American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles Combine – What it means to you

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced that it would combine the legacy loyalty programs of American Airlines and US Airways on this coming Saturday, March 28.  Previously, American had stated that these two programs would be merging sometime in the second quarter 0f 2015, so this puts them a little ahead of schedule.  The newly combined program won’t be a huge change to those loyal to American Airlines, but it looks to be quite an adjustment for those US Airway Preferred members — and many of those adjustments are good!

So now that these programs are merging into one, what does that mean to the frequent flyer?

In general, passengers should know the following tidbits while this merger goes through this week:

  • Both websites will be functional this week as the programs combine
  • Some US Airways Dividend Miles functionalities will be unavailable until Saturday, March 28
  • The last day to book US Airways awards and to take advantage of its unique award chart is Wednesday, March 25.
  • If you’ve already linked your US Airways Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage accounts, they balances will be combined
  • If you haven’t linked your accounts, the airline will combine your accounts and issue a new American AAdvantage number to you that will show your combined airline activity

IMG_8592What this means for American Airlines Elites:

  • When flying on American, the only change is now that all elite members will not need to use 500-mile stickers for flights under 500 miles.  Upgrade stickers will still be needed to upgrade flights over 500 miles for Gold and Platinum elites.  There have also been rumblings that the 500-mile increments will now be strictly enforced.
  • When flying on US Airways, American elites will now clear complementary domestic upgrades in advance instead of at check-in.   Complimentary upgrades can clear as early as:
    • Gold – 2 days prior
    • Platinum – 3 days prior
    • Executive Platinum – 4 days prior
  • When flying on US Airways, elite members also receive a complementary upgrade for a companion flying on the same flight that can clear at the same window

What this means for US Airways Preferred Passengers:

  • First of all, eight system wide upgrades (SWU)s will be deposited into Chairman’s Preferred members’ accounts when the programs combine, as these passengers are newly minted Executive Platinum members
  • When flying US Airways, nothing changes — upgrades still apply at the same windows as before (see above)
  • When flying American, there are quite a few changes:
    • For flights over 500 miles, complimentary upgrades are no longer automatic (except for Executive Platinums).  In order to upgrade these flights, 500-mile stickers will need to be applied (for Gold and Platinums)
    • 500-mile upgrade stickers will be needed to upgrade a companion traveling with the elite passenger
    • Since US Airways passengers are new to American, they will receive four 500-mile upgrade stickers for every 10,000 preferred miles the passenger earned between March 1, 2014 and February 28, 2015

What is unknown with upgrades:

  • Will system wide upgrade space now be bookable for American elites on US Airways operated flights?  I’d assume that they will be, but I have yet to read anything definitive from American

Other Elite Benefits

These benefits are best laid out on the American website that details all the changes.  These remain largely unchanged.

The Verdict

All in all, it looks like the new American Airlines is doing its best to make this transition as smooth as possible, but it remains to be seen if they’re able to pull it off.  As an American Executive Platinum, life doesn’t change much for me post-March 28 except for the upgrade window when flying on US Airways being extended — and the potential inclusion of US Airways flights in SWU inventory.

On the other hand, the changes for US Airways Preferred members is a bit more drastic.  It will be an adjustment to get used to some of American’s rules, but it appears that US elites are being compensated pretty well, as the 8 system wide upgrades (in addition to the two US Airways system-wides those members already received)  and equivalent number of 500-mile upgrades are more than fair, in my opinion.  It’s more than I received, as someone who did an Executive Platinum status match and challenge to obtain my status, I was never able to earn 500-mile upgrade stickers.

All in all, we will have to see how it all pans out, but I’m overall excited to see the next step towards the new American in form of this combined AAdvantage program!

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