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I travel on American Airlines a lot, but most of my trips are international (I'm not a US resident), so I earn more AAdvantage 500-mile upgrades than I can ever use (they aren't valid except for US domestic flights, and domestic flights I do take are often too short to have a First Class). Is there anything else I can use them for or spend them on?

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Could you tweak your routings to have a shorter international leg, then a longer domestic leg? You could then use them, plus you'll then spend more of your journey in a premium cabin! –  Gagravarr Dec 19 '12 at 23:22
    
@Gagravarr, good idea, and sometimes I have done that in the past. Problem is, a lot of smaller connecting flights don't even have a premium cabin :) –  Andrew Ferrier Dec 20 '12 at 9:26
    
Next query - if you're not able to take advantage of one of the main AA perks, why not credit your flights to a different OneWorld airline instead, where you will be able to? (eg BA, where you'd get lounge access even on AA domestics) –  Gagravarr Dec 20 '12 at 12:26
    
@Gagravarr, worth considering, good thought. Are you sure AA allow premium BA cardholders to enter even on domestics? I could see myself having an argument about that at the lounge; can't find anything definitive either way. Also BA, AFAIK, don't do systemwide upgrades or similar, which is one of the most substantial AA perks. –  Andrew Ferrier Dec 22 '12 at 15:41
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I have entered AA lounges many times on domestic flights with my BA card. BA doesn't do system-wide upgrades, but you do earn extra avios which you can put towards new flights or upgrades (all classes except cheapest economy). I can promote this to an answer with more details if that'd help? –  Gagravarr Dec 23 '12 at 1:01
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To follow up on my question - I emailed American to ask them if there was anything else I could do with these upgrades; and they allowed me to convert as many as I wished to miles, at 500 miles per upgrade. I am an Exec Platinum who flies a lot with them, so this may have been a one-time offer - I can't guarantee if they would always do this for everyone (I don't think it's in the rules). But it would be worth trying if anyone is in a similar position.

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Based on what you have said, in the questions and comments, I think you've joined the wrong Frequent Flyer program!

As a general rule, airline frequent flyer programs fall into one of three categories. One is US based alliance, one is international alliance or large independent, and the final is budget. We'll ignore the last category for this answer (they tend to be simple $$$ spent -> $ off).

For the US alliance carriers (Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam), the main perks of status are around upgrades, and especially domestic upgrades. The higher your status, the more guaranteed upgrades you get, and the more chance you have of an upgrade generally. Most of these upgrades are US-domestic. This tends to fit with the wants and travel patterns of most US frequent fliers, who are generally US based, flying mostly domestically, and only the odd international flight. While you will get alliance status too, some of the perks (especially lounges) don't apply for US-domestic flights.

For the non-US alliance carriers, and full-service non-aligned (independent) carriers, the main perks tend to be lounge access, and extra miles. US-style upgrades (and standby!) largely don't exist. You typically look at using miles to upgrade, as well as booking reward flights, and often with more status you earn miles faster, which makes this possible. Generally, non-US frequent fliers do a lot of international travel, and very little domestic (wherever "domestic" is for home). Often, you need to get to the airport early (international flight), and if your home airport isn't the airline home you may have to change. Because of this, most of these carriers have tended to make lounge access one of their key perks.

With all of these programs, there are multiple levels. The basic level might get you a few more miles, might get you some priority at checkin / boarding / seat selection / waitlists etc, but not much. There tends to be a level that comes with business class lounge access (unless you're a US FF on a domestic ticket), business checkin, priority boarding, extra baggage etc. There tends to be a top level that has first class lounge access (US FF exceptions again), first class priority checkin / boarding, extra baggage, seats etc. There may be intermediate tiers between these.

For your flying, you're a member of a US FF program, but not doing many multi-class US-domestic flights, so you're missing out on the bulk of the perks. I'd suggest you change! If you switched from an AA program to the BA one (since you're UK based), you can still earn points from your AA flights. You would need to take the odd BA flight (you can't only fly AA), but that shouldn't be an issue - BA fly to more of the states from London than AA do! Once you've hit BA silver (Oneworld Sapphire), you'll get business class lounge access on all OneWorld flights (including when you're flying on AA on a US-domestic), you'll get business class checkin, priority boarding, advanced seat selection, extra baggage on AA/BA/IB flights, and 100% more miles (avios) on BA/IB/AA flights. You can then use these miles to upgrade some of your flights (anything except cheap economy tickets can be upgraded), as well as to book new reward tickets.

Based on how you have described your flying patterns, I think this'll suit you much better. When you're waiting to connect between your TATL flight and your small domestic one, sat in the lounge using free wifi and drinking a free beer, or even more so when you're in the BA Gallerys Lounge at Heathrow drinking free champagne and enjoying some free food, you'll hopefully agree!

Oh, and one final thing - when going for BA status, look out for cheap AA east coast - west coast flights in either discounted F, or instant upgrade F. They can be pretty cheap, and they're a great way to earn BA status very fast!

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I think you may be right; I've been wondering if switching to BA for a while made sense. I do a few flights with them every year, and their upgrade regime does seem more flexible (plus, I don't care about shorthaul upgrades that much). The longhaul upgrades do seem more stingy (no systemwide upgrades etc.), but the lounge access across the board - even on US domestic - is definitely attractive. –  Andrew Ferrier Dec 24 '12 at 21:02
    
The only pain I foresee is being w/o my Oneworld Emerald for a year as I 'work my way back up'. Do you happen to know if BA will match/transfer existing AA status? –  Andrew Ferrier Dec 24 '12 at 21:03
    
They won't. However, if you have AA status which gives OneWorld Emerald, you can use that card to enter the lounge whilst crediting the miles + tier points to BA, so you largely get the best of both worlds! (You may sometimes have to go into Manage My Booking, remove one FF number and add the other to do things, but usually only for seat selection) –  Gagravarr Dec 25 '12 at 0:23
    
can I enter the lounge just by showing my AA card? I assumed it had to be attached to the booking (and I've a nasty feeling when I've added my AA number to BA bookings before it doesn't let you subsequently remove it...?) –  Andrew Ferrier Dec 25 '12 at 12:31
    
Show them your boarding pass and your AA card. If they query your BA number being on the booking, explain that you want to credit the miles to BA, and they almost always let it pass. Very occasionally, they'll insist on changing the number on your booking to match the card, but you can then use the lounge wifi to change it back! The FinnAir website will happily let you switch between FF numbers on a BA booking, even when the BA website won't! –  Gagravarr Dec 26 '12 at 2:09
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While there is a wide range of options for redeeming points at https://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/redeemMiles/main.jsp there doesn't seem to be any facility for transferring Upgrade packages to any other reward.

It doesn't look like they are transferable to other named individuals either, so you may be out of luck here...

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