OneWorld: Redeem Alliance wide upgrades
Rumours ar flying around that the OneWorld alliance is about to introduce upgrades across the alliance. That means that if you have booked a flight on a combination of OneWorld airlines, you could apply an upgrade to business or maybe even first across the trip, even though travelling on different legs on different airlines.
OneWorld late to this party
Star Alliance has had this capability for some time, so OneWorld is a bit late to the party on this alliance advantage.
It won’t be an easy thing to organise, as its going to mean they have to regularise upgrade awards across their 14 members, and those members partners. That could require some advance skills in negotiation.
Lets hope they time this to tie in with Alaska Airlines membership of the alliance.
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It won’t be smooth sailing
As well as regularising the points required for upgrades across alliance airlines and partners, they will also have to regularise the rules. For instance on Qantas, international upgrades are only on request and are confirmed at various times according to status and availability. Othe OneWorld members allow upgrades to be confirmed straight after request, but may restrict other upgrade advantages, like luggage allowances, or lounge access.
So you can begin to see that OneWorld is going to have a lot of balls in the air, which landing together is going to be difficult to co-ordinate.
One set of rules for Arthur, and another set for Martha
It could get even more complex, with airlines frequent flyer programs applying one set of rules to their own members, and another set to their OneWorld partner members. This could lead to some absurdities if not handled carefully. An example might be that as a OneWorld partner member you could upgrade from business to first, but as a member of the provider airlines frequent flyer program, you can’t. There are such absurdities in other alliances upgrade rules. I’m talking about you Star Alliance members.
Another trick to watch for is what fare types OneWorld will allow you to upgrade from.
The Star Alliance model usually only allows upgrades from whatever their most expensive economy fare bucket is – usually the ‘Y’ and ‘B’. These bucket prices can be very close to business anyway, so sometimes, you would be better off to just redeem a fare using points, rather than paying for the fare with money and then adding an upgrade with points.
Traps for young players! Especially if you remember that upgrade inventory is usually drawn from the same restricted pool as saver award inventory for redemptions. And that pool is usually a puddle rather than a pond.
At some times, you are just better off to buy a cheap fare at the travel class you want to travel in. A discount business fare might work out better value rather than a full price economy, and then a points upgrade to business.
Although I have a deep suspicion that sometimes these rules and inconsistencies are deliberate and just bloody minded, I actually don’t think Airlines want to make their reward schemes complex and difficult. They are just forced into it by the commercial science of seat bucket and fare optimisation.
Lets hope the do go forward with this innovation, but make it consistent and advantageous to their loyal frequent flyers.