Now That American Has Integrated US Airways Here’s What’s Next

Now that the customer-facing part of US Airways has been integrated into American Airlines, the big question is what comes next?

American Airlines President Scott Kirby has said that integration needed to happen before they could make other changes. The mantra at the airline has been ‘integrate before we innovate’ since the merger.

Strictly speaking integration isn’t actually done. The airline still needs to complete a contract with their mechanics, combine pilot seniority lists (no easy task), and move to a single crew scheduling system. Still, the biggest tasks with biggest customer-facing risks (aside from potential labor discontent) have been completed. And that’s what the airline has been waiting for.

Here’s what their agenda could be if their goal is to ensure that American has a competitive product that consumers will choose for their air travel needs going forward. Some will worry that I’ve inadvertently ordered these items by their likelihood.

  1. Finish the business class seat upgrade. American has been offering some ‘fully flat, all aisle access’ business class flights for two and a half years. US Airways has offered it on their A330 aircraft for many years. The conversion of American’s fleet of Boeing 777-200 aircraft has been proceeding slowly and now they’ve ditched their seat manufacturer. Angled business seats simply do not cut it competitively any longer.

  2. Main Cabin Extra (extra legroom economy seats) across the US Airways fleet. So far they’ve only announced it for Airbus A319s. They need a consistent customer experience across legacy US Airways and legacy American aircraft especially now that they are operating as one brand. (They also need to add seat power to legacy US Airways aircraft.)

  3. Get internet into legacy American regional jets (and legacy US Airways CRJs), and adopt the lastest, faster internet technology. Though US Airways was late to adopt onboard internet, they spread the technology across the bulk of their regional fleet while American did not. Internet needs to be universal. American was an early adopter of gogo’s technologies, and much of their fleet is stuck with older equipment that American hasn’t shown a willingness to upgrade to the latest technology. That matters because it’s the major reason onboard internet is so slow — demand simply outstrips the supply of bandwidth for a given flight.

  4. Improve award availability. Recent business class award space bonanza to London notwithstanding, American has been uniquely tough redeeming awards on their own aircraft — it began transatlantic in mid-2012 and then extended to transpacific routes about a year later. Of course the miles remain outstanding for redemption on partners, my favorite current option being Etihad.

  5. Don’t ruin AAdvantage. The biggest reason to choose American over competitors is the AAdvantage frequent flyer program which (despite adding fuel surcharges to British Airways awards and limited availability on its own flights) is the best among the major US carriers. It has the best top tier, and mileage rates are reasonable including on partner airline redemptions. What’s more, it is a loyalty program not merely a rebate program like Delta SkyMiles and to a lesser extent United MileagePlus. With fuel prices low and fares falling, we’re in a highly competitive environment – that’s the last time you want to cut back on your primary marketing engine.

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. @Gary

    In a lot of ways, your first three points can be summed up as “make it a priority to deliver a consistent product across the fleet.” There’s nothing worse than seeing all of the advertising about how great some product offering is, just to find out that day of travel, it’s not available on *your* flight.

    Once you figure that out, and that a competitor has a consistent product offering that you like, well guess what?

    One thing that I really, really like about CX is that longhaul J is longhaul J. Doesn’t matter the fleet or the specific market.

  2. Like adding 20 more segments to the previous 100 segments to qualify/re -qualify for EXP wasn’t a significant change in itself.

  3. There’s no way they don’t go to a four tier FF system at some point. There’s just too many 100-110k’ers out here hanging on the EXP (I’m one of them). The segment change is a start, but they’ve got to separate the 80k flyer from the 50k, and the uber-valuable business/international flyer from the domestic 100k’er.

    I won’t like it, but it makes rational business sense.

  4. This is not going to end well for consumers. The America West management team is extremely smug about their recent accomplishments and now it’s only a matter of time before they strip down the AAdvantage program.

  5. Porter is a “cut the costs” type of guy. You think it won’t happen, but the question isn’t “if”, the question is when? You keep saying it is too late for big changes, but it could easily happen in 90 days. A devaluation on F and J is very easily done, and all that would require is a few key strokes.

  6. How much notice did they give last year when they added award tiers and eliminated oneworld Explorer awards and international award N.A. POE stopovers? Absolutely none.

    I agree with others that having a consistent product – and training / standardizing the soft product – would be good next steps. Will they do it? I’m not betting on this, since they’ve not stated anything.

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