What Additional Changes Can You Expect from American and US Airways?

With the changes American announced to its frequent flyer program last week many members are wondering what shoe is next to drop.

There are going to be many more changes for sure — for the frequent flyer program, and for the airline — simply as a matter of going down the list of differences between American and US Airways.

And there are going to be members who don’t like the changes no matter which version of a policy, American’s or US Airways’, they decide to go with in any given instance.

But here are some of the changes I expect to see as US Airways and American harmonize their programs and their airline operations.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but several readers have asked me for some of the changes I expect and while I’ve shared many of these before it seemed useful to include them as a list.

  • We’re going to get a combined award chart, we can expect Asia awards to get more expensive and in general we can expect first class awards to get more expensive. I do not see huge increases to Europe and Africa because American’s chart is already effectively quite expensive due to the fuel surcharges on their primary transatlantic partner and because Africa awards are expensive to begin with.

  • Not for 2015 necessarily but I don’t expect 8 confirmed international upgrades from any fare to last for top tier elite flyers, although Delta’s improved international upgrades for top elites makes it harder to cut back too far here.

  • I expect the airline to go with unlimited complimentary upgrades for elites, no more stickers. If they went with American’s current system, which is unlimited complimentary upgrades for Executive Platinums only, US Airways elites would hate having to pay for upgrades beyond the 2000 miles’ worth for every 10,000 miles flown given under the current system. But with the US Airways (and United, Delta) approach American’s lower-level elites will miss the greater frequency of upgrades compared to having to go up against every elite every flight. Assuming this happens I’ll be interested to see what American does with existing outstanding unused 500 mile upgrade certificates (I have some from before I was an Executive Platinum), e.g. whether they convert them to redeemable miles or just ‘disappear’ them.

  • While US Airways is beginning to match American service standards for now (although not quite — US Airways is offering meals on flights over 1000 nautical miles while American has at least plated snack service on shorter flights), I expect that a year from now there will be fewer meals in the forward cabin domestically — closer to what US Airways service standards were than American’s standards), I also can’t imagine they’ll keep the mints.

  • They will almost certainly move to 4 elite tiers like US Airways has. Otherwise they would have to ‘demote’ US Airways 75,000 mile flyers. Delta and United have four tiers already. The open question would be whether top tier is earned at 100,000 miles (American, US Airways, United) or 125,000 miles (Delta).

  • American Platinum members (50,000 mile flyers, mid-tier elite) currently earn 100% bonus on flown miles. I expect that will fall to 50%.

  • American has an agent meeting every arriving flight at their hubs, this is in addition to the agents working the gate for the next flight. This is an easy cut for the airline to make. It amazes me how many customers take advantage of talking to the agent to find their next flight instead of looking at a flight monitor. An agent is useful, though, at the very end of the day with delayed flights when the airline should be providing a hotel night. I don’t expect this service to remain.

Which ones do you agree with? Which ones do you disagree with?

What other changes do you expect?

And which policies are you most nervous about?


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well as a America West lifetime Phoenix Club holder we were screwed and treated like second class citizens and denied star alliance access unless we paid an annual fee that yearly members did not have to pay. I am hoping AA accepts US Lifetime and provides the same benefits as regular club members.We will wait and see.

  2. do you think that after combining the award chart they’ll get rid of american’s retarded routing policies?

  3. @Lantean – the default on that would be no, since they’ll use AA’s systems, but I do think they will need to loosen up on those policies at least given other changes they’ve made (elimination of distance-based awards). They’re the only ones without stopovers, the only ones that don’t allow an Atlantic routing on an Asia award, the only ones that don’t allow an Asia routing on an Australia award, etc.

  4. I’m sorry Paul. I’m not aware of that program. Was there something a long time ago before US Airways became US Air that was something akin to a “founders club”?

    As with all things in life, you don’t just have a confluence of airline programs and the like, you in actuality have a confluence of entire generations.

    The program you’ve referenced I’ve personally never even heard of it.

  5. If they move top tier to 125k miles, they will lose a lot of BIS miles. If you don’t fly internationally on business, 125 k very hard. I can do 80k pretty easy, no way I can do 125k. So no push for the last 20k miles for ExPlat

  6. @ Gary — “They’re the only ones without one-ways” Huh?

    Any guess on lifetime status for 1 MM, 2 MM, 3 MM, 4 MM?

  7. Do you think the new combined partner/oneworld award chart will implement US Airways’s partner award concept of roundtrip pricing (i.e. a one-way award would cost the same as a roundtrip award.)

  8. @Gene – meant to say stopovers, fixed 🙂

    Lifetime status will be honored, it has to be, 1MM still = 1st tier, 2MM+ = 2nd tier, but that’ll be second out of 4 is my guess.

  9. Well, they already scratched dynamic Air Awards, which was useful for getting my kids around the country at a reduced rate. As for the 8 SWU,s those have been harder and harder to use – I forfeited 2 last year. I will be Platinum this year and next. Losing the 100% bonus will really hurt. As for 500 mile upgrades, I am currently sitting on 90+. I usually fly to a gateway and then overseas so I do not get to use them. guess I should try to convert to miles pronto (if that is still possible).

  10. @choi – well probably when they combine programs, my guess is a year from now. Although it’s possible they could do a new chart for both airlines before then.

  11. If you believe analysts on The Street, we’ll see:
    – Slimline seats to increase load
    – Eventual move to price-and-spend-based FF program
    – Reduced competition leading to price premiums

    All attributed to becoming more “competitive” with what Delta and United offer. I’m pretty sure that “competitive” in Wall Street terms doesn’t mean competing on total profit or revenue, but competing on PRASM…it’s not about market capture but about efficiency.

    I hope they are wrong, but I am scared.

    http://blogs.barrons.com/stockstowatchtoday/2014/04/07/goldman-sachs-american-airlines-the-best-of-the-bunch/?mod=BOLBlog

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/2083313-american-airlines-expanding-network-in-china-and-modifying-its-fleets

    http://www.thestreet.com/story/12641259/1/american-airlines-frequent-flier-changes-are-just-the-start-experts-say.html

  12. You are probably correct, Gary. But I will really hate the 4 tier system. My 2MM Lifetime Platinum will be much less valuable. Who knows what it will even be called? Ugh! I did a lot to earn that 2MM, and to be downgraded will really suck. I don’t fly enough now to hit a 75,000 mile tier.

  13. please get rid of the whole EQP system. A person doing mixture of paid F and discount Y (via EQP) wouldn’t come out ahead compared to a person doing all discount Y (via EQM).

  14. Predictions on lifetime status with combining miles flown from both programs? Say 700,000 with AA and 300,000 with U.S. Airways will they give Lifetime Gold? On that note, does U.S. Airways even keep track of all miles flown?

    Cheers,

    PedroNY

  15. @PedroNY US Airways gives lifetime Silver @ 1mm flown. I expect that they will combine lifetime miles towards status. But it gets complicated with how American used to total lifetime miles.

  16. The United upgrade system is horrible for everyone but GS. Yes even 1K’s can find themselves well down the list. It’s a combination of companion upgrades, prioritization of instruments, upgrades on miles tickets, Government fares and insta-upgrades for any elite on YBM fares, and upgrades sold cheaply at checkin to passengers with no status that cause this. It sucks compared to the AA system which is pretty close to the old UA system.

  17. I would be converting my 500-mile upgrades into AA miles sooner than later if I had a bunch and never had a use for them.

  18. ‘American has an agent meeting every arriving flight at their hubs, this is in addition to the agents working the gate for the next flight. This is an easy cut for the airline to make. It amazes me how many customers take advantage of talking to the agent to find their next flight instead of looking at a flight monitor. An agent is useful, though, at the very end of the day with delayed flights when the airline should be providing a hotel night. I don’t expect this service to remain.’

    Always wondered about this there are so many better ways of doing this. Thanks to smart phones I always know before deplaning where I am going next (Tripit, Flightstats, Airline Apps etc.). Much better to inform people when they are captive rather than out the door. Of course I’ve had cabin crew read out gate information but with no consistency. Using the IFE screens would seem to be the best option. I can recall finnair doing this 10 years ago. Flipping down the IFE screens on an A320 whilst taxiing showing connecting gate information, based on the passenger list so only the relevant gates were shown, and a terminal map to show people where to go.

  19. The 500 mile upgrade balance display on AA.com is currently disabled but the rest of the online balances show fine on aa.com

  20. @GUWonder the sticker balance on AA.com has not been working for over a month…The balance is correct on the android app though

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