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With the American Airlines and US Airways merger, everyone has been wondering what will eventually happen to the loyalty programs. American already announced that AAdvantage would be the loyalty program of choice post merger, but the details were still unknown… until now…
So here are the details, which I personally think are overall good for both legacy American and US Airways flyers.
Earning Status in 2015:
Fortunately the AAdvantage program will stick with their three tier level for elite status. US Airways currently has a four tier status, so many were concerned that American would slip in another tier and devalue status, but that is not the case. The three tiers will continue to be AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum, and AAdvantage Gold. The number of points, miles, and segments needed almost stayed the same, except for the number of segments needed to earn Executive Platinum status. As of today, you need 100 segments to earn status, but starting January 1, 2015, that number will be increased 20% and you will instead need 120 segments. The number of miles and points needed is the same. With American, you can qualify either by meeting the required number of points, miles, or segments.
At some point next Spring, US Airways Dividend Miles and American Airlines AAdvantage accounts will be combined. Everything will be transferred on a 1:1 ratio, which includes previously earned points, points/miles/segments towards status, and million mile points.
The good thing is once they combine the accounts, they will look at activity from 2014 and 2015 separately. So let’s say in 2014 you did not fly enough to earn Gold status on American, but flew a few times on US Airways (and points/miles/segments were credited to US Airways). The points/miles/segments from US Airways will be added to your AAdvantage account and your status will be recalculated. If adding the two programs together qualifies you for status, you will be upgraded to that particular status. This status will be valid through February 29, 2016.
The number of miles, points, and segments from 2015 will also be combined and the total is what will be used towards earning status in 2015. As always, the status earned in 2015 will be valid through February 28, 2017.
One of the major perks of obtaining status in a particular airline is the ability to be upgraded to business or first class for no additional charge. Until the two Airlines are fully merged, the upgrade system will work differently on the two respective airlines.
American Airlines marketed and operated flight upgrade rules will stay mostly the same, which one exception – for flights 500 miles or less you will get complimentary upgrades, no 500-mile upgrade stickers needed! Earning those 500 mile upgrade stickers stays the same – you’ll earn four 500-mile stickers for every 10,000 elite qualifying miles.
Until the two systems are fully merged, the US Airways upgrade process will be slightly better for those with American status as you get unlimited upgrades. Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum members can be upgraded without the use of any 500-mile stickers. Of course, the higher the status the better your chances!
Once the system is fully merged, the American Airlines upgrade rules will take affect. Being a lifetime Gold member myself, this is a nice enhancement to the American program! Although, chances of a Gold member getting upgrade on a short flight is slim unless traveling off peak. The negative is for those loyal US Airways folks who are going from unlimited upgrades to the 500-mile sticker process.
System Wide Upgrades:
Currently, American Airlines Executive Platinum members receive 8 system wide upgrades to use on domestic or international flights. Those upgrades can be used on either American or US Airways flights. I personally LOVED the system wide upgrades I received when I was an Executive Platinum member. I was able to use them myself and gift them to friends/family members. Unfortunately though, they are capacity controlled, but getting upgraded is usually not a huge issue.
If you earn US Airways Chairman Preferred status you will really make out in the deal! You will get your 2 international upgrade certificates (which has not changed), and once your status converts over to American Airlines status (as an Executive Platinum members), you’ll get an additional 8 American Airline system wide upgrades! You must, however, use those 2 US Airways international upgrade certificates by the time the two programs fully merge.
Overall, this is great for legacy US Airways fliers who earn top tier status – instead of earning 2 international upgrades a year, you’ll earn 8 if you continue to maintain top tier status! And American Airline system wide upgrades are transferrable where US Airways international upgrade certificates are not.
Million Miler Status:
Your Million Mile Status on the two airlines will be combined. This could be HUGE for some folks! To earn American Airlines Lifetime Gold you must obtain 1 million “Million Mile Status” points. To earn American Airlines Lifetime Platinum, you must obtain 2 million “Million Mile Status” points. As of a few years ago, only points earned from flying count towards American’s Million Mile status. It used to be that ALL points earned counted towards this status, which was AWESOME and helped me earn my Lifetime Gold status. So let’s say you have 500,000 qualifying points with American and another 500,000 qualifying points with US Airways, once the loyalty programs are combined you will become lifetime Gold!
This is a nice enhancement for US Airways members as lifetime million mile status was capped at Silver Preferred status. Now, US Airways members have the opportunity to earn lifetime Gold and Platinum.
Some Other Enhancements:
- Business class fares will get a 50% bonus on both American and US Airways. Currently, it is a 25% bonus.
- Those with Executive Platinum status will receive complimentary same-day flight changes on both US Airways and American Airlines. Currently, Executive Platinum members are required to pay the same $75 fee as everyone else.
Overall, I think the changes are way better than expected. When loyalty programs change, it usually it is not in the consumers best interest. However, in this case there really are no negatives to American Airlines members. And the only negative I see for US Airways members is the no more complimentary upgrades (which I understand can be a huge negative for many)! What are your thoughts?