American AAdvantage And Dividend Miles Changes

As part of the integration, American and US Airways have announced some additional changes for AAdvantage and Dividend Miles members which are coming soon. First of all, you can let out a sigh of relief, this is a mixed bag and truly nothing major, and doesn’t compare to the changes they made to award rates, Explorer awards, and award stopovers (mostly without notice) several weeks back. They’re in the process of emailing AAdvantage and Dividend Miles members about the changes right now.

I had the chance to speak to American’s Director of Corporate Communications and Suzanne Rubin, President of AAdvantage, regarding these changes, so will share what I learned regarding their perspective on the changes.

The three major updates here involve:

  • Reciprocal upgrades for AAdvantage and Dividend Miles elite members
  • Minor Dividend Miles award chart devaluation as of August 1, 2014
  • Timeline for frequent flyer program integration

So here are the changes:

Reciprocal upgrades coming to American & US Airways

Starting June 11, 2014, American and US Airways will be offering reciprocal upgrades to elite members. In both cases they’re trying to align as closely to the operating carrier’s policy as possible, within the realm of the technological limitations they’re facing (which I’ll discuss below). It’s also worth noting that with both airlines, upgrades are being offered on a first come first serve basis, so a top tier elite member doesn’t have priority over an entry level elite member.

First of all, here’s a chart covering the basics of the upgrade policies:

Upgrade BenefitsAAdvantage Upgrades On US AirwaysDividend Miles Upgrades On American
Upgrade windowUp to 24 hours before departureUp to 24 hours before departure
Eligible regionsTravel within and between the U.S. (excluding Hawaii) and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central AmericaWithin and between the U.S. (including Hawaii) and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America
Companion upgradesYes, up to one companion on same recordNo
Ability to waitlistYes, if upgrade not immediately available, option to waitlistNo, but you can check with agent at the gate and let them know you'd like to be considered for upgrade
Cost to upgradeComplimentary for all elite membersComplimentary for Chairman's Preferred members; $30 per 500 miles for all other members

 

AAdvantage members upgrading on US Airways

AAdvantage members can be upgraded on US Airways flights up to 24 hours in advance. At the time of check-in you can request an upgrade. If there’s upgrade space available it will confirm immediately, while otherwise it will be waitlisted.

Upgrades on US Airways will be complimentary for AAdvantage members (while American charges their own Gold & Platinum members $30 per 500 mile upgrade “sticker”). Up to one other passenger traveling on the same reservation is also eligible for an upgrade.

Upgrades on US Airways will be valid for travel within and between the U.S. (excluding Hawaii) and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America.

Dividend Miles members upgrading on American

At the time of check-in, Dividend Miles members will be given the option to upgrade on American, assuming there’s upgrade space available. If there’s no upgrade space available, there’s not a mechanism by which one can waitlist. That being said, you should make it known to the gate agent that you’d like to be upgraded, and if the upgrade list is otherwise cleared and there is space available you’ll be upgraded.

Upgrades on American will be available within and between the U.S. (including Hawaii) and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America. There’s no option for companion upgrades, however.

The upgrade program is far from ideal

There’s no doubt that this upgrade program is far from ideal. As a matter of fact I would guess that upgrades will only come through a small percentage of the time, given that they’re just offered within 24 hours of departure.

But the good thing is that American understands that, and they realize this isn’t the ideal solution. Their focus was on getting reciprocal benefits out there as quickly as possible and as much as possible, and this is the best they can do for now.

The merger between American and US Airways is really different than the ones between Delta/Northwest and United/Continental. American and US Airways had no pre-existing partnership or codeshare agreement, and due to anti-trust regulations couldn’t really get started with “aligning” things until the merger was complete. Beyond that, the airlines operate on two different reservations systems. So I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of work being done behind the scenes to align systems. They explained that they could have waited longer to offer reciprocal upgrades under more ideal circumstances, but would rather get something out there as soon as possible.

What’s comforting to me here is that American realizes this solution isn’t ideal, and they’d like to see a better upgrade system as well. This will probably be as much of a pain for them as it is for us, given that American gate agents will be dealing with US Airways elites trying to get on upgrade lists at the gate, and vice versa.

But technologically this is the best they can do for now, and it’s certainly better than nothing, so I do appreciate that.

(Minor) Dividend Miles award chart devaluation coming August 1, 2014

The US Airways Dividend Miles program is making some minor changes to their award chart for travel booked as of August 1, 2014. There will be no changes to the American AAdvantage award chart at this time.

My biggest beef with their last changes was that they provided no advance notice, so kudos to them for providing almost two months notice here.

The changes are quite minor:

  • Redemption rate for three cabin first class awards within the US/Canada are going up from 50,000 miles to 65,000 miles (they accidentally uploaded this new award chart a few weeks back)
  • Redemption rates for medium and high level awards within the continental U.S. and Canada are going up to align with American’s

First class seat
Award redemption rates going up for American’s A321T first class

These changes are in my opinion minor, and simply US Airways aligning more closely with American’s award pricing. When I saw the “Using your miles” header under changes I nearly crapped myself and was prepared for the worst, so had a sigh of relief when I saw that these were the changes.

AAdvantage and Dividend Miles integration

Their plan is to integrate the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs in 2015. That means as of now:

  • Elite qualifying mileage totals won’t be combined for the 2014 program year; you need to qualify for status entirely with one program or the other
  • Elite qualifying, redeemable, and million miler balances should be combined in 2015, though
  • There are no plans to make redeemable miles transferable between programs prior to 2015

So at least now we know for sure what we should expect. They made it clear that they weren’t ruling out possibilities in the sense that if they can move some things along more quickly they’d certainly consider it, but I appreciate that they’re trying to manage expectations here.

Bottom line

When I read the headline “AAdvantage/Dividend Miles changes,” my heart stopped for a second. My vested interest in this isn’t just the extent to which I cover loyalty programs, but I’m also loyal to American, love the airline, and have lots of miles with them.

In the airline industry nowadays we have two things working against us as consumers:

  • With the economy recovering and reduced capacity along with increased demand, we’re seeing airfare as high as it has been in a long time
  • Consolidation ultimately hurts consumers, because the less competition there is, the fewer benefits airlines have to provide to entice passengers

I was tough on AAdvantage during the last round of changes without notice, though this time around I genuinely got the sense that they “get us.”

They’re offering reciprocal upgrades, though realize they’re not ideal, but it’s the best they can do for now due to technological limitations. They’ll hopefully offer a better program soon, but they wanted to implement something as soon as possible, which I appreciate.

The minor adjustments to the US Airways Dividend Miles award chart is simply Dividend Miles aligning with AAdvantage, which makes sense as well. And they’re giving a good amount of advance notice, which I appreciate.

So hopefully everyone feels better now than they did when they read the headline regarding “changes” to frequent flyer programs during a merger, which are almost never good.

What do you think of these changes to AAdvantage and Dividend Miles?

Comments

  1. Hey Lucky– any indication on how they plan on combining MM balances yet? Up until a couple of years ago, AA was far more generous with which miles counted toward MM status (whereas US was far more generous printing and selling cheap miles).

  2. @ Ethan — My understanding is that they’ll be combining balances, so that if you earned miles towards million miler status with American from credit card spend, those would count in the same way that they do now.

  3. United/CO angered a bunch of PMUA flyers when it combined the two MM programs, and I think it’s almost inevitable that one side’s MM’ers come out feeling slighted.

  4. The award chart alignments seem reasonable. However, do you have any insight into US’s current policy on fuel surcharges on OW awards? It seems as if there is a definite inconsistency here with AA (who charge only IB and BA) and US, who seem to be charging (in my limited experience) on other airlines (e.g. AY). I would hope that ultimately we end up with the current AA policy, though fear we may end up with a broader implementation of fuel surcharges.

  5. @ Nick — When it comes to fuel surcharges, the only discrepancy seems to be with Finnair. I was told that US Airways was imposing fuel surcharges on Finnair, though I haven’t actually found that to be the case. So I think as of now it’s just on British Airways and Iberia for both carriers, and I suspect it will stay that way.

  6. it seems weird to me that US took over american, but it’s US’s elite flyers that are getting *completely screwed* here. No companion upgrades is outrageous.

  7. So travel I book today for after Aug 1 is the new award chart? Or If I don’t book the travel until after Aug 1 for a date after Aug 1?

  8. @ Phil — It’s based on the date you book, so if you book now it would be the old rates, even for travel after August 1.

  9. @Lucky – Thanks! The agents I spoke to were adamant that the fuel surcharges apply to AY, and would not budge. But perhaps I just got unlucky with the initial pricing of the award and no one was willing to remove them. I will monitor with my next booking and hope they haven’t spread to QR/QF!

  10. @ Nick — Probably does depend on the agent. I highly doubt fuel surcharges will spread, though I could be wrong.

  11. I don’t understand why practically every devaluation is being called “minor.” If they were announced all at once, we’d call this a huge devaluation, but they’re using the “boil the frog slowly” approach. The merger is becoming death by a thousand paper cuts.

  12. the email I just got from AA seems to contradict what you are saying about AA elites upgrading on US flights. What they sent me says:

    “If available, an opportunity to upgrade will be presented at check-in for US Airways-operated flights within and between the U.S. (excluding Hawaii) and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America and will be provided on a first come, first served basis.”

    In regards to HI, do you know which is correct?

  13. I guess it’s the skeptic in me but I am wondering what other bad news we’ll uncover in the next few days that SR didn’t happen to mention in your conversation.You may recall the AA email a while back failed to mention elimination of Explorer awards and other major devaluations. As Pres Reagan noted in dealings with the USSR “Trust but verify”.

  14. I think @lovenola is correct specifically regarding the including/excluding Hawaii upgraded…I believe you have it backwards.

    I was really excited as I have a us air flight to HNL as an EXP member coming up later this year and was hoping to upgrade like I am used to on AA…it appears I can’t.

  15. To bad about about not combining EQM. It sure would be nice with the upgrade policies changing if we could use either a US number or an AA number depending on the circumstances. Also, I am getting close to 2mm on American, and it would be nice to use my AA number on AA segments, but I fly more on US so I am accumulating US miles for status.

    I assume that US probably still regards miles flown on AA as “partner” flights for purposes of million mile balances, so I am probably losing 20k or so toward million miler by using my US number on AA metal this year.

  16. Ironic details emerging. Everyone lauds Sabre for it’s superiority, and yet it can’t even handle US elites in a straightforward manner the way SHARES will be able to handle AA elites (no companions, no waitlist, etc). Doesn’t matter much to me as I’m EXP on AA and Gold with US, but this shows the armchair CEOs they rarely know what they talk about when it comes to IT.

    Also shows that US/AA are too cheap to make an investment in either system to allow advance upgrades for each other’s elites. One of the few things that UA and CO did during their merger that I applaud.

  17. Hello Lucky – I was reading your post as well as post on the same topic from Gary and I was a bit unclear regarding upgrades for AA elites on USAirways to Hawaii.

    You mentioned: “Upgrades on US Airways will be valid for travel within and between the U.S. (including Hawaii) and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America.”

    Whereas Gary mentioned: “Upgrades on US Airways exclude Hawaii, while upgrades on American include Hawaii.”

    Also could you tell me, are award tickets eligible for upgrades or only revenue?

    Thanks as always for your great posts.
    KG

  18. @ Nun — Because when you compare American and US Airways redemption opportunities to what’s available with Delta and United miles, it’s still a hell of a program. The changes to Explorer awards, stopovers, and North Asia awards WERE a big deal. I don’t consider this to be a big deal, however, because I’d never book these awards anyway.

  19. “When I read the headline ‘AAdvantage/Dividend Miles changes’ my heart stopped for a second. My vested interest in this isn’t just the extent to which I cover loyalty programs, but I’m also loyal to American, love the airline, and have lots of miles with them.”

    I would really prefer if you thought of your loyalty as being tied to your readers and customers rather than to an airline.

  20. @ pssteve — I agree, and I was the first to say I don’t “trust” the program anymore. But at the same time I am convinced that AAdvantage learned their lesson from the last round of changes, and wouldn’t repeat something like that.

    But totally agree, “trust but verify” is the approach to take here.

  21. @ KG — Sorry, I updated my post to correct that. As far as I know only revenue tickets are eligible, as is the rule with both carriers right now.

  22. @ Dax — I’ll let the way I covered the last round of changes speak for itself as to where my loyalty stands. At the end of the day as a member my interests are the same as anyone else reading this blog…

  23. Bummber about not combining eqm’s in 2014.. But you’re saying they’re leaving it open to still a maybe later on this year?

  24. @ Lucky – You tend to get upset for a day or two and tell us that loyalty is worthless. Imagine our confusion a week or two later you’re back to telling us that you are still loyal and still love these very same airlines that just got done gutting their programs. Those are your own words. Nobody is making you contradict yourself.

  25. @ Dax — I was upset for more than a day or two, and am still upset about those changes. There’s a difference between being loyal to an airline and not trusting them. I’m loyal to them still because of the benefits they promise me — eight systemwide upgrades with no fare restrictions for passing 100,000 flown miles. That’s worth it to me. But there’s a difference between that and trusting the program.

    C’mon, seriously, there are a lot of reasonable things to criticize me for, but I don’t think the way I’m talking about American is one of them. Was there anyone more critical of American’s most recent changes than me?

  26. “Was there anyone more critical of American’s most recent changes than me?”

    I can see where you’re coming from but it sounds like you’re only comparing your response to other points bloggers. In other words folks who may in fact be genuinely upset with the changes but who also have a vested interest in keeping the current crumb points systems popular enough to bring in more crumb eaters.

    Try comparing your criticisms with those of average passengers and I think you’ll see that you’re not nearly as critical as many of us. Some of us are upset enough to abandon our loyalty entirely or even drive or take a train when possible. Not over one single change but over dozens of changes that have added up to a far less rewarding experience over time.

    In the future you might ask yourself if you’re sugarcoating some program changes simply because they’re not as bad as the worst you’ve ever seen. It may not be a conscious thing but when I read your articles about program changes I often feel like I’m being lobbied to see them in a positive light.

    I still enjoy your articles that review amenities and rank service standards because those are relevant comparisons that could be useful to almost anyone. One thing I’d like to see added in the future are tips and guides for revenue passengers who would have no problem spending cash but still want the best value and fewest restrictions possible. It might bring more airlines and hotels into contention as well.

    Some of my best experiences have been with carriers and hoteliers who either didn’t have a loyalty program or didn’t bother filling it with loopholes in the first place. The various multinational conglomerates try to ensure that even their worst property is at least somewhat acceptable, but that guarantee often comes with the realization that even their very best properties are guaranteed to fall shy of excellence.

    You’ve done this a few times but I’d like to see a lot more of it. Just because the conglomerates have consolidated to the point that they no longer need to reward us with good deals doesn’t mean there aren’t hundreds of other options still waiting to be discovered.

    -Dax

  27. Hey Lucky

    In speaking of EQMs, looking at my latest AAdvantage statement it appears I am getting EQMs on code share flights…(US metal with an AA flight number.) The statement that EQMs won’t combine has me confused.

    Thanks for what you do

  28. @ daviddlc3 — Sorry, to clarify, you can earn EQMs for flying the other carrier, but the point is that you can’t combine your Dividend Miles and AAdvantage mileage totals at the end of the year. So you can bank travel from either airline in either program, but just can’t combine the mileage totals themselves.

  29. @Dax – “Try comparing your criticisms with those of average passengers and I think you’ll see that you’re not nearly as critical as many of us.”

    So you’re just pissed he’s not saying the same thing you are?

  30. When I saw your post and got an email from them I had a flashback to the last time 🙁

    Anyway, so what does this 2015 combining of the programs mean to us in practical terms. For example, does this mean that if someone qualifies as US CP in 2014 (meaning, through Feb. 2016), they’ll get same benefits as AA EXP next year? I think those are some of the things everyone’s anxiously awaiting to find out.

  31. @ Ivan Y — People qualifying for status in this program year will get the published benefits they’ve been promised (so Executive Platinum members get eight systemwide upgrades, Chairman’s Preferred members get two systemwide upgrades valid for them and a companion, etc.). We’ll see what benefits they offer for qualifying next year.

  32. I guess I’m dense here on the status qualification issue, I don’t get it. Am I hearing that I need to qualify in 2014 for AA EXP to keep it for next year or top tier in DM. In other words I won’t be able to combine miles from both programs for my 2015 status.

  33. @ rkaradi — Correct, you can qualify for status this year the same as in past years. That’s to say that you can’t combine mileage totals between programs at the end of this year. In other words, if you earn 15K EQMs in one program and 10K EQMs in another program, you won’t earn status.

    Hope that makes sense…

  34. re: MM balance

    I can’t find a MM balance on the US site. Any guidance on finding it? Thanks.

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