Now the real benefits of the merger are playing out.
American Airlines Group Inc., formed in the 2013 merger with US Airways Group, is moving a step closer to completing the tie-up by combining the carriers’ frequent-flier plans on March 28.
Members of US Airways’ Dividend Miles loyalty program will be folded into American’s AAdvantage, swelling its ranks to about 100 million and making it the biggest in the industry.
The move to a single plan is one of several milestones this year that will finish the integration at the world’s largest carrier, and is among the most important to passengers concerned that they may lose benefits or awards status. The shift completes work that began on the two mileage programs in January 2014, about one month after the American-US Airways merger closed.
“AAdvantage has done a superb job with the merger, especially managing anxiety communications and doing something rarely seen with prior mergers — pro-actively merging accounts rather than leaving it to members,” said Randy Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer magazine. “AAdvantage did rise to the occasion.”
Balances from US Airways’ Dividend Miles program will be transferred to AAdvantage on a one-to-one basis beginning March 26, with the bulk of the work completed on March 28. Some chores will last into early April, American said.
Pending Dividend Miles redemptions should be used before 11:59 p.m. Dallas time on March 25. They will disappear after that. American will freeze Dividend Miles programs early on March 26 so that balances can be moved to AAdvantage.
The actual transfer of balances and accounts will occur early on March 28 during a normal maintenance time for American’s loyalty program, said Suzanne Rubin, president of AAdvantage. Dividend Miles members will receive e-mails with their AAdvantage number and an electronic receipt for the account balance.
American expects to also receive a single operating certificate this quarter from federal regulators that will allow it to fly the two carriers as one airline instead of continuing to use the US Airways and American names. The step is essential for the airline to complete the merger, although it largely will be unseen by passengers.
In the fourth quarter, the airline should move separate computerized passenger service systems onto one, the final step in becoming one carrier as the US Airways’ airline booking code disappears.
American’s frequent-flier program remains a standout among the biggest U.S. carriers after Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. shifted the basis for awards to the amount spent on tickets instead of miles flown. The changes penalize those who gain status by flying a lot on the cheapest fares.
American is sweetening frequent-flier awards this year for passengers buying the most-expensive tickets, while continuing to award points for distance traveled.
American’s AAdvantage had 70 million members before the merger, while US Airways had about 30 million, the airline said. The total may include some duplicate accounts.
This article was written by Mary Schlangenstein from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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Photo Credit: The tail sections of a newly designed American Airlines aircraft (L), a US Airways aircraft (C) and a traditional American Airlines aircraft are lined up at Dallas-Ft Worth International Airport. Mike Stone / REUTERS
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