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Sunday Reader Email Question: How Can I Book Oneworld Awards With American and British Airways Miles?

by on August 28, 2011 · 33 comments

in American, British Airways, Sunday Reader Questions

TPG reader Jody asks:

“I’m sure you have a ton of clients that took advantage of both the British Airways 100K sign up bonus and the 150K American Airlines sign up bonuses recently.  Can we take those 250K miles and use them together somehow within the OneWorld Alliance system to fly an entire family of four to Asia/South America/Africa, etc.? “

This is a great question, because many of you did get in on the 100,000 British Airways Visa deal in April/May and are currently raking in the American miles from their 75,000 mile secret Citi cards. Can you physically combine AA and British Airways miles? No. Can you use them in tandem to plan a great Oneworld award trip? Yes.

However, you need to understand both programs have completely different rules. The key differences are:
1) Stopovers: British Airways allows unlimited en-route stopovers (which means for South American trips you can travel to Buenos Aires, but stop in Lima and Santiago along the way). For their cheapest awards, American only allows a stopover at the international gateway city, which is generally their US hub where you leave the US. If you fly Boston-JFK-Buenos Aires, you could stop at JFK only on either the outbound or return segment- or both. American allows unlimited stopovers on Oneworld awards, but be prepared to pay a mileage premium.

2) Partner awards: British Airways has 4 award charts and the most generous is the one-partner airline chart. This means to get the best value, you can only fly on one Oneworld carrier. So if you live in a city only serviced by American (like Albuquerque, New Mexico), your only option to get the lowest awards is to fly American airlines, since you can’t switch carriers once you are abroad and American only flies from the US to other countries (for example, you could fly JFK-Paris on American but go no further, since you’d have to mix in another Oneworld carrier to get past London). Either that, or you could buy a ticket to a Oneworld gateway city, like Los Angeles, and then fly that partner only on your trip. Any American MileSAAver award should be bookable using BA miles, but you often have to call to book awards because britishairways.com can’t price complex or multi-city awards.
American has three award charts: AA awards, partner awards and then oneworld awards. The first two do not allow stopovers (besides the gateway city), but Oneworld awards do – but you will pay a mileage premium and the annoying thing is that you must use two Oneworld partners – whereas on BA’s best award chart, you can only use one. This makes maximizing both BA and AA miles for the same trip a little bit difficult. Generally any award that shows on Britishairways.com should be bookable with AA miles.

3) Fees. British airways generally has higher fuel surcharges on awards (think $500+ for a European roundtrip, but $160-$450 on South America/Asia/Australia). American’s fees are usually in the $50-$200 range, though they also charge $400+ for awards that include British Airways travel. However, BA doesn’t have last minute award fees and only charges $90 to change/cancel an award vs. $100 last minute fee and $150 change/cancel award fees on American.

So basically, to use BA and AA miles, your best value is to avoid European trips (high fees) and also stick to one Oneworld carrier for the whole trip.You also need to understand you can’t overload an American award with stopovers, like you can with British Airways miles, so you need to make a relatively simple itinerary and fill in the extra stops that you did get on the British Airways award with one-ways or paid flights.

So let’s take South America for example. If you wanted to book a simple Los Angeles to Lima roundtrip, you could book some of your tickets using BA miles and some using AA. American will put an award on hold, so I recommend putting the American awards on hold, booking the BA awards (since they generally don’t allow award holds) and then booking the AA awards once the BA awards are finalized.

If you wanted to take advantage of British Airways generous stopovers and book something like Los Angeles- Lima (stop)- Santiago (stop)- Easter Island (stop)- Santiago- Lima-Los Angeles you could book that award on all Lan for 40,000 miles in coach and 80,000 miles in business class with BA. However, if you used AA miles for that same trip, you could only book something like Los Angeles-Lima on one award for 17,500/30,000 miles one way in coach/business. Then book three additional one ways: Lima-Santiago, Santiago- Easter Island for 15,000/30,000 miles each in coach/business and then a one way back Easter Island to Los Angeles for 30,000/50,000 miles. All in for business class you are looking at 160,000 miles for a Lan award or 130,000 for a Oneworld award if you were able to mix in another Oneworld partner (like flying American Los Angeles-Dallas-Lima on the first leg), however mixing in an AA segment would make the BA award a multi Oneworld award, and bump the price of the award up to an eye-popping 100,000/200,000 miles for coach/business.

So to sum it up, in my opinion BA awards are best used on multi-stopover trips on a single Oneworld partner to anywhere but Europe and AA awards are best used on simple roundtrips that can include any number of Oneworld partners (see my post on maximizing AA awards here).

Also check out my series on BA miles:
General tipsPost 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 – The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 – Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10 - Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability

I know this can get confusing so feel free to comment below with questions!

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Matt C

    for BA miles flying Cathay Pacific is it possible to do:

    JFK-YVR-HKG-BKK

    I can’t search for this on the stupid ba.com website (it’s always broken)

    I called British Airways before and they said the Vancouver stop was not doable.

    do I need to check this particular route from Cathay first, and then give them the fight #?

    Love to book this flight,

    any help would be amazing!

    thanks

    Matt

  • Psp007

    Using BA Miles for Buenos Aires, but stopovers in Lima and Santiago, if it prices 40K in coach without stopovers then will adding stopovers increase the mileage required?

  • KP

    Priced out an award for 40k all on LAN with a agent on the phone. JFK-LIM-SLC-IPC-EZE-LIM-JFK so all in all 4 places but you can stop in Lima twice :D.

    Since they fly to Rio de Janeiro, I’ll have to figure out how to add that in but I didn’t have dates in my hand. At best I would do this entire trip for at least 4 weeks. IPC you only have to do for 3days and can split the rest up for 5-6nights each.

  • PJ

    strange AMEX is turning down BONUS ID 6661 75K bump ; I am in deep XXXX trouble ; 4 approved family members were told to go for the 125 K

  • Anonymous

    Nice- what were to8tal taxes?

  • Anonymous

    Same mileage and nominal additional taxes

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see why not. I would just find the availability and then tell them the flight numbers you want and just have them book it.

  • Mark

    I have to disagree with your assertion that making an AA award a oneworld award will lead to a mileage premium…the distance-based chart is actually quite good and there are many cases where I’ve booked a oneworld award for a simple round trip because it requires less miles.

  • Anonymous

    Just curious- what routes are cheaper?

  • Anonymous

    If at first you don’t succeed, hang up and try again my friend!

  • venkatesh

    My applications for both amex and citi cards were denied since I already possessed the CitiAdvanatage cards. Upon calling I was told that it was for only new card holders. I did call several time and got the same answer. And I read in several of the blogs that hey were denied the $150k signup bonus promotion.

  • Andrew

    I converted 134,000 MR Points to BA during the 1.5x promotion and I booked JFK-HKG (stop) – BKK (destination) – HKG-JFK in CX business class for my wife and me. We got the exact dated and times that we wanted and it cost about $440 in fees per ticket. That is hefty compared to domestic awards but not too bad for $11,000 tickets!

  • gavinmac

    Very helpful. Thanks.

  • Asdfasdjfasdfasdf

    wow i was just thinking about this regarding flying to EZE or SCL with the goal of a few days in MDZ as well…

    I don’t think I have enough free time from work to do the mega LAN stopover trip and LAN doesn’t fly from my home city.

    So it looks like flying AA using AA miles or BA miles.

    What happens during IROPS on LAN (volcano etc) if you are in LIM for example and you have a complex itinerary like JFK-LIM-SCL-IPC-etc etc booked with BA miles

    Do you call BA or LAN?

    I think an IROPS primer would be epic.

  • Anonymous

    You’d call Lan and they’d reaccomodate you (and hopefully in a revenue ticket fare class). In case the operating carrier doesn’t help, you can also call BA and try to have them reticket something to your liking, but you may be out of luck if no award space is available. With weather/mechanical, the operating carrier should reaccomodate yet- whether you paid for the ticket in miles or cash.

  • Kilton9

    So no way to get to Europe with AA or BA miles without crazy fuel fees?

  • Anonymous

    No way with BA miles (I’ve heard taking Aer Lingus is cheaper, but thats not really a viable option for most).
    AA miles for AA flights to Europe are cheap. I just priced DFW-MAD in coach for February and taxes are only $39.

  • Mark

    The times I’ve used it is for the US west coast to India via the pacific (CX one way and JL the other) for 130k in business versus 135k for an all-partner round trip award (which would be via the atlantic and would probably also incur BA fuel surcharges)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_44WKZRQXCHRWJFTQN2HNNXE5EA JohnA

    I just used BA miles on AA for domestic 1st class, required 75000 BA miles for each ticket, for the AA saver flight, though the return flight showed on BA website, the departure didn’t, had to call, the BA rep said he had the flight I wanted and for the two tickets with tax it came to $60.

  • Federico

    You can add BKK-SIN if you want

    JFK-YVR-HKG-BKK-SIN one way on CX and if you want, you can do SIN-HDN-JFK ;)

  • Federico

    SIN-HND-JFK on JAL

  • Kroozer

    I have been reading for last 2-3 months only and for award redemption, have read several times useful advice on Europe (BA high fees), South America (AA or LAN attractive) and Asia (CX attractive).

    However I’m interested in award travel to Africa or Middle East (Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa) and have not found lot of details.

    If we use BA flights, are these subject to same high fees and fuel surcharge since connection will be via London? AA doesn’t fly to most of these destinations. I need to fly a family of 4 and no miles from business travel so looking for Economy class and Lowest awards, therefore BA multi-partner or AA oneworld awards are not good due to high mileage requierement.

    So what are the economical award redemption options to Africa or Middle-East? TIA.

  • Asdfasdjfasdfasdf

    Well if you got Aer Lingus to work out for your itinerary, would that be cunning or what?

  • Andrew

    How can you do BKK-SIN on CX?

  • Jfklhr

    I just got denied for an award LHR-EWR stop EWR-LAX-SFO as a BA + one partner award. I was shocked… I’m pretty sure i’ve booked awards like this before. The agent said that this is not allowed as it is ‘not the most direct connection’ and stopovers can only be made on the most direct connection.

    Anyone have experience with this?

  • Anonymous

    Try EWR-ORD/DFW-SFO.. that should work

  • Voltaire

    Please forgive my ignorance, but I’m having a hard time comprehending the concept of the stopover.

    In your post you say: “Los Angeles- Lima (stop)- Santiago (stop)- Easter Island (stop)- Santiago- Lima-Los Angeles you could book that award on all Lan for 40,000 miles in coach ”

    Does a stopover mean that you can stay in that city for a day or two? What are the advantages of stopovers?
    Thanks in advance.

  • Anonymous

    Stopovers are a free way to enhance your vacation. Instead of going to one city, you can hit multiple- all for the same price as a simple roundtrip. A stopover can be 1 day, 2 days, 50 days..etc

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=615168853 Bettina Shzu

    Hi there,

    Is there an easy way to find out all the routes of the one world carriers? Otherwise, I’d have to look up the route maps of each individual airline of One World.

    I live in Berlin and have 100,000 BA miles that I’d rather not use on BA.

    Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/andyman1080 Andy Assareh

    In some cases wouldn’t it make more sense to use BA miles for your outbound with free stopovers, and AA miles for a direct return? That way you could get the best of both worlds.

  • Anonymous

    exactly!

  • nathan

    Aer Lingus will be cheaper – about $130 for a round trip flight. The points cost is 50k.

  • Michael

    My wife and I both have 100k points on BA. We live in Anchorage and want to fly ANC-BKK next August. I am under the assumption Cathway would be the best to fly there, except Anchorage isn’t a gateway city. Do I need to fly to SEA first? Or can I somehow fly on Alaskair from ANC to BKK. Any help would be appreciated.

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