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.
Complete information can be found on the Press Release or the American AAdvantage Page.
Don’t be hatin on Cincinnati now!!! 😀
LOL not hating on Cincinnati – you know I have a special connection with the Queen City Tower there! Just not some place I fly on a regular basis. I guess though, with all those unlimited upgrades to Cincinnati, that maybe I should make it my destination of choice now! Got a spare room?
Yikes! Where is it? (a mistake…but an English teacher’s nightmare!)
it’s only seemingly good because of how much worse it could have been. Delta and United have completely obliterated any distance-based recognition. American hasn’t done so yet.
Yes – it could have been worse… but not much worse for the US Airways loyalists.
Do you really feel we’ll see lots of F seats go out empty? They’ll rationalize capacity and they already sell F upgrades at check-in when there are seats left after accommodating the elite upgrades.
You will see a lot more empty seats from now on than you ever saw on strictly US Airways pre-merger flights.
you do not need to have upgrade stickers/e500s in you account to request an upgrade. You do need them to actually check-in.
IF you can apply them….not always the case.
I get that. I was responding to your statement in the post “(as I understand it, stickers only allow you to ‘request’ the upgrade)” which cam across that you were making the statement that a pax needed to have sufficient stickers to make the upgrade request. Which is not the case.
Some inaccurate information:
1) You do not need stickers to request the upgrade. You can wait until the upgrade is cleared and then buy stickers.
2) 50,000 miles a year will earn 20 stickers, enough for 10,000 miles of flying, or four one-way trans-cons.
3) AA flights rarely ever go out empty in F with paid upgrades. Why will the combined airline be any different?
So happy to see that it was largely the AAdvantage program brought over. Superior program, superior airline, superior benefits.
Thank you for the information.
1. I know you do not need the stickers in hand and can purchase them at checkin. There is no guarantee that you will have the opportunity to do so if the upgrade doesn’t clear, ergo, no guaranteed upgrade stickers or not.
2. If I start a year with 20, that would be great! But is that the case? As a leisure traveler, I will not earn 20 stickers early in the year so how does that help me with early flights. Oh, yes, I can buy my upgrade (again, if one is available at check in and not three to five days out).
3. All of the AA flights I have been on this year had empty seats in F. Even Gary Leff commented that he likes the fact that he so often sees empty seats in F. I based my assumption on those occurrences and what others have observed and reported.
Mid-tiers lose, in addition to being downgraded, some baggage allowance, same day change, upgrades on award travel, and other benefits.
What did the AAdvantage program give up?
The reality is that AA fliers are far more important than US. They should not have to give up anything. I’m Platinum on AA. I get virtually every upgrade I want and have only seen an empty F seat twice in the past year – on a 757 BOS-LAX that was booked at less than 40 people over two cabins and a 737 DFW-DCA at 6am on a Saturday. Empty F seats are a rarity, perhaps because AA has an insanely superior product to the garbage US has and AA has failed with moving to AA’s planes.
If all of US’ elites left the airline angry, the merges carrier would still be better off if it kept the AA elites happy.
What an interesting point of view.
As a US Gold I am happy that I didn’t do any mileage running to hit Platinum and that I will get the 100 percent mileage bonus going forward. I also like the AA upgrade system better — not that it has been a huge problem on US Airways, but I like that I can largely skip the upgrade at the gate roulette and just get on the plane for those flights I don’t request.
Thanks for commenting. I had a few things planned but am now going to forego them. Rather pointless at this point in time. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘upgrade at the gate’ roulette, as all of my upgrades process before check in on US. I’ve only seen the Gate roulette on American flights.
I am also a US elite and I also hate the sticker system. The US Platinums obviously got hit the hardest, but as a US Gold, I also feel like the sticker system is a more subtle demotion.
Frankly, the mid-tier elites are overlooked by AA. The sticker system’s goal is to protect low-level elites, and the high-level elites are exempt from the system altogether. It seems that they give the generous 100% mileage bonus to the mid- level as compensation, but in this age of credit cards and shopping portals, you don’t even have to fly to rack up a large mile balance.
The worst part is that there is a simple solution: give the mid-tiers a better earning ratio for stickers and/or let them buy stickers at a lower price. It doesn’t have to be a drastic difference, but just something to make the status mean something.
Thanks for weighing in. I agree with you about the stickers and wish they could have done something to make them more palatable. The 500 mile free upgrade doesn’t do much for many… and I, too, wish there had been some sort of change to the earning ratio at least.
Any tips or cheap itineraries for someone thinking of Trial-running from scratch for Chairman’s Preferred? Any inexpensive ways to get a 4-segment run each way ex-ORD/MKE for 8 segments RT? Only 5 of those and you are Chairman’s. Thanks.
Have you looked at the ORD-HKG route and doing just one big trip? Let’s see… with Chairman’s its 30,000 miles or 40 segments – I’d be tempted to go for two (or three) big mileage runs and be done with it. I’ll keep my eye open for segments though…I know you’re checking on FlyerTalk 😉
Thanks. In a few minutes of looking I found ORD-HKG NS is just a bit over 15K miles RT. Can do it for around a grand. 16 hours each way NS.
Miles even at 1x would be worth a lot. Now to figure out a tax-deductible reason to go. Maybe start a blog; must research sometimes!
Must keep poking. Any other ideas would be welcome.
They have books in HKG too! Maybe I’ll come and do a MR with you!!!
Glad I found this! None of my “civilian” (non-flying) friends care to hear about me complain, haha. I’m super unhappy. DFW > DCA is my regular route, and for the past year I’ve been prioritizing either speed (nonstop on American) or almost guaranteed upgrade (DFW/CLT/DCA), depending on what I’m doing that day. Guess I just need to get used to being put in coach. Forever. And don’t even get me started on the lack of free companion upgrade — I guess vacation times will be when my friends are okay with listening to my whining.
I’ll be checking out Virgin.
You’re welcome. I am trying to readjust my own thinking. My friends have been telling me to check out Alaska….might be an option for you.
No one wants to hear the problems of the “rich,” but for me (as a current US Chairman’s Preferred) is the loss of complimentary upgrades for flying companions. On my own, I’m barely a US Gold (AA Plat). But at some point we (family, spouse in particular) figured out that there were all kinds of incentives to ramp up our leisure travel. The Barclays USAirways Mastercard companion certificates were a big part of that — two trans-cons a year equals 10,000 PQMs. These are soon gone. Worse is that the pretty-easy-to-obtain unlimited upgrades including spouse (and sometimes another) are no longer possible. I can’t see us doing stickers for FL weekend travel and I can’t see as much interest in FL weekends without the F seats (for both of us).
I recognize that I may be precisely the kind of “high-end” flyer that the new AA will be happy to get rid of. However, I am less interested in their problems than I am in mine. Lots of stuff I’ll miss when USAirways disappears. It has worked well for me.
I think you have some very valid points there. And I believe what many AA flyers don’t realize is just how much these changes impact US flyers – all the way to the companion pass and upgrades for spouses/traveling partners.
The way I see it is, US Airways took care of its elites – no matter what their status level. American, not so much. As someone posted recently and to quote, “It’s all about the Benjamin.” (dollar) I think American has built itself as an ‘elite’ American based airline and would like to keep that image in tact – even though we all know, that compared to foreign carriers, they have a long way to go.
Thanks for the comment… I enjoy your input on FT as well.
Yep, just looking at trying to spend some of the miles with the NEW American. Even as Exec Plat, the inflation on the awards on routes I booked as recently as last summer is 50-100%. Add to that the loss of some many of the benefits of the US Airways MasterCard (5,000 miles discounts on awards, fee reductions. Oh yea, we do get a discount of 10% of the awards up to 10,000 points, whooptee do. I could have done that with two tickets last year… and the max benefit is at 100,000 miles… pure crap.
On the plus side, I took a voluntary bump this AM for $550, which is a much higher pay scale than US would have done. I would have taken it for free given the walrus in the middle seat who was making it impossible to even see, let alone use, the armrest. (was lamenting the lower probability of upgrades the entire time). And for those of us who came over with America West, this is the second time around for this rodeo. One would have thought that Doug would have looked after us better, seeing as how we were the ones who got him here.
I absolutely agree with you on so many counts! I tried to book an award ticket to Europe for early in the fall. What a laugh! Instead of, as it was with Star Alliance, choosing a destination and then finding the flights to get there…I had to find flights with award space… and then decide that was where we were going to visit. Sad.
And, yes, agree with you about losing the better parts of the Dividend Miles program. We definitely got the shaft.