Send in the British Airways trolls, or better yet- send in Gary Leff. But before crashing the gates down, consider the arguments raised here. For the last few years I’ve lived in the US but used a foreign loyalty program to earn perks and points for my domestic travels, and it’s been blissful. I’ll explain why, what you’re missing out on and a few caveats. And then I’ll hope for a roasting from Gary Leff pointing out why every one of my points is incorrect.

Pro’s For Earning British Airways Status Rather Than American Airlines Status (Even If You Live In The U.S.)…

  • Lounge access. Any British Airways Silver (easy to attain) or Gold can access Flagship lounges and Admirals Clubs, even when flying American Airlines domestically- even in economy. Since American elites get no lounge access domestically, this is BIG. I love using the Qantas First Lounge in LAX even when flying economy.
  • Access to same last minute award flights without surcharges. British Airways doesn’t tack on the annoying $75 per ticket close in booking fee that American Airlines does for general members. You can save  on last minute tickets, for as little as 7,500 miles at a time.
  • Hack to ConciergeKey (if you are a very frequent flyer). American Airlines gives British Airways Gold Guest List (publicly available after 5,000 tier points) members ConciergeKey treatment on all American Airlines flights. Basically, if you fly 100,000 plus miles per year, you can back your way into the invite only program by being a British Airways elite.
  • Flagship Check In (British Airways Gold). British Airways Gold is arguably much easier to attain than Executive Platinum with American. Even better, you can use Flagship Check In every time you fly American, even when flying economy. They may grumble- but you can.
  • Gift elite status (very frequent flyer). British Airways Gold Guest List members can grant three people elite status. You’ll need to earn 5,000 tier points in a year, which is comparable to ultra top tier flying, but one additional OneWorld Emerald member and two additional OneWorld Sapphire members is pretty great.
  • Easier International Upgrades On Discount Tickets Using Points. Virtually every British Airways fare is eligible to be upgraded to the next cabin using miles. American, requires slightly higher fares and cash co pay. You can upgrade American or British Airways flights with British Airways miles, provided they are booked through BA.

Draws For British Airways Versus American Airlines Status For American Airlines Flyers…

  • OneWorld Priority During Flight Issues. Perhaps American will treat it’s own elites better, but as a OneWorld Emerald or Sapphire- you get similar if not identical safety nets when things go wrong. You’ll find yourself toward the top of the waitlist all the same.
  • Priority Boarding On American Flights. American jumbles their priority order on a daily basis, so it’s hard to say if you’ll be in the exact same group (out of 10+ groups) but generally you’ll board in the same zone as top American flyers as well. Easy.
  • Ability To Earn In BusinessExtra. Earning free flights, upgrade certificates or admirals club membership doesn’t change by crediting flights to British Airways. You can still input your BusinessExtra number and enjoy collecting points which can (actually replace) benefits you may miss from earning status with American.

Cons For British Airways Status Versus American Status, For American Airlines Flyers…

  • No Upgrade Certificates for American Flights. British Airways Gold members who receive 2,500 tier points get an upgrade to next cabin certificate, but it’s no good on American. If you’re a top frequent flyer with American you may miss the 4+ upgrade certificates you get each year, though they seem to be diminishing by the day…
  • Miles which aren’t AS valuable. There are great values with British Airways miles, but many of the aspirational super long haul business class flights are at higher rates than American Airlines charges. Miles can be used on virtually all the same carriers (British Airways actually has a few more) but for long haul it’s a tough gig.
  • Lower Complimentary Upgrade Priority. Upgrades are hard to come by, and you’ll be even less likely to get complimentary upgrades as a British Airways frequent flyer versus an American frequent flyer. Since most routes you really want upgrades aren’t eligible anyway, this is more proverbial than consequential.
  • Fuel Surcharges On British Airways Or American Flights To Europe. British Airways imposes surcharges on tickets using miles between the US and Europe. This is a significant cash hit, compared to American who does not add surcharges to their own tickets. They do for British Airways flights though.

Essentially, this all comes down to what you personally value. While Gary is my favorite blogger, he doesn’t value airport lounges the way I do. I find this benefit alone to be a major winning card, but if you don’t value the access, other factors play. British Airways Gold Guest List is potentially far easier to attain than Executive Platinum, especially with the spending requirement- so coupled with ConciergeKey access in the US, I find this compelling. Don’t forget of course, you need at least 4 segments on British Airways (long or short haul) to actually attain their status, so if you don’t make at least one trip to Europe, it’s all for naught.

What’s Your Opinion?