American and US Airways Merger ‘Customer Day One’ Begins Today With Mileage Earning, Burning, and Some Elite Benefits

“Customer Day One” is the first day where a merger changes things for an airline’s customers, and for US Airways and American that’s today — because they’ve made it possible to use miles to fly the other airline, to earn miles flying either carrier, and have begun recognizing some elite status benefits regardless of airline.

Use Your Miles From Either Airline to Fly the Other

It is now possible to redeem American Airlines miles for US Airways flights, and US Airways miles for American flights. Both will allow you to book flights on the other airline on their websites, until now US Airways has not supported any online partner booking at all.

One neat option is that you can now fly US Airways to Hawaii and Europe using American’s discounted off-peak season awards to Hawaii (17,500 miles each way) and Europe (40,000 miles each way). That’s coach-only, and limited dates, but having more flights to choose from is positive.

Earn Miles – and Elite Status – Flying Either Airline

Flights on either airline can also now be credited to the mileage program of the other. When I fly the US Airways Shuttle between my home in DC and New York I’ll credit to my AAdvantage account. These miles are elite qualifying.

Modest Elite Benefit Recognition Across Airlines

There is also very limited reciprocal elite status recognition — premium counter check-in, priority security and boarding, complimentary access to Preferred Seats, and free checked bags. In addition, each airline’s club lounge members will have access to the other airline’s lounges (this includes American folks with access through the Citi Executive credit card).

This process won’t be without bumps. One reader writes to me that the US Airways website is showing him that he won’t have to pay checked bag fees as a Star Alliance Gold on an itinerary he’s booking with US Airways miles on American. The badly programmed US Airways website will, of course, be going away eventually when the airlines do combine as a single entity.

What Comes Next?

American’s press release reiterates that codeshares are coming in a few weeks; that US Airways will leave Star Alliance March 30 and join oneworld March 31; that they continue to co-locate ticket counters (JFK is done, Miami and Phoenix are coming soon); and they will be aligning “select frequent flyer program policies, including upgrades.”

There’s no word yet on what it means to be aligning upgrade policies.

I fully expect some time after US Airways leaves Star Alliance for it to be possible to move redeemable miles back and forth between US Airways and American, and for there to become some sort of status matching option or at least each airline including each others’ elites in the upgrade process.

How this will be handled for US Airways elites flying American, who do not have “500 mile upgrade certificates” remains to be seen — I have been predicting that American would go to a ‘complimentary unlimited upgrade’ model for domestic flights, and reciprocal upgrades could be the time that happens.

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, 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. doesn’t allow AAnytime (“RuleBuster”) award redemptions on US metal (at least not currently).

  2. Could we use the US airways miles now to book flights on AA metal anywhere per the US Airways charts?

  3. They have added US as a “partner” with access to saver awards, but it is not fully integrated as AA metal.

  4. I’m currently gold on US. Should I keep crediting to US dividend miles for both US and AA flights, or try for new status on AA? Or does not matter at all? I’m likely to make gold again this year, but only on one airline.

  5. @Toqueville – presumably March 31, though i suppose it is possible they will become bilateral partners earlier than that

  6. I already booked JFK-LAX tickets on AA in F for 50k US Airways miles plus $35.
    Availability is incredible!

  7. Quick question: I will be transitioning from FF on Delta to USAir this year – I currently have hardly any miles and no status on USAir, but I do have about 20k miles on AA (no status). Is it best to earn on USAir or AA since that’s where my miles are, and, is one better program than another for matching my platinum delta status? My territory changed so my routes are changing….

  8. currently no status on either… any word on aa cobrand cc’s benefits? if i were to book a us flight on aa’s website and pay with aa cc, are the ‘perks’ honored? mainly concerned with the free checked bags.

  9. Still some issues…. Booking an award ticket on AA metal flights from a non-status US account and putting my AA Gold number into the reservation doesn’t allow me to pick MCE seats (or in fact ANY seats!) on the AA flights (“Seat map not available). If I switch to US metal flights, I can indeed pick Exit Row seats with my AA Gold number in. But I really need the AA-metal flights, but don’t want to pull the trigger unless I’m SURE that I can get MCE seats on those flights due to AA Gold status (Also, on the confirmation page, if you click on the “Baggage Policies” link, you get told that Star Alliance Gold pax are exempt from bag charges. Nothing about AA status pax bag charges)

  10. I got a response from the AA twitter team this morning that elites also will receive waived award fees on US Airways. I asked as an EXP, so not 100% how it will apply to Gold or Exec.

  11. Do you think we will be able to book one-way ticket on one world partner (such as Etihad) using USair (Dividend miles) after Mar 31st?

  12. @Flyer – Etihad is not a oneworld partner, it’s an American partner. I don’t necessarily see Dividend Miles adding one-way awards but sometime after March 31 I would expect it to be possible to move points back and forth between US Airways and American accounts.

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