Oneworld to launch alliance-wide upgrades this year

Unlocking an upgrade on Cathay Pacific with Qantas points or elevating your travel class on Japan Airlines using Avios might soon become a reality as oneworld gears up to launch its long-anticipated worldwide upgrade program later this year.

The initiative, long in the making since the group initially outlined its plans, is set to prioritize upgrades, according to Gerhard Girkinger, the Head of Customer Experience at Oneworld. Speaking exclusively at the inauguration of the new Oneworld Seoul Lounge, Girkinger emphasized the significance of upgrades in the customer proposition, noting that an official announcement is expected later this year.

While the oneworld-wide point upgrade program is on the horizon, Girkinger assured that it will be accessible to all 13 oneworld airlines (or 14, once Oman Air joins the alliance). He highlighted the role of technology in integrating airlines and stressed that the program’s development requires careful planning.

The initial phase is anticipated to be on a smaller scale before expanding gradually. The strength of the program at launch is expected to be formidable, especially with key players like Avios from British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, and Qatar Airways, as well as American Airlines Advantage and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. This diversity in partnerships promises wide-ranging access, even during the initial stages of the program.

Using Qantas Points to upgrade on Qatar Airways is just one example of what the oneworld upgrade program will offer.Using Qantas Points to upgrade on Qatar Airways is just one example of what the oneworld upgrade program will offer.

No plans for ‘OneWorld Miles’ currency

How will the practicalities of these Oneworld-wide miles or points upgrades unfold?

Girkinger dismissed the idea of introducing a virtual Oneworld ‘currency,’ referred to as Oneworld Miles or Oneworld Points, to serve as a standard for conversion between miles or points of member airlines.

“We don’t really get involved in it technically. We will provide the framework and infrastructure for cross-airline upgrades,” explained Girkinger. However, he emphasized that “the airlines will decide how they want to do it.”

Participating airlines will be responsible for establishing their own exchange rates between their award currencies, maintaining a structure similar to current redemptions, which largely relies on bilateral agreements between airlines. Girkinger clarified that the fundamental concept remains unchanged.

Yet, the complexity lies in breaking down each airline’s frequent flyer programs to create a cohesive upgrade mechanism encompassing all fare types and travel classes.

Presently, each airline manages its frequent flyer upgrades with variations in procedures. While some airlines immediately approve and confirm upgrades, others implement a waiting list, allowing considerations closer to departure. The challenge for airlines lies in balancing the available inventory of reward seats to meet the demand from passengers on both their own and other airlines.

Will the Oneworld-wide upgrade be confirmed immediately, or will passengers be left waiting?Will the Oneworld-wide upgrade be confirmed immediately, or will passengers be left waiting?

points and miles upgrade puzzle

Another complexity lies in determining which fare types will qualify for alliance-based upgrades.

For instance, Star Alliance, a rival network, has permitted members of an airline’s frequent flyer program to upgrade on flights operated by other Star Alliance carriers. However, passengers must meet specific criteria, such as booking a full-fare Flexible Economy to qualify for a business class upgrade.

In 2019, Qantas explored this concept through a frequent flyer survey, suggesting options like setting minimums for points-based upgrades across airlines on pricier standard and flexible economy fares, rather than on “discount economy or economy sale fares.”

The consideration extends to whether these upgrades can be immediately confirmed upon request or if they need to be placed on a waiting list for closer-to-departure consideration.

These elements form part of the intricate puzzle that Girkinger is working to solve for travelers. However, the pace of development has naturally shifted with the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

“It’s akin to a delay in our lounge program,” he concedes. “It’s not a secret. We stated we were working on an upgrade program in 2020, and that it was ‘a work in progress.’

“And once our proposal is what we want it to be, I would also argue it’s better than what other coalitions currently offer.”

The upgrade program, along with the opening of a second Oneworld-branded lounge at an undisclosed location, coincides with the alliance’s 25th-anniversary celebrations this year.

“I think there are going to be a lot more exciting things happening within the alliance throughout the year,” Girkinger teases.

Read More

#Oneworld #launch #alliancewide #upgrades #year

Leave a Comment