a bar with wine glasses and bottles

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.

a black leather strap on a cardPro’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.

a bar with wine glasses and bottlesDraws 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.

an airplane flying in the skyCons 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?


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. If i remember correctly you earn more miles on aa than ba program on more oneworld members due to your status

  2. Fuel surcharges
    Much more expensive premium cabin long haul awards
    Fuel surcharges
    You won’t get upgrades on AA metal
    Fuel surcharges
    You won’t earn as many miles flying AA either
    Fuel surcharges
    And you don’t get AA EXP phone agents

    Basically you get Flagship Lounge access as a BA Silver flying domestically in the US, there’s a compelling argument for that for folks who live in cities that get Flagship lounges, but the more compelling argument is to stop after hitting EXP and then get mid-tier on any oneworld program (you’ve written about LATAM status matches…).

  3. The lack of complimentary upgrades is a deal breaker for me on this one. im at 90% success in upgrades as executive platinum and i’m not going to give that up for flagship lounge access in 3 cities.

  4. I’ve been BA Silver for years and out of PHL have a million AA elites ahead of me so AA upgrades are unicorns from PHL. I was Silver USAir but after merger credit AA flights on BA
    I use for PHL lounge access when I travel and priority boarding. I like early seat selection on BA.
    for me it works as an infrequent flier – 2CW flights to London and a first class AA flight to keep Silver status seems easy to do especially with BA visa and AARP card
    I like to redeem avios for upgrade to CW from WT+
    doesn’t work for everyone but for me it does

  5. Someone will likely prove me wrong but I’m convinced that AA has a maximum of 9 boarding groups and I have an odd theory that it’s an IT limit. But I may be crazy I’ve thought of doing BA instead of mid level AA but the upgrade stickers and <500 upgrades seem rare with BA status.

  6. Not sure if I missed this (or NOT), but SPEND! AA ExPlat requires you earn elite qualifying miles + elite qualifying dollars. BAEC has NO spend requirement, ONLY their TIER requirement. This could potentially be a big deal for many. The upgrade in the USA issue is a non-issue for me, since I don’t like upgrade lotteries and just buy discounted first class. But, that also means I earn more tier points for BAEC, sort of a win-win. I’m not a fan of not being confirmed in my cabin of choice (in advance).

    1. spending requirements…. HOW could I forget spending requirements. I agree with your point entirely. Major swing for many flyers.

  7. Gold Guest Lost does not automatically award Concierge Key benefits on all AA flights. On occasion, premier services get involved and apply this which can be as simple as a CK pre boarding call, or a limo on the tarmac.

    If you approach the desk when they call CK, and they haven’t done this, all they see is emerald. Learned that the embarrassing hard way!

  8. I generally agree with the above – for me, lounge access trumps everything else. I have a JAL account/SPG earnings for cheap OW redemptions. But one thing: I read the above as implying that BA Silver will get you entry to Flagship lounges or Qantas First lounges, which is a OW emerald privilege isn’t it?

    I am UK-based and BA gold, but I travel a lot in the US domestically and so have had the joy of missed connections, cancelled flights etc. etc. on many occasions. I have definitely found that having OW emerald status helps – e.g. an AA agent at the gate re-booked me onto a direct flight from Memphis to NY recently when the other, indirect route I had been booked on was delayed 5 hours. And also a great help with some lost luggage on a leisure trip a couple of years back. Basically, this plus Global Entry makes travel in the US fine.

  9. … And ignore my point above re Flagship lounge access – should probably have checked the AA website before posting… Correct that access is for both Emerald and Sapphire.

  10. I have been a USA-based BAEC Gold since BA granted Gold status to bmi gold members (except for a few months at Silver level every other year before re-earning Gold). I would never fly 100,000 miles of paid flights in a year let alone spend $12K, so AA EXP has never been a plausible option for me. BAEC Gold is easy enough to earn that (at least for me) I am still willing to do mileage runs for BA status. My MRs this year had a couple glitches, so I didn’t earn my way back to Gold until 2.5 months after I dropped to Silver. (Side Note: One other positive for BAEC is that they still have soft landings – now that Flagship Lounge access (which I highly value) is granted to BAEC Silver I may go on a three-year earning cycle instead of the two-year cycle that I have done since bmi was bought out by BA.)

    One other “Draw” between AA EXP and BAEC Gold for AA flyers: both get a free drink and meal when travelling in economy – the menus on AA flights no longer explicitly say that one free drink and one food item are free for “OneWorld Emeralds” but in practice I always get a free meal and drink on mainline flights (Eagle flights are hit and miss).

    @jediwho: This year (even after the “devaluation” of domestic AA front-cabin segments only earning at the J level instead of the F level) I spent $2500 on nested LGA-PTY tickets to get ~80% of the way to BAEC Gold and a few hundred more paying for the front cabin on flights that I was already going to take – let’s say that including hotels, airport parking, 4 “qualifying flights” on BA or IB, and other expenses that I paid ~$4000 to get back to BAEC Gold for 21+ more months. If I decide to settle for BAEC Silver for the “soft landing” year, that’s ~$1300/year for three years of top/mid-tier status; if I instead re-up to Gold in two years (as I have in the past) it will cost me ~$2000/year – both of these are much cheaper than the $12K/year required for AA EXP. RE the “qualifying flights”, I just plan to be in Europe every other year near the beginning of my BAEC year (usually via points on SQ J or F) and fly 4 cheap paid segments on BA or IB while in Europe. During the year that I am earning BAEC status I maximize paid flights on AA along with the four “qualifying flights” on BA/IB; during the year that I don’t have to earn status I am more open to flying any airline and try to use the Avios that I have earned to minimize my $ spend on flights.

    One thing that gleff is correct about is that Avios are not as valuable (or as easily attainable) as AA miles. I had a decently-sized balance of AA miles from buying US miles during their 1.1 cent/mile share sales several years back; I have finished spending those down in the last few months and now have to decide how to earn more.

    My take on this topic:
    – If you can’t make the spend for AA status, BAEC is a great way to get status benefits.
    – If you could only make AA Plat but value lounges (especially Flagship Lounges) more than whatever upgrades you might luck into, BAEC Silver (or Gold) is the better deal if you can get to Europe at least every other year.
    – If you can easily make AA EXP the choice is less clear, depending on how you value lounges vs. upgrades vs. AA miles/Avios.

  11. I’m mostly a Southwest flyer but usually make a couple of trips overseas a year (which in business class is just about enough to hit BA Silver). I’m firmly of the BA status is better view, primarily because of the lounge access. ORD has a flagship lounge now, so when I do get stuck flying American at least I can have some decent wine and snacks while I wait.

  12. Hello all I am an EP and lifetime Platinum on AA but at the young age of 55 I am being transferred to London in Sept after the Coronavirus. There is no formal contract but I anticipate it will be 2 years there and then back to Chicago with travel 27 weeks out of the 52 from London.What are my best options for flying BA? I Will fly to Africa/Mid-East and Norway and company will pay for World Traveler on 777 but not Business. Will BA honor my EXP/Emerald Status for the 2 class airline flights to Algeria and Norway will they upgrade to first just as EXP? Is there a difference b/t BA only flights or should I look for AA market/branded (AA flight number) BA flights? I would like to get AA miles and AA Status on BA but not sure that is possible. After 2 years of travel I will not use BA ever again. What is my best option? Thanks

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