A few weeks ago, American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia kind of snuck a change in under the radar. Instead of fighting each other across the Atlantic, they've combined to fight United/Continental. Who wins? The customers - maybe. But it does mean some interesting things from the OneWorld Alliance.
Since the airlines were all partners, you were able to earn frequent flier miles on each other's flights - but at some disadvantage. Previous to October 1, you were unable to earn AA miles on a BA flight on a transatlantic flight - but everywhere else, and vice versa. For frequent flier mile hoarders like myself, this wasn't a big deal. What did suck was that on a BA flight on a cheap web fare (the ones most of us are used to flying), you'd earn 25% of miles flown or even less. On Iberia, you'd earn 30% of what you flew if you bought a cheap fare. Typical airline programs are 1:1, so it made this partnership not worth it if you were trying to accumulate miles.
So what does this mean for Chicago fliers? If you're a member of the American Airlines AAdvantage program, it means you will earn 100% of miles if you fly a British Airways flight - including from Chicago to London. If you transit through London to go anywhere else that British Airways flies, you now earn 100% of the mileage flown. Same with Iberia - buy a ticket on the daily flight to Madrid on Iberia, earn 100% of the base miles flown on AA.
This also means you're able to use miles on all flights on AA/British Airways and Iberia. If you had a stack of AA miles, and wanted to try British Airways' amazing First Class, you couldn't because of the US-UK competition that they had. Now you can - if you're lucky enough to get a seat.
Since there's no competition anymore, it also means cutbacks. Between British Airways and AA, they had 7 flights a day between Chicago and London. Now, it's 5. Less flights also means less open seats, so cashing in frequent flier miles is more difficult between the US and UK. It will also mean less of the cheap fares we like.
In April, there will be an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Helsinki, Finland. To me, this isn't that exciting, but it will allow you better access to Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Mergers and partnerships are always part of the airline industry. Between United/Continental's merger and AA/BA, it should keep things interesting - but sadly, not always great for the customer.