“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.