|by Jason Steele|
American Airlines and British Airways have long had a partnership that has been restrained by anti-trust regulations. You could use your AA miles to fly BA, just not from any US destination. This lead to the phenomenon of AA fliers booking awards connecting to BA metal through Canada or even the Bahamas. Those anti-trust regulations have now been lifted and AA mileage holders are free spend their miles for awards on BA flights out of the US. This is a great thing, as there are many major airports like Phoenix, San Diego, and Baltimore where BA provides the only non-stop, trans-Atlantic service. While BA has had their share of problems in recent years, their global network reaches deep into far flung regions of Africa, Europe, and Asia.
So What’s The Problem?
BA has made an art form out of taking the value out of award redemptions. Their strategy has been to levy enormous fuel surcharges on award flights. What is enormous? A flight in a premium cabin connecting in London to Africa can cost over $1,000 in fuel fees for an award booking. Kind of takes the award our of award travel, doesn’t it. Fuel fees are calculated per flight, by the length of the flight. A flight from Denver to London will have higher fees than a flight from Chicago. Flights in Premium Economy have a higher surcharge than economy and the it only goes up with Business and First Class award redemptions. These surcharges are in addition to the hefty taxes and fees that are levied by London and the UK. Finally, if you are stopping over in London, they will add even more fees than if you were just passing through.
Before signing up for a BA credit card, or transferring miles to BA, do your homework and investigate what an award ticket will really cost you. I always have a specific destination in mind when I start accruing miles towards an award. In my case, I looked up what the taxes and fees were going to be, and I made the decision to give up before I even started. The cost of the award flight I wanted in business class was going to be about the same as a paid economy class booking. Yes, I like business class, but I am still able to find award seats on other carriers without paying what would end up being thousands of dollars for me and my family.
BA Ups The Ante For Amex Transfers
Amex is now offering a 40% bonus on transfers from their Membership Rewards program to BA miles. This might change the equation for some people. Amex frequently offers these kind of bonuses to one airline or another. BA does have fairly reasonable reward redemption rates as they have not gone to a tiered system like most domestic carriers. If you can get to your destination with BA miles, and you can get a good value out of your Membership Rewards account, a transfer to BA might still make sense for some people, despite their crazy fees.