an airplane bed with a white pillow and a wood cabinet

Blagging an upgrade isn’t supposed to be easy, but when you’ve gone to considerable trouble to actually earn one, shouldn’t it be easy to spend? Having miles with one airline and trying to use them for upgrades on their partners has always been frustrating, but Oneworld plans to create alliance wide upgrades, which could change that.

After decades of travelers being told that their miles can’t be used for upgrades on one partner airline or another, Oneworld will finally roll out alliance wide upgrades in 2020, making upgrades easy(er), no matter what miles you’re holding, or who you booked with. They should be exactly how they sound…

a desk with a laptop on itAlliance Wide Upgrades For Oneworld

Star Alliance has offered alliance wide upgrades for a quite a while, where travelers with miles from any Star Alliance can use them on the vast majority of other airlines within the alliance, on a good variety of fares. Think everything from discount economy to medium tier business class pricing, and something like a United Airlines flyer wanting to use their miles to upgrade a flight on Japanese airlines All Nippon Airways.

Now, Oneworld is affirming plans to join the action, after the suggestion alliance wide of upgrades was hinted at the much anticipated meeting in London last year attended by virtually all Oneworld CEO’s, according to Cranky Flyer. Rob Gurney, CEO of Oneworld told Cranky that alliance wide upgrades should be expected in line with the timing of Alaska Airlines joining Oneworld this year.

With the news, a British Airways Executive Club member earning Avios should be able to upgrade on Qatar, Cathay Pacific, JAL, American, Qantas and a variety of other carriers, and vice versa, for all.

Other notable news still in the works from last year’s summit included joint lounges, rather than individual airline lounges, and being able to use any Oneworld airline’s app to manage all flights on other Oneworld airlines, not just some, without the need to download a bunch as you fly.

a group of men in suitsAlliance Upgrades: Devil Is In The Details

Oneworld has yet to confirm the full stipulations and details for how these Oneworld alliance wide upgrades would work. If they’re anything like Star Alliance, they’ll be better than nothing, but won’t go nearly far enough to give many travelers a fair opportunity to use them.

Star Alliance restricts upgrades based on the type of ticket purchased, and different airlines can be upgraded for different fares. Read as: you still need a map to figure out which airlines will let you upgrade which fares. It may be only fully flexible business class tickets on one, while cheaper tickets are fine on another, as United clearly demonstrates.

Prices can vary too, with upgrades ranging from 25,000 miles to 100,000 one way.

With any hope, Oneworld will seek to find a happier middle ground, where they’re not giving away premium seats for next to nothing, but not making the red tape, rules, and differences between airline upgrades so complicated, that they might as well not have bothered.

One important thing should be for certain though, when the new changes come: it shouldn’t matter who you book with, or whose miles you have to upgrade. Anything should work from that end. Think: booking a ticket direct with Qantas, and using your British Airways miles to upgrade. If they get it right, it’ll be a huge step up, allowing flyers to upgrade more and more flights, even on airlines they don’t frequent.

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 Comment

  1. Well as British Airways have just decided to scrap/sell/retire almost 450 First Class 747 seats. That’s One Upgrade you can forget. Its almost the same as All the Other OneWorld Airlines offer in Total. Now probably less than 1000 Long Haul First Class seats in the whole of the Alliance.

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