Changing Dividend Miles Awards After AAdvantage Takeover?

In late October of last year we found out the future of American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles. The news was overwhelmingly positive, given all the negative changes we’ve seen from other airlines lately.

Perhaps the most interesting detail to members is that US Airways Dividend Miles will be merged into American AAdvantage sometime in the second quarter of 2015. While we don’t have an exact date yet, this is when status between the two airlines will be fully reciprocal, when mileage totals will be combined, etc.

2015-AAdvantage

With that in mind, I’ve received a ton of questions as to what happens to US Airways Dividend Miles awards when the program ceases to exist.

It was just last year when US Airways transitioned from Star Alliance to oneworld, and that presented a challenge for award tickets. Basically, previously issued Star Alliance award tickets couldn’t be changed to include oneworld segments. Instead you had to redeposit them entirely and rebook if you wanted any segments on oneworld.

So I think we’re all hoping that the transition from Dividend Miles to AAdvantage will be a bit “cleaner” in terms of award tickets.

With that in mind, I reached out to American to ask a few questions regarding what happens to Dividend Miles awards once the program is merged into AAdvantage. Here’s what I learned:

Can changes be made to Dividend Miles awards after integration?

For the most part, yes. The exception are awards that involve travel on airlines which Dividend Miles exclusively partners with. Specifically, US Airways still has relationships with a few Star Alliance partners. So changes can’t be made to awards including travel on Aegean Airlines, Air China, South African Airways, and TAP Portugal.

Air-China-Business-Class
Redeem Dividend Miles for travel in Air China business class now… or don’t!

Which change fees will apply — American’s or US Airways’?

Once the integration happens, American AAdvantage award fees will kick in across the board, even for tickets originally issued through US Airways. This is great news across the board:

  • AAdvantage allows date, time, and routing changes for free; redepositing miles costs $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger
  • Dividend Miles charges $150 fee for any change, no matter how minor

So if you can, it would be advantageous to wait until after the AAdvantage program takes over to make changes or redeposit an award for multiple passengers on the same record locator.

Will awards be repriced at AAdvantage award levels?

In many cases, AAdvantage and Dividend Miles already have aligned award costs, in which case prices are the same regardless.

For those cases where they don’t:

  • Date and time changes (while keeping the origin and destination the same) don’t require a ticket to be reissued, and therefore don’t cause it to be repriced
  • All other changes will require a ticket to be reissued, and therefore be repriced at AAdvantage award levels

Summing it all up

There are a million different scenarios I could have presented, though I think I got a good general understanding of how things will work. Whenever the two programs integrate, all tickets will basically be viewed as AAdvantage awards and not Dividend Miles awards, so AAdvantage rules will apply.

I would also expect that AAdvantage routing rules will apply as well. In other words, if you book an award that couldn’t “legally” be priced through AAdvantage (like US to Asia via Europe, US to Australia via Asia, etc.), I wouldn’t expect to be able to make changes without paying whatever American AAdvantage would charge for that award.

But all things considered I think this is good news. Dividend Miles does in many ways have more generous routing rules, though AAdvantage has lower change fees and a “functional” system that auto-prices awards.

As a general rule of thumb, though, unless you’re looking to book one-way awards, I would be redeeming Dividend Miles before the integration.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-Bed
Book those 120,000 mile roundtrip Cathay Pacific first class awards before the programs merge!

If you have any other questions let me know and I’ll try to chase down some answers!

Comments

  1. Lucky, Any idea how they might handle this? PHX>CTL>FCO>LHR>HKG>LAX>PHX. US Air priced it at 115k as FCO is my stop over and HKG is my destination. I already have HKG>LAX in F on CX. If F award space opens up on LHR>HKG would I have to pay more miles? Sounds like the change fee would be waived once the merger happens. I definitely wouldn’t want this to be repriced though!

  2. one redemption i think people should consider before DM is over is USA-HKG-MLE in Cathay first… i think that’s one of the best deals that AAdvanatge would not allow.

    too bad DM doesn’t partner with Etihad… it’d be great to use them on the return.

  3. @ Richard — So you paid the business class award cost on the outbound and first class award cost on the return? If so, I wouldn’t expect to be able to pay 5,000 extra miles and do first class on the outbound. Even US wouldn’t allow that, as they’d require you to redeposit the entire award and start over, since it’s a different award level.

  4. If I were to book a trip with a stopover, would a change of date void the stopover since it’s not legal on AA?

  5. @ mangoceviche — I would assume as long as the type of stopover stays the same you should be fine (in other words, if you already have a stopover and just change the date slightly, I don’t think that would require the ticket to be reissued).

  6. @ Lucky – It’s only a matter of getting the right US Airways rep to do something that’s not allowed. You know that. LOL. And yes, they priced it as business on the outbound and first on the return.

  7. What about an award where some of it was already flown and the rest is coming up? Will it be possible to change it to a later date?

  8. @ Richard — It will be trickier once the programs are integrated, since AAdvantage has computers auto-pricing awards, so it takes some real authority to override the computer.

  9. @ Michael — I would expect so, since AAdvantage allows changes after departure. As long as you’re just changing dates/times, etc., and you’re using up the entire ticket within a year of the date of original issue.

  10. This is very helpful, Ben. Here’s some questions:

    I’m not quite clear on what you mean by “Date and time changes (while keeping the origin and destination the same) don’t require a ticket to be reissued, and therefore don’t cause it to be repriced”. Certainly changing from CX1234 on one day to CX1234 on another day falls into this category. What about if CX1234 and CX2345 are both AAA-BBB, but you want to change from CX1234 to CX2345 on a different day? Would that trigger a reissue and repricing? How about totally changing routing (but with same origin and destination)?

    Perhaps to be super-specific here, I currently have DCA-AA-JFK-CX-HKG-CX-KUL-MH-DPS//HKG-CX-LHR-BA-IAD booked for 120K Dividend Miles with the outbound in J and the return in F. (This is the one I still haven’t called to try to get the BA YQ reduced on. Hopefully this weekend!) Ideally, I’m hoping that I can get on a CX or KA non-stop from HKG to DPS and to return HKG-CX-JFK/ORD-AA-DCA in F.

    (1) Suppose that HKG-JFK-DCA is available in my desired class of service after the AAdvantage/Dividend Miles integration but before I fly my outbound. Then this gets repriced for 55K + 67.5K = 122.5K, so I need to pay another 2,500 miles? (But, I (a) don’t have to pay $150 to change things and (b) get back my BA YQ and UK Passenger Service Charge, which pales in comparison to APD but is still ~$50.)

    (2) On the other hand, suppose that HKG-JFK/ORD-DCA opens up after I’ve flown the outbound. Are you thinking then that the return, which was priced at 60K originally, now goes to 67.5K, so I pay an additional 7,500 miles (and get a good chunk of cash back)?

    (3) If HKG-DPS opens up on KA or CX before I depart (but there’s nothing useful to return from HKG via the Pacific), I can’t make that change after integration, since my return routing would not price as a single AAdvantage award? (Well, I could pay Asia 2 – Europe + Europe – US, but that’d be crazy.)

    Thanks!

  11. @ Mitch — Changing the routing or the stopover point would trigger a reissue, and therefore probably require the ticket to be repriced.

    I’m afraid you’re probably being a bit specific with the other scenario, since I don’t even think American knows the answers to that at this point. It’s going to be a sticky situation with what you’re dealing with, given that there may not be a mechanism in place for actually repricing awards. The sense I got was that they’re still ironing out the exact details, but what I provided is a general outline of how things will work.

  12. @Mitch

    how do you get BA YQ reduced? what do you tell them when you call? and how much are the savings?
    thanks.

  13. Lucky, if last minute F availability opens up on the very same flight I booked in business, would that require a mileage redeposit under the AA scheme? Thanks!

  14. Just wanted to say thank you! I’m looking at booking flights 330 days out with US on CX LAX-HKG-NRT but hoping JL LAX-NRT will open up so this is hugely helpful to decide to at least get CX on hold and keep searching for JL. If it pops up once the programs merge I’ll easily be able to switch!

  15. @Lantean: I believe that I was overcharged the YQ, since I’m flying LHR-IAD but was charged the YQ for IAD-LHR (which is the same as half of the IAD-LHR-IAD round-trip YQ but about $170 more than the one-way LHR-IAD YQ. Since there’s no clear, published way for them to calculate these surcharges, I figure it’s at least worth making an argument that using the YQ for the sector (and direction) actually flown in the most sensible.

    @lucky: Sounds like for how little they are confident in at this point, we should be going with “very late in Q2” for the integration of the programs. It’s at least good to know that they will still allow changes after integration, even if it’s very much a YMMV situation where we need to start collecting a pile of examples of what works and doesn’t work in order to suss out the rules.

  16. @ Mitch — I wouldn’t necessarily assume that, I think they’re actually moving along pretty quickly. I think the bigger issue here is that this will almost all be manual. So it will come down to the agent you get. For example, look at United awards post-devaluation. United clearly published the rules as to making changes to those awards, and that was straightforward. But if you call a dozen United agents you’ll get a dozen different “pricing” scenarios.

  17. Really? Never thought of that…how is that with USDM? I have traveled since merger. What about avoiding Caribbean?

  18. Lucky – will the current benefit of US Chairman’s having the $150 award re-deposit fee waived still hold after the programs merged? i.e., if I have a speculative booking that I made for the fall because there was no risk to me as a Chairman’s, would I need to consider cancelling that award before the two programs merge and I become an ExPlat?

  19. Ben, I have a US Business award ticket in July (110K to North Asia) but one of the legs is in coach. If availability for business in the same flight opens up after the merger, will the ticket need to be repriced?

  20. Two questions:

    1. I’ve already flown the outbound portion of a US Airways round-trip award (Australia to North America via Asia in First.) The return flight is next September. I may not be able to fly it, and I was expecting to forfeit it since US Airways won’t refund half the value of a round-trip, especially after travel has commenced. If I wait till after the merger and try to cancel it with AA, do you expect they’d refund half the miles?

    2. Does US Airways ever allow changes after travel has commenced? If I do wish to use the return flight, I’d need to make any date & routing changes before the merger (since AA won’t permit Australia-via-Asia, and Qantas First is never available.) Is there any chance US Airways will let me?

  21. @ Josh —

    1) It’s anyone’s guess, but I would guess it won’t be possible. You’ll likely be able to outright refund, but given the differing award prices, doubt you’ll be able to refund half of an award.
    2) I’ve been able to make changes after departure before, but only in very severe circumstances.

  22. When you say date and time changes don’t require the ticket to be reissued, is that just for awards on US metal? Because in my experience, AA always reissues the ticket even for moving from one flight to the same flight the next day, and especially so when the flight is not operated by AA. Are you saying US revalidates the ticket, even for partners?

    I’m about to book a CX award using US because their round-trip price is much lower than AA’s two one-ways. The trick is I want to return fall 2016, so I plan to book dummy dates for the return and change them when the dates are bookable. If I have to pay $150 per person that’s OK, but if I can do it for free that would be sweet. If instead the ticket is voided and the miles reinstated, then I’ll be screwed because by then the outbound availability will be long gone.

  23. @ Ben – Any idea whether AA will be able to change the origin *region* on a US Airways award whose outbound flight has already been flown? (The only way I’ll find first class availability on the North-America-to-Australia return flight would be to make it North-America-to-Asia.) Unlikely, I’m guessing.

  24. When you say “redepositing” miles costs 150$, that means cancelling an USDM award after the merger costs 150$, right?

  25. Lucky,
    I have a USDM reservation for first class, DCA-ORD-HKG for outbound, and for the return, HKG-NRT-FRA with a stopover in MAD and coming back to DCA via CLT in US business. If I try to change the date, would they reprice it using AA miles?

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