Back in March, members of American Airlines’ AAdvantage program gained the ability to upgrade Qantas flights using their AA miles. Launched as a ‘trial’, the oneworld Alliance positioned it as the first of many things to come. It seems the trial will become a permanent fixture for AA members. And for Qantas Frequent Flyer cardholders, the reverse will soon become possible: that is, upgrading American Airlines flights using Qantas Points.

Speaking at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) AGM in Dubai, oneworld Alliance CEO Nat Pieper confirms that ‘the reciprocal benefit for Qantas Points upgrades on American operated flights will go live later this year.’

Pieper describes the option as ‘a new valuable way for the alliance’s frequent flyers to use their mileage points to upgrade across oneworld member airlines. The first phase launched by American Airlines and Qantas, two of our founding members. (This) enables AAdvantage customers to use their miles for upgrades on Qantas-operated flights.’

It seems, rather than becoming alliance-wide by default, upgrades across airlines will require bespoke reciprocal partnerships. There’s no word yet on Qantas members being able to trade points for upgrades on oneworld’s other airlines, as with AA. But there’s another, separate partnership on the horizon.

‘British Airways and Iberia are also very close to launching the reciprocal partnership in this (upgrade) program,’ Pieper tips. ‘As the CEO of oneworld, I’m committed to harnessing the power of partnerships between oneworld’s member airlines to deliver even greater benefits to our customers, across our network of 900+ destinations globally.’

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Upgrading AA flights using Qantas Points

It’s too early to say exactly when Qantas will flick the switch on points upgrades with American Airlines. And for that matter, it’s not yet known how many Qantas Points you’d need for a bump-up on AA. It remains to be seen whether upgrade rates will be the same with AA as on Qantas flights. But for context, Qantas Frequent Flyer’s redemption rates on American Airlines flights mirror those for booking Qantas flights of an equivalent length.

‘As it relates to oneworld, there’s been no more remarkable growth than our frequent flyer membership,’ oneworld Chairman and American Airlines CEO Robert Isom reflects of the alliance’s members more broadly. There are now ‘215 million people who are part of the oneworld member airline programs.’

‘That’s up from 16 million people where the Alliance was created in 1999. We now embark on the next chapter of the Alliance’s journey and (are) looking forward to the next 25 years.’

Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson (pictured atop) elaborates on developments at oneworld. ‘At Qantas, we are well aware of (Australia’s) geographic distance in the world. But we know … that we have to have partners. We can’t fly everywhere. And being a part of oneworld – and the partners that we have – is an incredibly important part to our network.’

‘We are very excited about the future, looking forward. We are excited about the role that we play in that, and also looking forward to the milestones to come.’

Use Qantas Points to upgrade on American Airlines
For today’s event in Dubai, every CEO of every oneworld airline has flown in, including the CEO of oneworld itself.

Qantas’ relationships with other oneworld partners

Speaking beyond Qantas Points upgrades with American, Hudson describes oneworld as ‘a set of like-minded airlines coming together.’ These are airlines ‘that work incredibly well together, that respect one another, that collaborate and actually drive creativity from the history that we have.’

But there’s a slight elephant in the room: Qantas’ relationship with Qatar Airways. While the two airlines both share a partnership through oneworld, Qantas has much closer ties with Qatar’s competitor Emirates. Similarly, Qatar Airways now has a partnership with Virgin Australia, and focuses its attention there in the Australian market.

Qatar Airways was recently denied the opportunity to expand its flights to Australia’s major cities. Qantas reportedly objected to that expansion. But speaking at oneworld Alliance’s media event in Dubai this week, with Vanessa Hudson present, Qatar Airways’ new CEO has a renewed optimism.

‘We continue our communication with the Australian Government,’ says Engr. Badr Mohammed Al-Meer, the new Qatari boss. ‘We see it moving in a positive way. Hopefully, in the next few months, we’ll get some positive news from Australia. We are looking forward to expanding and growing more in the Australian market which will always be in the benefit and interest of the Australian community and passengers.’

As for using Qantas Points to upgrade on Qatar Airways’ flights – or with any of Qantas’ other partners, in the way that’s coming with AA – that remains to be seen.

Also read: Fiji Airways to become a full oneworld Alliance member

Photography by Chris Chamberlin, who is attending the IATA AGM in Dubai as a guest of IATA.

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You’ll soon be able to upgrade on American Airlines using Qantas Points was last modified: June 4th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin