Can I Transfer Miles Between British Airways and American Airlines?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
Transferable points are a somewhat simple concept to understand in theory, but things get much more complicated in practice, as you have to navigate a web of different transfer options and remember that the program with which you’re booking your ticket might not belong to the airline operating your flight. TPG reader Lisa wants to know if she can combine points between her British Airways and American Airlines accounts …
I have a large number of British Airways Avios, and every time I try to search for American Airlines flights it says none available. Can I move these points to my AAdvantage account and book with American Airlines directly?TPG READER LISA
British Airways has been in the news a lot in the last few months, between a minor devaluation of its partner award chart, taking delivery of its first stunning A350 aircraft and an excellent 40% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards. Furthermore, Lisa is spot on that some of the best uses of Avios are for partner awards, especially short-haul domestic flights on American Airlines.
American Airlines and British Airways are both members of the Oneworld alliance, and the two carriers cooperate quite closely through a transatlantic joint venture. American Airlines AAdvantage members can earn and redeem miles on British Airways flights, while BA members can do the same on flights operated by American. However, you can’t transfer miles between your AAdvantage account and your British Airways Executive Club account.
As an analogy, think of transferable points as stem cells, with the potential to turn into almost any type of cell (or mile) they want. The degree of flexibility depends on the program: American Express has 22 airline and hotel transfer partners, while Marriott has over 40 airlines to which you can transfer your Bonvoy points. However, once you earn points or miles in a specific airline’s program — be it through transfers or normal earning activity — you usually can’t transfer them laterally to a different airline. Similarly, once a stem cell differentiates into one type of cell, it can’t just change its mind and morph into another type. While there are some airlines that allow this, the rates are so atrocious that you’re better off not even knowing that this option exists.
So is Lisa entirely out of luck? Not at all. It’s certainly still possible to book American Airlines awards using British Airways Avios, but it’s important to address Lisa’s frustrations. American Airlines is inching closer to dynamic pricing, and it can be challenging to find nonstop, saver-level award space. Only flights that have MileSAAver awards will be bookable through British Airways — or any American partner. And while the British Airways website can be a powerful tool for searching Oneworld award availability, it has had problems displaying American flights in the past. As a result, Lisa might want to start by using the full calendar view on the American Airlines website to find days/flights with saver award availability before heading over to British Airways to book.
If she finds a flight with a MileSAAver award available, it should absolutely be bookable using British Airways Avios. If it doesn’t appear online, she should call Executive Club customer service at 1-800-452-1201 (open daily from 7:30am to 8pm Eastern Time) — and should ask that any phone booking fee to be waived if the flight isn’t bookable online.
Even though British Airways and American Airlines have a close relationship, you can’t transfer miles directly between the two airlines. This is true with most carriers across all alliances. Just because United and Lufthansa work closely together or Delta and Air France-KLM are expanding their joint venture doesn’t mean you can transfer miles between them. Make sure to keep this in mind when you’re deciding which loyalty program to credit your miles to for any upcoming flights.
Featured image by Anna Zvereva Wikipedia
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.