Amex unease, American Airlines flirting with Delta elites and British Airways plays Scrooge with partners (Saturday Selection)


American Airlines is on the prowl for Delta elites, Amex is starting to make some long-time fans uncomfortable and British Airways plays Scrooge with partners awards. All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).

American is the latest airline to try to poach Delta elites

a man sitting on a bench with a woman on her lap
“You probably get this a lot, but are you a Diamond Medallion?”

Delta elites, have you noticed that other airline in the corner of the room? The one with the roving glances and the come-hither eyes? That’s American Airlines and they’d love to get your elite number. After Delta took a sledgehammer to its elite program earlier this Fall, airline after airline started circling the gaggle of disaffected Delta loyalists looking for another program who loved them like Delta used to. Alaska and JetBlue were the first (and most obvious) suitors, making no secret that they were looking to get down with O.P.P. (other programs’ property). Although Delta has now apologized for everything it said and partially rolled back the most drastic of the changes, United and American have both reported that applications for elite status matches into their programs have skyrocketed. AA, too sophisticated to copy Alaska and JetBlue’s brazen tactics, has quietly released its own status challenge for Delta (and United) elites, matching Diamond Medallions all the way to top-tier Executive Platinum status. If nothing else, all you Delta elites should be able to rest knowing that’s there’s plenty of planes in the sky and someone out there wants you.

British Airways plays Scrooge with its partners

a man in a top hat holding a tea cup and smoking a candle
“Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.” – Ebenezer Scrooge

You could say that British Airways (BA) has always been a bit of a Scrooge, thanks to its industry-leading practice of charging extortionate fees and “fuel surcharges” on many of its international award flights, sometimes making the cost of a round-trip “award ticket” upwards of $1500. Luckily, these fees can sometimes be mitigated by booking on certain partners, one of which Greg writes about here. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to find BA seats on those partners, as the airline has gone full Ebenezer and started restricting many of its award seats to its own Executive Club members and to partners who share Avios as their reward currency (Iberia, Aer Lingus and Qatar). While restricting saver-level seats to its own tribe is not the rule amongst airlines, it isn’t unheard of either. Singapore has done it for years. One Mile at a Time wrote about the change and also found that, closer to departure, some of these restricted seats begin to start popping up on partner sites again. I guess even Scrooge gets desperate sometimes.

Man charged $500 for returning his rental car one day early

a child in a toy car
Car rental agencies have an uncanny knack for making you feel like a (frustrated) kid again.

Recently, renting a car has become a little dodgier. During the pandemic, rental car companies sold a massive proportion of their car stock, understandable given the plummeting demand for cars. Once travel picked back up, demand started outstripping supply and there was an, um, epidemic of folks arriving to the rental car facility with reservation in hand, only to be told that there were no cars available. This gave rise to the blessedly brief phenomenon of people renting moving trucks out of desperation, even for their honeymoon. Then, Hertz decided to start sending the police to arrest unsuspecting customers who’d done nothing untoward besides return their car on-time (I forget if that’s a felony or a misdemeanor). Finally, people who probably should have been arrested began stealing rental vehicles as part of the viral, TikTok-fueled “Kia Challenge.” Yours truly got to participate in the hilarity on a cold night in Columbus, Ohio, when I finished an event and found that my car hadn’t waited for me.

These days, it’s kind of like braving a minefield to make it through a car rental unscathed, as a Pasadena man found out last month. The unsuspecting mark took a tour of Switzerland using a car from the international, non-incarcerating firm Budget. Unfortunately, he returned it a day early. He didn’t expect a refund, but was shocked to find that he’d actually been charged $500 extra for the privilege of giving Budget the car back a day before they were expecting it. I’ve seen this sort of fine print on contracts for years, but have never personally had it enforced. The NBC station linked above was able to contact the car company and get the man’s Benjamin’s brought back, but it’s a good cautionary tale to doublecheck the final bill before you leave to catch that flight.

Is American Express starting to make you uncomfortable?

a man in a suit and tie

If you’re reading this, you’re probably into points and miles. And, if you’re into points and miles, it’s likely that American Express has occupied quite a bit of your attention over the last couple of years. As the grand marshal of the perpetual points parade, Amex has been in a race with itself to see how quickly it can shower Membership Rewards upon us with grandiose welcome offers (like this Business Platinum offer for 190K points) and non-stop, “no lifetime language” offers that allowed some of us to get handfuls of Business Platinum and Business Gold cards. Contrasted with that river of largesse, Amex has been a bit more of a sourpuss over the last few months, hiking up minimum spend requirements and annual fees, while at the same time adding irritating “family rules” that exclude you from getting a welcome bonus on certain cards if you’ve previously had another card in that “family.” The points parade hasn’t ground to a halt, but there might be some leaky tires on a couple of the floats. All this tightfistedness is making Benji over at Miles to Memories just a little uncomfortable.

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Budget tried this on me in South Africa once. I wanted to return the 2-week rental after 10 days and they told me I would have to pay the daily rate. So, I asked if I could park the car on their lot for a while and was that safe … They agreed and so I left the keys on the front wheel, called then on the day I was to return the vehicle and said I had returned the card and told them where to find the keys … No extra charge.


AMEX does not seem to be the free flowing fountain of points and approvals anymore. As someone newer in the game it’s been unfortunate as I focused on Chase with a smattering of Barclays and Citi thrown in to get inquiry sensitive cards before my credit pull count went up. Was leaving AMEX for the after 5/24 times but now that I’m there frequent pop-up jail and the new family rules are making the timing of opening cards for future trips a lot trickier.


I’m not so certain that BA’s partner availability issue is new. I have flown BA regularly for years. There are the usual IT issues that interfere with partner visibility. But, in my experience, award availability has been problematic even for its own members. Separately, it’s only been in the last several months that BA really started opening up award inventory to its own members (post-COVID).

AA rarely opens up transcon Flagship First award space to partners. Air France does not afford first class award space (at booking) to partners. LH does not afford first class award space (at booking) to partners. People can complain about BA but the issue is far broader.

Regarding Amex, sure, we’ll be disappointed if the parade is ending and we’ll all adapt. But, thank you Amex for a great ride. No hard feelings here.


Ben at OMAAT has been on a bit of a run this month in apologizing for loyalty programs screwing over members. First he defends BA for doing this then Etihad. For a blogger who has always turned his nose up at flying coach and specializes in points and miles premium award cabin travel this is about as counterintuitive as it gets. Why try to sell a lifestyle of flying business and first class on miles and then cheer when airlines make using those miles you gathered at Ben’s behest vastly more difficult?


The issue is about partner award availability. Not NO award availability. You can still transfer points to Etihad itself and get award flights. Any seasoned person in the game knows that the game is always changing. The banks, the airlines, and the hotels are always changing something and we adapt. How is this Ben’s fault? You sound naive and entitled.


So lets say you read OMAAT and at Ben’s behest you and your spouse get a couple of AA credit cards each to fly Etihad first for your 20th anniversary. You sign up, work to hit the minimum spend, get the miles, then award space just… vanishes. Sure, sometimes you just get unlucky but Ben cheering the airlines on for suddenly locking up every single premium award seat is just wrong. So you signed up with his links, followed his advice, then get hosed, and you think I’m entitled for being upset that Ben is happy about this? I get that he can’t control the actions of others but raising objections rather than cheering readers getting burned would seem pretty low hanging fruit. Maybe you’re a huge MS’er and stuff like this doesn’t hit you the way it does us mere mortals.


I’m not an MSer. Only organic spending. I’ve had my share of points misfortune. Many plans don’t pan out. In this game, one must always be thinking about how things will change and how one will adapt. Regarding Ben, I’ve never sensed that he is a schadenfreude kind of guy. Regarding your AA cards/points, you’ll find another use. Regarding Etihad, sign up for Amex or Citi cards or both. They are both transfer partners.


PS – This might only be an online visibility issue. Try calling in to AA’s Australia call center and speaking with an agent. This is a known work-around. Different award visibility for those agents. Just a thought.


I think anybody who’s been involved in “the hobby” for a while will have some story about how they did great or how they got burned. I accept that. My big gripe is the disconnect of Ben to tell readers to use his card links to earn miles to fly to a specific destination in business or first via a certain method, then when the airline to fly on removes every award seat in business or first for partners Ben is fine with it. I don’t think he derives some weird malicious pleasure from that but his not advocating for normal people by suggesting that the airline release some premium award seats to partners comes across as tone deaf or worse IMO. I’ve flown 14 hours in 10 across coach when I was young and it was harsh then and I don’t even want to think about it now so the coach option doesn’t help much.


In Ben’s article on Etihad award space, he does say that he doesn’t know what to make of it. I didn’t see where he wrote that he was okay with the new restrictions shutting down all partner awards. He did note that there are times when Etihad is not showing Saver award space (which is what partners have access to) yet he has found award availability on partners. We would all be okay with that. I’m coming away from the article with the same message that you are. I would leave the discussion at: assume benevolent intentions.


Correction: I’m not coming away from the article with the same message that you are.


The original post has vanished, including my comment where Ben doubled down on his perspective. As evidence that I’m not a total nutcase Ben actually references the original deleted post in his Nov 22 post:

“I first wrote about this a couple of days ago, and observed that it seemed like virtually all first and business class award space on medium and long haul flights was being blocked.”

You’re completely right that the remaining post doesn’t say what I stated.


Totally agree on stingy AMEX. Taking a lot longer to get resort, airline and AMEX offers reimbursed. Also no confirmation of offers used via email. I will be cancelling Platinum, Aspire and Brilliant cards on renewal next year.