American Airlines Dismisses Reciprocal Upgrade Idea

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Last Thursday I highlighted a piece from Australian Business Traveller (ABT) which indicated that American Airlines and Qantas were considering reciprocal points upgrades (presumably as a continuation of the newly inked joint venture agreement). The piece by ABT was more than a puff piece as it had quotes from both Qantas and American Airlines executives appearing to confirm that reciprocal upgrades were on the agenda.

  • Per ABT, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce confirmed that he is “absolutely looking at that (upgrades on American Airlines flights)
  • Qantas International CEO Gareth Evans is quoted as saying that Qantas will “continue to investigate all of these opportunities to better align the product offering (between Qantas and American), so when American Airlines passengers travel on Qantas and vice versa, they’ll have the same experience.
  • American Airlines Senior VP for International Strategic Alliances, Kurt Stache, is quoted as saying that “these policies evolve over time, so we’ll start with this one (reciprocal frequent flyer upgrades), and go from there.”

In fairness, the second quote could mean absolutely anything (and good luck getting American Airlines’ premium cabin soft product up to a standard where passengers have the same experience on both airlines) so that’s not necessarily an indicator that the airlines are considering reciprocal points upgrades….but the other two quotes seem pretty unequivocal.

On Friday, without any prompting, I got a tweet from American Airlines:

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 15.57.33

Now, as I said during the Hyatt Diamond Upgrades smokescreen, you should never believe anything until it’s officially denied…so, on those grounds, reciprocal points upgrades are just around the corner 🙂

Actually, that “rule” really only applies when a corporation/loyalty program is officially denying that something bad is going to happen. Sadly it doesn’t necessarily work in the same way when they deny that good stuff is on the way.

I decided to see if I could get any more info out of the American Airlines Twitter team (who are one of the better airline Twitter accounts out there….they can actually get things done):

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 16.04.07

I tried to get a comment out of Qantas but they’re not showing any signs of getting back to me…..they’re probably too busy trying to figure out how to persuade their flyers that American Airlines’ soft product is no different from their own.

This leaves a few questions unanswered:

Was ABT completely wrong in what it posted?

I don’t think ABT got the quotes wrong but it’s possible they misinterpreted what they were told. It’s hard to know for sure without having access to the context in which the quotes were given.

Did this get considered and then quickly dismissed?

Airlines are behemoths….they don’t do many things quickly at all so I doubt that they’ve already discussed reciprocal upgrades to an extent where a decision not to proceed has been reached.

Is this in the works but as only a one way thing?

If American Airlines is considering allowing Qantas passengers to upgrade on American Airlines flights without there being any reciprocity for its own flyers, that would be a kick in the teeth for AA loyalists. The American Airlines Business Class “soft product” may not be up to that much but the seat (which I seem to talk about a lot!) is excellent and I can see Qantas flyers queuing up to use their horrendously devalued points to upgrade into it.

american-airlines-777-300-business-class-seatAmerican Airlines 777-300 Business Class Seats

With the exception of the recent bonanza, which I don’t expect to continue, upgrades on American Airlines aren’t the easiest things to get anymore so having to compete with Qantas passengers as well as fellow AA flyers isn’t something I expect to be welcomed with open arms.

Are the American Airlines Twitter team out of the loop?

It’s possible that the American Airlines Twitter team are out of the loop but then why send a tweet when I hadn’t even asked them a question? It doesn’t make sense. I guess it’s possible that they referred the blog post to someone higher up and were told to deny the story…but that doesn’t get us any closer to knowing if the denial is genuine or a smokescreen.

Bottom Line

I think we’re probably more likely to see no sharing of upgrades rather than one airline’s flyers (Qantas) being allowed to use points to upgrade on the others’ (American Airlines).

American Airlines must be acutely aware of just how annoyed a large segment of its frequent flyers are (thanks to the upcoming devaluations to AAdvantage) so I don’t think they would needlessly rile them anymore by giving upgrades to another airline’s flyers without getting its own flyers anything in return.

British Airways has had a joint venture agreement in place with American Airlines for a lot longer than Qantas and reciprocal upgrades between those two airlines have never been mentioned (at least not that we know of)… it would be a surprise to see Qantas and American going down that route this early into their new relationship.

I think it’s wait and see time although, sadly, I think we’re not as close to being able to use AAdvantage Miles to upgrade on Qantas as it seemed last Thursday.


  1. i highly doubt the twitter team is aware of what is going on behind the scenes. These are customer support guys who know just about as much as any airport employee.

    • Ordinarily I would agree with you but it seems strange that someone in the Twitter team would take it upon themselves to comment on something they were not directly asked about. That would appear to be something above their pay grade.

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