Earlier this afternoon I posted about an offer for bonus Avios on business and first class transatlantic trips when you credit oneworld flights to your British Airways Executive Club account. Although I didn’t get the email for some reason, American Airlines is running a near identical promotion for those who choose to credit flights to their AAdvantage account instead. Use code USF14 to register before you fly, and you can earn up to 125,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when you fly up to three times to Europe by January 10, 2015.
I pointed out how paying for business class could deliver valuable rewards for economy class travel through Avios. What about AAdvantage? Is one offer better than the other? In some ways it comes down to fundamental differences between the programs. In other ways it just reflects the competing realities of each offer and how it is sometimes important to “play the field.”
I’m immediately biased in favor of the AAdvantage offer. As an Executive Platinum member with their loyalty program, I would generally prefer to accumulate more miles in one place. But diversification also has its benefits. Avios tends to become much more expensive when flying up front or through more than one airport, but it is cheap for domestic, non-stop travel. American also doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for most awards (flights on British Airways are a notable exception), while British Airways will levy fuel surcharges on most international awards. I like earning and redeeming Avios and have done so for some extremely valuable domestic economy awards (on a value-per-point basis).
The AAdvantage loyalty program uses a zone-based pricing scheme that naturally favors international, premium cabin awards that may or may not have connections. While I gave the example that 125,000 Avios could be used for five round-trip flights to Hawaii, 125,000 AAdvantage miles are almost enough for a single first-class flight on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong. I’d rather redeem for the latter. A family on vacation might disagree.
Also, to earn bonus Avios I would need to credit the Tier Points toward Executive Club, as well. If I can credit those flights to a comparable offer from American AAdvantage, then I can earn both bonus miles as well as credit toward elite status. I happen to be considering a trip to Europe this fall with my wife, and thanks to discounted ~$1,500 business class fares we are considering paying cash. Besides, I need the bonus elite qualifying points to maintain my Executive Platinum status. Business or first class fares (as well as some premium or full-fare economy fares) will earn 1.5 EQP per mile flown compared to just one EQM. I did a lot of low-cost, business class travel earlier this year, so it makes sense for me to continue that trend and quality on points instead of miles to keep my status through 2015.
Finally, View from the Wing pointed out that American worded it’s Terms & Conditions to suggest that travel already booked will be eligible for the bonus miles. British Airways only advertised the offer for future bookings. If you booked a ticket already and don’t particularly care which program you credit it to, then American may be the better choice.