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Award Redemption BA upgrade using AA miles question

Discussion in 'questions. answers. conversations.' started by RTBones, May 26, 2016.

  1. RTBones

    RTBones Active Member

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    Hello all,

    After a recent flight experience, I am trying to resolve what I did wrong trying to upgrade BA flights using AA miles so I dont make the mistake again. I am hoping the community here can help. :)

    Flights: Outbound - MAN-LHR-LAS Inbound - DEN-LHR-MAN
    These were codeshare flights, booked on AA's website, and all flights were on BA metal. For the record, the flights at the time were cheaper on the AA site.

    The problem was trying to upgrade. Calling BA, they said upgrade space was available but they couldnt modify the ticket because AA owned it, please call American. Calling AA, they said there was no upgrade space available, please call BA. I went around this roundabout several times with multiple agents (all of whom, other than not being able to upgrade me, were helpful). At the time, I was not a member of Expert Flyer, so I couldnt see upgrade award space for myself. I never did get the upgrade in the end.

    How should I have correctly booked the tickets so that I could have upgraded? Should I have booked non-code share flights with AA to upgrade?

    Thanks in advance.
     
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  2. David W

    David W Well-Known Member

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    What fare class were you booked on? Not all BA operated flights can be upgraded using AA miles. The correct upgrade chart is here.

    You'd have to buy full fare economy to be able to upgrade to Premium Economy if that flight has it, or Business class, if the flight has no PremEco.

    For the future, you're probably better off buying flights that are marketed and operated by AA so you can use the AA specific upgrade chart, found here. Almost any fare class can be upgraded.

    Upgrading with BA Avios is also an option and has a variety of different cash + avios upgrade choices.
     
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  3. RTBones

    RTBones Active Member

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    The flights were booked in Y. Like I said, BA told me there was plenty of upgrade space, but because AA owned the ticket, they couldnt change it. AA said I could upgrade, but they werent showing availability. It didnt (and still doesnt, because they couldnt explain WHY) make any sense.

    As to the flights marketed and operated by AA, the problem was routing. I could have taken AA flights on AA metal, but I would have added at least one segment.

    Surely there is a way to upgrade BA flights using AA miles? I know there are inventory and fare class restrictions, but I've tried reading through the Tips and Tricks section here and cant seem to find the answer.
     
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  4. David W

    David W Well-Known Member

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    You paid full fare economy? You probably could have paid for BA premium economy for not much more, or BA business class and leverage an AARP $400 discount, when booking directly on BA.

    There is a way to upgrade BA flights using AA miles though - i linked to the correct upgrade chart up above.

    In that case if BA had space and AA didnt see it, you could have tried to call both airlines on a 3 way call and have them figure it out. Also, its possible you got an agent who wasnt especially great. HUCA next time, maybe you'll have better luck!
     
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  5. RTBones

    RTBones Active Member

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    At the time, I was unaware I could even join the AARP at my age, let alone get a discount. I am relatively new to this site, and the fact that anyone can join the AARP is not widely known.

    Upgrade chart - thank you, I know of that chart. Thats not my issue, its the correct process to use. When I book, who do I call? My assumption is AA to book and upgrade, given they are AA miles, and it would appear I cannot do this online.

    Three way call - thats certainly a possibility, though I do wonder if they would have done it. Something to remember for next time. While all the agents I spoke to tried to be helpful, I did feel like the airlines were 'tossing me back and forth.'
     
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  6. David W

    David W Well-Known Member

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    For the future, your best option is to call AA directly and have them look up fares with confirmable upgrade space and then book your ticket. I'd also have their website open to check prices, in case the agent gives you incorrect information.
     
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  7. Tiffany

    Tiffany One Mile At A Time

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    Hi @RTBones, and welcome!

    Sorry this was such a bad experience for you -- it's certainly possible to upgrade BA flights with AA miles, and I've done it before. Upgrade space almost directly matches award space, so you don't need ExpertFlyer to check yourself -- if there is an award ticket available, there should be upgrade space.

    The biggest restriction, as @David W mentioned, is that British Airways allows you to upgrade from more fare classes than American does. If you purchased full-fare Y or B then this doesn't make sense as an explanation for why American couldn't upgrade you, but if you purchased a discount economy fare American wouldn't have been able to see upgrade space on BA. Very frustrating.

    But in general, yes. If you want to use American miles to upgrade, your ticket needs to be issued on American ticket stock, so you had that part right.
     
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  8. RTBones

    RTBones Active Member

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    First, thank you David and Tiffany for your insights.

    The hardest part (to me, anyway) of using miles seems to be upgrading on an alliance carrier (i.e. a OneWorld carrier using AA miles or the like). I know it can be done; for me its about the methodology of finding and booking the flights, as well as the tools used. I booked the way I did due to cost - had I paid more for the same tickets on BA's website, the upgrade would have been easy.

    In this particular case, the story I got from the airlines was this: because I booked the flights on AA's website, AA owned the ticket. For *reasons*, the several AA agents I talked to couldnt see any upgrade inventory - even though I was told I should be able to upgrade, and then they told me I should call BA. When I called BA, they were more than happy to upgrade me - to the point of entering data into their computers, but when they tried to access the ticket to change it, they couldnt. I never did get a reason as to *why* they couldnt, other than AA owned the ticket. BA helpfully suggested I call AA to sort it out and around the circle I went.

    As a follow-on question, what is the best way to book using AA miles on an alliance carrier? My assumption is that it is to call - with websites and something like Expert Flyer open when you are talking with the agent.
     
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  9. David W

    David W Well-Known Member

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    Like I said before, in your situation, you should have made a 3 way call with AA and BA so that they can jointly figure out the issue and get you upgraded. This post has some great information: http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/09/22/how-to-be-your-own-liaison/

    If youre looking for award tickets using AA miles, do an award search using BA's website, and verify with Qantas and/or JAL's award search tools. Note all the flights you want with availability then call AA to book and spoon feed the flight information to the agent.
     
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  10. RTBones

    RTBones Active Member

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    Thank you again, David. I'll remember the 3-way-call next time (and check out your link).

    I typically use my miles for upgrades, rather than outright flights - if for no other reason than it means I'm still earning miles. I used to fly quite a bit (former ExPlat) and am a Million Miler, but it has been a couple years. Back then, if I wanted to upgrade or get an award ticket, I'd just call the ExPlat desk and the upgrade magic just sort of seemed to happen. Cant quite do that anymore. :)
     
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