American Airlines & Qantas Considering Reciprocal Points Upgrades

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American Airlines and Qantas have recently got a lot closer than just being OneWorld partners thanks to a joint venture agreement signed last year. So far the agreement has seen American Airlines commencing flights to Sydney, Qantas reducing capacity from Los Angeles to Sydney while adding flights from San Francisco to Sydney and American Airlines adding a Los Angeles to Auckland route from June this year.

We’ve also had both airlines talking about improving their services to keep customers happy and American Airlines has even said that it’s going to be introducing a Premium Economy cabin to their long-haul fleet…so that’s quite an effect that the new, closer partnership has already had.

But now there’s a story emerging that suggests that Qantas and American Airlines may be considering allowing passengers to upgrade on each other’s aircraft using Qantas Points and AAdvantage Miles.

American Airlines Business Class 777-300 ReviewBusiness Class seat on American Airlines Flights between Los Angeles and Sydney

As things stand, flights on American Airlines can only be upgraded using AAdvantage miles and Qantas flights can only be upgraded using Qantas Points but, according to Australian Business Traveller (ABT), this could be about to change.

ABT has reported that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has confirmed that he is “absolutely looking at that (upgrades on American Airlines flights)”

On top of that statement, Qantas International CEO Gareth Evans added the following:

We’ll 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.

Kurt Stache, American Airlines Senior VP for International Strategic Alliances, is reported as having said:

[T]hese policies evolve over time, so we’ll start with this one (being no reciprocal frequent flyer upgrades), and go from there.

As ABT points out, there is a recent precedent for this happening.

As of April 2015, Qantas passengers booked on to LAN’s Sydney-Auckland-Santiago flight have been able to upgrade their flight using Qantas Points providing they booked the flight as a Qantas codeshare.

a woman sleeping in a planeQantas “Skybed” in the Business Class cabin – source: Qantas

Points Upgrades On Qantas

Qantas operates a distance based award chart and their points upgrades follow the same methodology.

The good news is that Qantas allows points upgrades from Discounted Economy Class to Business Class despite the fact that they operate aircraft with a Premium Economy cabin.

Taking the Los Angeles to Sydney route as an example these are the costs to upgrade with points:

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 14.51.14

The reason why that’s good news is because it may be a pointer for how American Airlines will deal with upgrades once it begins to roll out its own Premium Economy Cabins towards the end of 2016.

Clearly there’s no guarantee that American will follow Qantas’ methodology but, as they seem to be following Qantas in other ways (introducing a Premium Economy cabin being one example), it’s not totally unreasonable to think that they may follow Qantas in the way they offer upgrades with AAdvantage miles.

Bottom Line

It would be an exciting development if Qantas and American Airlines went ahead and allowed upgrades on each other’s aircraft with points/miles form each airlines’ loyalty program. If this were to happen and if it was found to be a success then it may even open the door to American Airlines replicating the system with other joint venture partners like British Airways.

Clearly if this does indeed come to fruition we’ll have to wait and see what the cost to upgrade would be (hard to get excited if Economy to Business upgrades cost 72,000 AAdvantage Miles each way) and we’ll have to wait and see how may upgrades the airlines choose to release.

There’s every chance that upgrade availability will be directly linked to award availability (especially in the case of Qantas) and award availability between the US and Australia is amongst the hardest to get. For the time being this is a nice idea to ponder but let’s wait and see what comes out in the wash.