So everyone has heard the news of American and US Airways merging, but how does that affect you personally? From the view of a DoD/ Government traveler, I see both plusses and minuses to the merger and specifically to those of you who are part of either carrier’s frequent flyer programs. As far as the GSA Program, I expect you will see both carriers again bid routes for FY 14, but be combined after that. What may surprise you is that in FY 14, your flight is supposed to be on US, but you end up boarding an AA plane and vice-versa as the carriers combine.
Most of what I am speculating on is based upon the previous merger of UA and CO and I expect this will be very similar. If you want to compare the differences in the programs for yourself, I suggest you go to Randy Peterson’s Web Flyer page. The Aadvantage program will be the program going forward, but the management team will be from US. So look for the program to be initially like AA, but slowly morph to be much like US. This is exactly what happened with CO/UA. Don’t be surprised if some of the changes they make cause an uproar and they backpedal if enough elites object. Your voice does matter!
Here is my analysis of the changes:
- AA has three levels of elite with bonus miles shown in parentheses 25k(25%), 50k(100%), and 100k(100%). US has four 25k(25%), 50k(50%), 75k(75%), and 100k(100%). My prediction is that they will make AA four levels and match the bonus miles to US’ program. This means a loss for the 50k level if your were in AA, but by gaining a 75k level, you may get upgraded before the 50k level.
- Domestic upgrades. This is the major difference between the programs. Most FF programs have gone to the method of upgrading all elites based upon their elite level if first class is available. AA is the last holdout here and only upgrades their top tier elites for free. I predict a major bonus for current US elites will be the adoption of US’ policy of upgrading all elites. I have seen some commenters say that this is a major loss for the top tier of AA, but I don’t agree as they will still be upgraded first. They will just have to live with the fact that they may be sitting in First Class next to a “mere Gold”. Oh the horror!
- International upgrades. This is where AA really shines. Top tier AA get eight Systemwide Upgrades (called e-VIPs) that they can use to upgrade any flight domestic or international much like UA’s program (but UA only gives six). US does not fly very many international routes so that may explain why they lag far behind and only give four upgrades to be used for flights to Europe or Hawaii. I am predicting that Doug Parker will keep the higher AA amount, otherwise they may lose a lot of their top tier flyers who could defect to UA and receive about the same thing. If true, then top tier US flyers stand to gain a great deal.
These are the major differences that I see. Another aspect that may affect you is that US will leave the Star Alliance and effectively be One World. So if you live in a US hub, like Philly, and were racking up miles on both US and UA to get status, you may have a problem. I expect that by early summer you will be informed that Star Alliance miles will no longer count for status on US. It’s still early in the year so go ahead and start steering your miles to both US and AA and they will likely combine those totals at year end to determine your status for 2014. At least that is what happened with UA/CO. One last thing that I consider good. I have both US and AA miles left over from long ago. They were too low to use for anything, but I kept them active by occassionally crediting a car rental to each of them. When they combine the programs, the miles will actually add up to a free ticket!
Anyone else see other big discrepancies between the programs? Let me know how you think this will affect you personally.