American Airlines and US Airways merger receives final approval

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The federal government has given final approval to the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways, which is now expected to close in December 2013.  This will create the largest airline in the world, larger even than the combined Delta/Northwest and United/Continental mergers.  Because of its size, the feds extracted a toll for the merger in the form of the new American giving up slots at key airports.  But how will the merger affect frequent flyers?

What the merger means for frequent flyers

We don’t yet know what the merged frequent flyer program will look like, whether more like American’s AAdvantage program or US Airways’ Dividend Miles program.  Since US Airways executives are taking the reigns in Dallas for the most part, it’s a safe bet that certain elements of Dividend Miles will make it into the “new” AAdvantage program.  Here are three key things to look for in the short-term:

Account linking and mileage transfers

In the coming months, expect to see the ability to link your American and US Airways accounts, and move miles between them.  Of course, this can’t happen until…

US Airways will leave Star Alliance and join Oneworld

The new American Airlines will remain in the Oneworld alliance, meaning that US Airways will be leaving Star Alliance.  If you want to redeem your US Airways miles on Star Alliance partners, do it now.

Upgrade reciprocity

As the airlines begin integrating their frequent flyer programs, they will eventually offer elite members from the other airline the ability to upgrade. Understand that American and US Airways currently have different upgrade models for domestic travel, so this difference will need to be resolved before reciprocal upgrades can begin.

There are more questions than answers about the merger at this point, but the three items above are a safe bet based on large airline mergers in recent history. For American and US Airways in 2014, change will be the only constant.


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