American AAdvantage Announces Changes for the Combined Loyalty Programs
Well it’s the back of the
bus plane for many US Airways Dividend Miles members now. American has just rolled out the New AAdvantage program outlining the ‘benefits’ as they pertain to the combining of the two programs. And, as expected, current AAdvantage program members ‘win’ – because there are basically few changes to what they now experience – and Dividend Miles members come out on the short end of the stick, losing one status tier and complimentary upgrades.
I know that my dear friends at View from the Wing and One Mile at a Time are simply ecstatic over these changes but the conversation from US Airways Dividend Miles members at FlyerTalk is not echoing the same sentiment. I find it interesting that both Gary and Ben had a chat with Suzanne Rubin yesterday before the announcement was officially made.
Some of the key points:
In early 2015, members who have an account in both programs will have the opportunity to match their accounts. This is the next step before the program integration, which will offer customers a more seamless experience whether their flight is on American or US Airways. American began offering reciprocal benefits to AAdvantage and Dividend Miles members in January 2014, just one month after the close of the merger. The only problem with this reciprocal benefits stuff is that it tends to work more on the US flights for AAdvantage members than on the American flights for Dividend Miles members.
AAdvantage Elite Status Membership Levels
- AAdvantage offers three levels of elite status membership – AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum and Gold. Customers will continue to qualify for elite status based on elite-qualifying miles, points or segments. The current 100-segment threshold for Executive Platinum will continue until Dec. 31, 2014. On Jan. 1, 2015, the segment qualification requirement for Executive Platinum will be 120 segments for the 2016 membership year.
- When the programs are combined, the four elite status levels in the Dividend Miles program will be aligned to the three elite status levels of the AAdvantage program and US Airways Platinum members will be “downgraded” to 50,000 mile AAdvantage Platinum members.
- Upgrades will no longer be complimentary for US Airways Platinum, Gold and Silver members after the integration of the program. Complimentary upgrades will be given for flights of 500 miles or less. This will be helpful for those who fly shuttles in the Northeast and those who fly short flights in Texas from the DFW hub. This is not so helpful for those of us who fly out of Charlotte – the major cities included in the 500 mile radius include Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Orlando (to name the majors).
- AAdvantage Platinum members earn a 100% mileage bonus, while Dividend Miles Gold and Platinum members only earned a 50% and 75% mileage bonus respectively. Bonus miles will, therefore, increase for those members who retain Platinum status with American.
- 2014 elite qualifying activity from both US Airways and American will be combined to determine your elite status for the rest of 2015.
- For those who qualify on segments, top tier will require 120 next year instead of 100. This is in line with the current requirements for Chairman Preferred.
- Top tier elites from both airlines will get the American AAdvantage benefit of 8 sytemwide upgrades (international upgrades) that can be confirmed at booking (subject to availability) or waitlisted on any paid fare.
- US Airways elites will receive a starting balance of 500-mile upgradesbased on the elite qualifying miles they have flown in 2014.
Dividend Miles Members
American AAdvantage Second Quarter
You can see by comparing the two Second Quarter notes for both airline loyalty program members that even then, the American AAdvantage members end up with a better deal than the Dividend Miles members.
I think the most interesting quote I saw on all of this came from FlyerTalk. It went something like this: “US employees (correctly) view this as a merger while AA employees largely view this as US employees joining their airline.” That thought is even reitereated in the press release where it speaks of “Bringing US Airways into the award-winning oneworld® alliance…”
Quite frankly, I was quite happy with US Airways before this merger… quite happy being a part of the Star Alliance… and quite happy with my status and upgrades.
Now, not so much.
So what is my opinion? These changes are not in any way (other than an increased mileage bonus) good for the current US elites. The current AA elites who don’t know any better are basically not affected… other than the fact that they will now be able to have the possibility of upgrades on flights of under 500 miles. This is a great help to the American flyers who live in Texas… or maybe the business flyers who live in the northeast and happen to fly shuttle flights.
For those of us in the Dividend Miles program (especially those of us based in the Southeast), the chanes are not so good. What has happened? We have lost an entire tier of status. We have lost complimentary upgrades based on space available in F. We will watch flights go out with empty seats in First. We will have to essentially pay for upgrades. And we will be subjected to the outdated ‘Sticker’ program where, if you fly 50K miles, you will earn 20 stickers… good for two transcon upgrades. And if you want to take that upgraded flight, there is still no guarantee you will get it… stickers or not (as I understand it, stickers only allow you to ‘request’ the upgrade). Also, if you want that upgraded flight, make sure you only book it for late in the year after you have earned those stickers (or you will have to pay for the stickers to upgrade – but still no guarantee).
I hardly see that as being anywhere near equitable for Dividend Mile members who were loyal to this airline when it was going through its own dark days post AW merger.