American & US Airways Cross-Fleeting — Why It Drives Me Crazy

In this particular instance I’m not sure if my frustration should be more with American’s stinginess with last minute award space lately, or the fact that they’re cross-fleeting.

As frequent American and US Airways flyers may have noticed, the two airlines have been cross-fleeting since early last month. For those of you not familiar with the term, in this instance it’s when American planes operate select US Airways routes, and US Airways planes operate select American routes. American has primarily begun flying US Airways routes out of Phoenix, while US Airways has begun flying American routes out of Miami.

For example, US Airways is now operating select frequencies from Miami to Detroit, New Orleans, Tampa, etc.

American and US Airways have started offering reciprocal elite benefits, but due to the scope of the merger, it’s going to be a while before we see true metal “neutrality” in terms of benefits.

For example, American and US Airways now offer reciprocal elite upgrades, but only day of departure. While they offer reciprocal priority seating, boarding, etc., you can’t standby for travel on the other airline.

Which brings me to the problem I faced for travel today. Last night I was trying to book a ticket from Tampa to Miami using British Airways Avios. Nowadays there are seven flights per day — three on US Airways and four on American.

American-US-Airways-1

For the most part the flights appear to be wide open, as I find to be the norm on the route.

American-US-Airways-3

Unfortunately even though they seem to be wide open, US Airways has released award space on all of their flights, while American hasn’t released award space on any of their flights.

American-US-Airways-2

If all seven flights were operated by American and only three had availability, that wouldn’t be an issue since I could standby on a different flight. However, in this instance standby options are limited — if I book travel on US Airways, I can only standby on another US Airways flight.

While I understand why airlines cross-fleet and that it makes sense for them to “get their feet wet,” in practice it’s extremely frustrating as a passenger when there’s not true metal neutrality or reciprocal status matching between airlines.

On the plus side, when I flew Miami to Tampa on US Airways last week, the first class cabin was almost completely empty — probably because American flyers didn’t know to ask for their reciprocal upgrades.

US-Airways-First-Class
US Airways A319 first class cabin

Comments

  1. @ Lucky – I can see this being a problem if you have access to US or AA mileage programs but since you were using Avios, shouldn’t you have been able to see all flights?

  2. I had an itinerary with both US and AA a few weeks ago, and I found all the interactions with US incredibly frustrating because they didn’t seem to know which AA benefits were carried over yet. I wish they would get it all straight and move on… but that’s not profit maximizing.

  3. @ Ivan Y — I had access to all space, yes, but I couldn’t standby. If all flights were operated by one airline, I could standby on any of those flights. But since they’re split, you can only standby on flights also operated by that airline.

  4. Correct. American elites get Move Up for free which allows you to standby or change to another flight within six hours of the original one.

  5. while I get your point overall, I really wouldn’t care for essentially less than an hour flight.

  6. @ M Simons — Maybe the point of my post isn’t clear. The issue is that I can’t standby on a different flight. It’s not about the length of the flight, but rather not being able to standby. If I book a 5:30PM flight on US Airways, I can only standby for a 6:30AM or 8AM flight on US Airways, and not any of the four American flights inbetween.

  7. Cross-fleeting question: Seems that the cross-fleeting would have impact to US East vs. US West pilots. (e.g. US losing flights out of PHX, but gaining out of MIA) While it allows the airlines to “get their feet wet”, what impact do you see on crewing, union negotiations, and ultimately customer service levels to pax of the merged airline?

  8. Lucky: what tool do you use for looking at class space? The one in the picture you posted which shows F, C, Y, V, H … Etc?

  9. @ Segments — All FANTASTIC questions I’ve been wondering myself. Don’t have any answers, but if anyone has thoughts, I’d love to hear them. In terms of contracts this is going to get really sticky. I mean, American and US Airways aren’t on a single contract yet, so I can only imagine how long it’ll be before the three “combined” airlines have one contract.

  10. To be fair… How it’s this any different than the NW/DL merger or the UA/CO merger? In fact when UA and CO merged you needed to book on your own airline you had the highest status with to get the best chance of an upgrade. I.e a OnePass silver booked on CO had a higher chance of an upgrade then a 2P booked on CO and you had the same standby issues as well before they did their big IT merge.

  11. I think you are looking at this backwards. If AA isn’t releasing award space on this market, then the cross-fleeting is a huge plus for you — otherwise there would be no award to be had. Presumably the ability to stand by for a different flight will come at about the same time as everything gets merged together, at which point they may start releasing no award seats for any of the flights … so take what you can get šŸ™‚

  12. Any idea what the eventual upgrade policy is going to be? I’ve been upgraded on every flight but one for the last 3 months on USAir. But, I hear American charges $30/500 miles for upgrades. The only time upgrades are free on American is when your the very hight FF level.

  13. @ John — It’s anyone’s guess. I would speculate they’ll do complimentary upgrades for all elites, but I certainly could be wrong.

  14. Is there really a legitimate reason for AA not to offer status matching so that the elites can get their appropriate elite benefits on both metals? The IT impact to do reciprocal status matching should be minimal.

  15. @Lucky I’d love it if you could expand on the other issue you touch on in this post, the part about AA not releasing award seat inventory. I’ve also noticed that in a big way over the past few months — flights with 1/4 of the seats open for sale have no award inventory ever, even right before departure. Can you think of any reason AA would be letting flights go out with empty seats and not release award inventory?

    A huge part of why I fly almost exclusively on AA (not the easiest choice, since I fly mostly out of SFO) has been good award availability in the past. I also never fly DL because their award avail is horrible. But if AA is now going the way of DL, I might have to re-consider my loyalty.

    Could this just be a temporary thing having to do with some systems issues related to the merger?

  16. I think you hit it right at the start: the real problem is AA’s lack of award space, even on flights that are wide open.

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