Us Airways is now officially merging with American Airlines. And for the most part any changes to the final frequent flyer program are speculation.
Who’s award chart will they have? Will there be a devaluation? What will the routing rules be? Really… no one knows. I’m sure even the airlines are still figuring this out.
However, there have indeed been a few dates and plans made. Here is how it generally goes down:
1) Things stay the same for awhile.
Actually things will be relatively the same for a long while. These changes take serious time. The quicker they do it, the more painful it is. This is why Southwest and Airtran are still not sharing routes.
Yet, the United – Continental merger was seen as a difficult and trying time for loyal members partly because of its haste, and it was still slow. It was a long time before CO and UA were one airline, but even doing most of the major changes in a year is painful.
2) US Airways joins OneWorld
On March 31, US Airways joins the OneWorld alliance.
Again, it’s speculative that many things about the pricing and operation of US Airways will remain the same, but certainly this is the first major change.
At the end of March any ticket you book with US Airways miles will be on OneWorld alliance.
What if I book on Star Alliance before March 31 and the airline changes?
Well, once it’s booked it’s booked. I’m not sure how things will be handled for a changed ticket, but you can trust that a ticket booked before March, on a Star Alliance partner, even if for later dates, will be secured.
It just seems natural that US Air would be joining OneWorld and not visa versa. This will be especially complimentary to AA and OneWorld as US Air has more routes to Europe than realized.
3) More waiting.
I don’t assume that just because US Air leaves Star Alliance that other parts of the airline change. I don’t expect the award chart or routing rules to change overnight. Although… anything is possible.
But it’s very likely that we’ll have US Airways in the OneWorld alliance with the great award chart for long haul tickets and stopovers (like Asia via Europe. I assume this is a bit of a win win in the long run, but regardless, it’s likely that you’ll have a best of both worlds for a little bit.)
There are really a lot of perks in the award chart, routing rules and stopover rules with US Airways. This may mean the same lenient routing rules that US Airways agents have been giving with a new set of airlines. It could mean flying to Asia on Cathay with a stopover on the way.
However, Star Alliance in general seems to be more tolerant in terms of routing rules. So I could be wrong. Part of joining OW could mean being more strict, but I assume these are things they anticipate changing when they combine airlines, not just from switching alliances.
During this time we have seen with Southwest and AirTran that some AirTran flights are slowly being taken over as Southwest flights. Things slowly change at this point until they are ready to completely take over.
4) US Airways will eventually become AA.
The date for when the merger is finished is unknown, but these things take a while. Thus, I speculate that you’ll have a little bit of time to book OneWorld flights with US Airways miles and rules for awhile.
But when the date hits, your US Air miles will be joined with your AA miles. Likely they’ll pick up many pieces of AA’s site and rules. Though the mergers tend to pick pieces of each airline. Like the United – Continental merger left us with a lot of the Continental website, and United’s name and branding. Except United kept the logo of Continental.
With award rules it’s kind of like that too.
What will we get?
We just have no idea. But this is kind of the process. 1) Merger is official but has little effect on airlines. 2) US Air joins OW 3) Still wait time before merger. and 4) the merger finally involves combining programs.
The practical applications are this:
- Book before March 31 if you want to book on Star Alliance.
- The stopover and routing rules MAY not go away as soon as they join OneWorld.
- If you’re getting US Airways miles and status assuming that it’s going to give you AA miles and status… you could be waiting a really long time. These things can take forever.
But then again, these things can be rushed. There may be financial incentives to rush through a merger but the customers will probably see this as a disaster. As I say, United (or the mess United dealt with during their own merger) is a consistent source of customers for AA.
Honestly… I tried to write this as un-speculative as I could and it’s still speculative. Any merger is a mystery. Any frequent flyer program is a mystery! And they are all in danger of devaluations, especially when they pimp out the miles.
And the real reason that frequent flyers all over the forums were upset about the merger is because of the speculation of price increases on specific routes that would lose competition.
Yet, I remain optimistic about the merger as someone who has AA status and miles with both AA and USA. Everyone else seems to be pretty down, but perhaps it’s because of the experiences we’ve witnessed with other mergers.
But from my perspective these are two great airlines to join forces.
- AA has strict routing rules
- Strict stopover rules
- Few routes to Europe
- Terrible customer service (in my opinion)
I can’t imagine things getting worse because the thing that makes AA great is their award chart. And in that aspect they are already doing similar things. They already offer off-peak pricing and some of the best award prices in all classes of service!
So from my perspective, the “good” looks secured and the “bad” can’t get worse.
Now, it’s not like I think AA is the worst frequent flyer program, I don’t. In fact, it’s sad that they are one of the best. So there is plenty of room to fall. They could have the award chart redemptions of Delta, and start adding spend requirements to status similar to United. But I don’t think they will.
AA has made extremely competitive moves in offering miles and status, and clearly it’s worked for them. Just because they aren’t strapped for cash doesn’t mean that they don’t see the benefit of dominating the market share, and getting more of the business travelers.
Will the program devalue? Of course someday they’ll have to devalue because there are too many miles out there. But that’s a separate issue. Will the merger expedite this kind of action? In my opinion, no. Will the merger cause AA to stop being generous with status and miles promotions? In my opinion, no.
Am I right? In my opinion, yes.
But time will tell. It’s a bit like predicting the stock market – sometimes it feels like glorified gambling.
Here’s to hoping for another bull market in the miles collecting year. I have a good feeling, despite the numerous wrong doings of 2013 by United and Hilton in terms of devaluations.