American And US Airways Elite Reciprocal Benefits Coming

Yesterday the Department of Justice finally approved the American and US Airways merger, which is supposed to close in December. While I can’t say I’m surprised, I wasn’t thrilled with the merger to begin with, and am even less thrilled at the prospect of less competition after the absolute devaluation bloodbath we’ve seen the past couple of weeks, first with United, then with Delta (again, after they made a devaluation a couple of months prior), and now with Hyatt (which is the most reasonable of the three changes in my opinion).

So in our minds I’m sure this raises many questions, including:

  • When will US Airways leave the Star Alliance?
  • What will the new combined American and US Airways frequent flyer program look like?
  • When will the airlines offer reciprocal elite benefits?
  • Does it make sense to buy US Airways status now?

We don’t have answers to most of those questions, though per USA Today, it appears as if American and US Airways will begin offering reciprocal frequent flyer benefits as of January 7, 2014.

That’s all the information we have as of now, and “reciprocal frequent flyer benefits” could be interpreted to mean one of several things:

  • Elite status matching between programs
  • Being able to transfer miles between programs
  • Some level of elite recognition without actually being able to transfer miles or match elite status

Regardless, January 7 is less than two months away, so my guess is that we’ll know a lot more in the next week or so.

The question that raises is whether it makes sense to outright purchase US Airways status. I answered this question back in February, and obviously a lot of circumstances have changed, so I’ll recap.

US Airways is the only airline out there I know that will sell you top tier status for a “reasonable” price. Here’s their chart for “buying up” to Preferred status:

As you can see, you can outright purchase 100,000 PQMs for $3,999, or it’s a better deal if you have any qualifying activity to purchase up to 99,999 PQMs for $2,999.

With that in mind, does it make sense to buy Chairman’s Preferred status in hopes of this turning into Executive Platinum status with American, and getting eight of their systemwide upgrades?

Well, for one, status purchased now would be valid through February 28, 2015, so it would be valid for over a year. I expect some amount of elite reciprocity to be offered between airlines as of early next year (possibly January 7), so you’d definitely benefit from American status in terms of domestic upgrades, fee waivers, bonus miles, etc.

That being said, I don’t think the two airlines will have a single systemwide upgrade policy until the 2015 program year, so I would guess that if you purchase US Airways status now you wouldn’t get the eight American systemwide upgrades anytime in the near year that American Executive Platinum members usually get.

So if you plan on doing a good amount of domestic flying on American or US Airways in the next year and don’t mind dropping the cash then I would say it could be a pretty good value. However, I wouldn’t count on getting the eight systemwide upgrades.

Comments

  1. I think there’s an error in your analysis. US Airways buy-up now lasts through Feb 28, 2015 as per their buyup page.

  2. Question: When do you think we’ll know at what point in time it will become impossible to accrue Star Alliance miles on US Airways flights? I’m looking at a March 2014 flight that will take me into Gold at Aegean — the most convenient flight is US Airways, but if that’s not going to earn on A3, I’d consider moving the flight to Avianca.

  3. @ LarryInNYC — That’s a toughie. I would guess we’ll know a lot more by the end of the month. It could be that US Airways cuts ties with Star Alliance entirely, or they could have an “easing out” period like bmi did, where previously booked tickets could continue to accrue miles for a set amount of time after they leave the alliance.

  4. Hey Ben,

    With the US/AA merger on the very near horizon, what would you do in my situation? Currently AA Plat but will barely make Gold with flying another 8k miles. Or should I do a USAir status challenge and instead go that route and achieve higher status with them for around the same out of pocket costs and hope the “reciprocal benefits” work out in my favor come Jan 7?

  5. @ Brad — Just speculation on my part, but I’d probably do a status challenge with US Airways, as I suspect elite reciprocal benefits/status matching will kick in early next year.

  6. @Ben — So, I could credit a single United flight to US (ASAP!) and then pay $2,999 for Chairman’s through February 28, 2015? Since I have a whopping 2,500 EQM on AA this year, that would be tempting.

  7. Lucky, so if I was to redeem a 90,000 mile business class award now for travel in June, will the airlines I book the tickets on still honor it? I’m assuming so, but just wanted to check. Thanks

  8. I currently have a few flights booked from Thanksgiving to New Years and have been thinking about doing the US Trial Preferred. I’ll hit the 10 segments needed to keep silver easily before the three month trial would end at the end of February. I think this is a better and cheaper option than buying up, at least for low level status. Even going for Chairman’s, I think it would be cheaper to fly 30k miles or 40 segments in three months especially if you know you will be flying in the next three months. What are your thoughts on this and how the merger will affect their Trial Preferred program?

  9. @ Lucky

    If I am flying US airways Dec 29th 2013 and plan on crediting to Aegan.

    Do you think there will be a problem that they won’t let me credit it?

  10. My question is when will US flights count towards your AA EQM’s. I like their business class product better then the old AA angled seats.

  11. Any chance that the AA-US mile transfer will be available BEFORE US leaves the Star Alliance? I have a lot of AA miles (from Bank Direct), but prefer to redeem on Star Alliance.

    Per the press release, it seems the shift to OneWorld will happen “Q1” (possibly Feb/Mar) while the reciprocal benefits will be in effect early (Jan 7). I realize you’re just speculating, but would be curious to know if there were any precedents in prior mergers.

  12. @ SAS140 — Anything is possible I suppose. I think it’s unlikely (as I think there may be a short period where US Airways doesn’t officially belong to any alliance), but I doubt there will be a time where you can transfer American miles to US Airways while they’re still in Star Alliance. I could of course be wrong, though.

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