You Can’t Trust British Airways Staff To Correctly Change Your Frequent Flyer Number

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While I’ve had some very positive recent experiences with British Airways cabin crew I’m continually frustrated by some of the limitations of, the incompetence of BA’s IT department and the inability of BA call centre staff to carry out simple tasks.

I’m in the process of earning top-tier status with British Airways but, while I’ve been working my way to the top, I’ve been using my top-tier American Airlines status to ensure that I get one of the perks I value most.

I’m now up to Silver status with British Airways but I made a significant number of reservations through while I still had Bronze status or lower. When making those bookings I added my American Airlines frequent flyer number to the reservations so that I could select a seat at the time of booking (always an exit row) and avoid the 30″ of leg room that BA offers in all short-haul cabins.

British Airways Euro Traveller A319
British Airways short-haul cabins offer just 30″ of seat pitch

The big snag here is that while I want to make sure I get to reserve a seat at the time of booking I also want to collect BA Tier points – that means swapping out my American Airlines frequent flyer number for my British Airways Executive Club number some time after I’ve selected my seats and before I check in.

Historically this is something that couldn’t be done on but that could be done via the Finnair website. Unfortunately, in recent months the Finnair site has been playing up and I’ve been at the mercy of BA’s call centres.

Back in January I called up BA to ask them to swap out my AA number for my BA number on a flight between London and LA. The agent didn’t seem completely sure what he was supposed to be doing but my BA number appeared on my reservation and on my boarding pass so I assumed all was ok.

It wasn’t.

A week after I had taken the flight there was still no movement in my BAEC account so I called up the airline (I didn’t bother checking my AAdvantage account because my boarding pass and reservation both showed my BAEC number).

According to the helpful BA agent it turns out that my flight had been credited to AAdvantage because “both my AAdvantage and BAEC numbers were on [my] reservation“.

No tier points for me.

Apparently my only recourse was to call up American, persuade them to void the miles that had posted to my account and then to file a “missing Avios” claim with BA.

I wasn’t about to do any of that. I had no faith that (a) American would void the last entry in my account and (b) even if American came through for me that BA would hold up their end of the bargain. Better to have some AAdvantage Miles than no miles at all.

an airplane flying in the sky
Image American Airlines

Now let’s fast forward to my latest trip which, coincidentally, was another London – LA trip.

I learned my lesson from last time (or so I thought) so when I called up BA I first asked for the agent to “remove any mention of my AAdvantage number from my reservation“.

Once the agent confirmed he had done this I then asked him to enter my BAEC number in “all appropriate parts of my reservation as I want to make sure that I earn Avios and Tier points for this trip“.

I don’t think I could have been any clearer and, once again, my BAEC number appeared in my reservation and, when I checked-in, on my boarding pass too.

I’m guessing you can probably see where this is going.

After my trip I noticed that Award Wallet was showing that my AAdvantage balance had increased so, knowing full well that I wasn’t expecting any activity in my AAdvantage account, I decided to check it out.

This is what I saw:

a number on a white background

Once again my trip had credited to American Airlines and not BA.


Luckily for me I still have enough flights booked/planned to earn me the tier points needed for BA Gold status…but what if I hadn’t?

I genuinely don’t know what the BA call centre staff get up to when I ask them to swap over my frequent flyer numbers but, whatever it is they do, it doesn’t work.

I never have this problem when I call up American Airlines to do the reverse so I can only assume this is either incompetence on the part of BA’s call centre staff (quite likely) or an issue with BA’s IT systems (very likely).

It turns out that my biggest mistake was not going back to to see if the system issues there have been fixed because they have been.

After a few months of not being able to edit frequent flyer numbers on the Finnair site it would seem that all’s back to normal and the process (as outlined here) is working well – I tested it yesterday.

The moral of the story here is a simple one: If you need to change the frequent flyer number that’s listed on a British Airways reservation don’t rely on the call centre staff – do it yourself via and you should have no issues at all.


  1. What about talking to check in staff directly at day of departure?
    QRs IT is equally bad, i had two FFN in my reservation which could than be resolved at check in, through the magic of direct PNR access by the guy at C/I

    • That may work but with apparently working well again why wait until check-in?

      Also, if a reservation shows the correct FF# and the boarding pass shows the correct FF# but it’s still possible for miles to be credited elsewhere, there’s no foolproof way of knowing that an agent (at check-in or elsewhere) has done the job correctly….and you have no choice but to accept the agent’s word that he/she has entered everything correctly.

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