Monday, December 30, 2013

American Airline Perks on BA Avios Awards

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how we took advantage of a transfer bonus to transfer 100,000 of our American Express Membership Reward points to convert into 135,000 British Airways Avios Miles.

Then we redeemed 80,000 of those BA Avios Miles for 4 free flights on American Airlines. The reason we could do this part was because both airlines are partners within the same alliance, OneWorld.

Basically, BA Avios can be used to redeem flights on just about any OneWorld Airline. We've only done this for our AA flight from New York to San Juan, but it's been a great way to redeem our Amex MR points from our Amex Platinum cards before we close them next month before their $450 annual fees hit.

In addition to finding great awards for domestic short haul flights, using BA Avios gets you a handful of useful extra benefits as well. Now, these are not officially stated benefits, so you should not expect to be entitled to them, but multiple people have also corroborated their own similar experiences from BA Avios redemptions on American Airlines.

1. Free Checked Bag. After checking our online reservations on, we confirmed we were able to check 1 bag each for free, saving us the $25/bag that regular passengers need to pay. Unfortunately, we didn't get a bright orange tag on our checked luggage. Not sure if that was an oversight or if we're not entitled to that privilege, but we didn't make a fuss. Truth be told, though, my father forgot to check/ask. Also, you also definitely get this benefit if you have the American Airlines co-branded credit card from Citi.

2. Priority Security Lane. For both our flights at JFK and SJU, the regular TSA security line was really long. Fortunately, our boarding passes printed out with "PRIORITY AACCESS" on them, so we were able to bypass the regular passengers and go into the much shorter line. With that extra time we saved, we went to get some food for our flight since it would go through our regular dinner time and land way too late to eat anything upon arrival.

Interestingly enough, my grandmother (who had no status with American or British Airways) and wasn't a U.S. citizen received "TSA Pre-Check" clearance on her boarding pass. That meant she had access to an even more exclusive line she could enter with basically no one in it. And when it came time to x-ray her carry-on luggage, she didn't have to remove anything from her bag nor take off her shoes. I wasn't around then, but my father says Pre-Check today is like how flying was in the 1990's before 9/11.

3. Priority Boarding. And when it was time to board the plane, the first call was for First Class/Uniformed Military passengers, followed immediately after by Priority AAccess, then Group 1, 2, 3... I think technically, Priority AAccess passengers should be after all the American Elites, but we weren't complaining. If you have the American Airlines credit card, then you get Group 1 boarding privileges.

Aside from the childish urge to be "first," boarding early has it's distinct advantages, because when the airline charges extra fees for checking your bag, everyone tries to bring a carry on. Then oftentimes there's not enough overhead bin space for everyone. So getting on early means securing your overhead bin space. A petty victory, but a victory nonetheless.

4. No Lounge Access Though.  Unfortunately, access to American Admiral's lounges was not a part of the BA Avios package. However, we were able to get in anyway by flashing our American Express Platinum cards.

Seems like it all starts and ends with the American Express Platinum card.

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