshire Pete says:

    We just flew back from New York with AA in ‘N’ class and only received 20 tier points and about 800 Avios, our Gold bonus however gave us a lot more Avios on top.

    I dropped a complaint to BA as their tier point calculator and info regarding flying with AA said otherwise. They wrote back yesterday and admitted their calculator was incorrect and also offered to credit the full amount as a gesture of goodwill.

    Nice gesture I thought, and worth pursuing at the moment, but ultimately I would consider opening a AA account in the future.

    • Is there a website that explains all the differ by ticket classes for the major airline. I got vey confused reading the posts above. I only seem to find full price tickets or the cheapest adbertised

      • Each airline has different ticketing classes so it still doesn’t help much.

        BA is better than most. If you are buying a ticket on ba.com and click on the flight number during the booking process, a pop-up box will appear which shows the exact booking class.

  9. Blackberryaddict says:

    One issue I have had with this, is that if you want to use your BA Silver/Gold card for lounge access, but credit to AA, the lounge angel can be difficult. She did it eventually, but it meant printing out two extra boarding passes – one with the BA number to allow me access, and then a second one back to AA for the miles.

    The other thing I have been thinking about: is it worth it going to an AA challenge and crediting everything to AA to obtain EXP, and let the BA Gold soft land to Silver next year?

    • Brendan says:

      You cant do a challenge for Exex Plat, only for Plat

    • RIccati says:

      That agent was poorly trained. It is possible for AA lounges to admit based on OWS without amending FFP on the booking. They have own separate system to log lounge visits which takes manual input.

  10. Lounge access is not available when you travel within the USA, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean if you have status with AA, but it is with BA.

    • RIccati says:

      The lounges (AA) are outrageously poor everywhere (JFK, MIA, LAX).

      At JFK I was more comfortable sitting on the floor of the huge and empty atrium in front of the lounge, rather than in the crowded and unclean lounge itself.

  11. Can AA miles be purchased as Avios (up to 35k per year for yourself and to be gifted to others) can be? And is SPG a transfer partner?

    • SPG is an AA partner, yes.

      You can buy AA miles and there are regular promotions (I cover the better ones on HFP if you search for my AA articles – use Category search at the bottom of the right hand menu). Never buy AA miles at full price!