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American Airlines and British Airways launch reciprocal upgrade certificates

Sept. 13, 2022
5 min read
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Editor's Note

</strong>This article has been updated to reflect that British Airways Gold elites have not received two additional vouchers.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that British Airways Gold elites have not received two additional vouchers.


American Airlines and British Airways have long been close airline partners — and this week, the relationship got even closer.

American Airlines frequent flyers can now cash in systemwide upgrade certificates for better seats on British Airways flights. And British Airways flyers can do the same on American Airlines flights. This is an exciting development, but there are some big restrictions you need to know.

Here’s what you need to know about using systemwide upgrades between American Airlines and British Airways.

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How to use American Airlines upgrades on British Airways

You can use American systemwide upgrades to upgrade some British Airways flights. NICKY KELVIN/THE POINTS GUY

How it works: You can obtain American Airlines systemwide upgrades after achieving American Airlines elite status. Systemwide upgrades allow you to move up one class of service when flying with British Airways on a ticket issued by American Airlines:

  • You can upgrade most business-class fares to first class (“Z” fare code).
  • You can upgrade premium economy fares to business class (“U” fare code).
  • You can upgrade economy fares to premium economy (“P” fare code).

Each certificate can be redeemed for one-way travel with up to three segments. There are a handful of scenarios in which you cannot use systemwide upgrades on British Airways:

  • Award flights (all cash fares are eligible).
  • Flights that aren’t transatlantic or intra-Europe.
  • Any flight not operated by British Airways.

Also, note that your itinerary must include both American Airlines and British Airways flights to qualify. For example, you can book New York to London with American and London to Prague with British Airways in economy and use a systemwide upgrade to upgrade the itinerary to business class.

How to do it: To use your AA systemwide upgrades, you’ll still have to book through the American Airlines website. You’ll just log in to your account and find the British Airways itinerary that suits you. You can then call American Airlines and ask them to redeem your upgrade. If no upgrades are available at the time, you can call back frequently to recheck.

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Unfortunately, no waitlist exists for American Airlines systemwide upgrades on British Airways.

Related: How to use American Airlines systemwide upgrades

How to use British Airways upgrades on American Airlines

British Airways Gold elite members can now upgrade some American flights. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

How it works: British Airways Gold members can use upgrade vouchers on select American Airlines flights ticketed by British Airways. BA elites earn these upgrade certificates when they hit certain tier point thresholds. You can upgrade seats from:

  • Business class to first class (“A” fare class).
  • Premium economy to business class (“C" fare class).
  • Economy to business when the aircraft is not equipped with premium economy.

There are a few other restrictions to keep in mind:

  • Award flights are not eligible.
  • Only transatlantic and U.S. domestic flights are eligible.
  • Economy seats can’t be upgraded to premium economy.

It's worth noting that there doesn’t appear to be a rule that your itinerary must include British Airways and American Airlines. In theory, you can use an upgrade voucher for any transatlantic American flight so long as you booked it through British Airways and there is open award space.

How to do it: As your ticket must be issued by British Airways, you’ll begin the booking process on the British Airways website. You’ll need to call British Airways to use your upgrade.

Again, there is no waitlist if you can’t find available upgrades. You will have to keep calling British Airways to check.

Bottom line

If you are paying to shuttle across the Atlantic on either American Airlines or British Airways and have elite status, this new reciprocal upgrade certificate acknowledgment should interest you.

However, many of us rarely pay for this airfare anyway because we know the best ways to get to Europe with points and miles — and pay practically nothing. Since these upgrade certificates can only be attached to paid fares, this policy change won’t affect as many as it might seem.

Featured image by NICKY KELVIN/THE POINTS GUY UK
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees