American Airlines Announces Reciprocal Upgrades and More

Jun 9, 2014

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The merger of American Airlines and US Airways officially went through in December 2013, but the two airlines are still technically operating as separate carriers and have two frequent flyer programs. We always knew it would “be a while” until the two programs actually merged, but today we get a little bit of clarity, though a lot of questions still remain.

The of the announcements being that the two airlines’ loyalty programs will combine in 2015, although an exact date was not given. I had the opportunity to speak with Suzanne Rubin, who runs AAdvantage, and she confirmed that elite miles from both programs will not be combined this year. So if you’re thinking of buying up to Dividend Miles Preferred or getting an Executive AAdvantage Mastercard and hoping that those elite qualifying miles will help you towards 2015 status, sadly they will not.

Loyalty Program Merger Updates: 2015 It Is!
Loyalty Program Merger Updates: 2015 It Is!

Additional information will be released on the merger site, however here are the topline pieces of info that the airlines released:

Upgrade Reciprocity.. Lite
American and US are putting a reciprocity upgrade program into place, but it is more of a temporary program that does not shed light on to future program decisions, like whether the combined program will be 3 tiers like American or 4 like US Airways. Or whether mid and lower level elites will get complimentary upgrades (like US Airways) or have to use upgrade coup0ns (like American). The upgrade priority will still favor the elites of the operating carrier (for example a US Airways Silver Elite is still more likely to get an upgrade on US Airways than an American Airlines Executive Platinum), but it is better than nothing in my opinion.

  • AAdvantage elite status members are eligible to upgrade to First Class on US Airways within 24 hours of departure, beginning June 11, 2014, upgrades are complimentary for elite status members and one companion traveling in the same reservation – mirroring US Airways today for Dividend Miles elite members
  • If available, an upgrade will be presented at check-in for American-operated flights within and between the U.S. (including Hawaii) and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America
  • US Airways Dividend Miles Gold, Platinum and Silver Preferred members will be able to upgrade at the cost of $30 per 500 miles of travel, mirroring the way that AAdvantage Gold and Platinum members do today (though AA elites have the option of accruing e-500 upgrades for free, while US Airways elites will need to pay to upgrade).
  • Current Dividend Miles accounts will be folded into the AAdvantage program in 2015, combining award mileage balances, your Million Miler balances and elite-qualifying activity from both programs.

Minor US Airways Award Chart Increases
When Suzanne started to talk about award chart changes on US Airways, I have to admit I started to prespire. Right now the US Airways award chart is one of the most lucrative out there and I don’t expect it to fundamentally change until the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs are merged in 2015. However, the changes Dividend Miles is making are minor- right now you can book business and first class on the 3-cabin A321t transcontinental service for only 50,000 miles roundtrip (See award chart) for both classes of service. For awards booked after August 1, 2014, first class will go to 65,000 miles roundtrip, which is reasonable in my opinion.

Right now business and first class are the same exact amount of miles on the 3 cabin A321t
Right now business and first class are the same exact amount of miles on the 3 cabin A321t

US Airways will also be increasing the redemption levels for round-trip travel on medium and high awards between the continental U.S. and Canada. Not great news, but could be worse and I like how they’ve given almost 2 months notice before the new rates go into effect- something they didn’t do on their last round of changes. 

These changes are not necessarily mind-blowing and offer little insight into how the 2015 program will be structured, but at least we know that all elite qualifying activity in 2014 will be separate, but will be combined in 2015 at some point. If you have any questions about these changes, please comment and I’ll try to have as many answered by the AAdvantage team as possible.

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