I first reported Sunday night that American and US Airways would combine into a ‘Single Frequent Flyer Program’ on Saturday March 28.
American now confirms that date.
I spoke with Suzanne Rubin, President of the American AAdvantage program, who shared more of what to expect when US Airways accounts are combined into AAdvantage.
- Redeemable and elite qualifying miles will be combined on a 1-to-1 basis at that time. This means 2014 elite qualifying miles get combined for 2015 (current) status as well as 2015 elite qualifying miles towards next year’s status.
- Million mile balances will be combined 1-to-1.
- US Airways awards need to be ticketed by March 25 at 11:59 p.m. Central. In other words, even held reservations have to be issued by that time as it’s the last moment to issue a US Airways award ticket.
- Chairmans Preferred electronic upgrades can be redeemed through March 27 at 11:59 p.m. Central. (Use your two upgrades by then on anything rather than letting them go to waste, and then get 8 confirmed ‘evip’ systemwide upgrades when you become an AAdvantage Executive Platinum)
Here’s what I talked with Suzanne about — the actual process of combining Dividend Miles accounts into AAdvantage, how moving miles over will be different than moving upgrades, upgrade changes going into effect March 28, US Airways-issued award tickets, and the future of the US Airways credit card.
This is a Major IT Undertaking, Here’s What to Expect
With about 100 million members of the combined frequent flyer program, this is one of the more massive data projects imaginable. That’s not just millions of member records, but the transaction records contained in each of the frequent flyer accounts, that is being moved over to the AAdvantage system.
The conversion of Dividend Miles into the American AAdvantage project “is massive and will take several days to get through it all, customers shouldn’t worry or be concerned. They don’t need to be…hitting refresh [on their account balances].” (Suzanne does understand us.)
American will send an email with an e-receipt showing members balances that have been ransferred as soon as the process is complete. She promises they’ll “send a complete accounting of miles that have come across.”
To prepare for this, they’ve turned off enrollment in Dividend Miles and have begun closing down certain Dividend Miles products so that we can geto a point where on the 26th of March we freeze the Dividend Miles database in read-only state and that is why in the last email communication and stressed in today’s communication we’re encouraging Dividend Miles members if they have immediate need to redeem Dividend Miles to go ahead and do that by March 25.
There’s no reason to jump on a redemption unless you’ve been searching space and want to lock in an award, or of course unless you want to take advantage of US Airways specific award rules (more generous routings, stopover included on international awards, though roundtrip travel required).
Changes to account profiles and preferences will also be frozen during this window of days.
In the early morning on March 28 they’ll go into a hard out for the AAdvantage program.
While we will be doing all the account balance transferring, the AAdvantage platform will be offline for a short period of time. We are going to keep the timeframe of the outage limited to [the amount of time we take for the] monthly loyalty program updates, so the time should be manageable and what members [experience] monthly anyway.
Members who had only a Dividend Miles account will be the first ones with balances transferred. They’ll get emails letting them know that their balances were transferred. Those should start being sent on the 29th.
Members who have accounts in both programs and who have matched their accounts come next. (Suzanne said she’s thrilled with the uptake on their ‘match my account’ process.) Those will take a little longer than members being brought straight over fresh to Dividend Miles because there’s more computation that has to happen in bringing the accounts together.
My sense is that unmatched accounts between Dividend Miles and AAdvnatage will then follow.
New Upgrade Rules Go Into Effect at American on March 28
The changes are that complimentary upgrades will be offered to all elites (and not just to Executive Platinums) on flights of 500 miles or less, and that upgrades will be auto-requested instead of requiring a member to initiate their upgrade request, when bookings are made. In other words, upgrades on bookings made through American channels become opt out rather than opt in.
Other upgrade changes – already known – are that there’s no longer going to be priority for connecting passengers waitlisted at the airport. And there’s not going to be a grace period of 51 miles for 500 mile upgrade certificates — each 500 mile e-upgrade supports an upgrade of up to 500 miles (a 1001 mile flight requires 3 certificates). And full fare tickets no longer come with complimentary upgrades for elites.
Of course, US Airways flights retain their own upgrade system until the two airlines merge their reservation systems towards the end of the year. That means all elites receive complimentary upgrades on US Airways flights (there will not be any 500 mile e-upgrade certificates used on legacy US Airways flights).
Crediting Flights or Partner Transactions to US Airways After March 28? You’ll Be Fine
You may have transactions where you’ve already provided your Dividend Miles account number. And they’re prepared for that.
American actually has a process where they will be going through existing flight reservations and converting Dividend Miles numbers to their associated AAdvantage numbers.
They will be taking miles reported by partners (say, a partner that reports miles only once a month) and converting US Airways accounts to American AAdvantage accounts, so that miles properly credit.
Already-Issued US Airways Award Tickets Under the Single AAdvantage Program
Existing US Airways-issued awards will retain the rules of the tickets as-issued. In other words, if you had a stopover on your award ticket and you make a change to date and time of travel you can keep that stopover without paying additional miles.
I had a series of rapid fire questions and one piece of the answer here intrigued me. I learned that American will be “a little more lenient” with these US Airways-issued awards than Dividend Miles had been, such as being able to make date and time changes to already-issued US Airways awards without a fee (something American offered, but that US Airways under a strict reading of the rules did not.. though was always ‘your mileage may vary’ with agents).
I asked about changes to an itinerary after travel had commenced (such as changing your return flight after departure of our your outbound) and was told this would be possible.
However changing the origin or destination of an award, or changing where the award stops over, would require a new award under AAdvantage rules (meaning the loss of the free stopover).
I have several questions out about different scenarios for US Airways award tickets and will update as I learn more.
US Airways Elites Will Get Upgrades Credited To Their Account a Couple of Days After Miles are Combined
US Airways elite frequent flyers will get ‘500 mile upgrade certificates’ to start out. It’s already been noted that up to 24 of these certificates would be given to US Airways elite members.
Suzanne confirmed that it would be at a ratio of 4 per 10,000 elite qualifying miles in a Dividend Miles account up to that maximum of 24 (meaning 60,000 qualifying miles on the US Airways side is the cap for this).
Worth noting that they are not combining US Airways and American qualifying miles and re-calculating 500 mile certificates. The number of 500 mile upgrades granted on the basis of US Airways flying is being granted on the basis of US Airways flying only. (A US Airways elite with 38,000 qualifying miles with US Airways and 2,000 qualifying miles with American would get 16 certificates. An American elite with 38,000 qualifying miles also got 12 last year and moving 2000 US Airways qualifying miles over won’t generate an additional 4).
Mileage balances come across first, electronic 500 mile upgrades being granted to US Airways elites to smooth the transition to the new upgrade system will be credited to accounts a couple of days later. Suzanne explained that “There may be a period in which a Platinum member who would have earned upgrades [via] Dividend Miles is looking to fly American in the new program and there could be a day or two lag in which would need to pay for AAdvantage upgrades before they have these complimentary e-500s in their account.”
Similarly, US Airways Chairmans Prefered members who will become new Executive Platinums will receive 8 eVIP systemwide upgrades but those take a couple of days as well. The miles get moved over first, then the upgrades will get credited (system sweep). Also worth noting that the small number of people who were US Airways Chairmans Preferred and American Executive Platinum members will not get an additional 8 systemwide upgrades.
You Still Have Until Mid-April to Apply for a US Airways MasterCard
The Barclays co-brand credit card will remain available for application through the published dates of the final acquisition communications – e.g. April 12 or April 17 as various links have published – even though the Dividend Miles program will have ended.
US Airways Credit Card Companion Certificates are Still Valid.. on US Airways
I asked about the Barclays-issued companion certificates ($99+tax for 2nd and 3rd passengers on an itinerary that were bundled with the US Airways credit card each year).
I was told that the restriction remains in place to book only on US Airways aircraft, there hasn’t been a liberalization allowing them to be booked on American flights. They must all be booked by September 30th at the latest (certificates expiring earlier of course have to be used earlier) and the late date of travel for the final certificates is December 31, 2015.
(Of course there’s the possibility to earn new ones, valid on American, based on annual spend with the Barclays Aviator Silver card. Invitations to upgrade to that card from the base Barclays-issued American card will still be going out, or so Barclays tells me.)
No Other Shoe Waiting to Drop
Suzanne reiterated that they’ve been singularly focused on integration of US Airways and American. With the exception of the change to upgrades (everyone gets complimentary upgrades on sub-500 mile flights), and other things that have been announced, they really are bringing US Airways onto the AAdvantage platform. And while they are always evaluating what their competitors do, and what their customers say, they don’t have major changes slated presently.