There’s no denying that one of the biggest challenges that American & US Airways face with their integration is on the technology front. The two airlines use different reservations systems, and there’s a lot of work to be done to merge them.
While we probably won’t see the two airlines on a single reservations platform until late next year, they’re already starting to align their systems as much as possible.
Back in September American began aligning fare classes, and they’re taking it a step further on January 17, 2015.
US Airways trans-border (U.S. to/from Mexico, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean) flights with First Class and Main Cabin fare codes will be aligned to match American Airlines Business Class and Main Cabin fare codes. With this alignment, the First Class Cabin on these flights will be renamed Business Class. Rest assured there are no changes to product offerings – we are simply renaming this class of travel. Starting January 17, 2015, your travelers will see the new inventory on their PNR and the new Business Class cabin name on their boarding pass for travel on February 1, 2015 and beyond.
Here’s a chart which explains the new fare classes for travel between the US and Mexico, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean:
So what’s really changing?
To clarify, US Airways isn’t actually changing the service on their flights to Mexico, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean — it will be exactly the same product. The only thing that’s changing is how it’s coded.
American has long coded the forward cabin on these short international flights as business class, while US Airways has long coded it as first class. It’s just semantics.
Why should you care about this change?
This change is both good and bad, depending on how you look at it.
The good news is that if you’re redeeming British Airways Avios for travel on US Airways, the cost of premium cabin redemptions on flights to Mexico, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean is decreasing.
That’s because British Airways Executive Club charges 2x the economy award price for business class, and 3x the economy award price for first class. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a three cabin plane or not — they charge solely based on how the airline codes the flight.
To give an example, take a look at award flights from Dallas to Cabo and from Phoenix to Cabo. The flights are roughly the same length, or at least fall in the same distance “zone,” so should be priced comparably.
If you’re redeeming on American, you’ll see that there’s business class award space for 15,000 Avios one-way, and under first class it shows “cabin not operated on this flight.”
Meanwhile if you’re redeeming on US Airways, you’ll see there’s first class award space for 22,500 Avios one-way, and under business class it shows “cabin not operated on this flight.”
As of January 17, 2015, that US Airways flight would only require 15,000 Avios in business class.
While this is good news under some circumstances if you’re redeeming miles, it’s bad news under some circumstances if you’re accruing miles.
AAdvantage will be aligning the business class mileage bonus with the first class mileage bonus in 2015, so if you’re collecting AAdvantage miles nothing changes.
However, other programs, like British Airways Executive Club, will see a big drop in the number of Avios and Tier Points earned as a result of this.
For example, presently a Phoenix to Cabo first class ticket would earn 60 Tier Points:
However, the same ticket in business class would only earn 20 Tier Points:
This is a logical alignment, though it’s not good news for everyone. While it’ll take fewer Avios to redeem for premium cabins on these flights when booking through British Airways, you’ll also earn fewer Avios and Tier Points.
(Tip of the hat to Tocqueville)