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Airlines

Aer Lingus Added as Earn-Only AA Partner; Will They Rejoin Oneworld?

American Airlines and Aer Lingus forged a partnership early in 2022. This move followed the Irish flag carrier’s entry into the Oneworld transatlantic joint venture in 2020.

The partnership initiated a codeshare agreement aimed at enhancing the travel experience between the United States and Ireland. This agreement allowed American Airlines and Aer Lingus to place their codes on each other’s flights, streamlining the booking process for passengers on either airline’s website.

Despite the promising start, the journey to full integration faced challenges, particularly in the area of frequent flyer reciprocity. For nearly two years after the launch of the partnership, passengers had no opportunities to earn or redeem miles, and certainly didn’t receive reciprocal elite benefits.

However, as of December 2023 (in other words, now), a breakthrough has emerged with the introduction of reciprocal mileage earning. Let’s be clear: this is currently an earn-only partnership at this time. American AAdvantage members can now earn miles for flights marketed and operated by Aer Lingus, with an earning rate of 5x miles per dollar spent. Additional elite bonuses are available for higher-tier AAdvantage members.

While reciprocal award redemptions are anticipated in the future, the timeline for this development remains uncertain. Moreover, there is no indication of reciprocal elite perks at this point.

The integration process has not been without its challenges, and concerns have been raised about the slow progress and lack of metal neutrality in the oneworld transatlantic joint venture. Despite Aer Lingus’s membership in the joint venture for almost three years, the reciprocity between the airlines took time to materialize, leaving observers perplexed about the reasons behind the delayed and limited integration.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is Aer Lingus’s historical partnership with United, which recently came to an end, as previously discussed in an October blog post. The severed ties with United seem to be a push to align the airline even further with Oneworld.

Looking beyond the immediate developments, industry observers are left speculating about Aer Lingus’s potential return to the Oneworld alliance. The airline was a member of Oneworld until it departed in 2007 but has maintained strong connections to the alliance despite its official neutrality (possibly owing to its ownership by IAG). Rumors circulating on FlyerTalk earlier in the year suggested that Aer Lingus might be considering a return, possibly as early as Q2 2025.

Aer Lingus’s unique position within International Airlines Group (IAG) adds to the intrigue. It stands as the only full-service airline under the IAG umbrella that is not a member of any alliance, let alone Oneworld. With IAG’s other legacy carriers, including British Airways and Iberia, holding longstanding Oneworld memberships, the recent severing of ties with United, and now this new development, the speculation about Aer Lingus’s return to the alliance gains momentum.

While it’s unclear exactly what the future holds, let’s all cross our fingers for a big announcement sometime in early to mid 2024.

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