Have you ever looked forward to something for years with great anticipation? Maybe it was getting married. And then when you actually got married, your wedding ended up like this:
Yeah, I’m not going to lie, that’s kind of how I feel right now.
As many of you probably know, one of the huge downsides of American’s AAdvantage program has always been their anti-trust agreement with British Airways. You couldn’t redeem or earn AAdvantage miles between the US and Europe, so if you wanted to fly British Airways on a transatlantic flight, you’d have to route through Toronto, Vancouver, Mexico City, etc. A really dumb rule, but at least you could, in theory, redeem miles on British Airways without paying the exorbitant fuel surcharges their native members had to pay.
Well, the day is finally here. We can now earn and redeem American miles on British Airways between the US and UK. I’m not so interested in the earning side, but I am interested in the redemption side. The good news is that British Airways has excellent award availability on transatlantic flights, particularly in first class, and we finally have access to those seats through AAdvantage. The bad news is that American is now imposing fuel surcharges on all British Airways redemptions. That’s right, we’re not only stuck paying fuel surcharges on these new flights we have access to, but we can also shell over an additional $300++ in fuel surcharge for routes that we previously just had to pay taxes for. And add those to London’s ridiculous APD of almost $200, and you’re looking at $700 plus ticketing fees for a Los Angeles to London first class award on British Airways.
On one hand it gives us more options, but on the other hand it makes AAdvantage fairly uncompetitive on the redemption side with United, US Airways, and
I like OneWorld carriers individually, I really do. But they’re just not playing all that nicely together. Let’s briefly analyze award availability on OneWorld carriers. LAN is a great airline for South America, though let’s see what happens to them with their upcoming merger with TAM. This could be really good news for OneWorld or really good news for the Star Alliance, depending on which way they swing. Qantas is another great airline, though premium cabin award availability is quite awful. Cathay Pacific is a great option with generally good award availability (especially compared to their biggest competitor, Singapore Airlines). British Airways is great, but when you’re paying substantial fuel surcharges, seems much less desierable. Then you have Iberia, Royal Jordanian, Finnair, and JAL. All good airlines, though I wouldn’t call any of them world class.
Anyway, let me just clarify, my argument isn’t that fuel surcharges in and of themselves are crazy (although they are, but for all intents and purposes, that’s not my point). While the rest of the world is well adjusted towards them, US consumers aren’t. And when consumers hear that they’re expected to pay $500+ for a “free ticket,” this will be nothing but elliott.org story after elliott.org story.
At the same time, I’m sure British Airways Executive Club members are doing the happy dance, because they won’t have to worry about all of “their” award seats being stolen.
(Tip of the hat to Gary)