US Airways and American Airlines: Good or bad news for frequent flyers?

Friday 11, April 2014


US Airways and American Airlines: Good or bad news for frequent flyers?


Airline Merger partners US Airways and American Airlines synchronized their frequent flier program award levels overnight and also changed some fees as they continue to align their policies.


  • Frequent fliers with lower levels of status will get to check fewer bags for free. Those at the top level of each program will continue to get to check three bags for free. The airline says most travelers check one bag or no bags.
  • Travelers with the US Airways Mastercard will now get to check one bag for free beginning April 30, as long as their annual fee on the card is at least $79. Travelers with American's Citi card already get one free checked bag.
  • The airlines increased their unaccompanied minor fee from $100 to $150 each way, plus tax.
  • US Airways will offer first class meal service on more flights. The airline previously only offered meals on flights of 3.5 hours or more. The new cut off is 2.75 hours or more.
  • US Airways will offer more inflight entertainment options in first class and business class on select flights, including flights to Hawaii.


Most of the changes will impact business travelers more than those who book a couple flights per year.


The mileage changes are effective immediately for travel beginning June 1.


The airlines left the lowest levels of the awards programs largely unchanged, which is good news for travelers trying to book a free ticket with the fewest amount of miles. The minimum amount of miles required for a free round-trip ticket on each airline remains at 25,000.


But the new American, formed by the December merger of American and US Airways, also added new tiers to the award charts, which means availability at the lowest mileage levels might not be as widely available.


Brian Karimzad, director of, put the added tiers in the "bad news'' for travelers category in a blog post this morning. American, for example, used to offer a free round-trip ticket within the continental U.S. in economy class with no blackout dates for a flat 50,000 miles. There are now three options in that category depending on the travel dates: 40,000, 60,000 and, on a handful of peak dates like the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 100,000 miles.


Company officials said the new, lower 40,000 mile option at American -- already in place at US Airways -- will be available on more than 180 days of the year.


One big change for US Airways' frequent fliers: no more blackout dates on free tickets. American did not have blackout dates.


US Airways frequent fliers with elite status in the airline's Dividend Miles program now have to pay a fee to use miles to upgrade a paid ticket to first class or business class. They were previously exempt from the fee. The price varies by route and starts at $25 for short trips.


The airlines frequent flier programs will eventually be combined into American's Aadvantage program but that will not happen this year.



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