As of Friday, American Airlines and British Airways (and I suppose Iberia, too) finally made their membership in the oneworld alliance closer to equal footing: Prior to Friday, you couldn’t earn or spend AA miles on trans-Atlantic BA flights from the US. As of Friday, you can earn and burn AA on BA, which truly upgrades the alliance. But…
If you’re going to cash in your AA miles for a flight on BA, though, you’re going to pay through the nose. BA slaps fuel surcharges onto the base airfare, which are payable even on frequent flier tickets. Those fuel surcharges can run as high as $500 for a roundtrip ticket in a premium cabin, on top of the miles you cash in. What would cost you $150 cash or so on an AA flight will cost you 5 times as much if booked on BA metal. This is completely and utterly lame.
The logic (and legality) of these fees has always escaped me. When I buy a plane ticket, I’m buying transportation from point A to point B, and the on-ground and in-flight services associated with that transportation. Fuel is part of that transportation equation.
By backing out the “fuel surcharge,” airlines act as if the consumer is just renting space on the plane. But last time I checked, I wasn’t just renting a chair. I also paid for the the movement of that chair across the oceans.
Maybe I’m seeing the glass half empty here. I’ve spent much of the weekend (and all of today) in bed, sick as a dog, so I’ve had had plenty to time to get crabby. Yes, this is better than before. Yes, other airlines and airline alliances play similar games. But these discrepancies within an alliance defeat the spirit of cooperation. They insult and dispirit customers, and they embolden the critics who argue that miles are “worthless” because of airline shenanigans.
I am glad they did something to improve the alliance. But I still hoped for better.