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American Airlines Announces Reciprocal Upgrades and More

by on June 9, 2014 · 26 comments

in American, US Airways

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Robin

    We acquired a US Air credit card in May 2014. We were most interested in the $99 pass (each) for two companions. I would think our companion pass would be good through May 2015 (supposedly good for a year), but I’m reading it may expire at the end of 2014. Do you know what will happen to this pass? I know it is discontinued in 2015, so I do not feel an incentive to keep the card beyond that time.

  • Juno

    I am not keeping my Barclays US Air card. To me the two most important features, 5k mile discount on redemption and the companion certs, being removed did it for me.

  • Mike

    Does this mean that in 2015, there is the possibility of a total of 20,000 EQM’s just through the use of credit cards (AA Exec & USAir whatever)?

  • thepointsguy

    Yes

  • dee seiffer

    My annual fee just came due and I called to cancel. They waived the fee for me and let me keep my perks for another year. Plus, they offered me an extra 5,000 miles for a $1K spend in the next 3 months.

  • Jasmine

    Yes they are no more companion passes after 2014. Your pass will be honored for flights flown one year from issuance. Note that it has to be flown by expiration date not just booked by.

  • Joe

    Sort of related, but I’m a Gold Member, and I’m still confused as to how the new Main Cabin Extra seats will work. If I check in 24 hours before departure, I may be able to snag a seat?

  • M

    10k PQM after $25k through US Air Barclaycard is going away after 2014

  • Kiran

    Do you know if any elite benefits are applicable to Award Changes. I have a US Airways reservation to China and Hong Kong in August. I don’t think I can make it. I am Exec Plat. Can I use my Status to cancel my flight without paying any fees ?

  • Matt

    Any idea when the companies will allow transferring of miles between the two frequent flyer programs?

  • thepointsguy

    At some point in 2015 is the only info we have now

  • Dell

    I flew on United and credited the miles to US Air. Is there any way to get US Air to transfer the miles to AA? This was before US Air left the Star Alliance. I would have NEVER flown on United if I had known that the 9,000 miles would not count towards my 2014 EQMs. This seems rather rude of AA.

  • thepointsguy

    That was not mentioned, but it can’t hurt to ask for a courtesy waiver

  • Mike

    I am EXP on AA and Gold on US Air — I tried changing an August award ticket I booked on US with DM and they would not let me change it without fees as of 2 weeks ago.

  • T Silva

    I have both US airways and AA credit cards. Will these two cards change over or will it only be the US airways?

    Are these 2 companies merging together and forming a new company, essentially offering new cards?

  • Rusty Longwood

    Uh no. Why should your United miles count towards elite status with AA? And why did you assume they would count? AA has been pretty careful from the beginning in explaining that the combining of AA and US Airways miles and status is totally up in the air and subject to change. You made a guess one way and were wrong. Tough cookies bucko.

  • NS

    Not sure by reading, but… I’m AA Gold – can I use 500 mile upgrades on US flights?

  • Alex

    I’m a bit confused here. The post says “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.”, yet in the posts above it is indicating that the AA citi card and US Air card will combine for 20k EQMs. Is this saying it will not work in 2014, but will work in 2015? Or that it will work in 2014 which counts towards status in 2015?

  • Mike

    Looks like there is a difference of opinion. “TPG” is saying yes to the possibility of EQM and PQM combining in 2015 but “M” says the 10K PQM perk is going away in 2015, meaning there will be nothing to combine.

  • Mike

    Thanks to The Points Guy for this! I probably wouldn’t have read the airlines emails and would have missed the chance to upgrade into First for free! I got up early today just to do this 24 hours ahead and it worked perfect on the USAir website.

  • Robert

    Can anyone confirm if we keep the free bags with US Airways if we have the US Airways credit card and it gets converted to Barclays AA card? That to me is a huge bonus of having the card.

  • TM

    How can they even allude to this as a reciprocity upgrade program? I am Executive Platinum on AA which means I get upgraded 72 hrs ahead if available on AA. As of Jul 1, American is eliminating their main flights I take to the Northeast and forcing me to move to US Air. With the new changes, I can only upgrade (If Avail) 24 hrs ahead. Even the lowest level on US Air (Silver) has the ability to upgrade 48 hrs ahead. So, I will get an upgrade on US Air if no one else in the US Air Dividend Miles program (Chairman’s, Gold, Platinum or Silver) requests an upgrade. Never will this happen!

    If this was truly reciprocal, then why would they not give AA Executive Platinum members matching privileges for Chairman’s Preferred level on US Air (upgraded up to 7 days in advance)?

  • Dizz

    Is there a way to use AA 500-mile upgrades that are sitting in my AA account (no more status on AA) if I’m currently USAir Gold?

  • GWiley

    I had to cancel a US Airways flight…now I have a credit to be used within 1 year. Can I use this credit on AA?

  • CC

    I believe this is the way it works on AA flights. I’m Chairman and never get upgraded on AA.

  • Ryan

    TPG – I have a quick question. I am Plat AA and will hit Exec Plat in 2 weeks. I am still a little confused on upgradeability on US Air (and I will be flying in and out of Philly every week for the next 12 months). Is the above saying I’ll never get an advanced upgrade AND a silver, gold, and Plat would be an upgrade in advance AND then if available, I could get one/get on upgrade standby list?? Thank you!!

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