Coming soon (maybe): Upgrade your Oneworld flight with miles from ANY airline partner

Dec 5, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

What if you could secure a trans-oceanic business-class upgrade on top-notch airlines like Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific by using miles you almost certainly already have?

First reported by Executive Traveller, and confirmed by The Points Guy, Oneworld’s Vice-President of Corporate Communications, Ghim-Lay Yeo issued a statement saying:

“Oneworld is evaluating a number of new customer initiatives, including a potential offering that will give Oneworld member airline frequent flyers the option of using points for upgrades across the alliance, as it seeks to deliver a superior customer experience that provides value for both Oneworld member airlines and their customers.”

This is no small improvement.

For more TPG U.K. news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Generally, if you’d like to upgrade a paid flight, you need to redeem the miles of the particular airline you’re flying. In other words, if you want to upgrade your long Qantas flight between the U.S. and Sydney to a luxury business-class seat, you’ll need a stash of Qantas miles. Some airlines have a few partners eligible to be upgraded with their miles (for example, you can use American Airlines miles to upgrade your paid codeshare flights on partner airlines British Airways and Iberia).

(Photo by Nicholas Ellis/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nicholas Ellis/The Points Guy.)

But coming (potentially) as soon as Q3 of 2020, you may be able to use any Oneworld airline currency to upgrade on any airline in the alliance. This would be a revolutionary answer to upgrading on more obscure airlines, such as Royal Air Maroc (joining the alliance in mid-2020), which has a history of publishing affordable fares on interesting transatlantic routes. The move would likely foster more loyalty to the Oneworld alliance.

While it’s not yet clear exactly how the concept will work, we know Qantas has proposed these alliance-wide upgrades be available within one day of your scheduled flight. That’s less than ideal, but it’s still a nice improvement overall.

What’s the strategy?

Earning the rewards of Oneworld airlines is perhaps the easiest task in the miles and points hobby. The most fascinating aspect here is British Airways and Iberia Avios.

You can’t swing a dead cat without knocking over a pile of credit cards that earn British Airways and Iberia Avios. Not only can you earn them through credit cards like The British Airways American Express Premium Credit Card from Amex U.K. and The British Airways American Express Credit Card from Amex U.K., but they’re both transfer partners of the American Express U.K. Membership Rewards programme.

Whether you decide it’s worthwhile to upgrade with miles is another story. Sometimes the more expensive standard or flexible fares are the only ones that qualify for an upgrade on certain airlines. American Airlines, however, lets you upgrade any ticket — excluding basic economy. There’s also sometimes cash co-pays involved. It could be a decent way to purchase business class for a discount, but it’s probably not going to be the frugal traveler’s cup of tea.

Featured photo by Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.