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You Can Now Use American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades on British Airways

James Larounis's image
James Larounis
James Larounis's image

James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...

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A fantastic new enhancement has been added to the use of American Airlines systemwide upgrades. You’ll now be able to use these upgrade instruments on flights operated by British Airways, though there are a few restrictions you’ll need to be aware of. Eligible elite members with these upgrade instruments will now have more ways to use them on longer flights.

What Are Systemwide Upgrades?

Systemwide upgrades are given to American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members upon qualification. These upgrades can generally be used to upgrade up to 3 segments of an itinerary from 1 cabin to the next.

Hot Tip: Learn more about how systemwide upgrades work on American Airlines in our in-depth guide.

Changes to Systemwide Upgrades

Up to this point, you could only use a systemwide upgrade on American Airlines flights only. So, for example, if you were flying from New York (JFK) to London (LHR) on American Airlines, and then onward to Zurich (ZRH), you could only upgrade the American Airlines flight, and not the intra-Europe segment … a frustration for many frequent flyers.

Now, you’ll be able to upgrade your ticket, including British Airways segments, and there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • First, you need to book your ticket directly with American Airlines. You won’t be able to book with British Airways and then call to apply the systemwide upgrade. All fares, including basic economy, are eligible for an upgrade.
  • The upgrades are only valid on British Airways when at least 1 American Airlines segment is in the reservation. So, for example, you could fly from Grand Rapids (GRR) to Chicago (ORD) on American, and then Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR) on British Airways and the reservation would be eligible for an upgrade on both American and British Airways. The American Airlines segment does not have to be the longest flight in the itinerary, and it can simply be a connecting flight at the front or back end of the reservation.
  • If you’re upgrading a British Airways flight, you’ll upgrade into the next class of service only, which, for transatlantic flights would be the Premium Economy cabin. If you wish to upgrade to Club World (business class), you’d need to purchase a Premium Economy ticket and then apply your systemwide upgrade to sit in business class. For intra-Europe flights, the upgrade is from economy class to business class since there is no Premium Economy cabin.
  • Your British Airways flight must have confirmable upgrade space in order to use the systemwide upgrade. If you’re upgrading from main cabin to premium economy, you need “P” inventory. If you’re upgrading to business class you need “U” inventory, and if you wish to sit in first class, you need “Z” inventory. Keep in mind that unlike on American Airlines flights, there is no mechanism to waitlist if the upgrade is not immediately available.

British Airways Club Europe A321neo row 1
You’ll now be able to use your systemwide upgrades to fly in British Airways intra-Europe business class. Image Credit: Daniel Ross

British Airways Gold Members Get Upgrades, Too

If you’re a top-tier British Airways Executive Club Gold member, you’ll soon be receiving 2 systemwide upgrade-like equivalents as part of your status.

  • Opposite to how the American upgrades work, your ticket will need to be booked with British Airways to use these upgrades.
  • For these upgrades to work, you can upgrade from economy to business class or business class to first class on the transatlantic segment. You can’t use your upgrade to sit in premium economy, as American Airlines doesn’t have upgrades to this cabin.
  • You can’t waitlist any upgrades, and your itinerary must include at least 1 transatlantic flight.
  • When upgrading, you need “C” inventory to sit in business class and “A” inventory to sit in first class.

Final Thoughts

While most frequent flyer program changes have some sort of negative, both of these upgrade opportunities are a positive development for both AAdvantage and Executive Club flyers. You’ll now have more opportunities to upgrade, and for American Airlines flyers, a chance to finally sit up front on your connecting European British Airways flight.

James Larounis's image

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.


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