American and US Airways made more program in the integration of their airlines and frequent flyer programs today.
- They announced a minor alignment of their award charts, increasing a handful of US Airways award prices to match what American AAdvantage already charges.
- They introduced reciprocal upgrades within 24 hours of flight for US Airways and American elite frequent flyers.
And we learned a little bit about their strategy going forward. I spoke with American AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin to get an idea of what these changes mean, and what to expect next.
Here’s my observations about what the announcements mean:
- The US Airways award chart changes were announced in advance, with changes not taking effect for nearly 3 months. This is the first time I ever remember US Airways making an advance announcement of an award chart change. It seems that American did learn something from the firestorm that erupted after their April 8 changes without notice.
- They’re making as little temporary IT investment as possible. They’ve taken a half step in upgrades, but they built it on top of an existing system (buy ups at check-in that already exist will simply be free for elites at each airline). No reason to spend money on the US Airways platform that’s going away, or for a process at American that will be very temporary.
- This is the only upgrade process we should expect for each airline’s elites when flying the other carrier. The next step for upgrades will come when the two airlines actually become one.
- We won’t see a lot of major changes to the programs between now and the time they’re combined, just some tinkering at the margins. They could have adjusted more awards, or adjusted up the price of 3-cabin North America awards at both American and US Airways to a new higher level, but they chose not to do it.
I asked Suzanne Rubin about what comes next, and they’re not ready to announce when the airline will combine so not ready to announce when the programs will combine.
I asked her about the ability to move points back and forth between programs, to give US Airways members access to one-way awards now and American’s members access to what Dividend Miles members have (cough).
She pointed out that,
Members now have ability to redeem out of single account for travel on either airline, and there are industry opportunities to move points, but we don’t have anything ready to communicate on something functionally to allow movement of miles across two accounts but we have spent a lot of time on linking accounts, letting members do it.
The ‘industry opportunities’ refers of course to Points.com transfers, so it’s technically possible to do although not ever at a rate where I would do it other than to keep miles active in an account or generate activity with a partner when there’s a bonus offer for doing so.
The next thing they’re working on is
[H]ow to go about the process of integrating the two programs, we may see some things, minor policy changes to help prepare for integration. We’re going through the terms and conditions, through every policy in the program, but don’t expect much to change in the interim. We’re focused on getting ready to undertake the integration.
Linking accounts and integration is a big deal. Focus on big picture, the wins for the airline come from bringing the two programs together not from making changes at the margin to each program now. That’s the message I got.