Reciprocal Upgrades: The Next Stage of American and US Airways Integration is Coming

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that reciprocal upgrades would be coming in a few weeks to American and US Airways.

I’ve seen a lot of speculation from different quarters this week about June 11th announcements about the next phase of integrating American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles.

Now JonNYC points to a knowledgeable account that June 11th will be the first day for reciprocal upgrades of American elite members on US Airways flights, and US Airways elite members on American flights.

June 11th is the date for reciprocal LFBUs. All AA elites on USAir won’t be charged sticker equivalent (per Dividend Miles program rules) while USAir elites (outside of Chairman’s Preferred – EXP equivalent) will be charged $35 per 500 mile segments (per AAdvantage rules).

There’s a lot of information packed into that one sentence.

  • Upgrades will be offered at the airport only for now, not at the respective elite upgrade windows. An American Executive Platinum 100,000 mile flyer will get access to first class seats that remain available day of departure, but won’t have their upgrades cleared when US Airways Chairmans Preferred 100,000 mile flyers do.. or even when US Airways Silver Preferred members do.
  • American elites will not be charged for their upgrades on US Airways, because US Airways does not charge for domestic upgrades.
  • US Airways elites will follow American’s domestic upgrade program for now — Chairmans Preferred 100,000 mile flyers will get complimentary upgrades just like American’s top tier elites do, but other US Airways elites will have to buy upgrade certificates just like American Gold and Platinum members do (even though they get free upgrades in their home program).

This is still technically a rumor, but from someone knowledgeable about the situation. It’s possible they’ve misunderstood, or things could change between now and June 11th, but it’s a fairly specific and concrete statement from a generally reliable source.

There’s still plenty to come, of course, and long before the two programs are actually merged as one.

  • Will the combined airline charge elites for domestic upgrades the way American does now? It gives lower tier elite members, who earn 2000 miles worth of free upgrades for every 10,000 miles flown, a better shot at an upgrade since they aren’t competing against every elite every time. And it means the front cabin generates more revenue for American which supports a better product. But it will be viewed very negatively by US Airways elites used to getting a lesser product free (and neither United nor Delta charge).
  • When will status be truly reciprocal, with equal elites at each airline being treated the same for upgrade? Will they accomplish it by offering to link accounts and match status, and combining elite qualifying miles?
  • When will miles be able to get moved back and forth between the two programs?
  • What will happen to elite upgrades next year?
  • What will the combined award chart look like?
  • Will there be four elite tiers as US Airways currently has (and Delta and United)? Will the top tier require more miles now that they’re a larger airline (as Delta does)?
  • Will we see any revenue requirements for elite status like at Delta and United? (This is an IT nightmare that isn’t managed well.)

These questions—and many others—will be answered in the next episode of…Soap.

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. Thanks for the update, Gary! I’m sad to hear that stickers will still be required for an ex-plat’s companion on AA metal. This creates an incentive for ex-plat and low-tiered elites to fly on a US metal.

  2. What I’m really waiting for is to be able to redeem my DM miles for one-way awards.

    Is there any chance AA may even do away with one-way awards altogether?

  3. interestingly, as an AA Plat I’m finding I’m using USAir more. used USAir miles (45K) 4 AA A321T RT JFK – LAX, 2 USAir F DCA-CUN, & pd DCA-SDM Nonstop. need to check if still doing bonus for AAdvantage # on US?

  4. Gary, whatever happened to your search function? I’m trying to search the bank account/FF miles program you wrote about previously, but I can’t perform a search anymore.

  5. Any word or hint on whether eqm’s earned in either program would be able to be combined for 2014? i.e. 10k on US and 90k on AA to requalify as AA EXP.

  6. @Al: It would be a significant devaluation (particularly when even *Delta* is adding one-ways next year) for the merged AA-US program to not have one-way awards.

  7. @Emily the search box should return next week, I’ve flagged that issue and apologize for the inconvenience. You can of course search the site over at google (“ search term search term”)

    And you’re probably looking for BankDirect?

  8. One thing was true on pmUA when they used the equivalent of stickers for upgrades, was that on low elite travel days, First was filled not just with employees but friends and family of employees. It really makes sense to offer elites, even silvers, the upgrades, rather than friends and family of employees.

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