17 Changes to US Airways and American Airlines Loyalty Programs Ranked by Importance

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US Airways and American Airlines officially merged in December 2013. They are still independent brands with separate loyalty programs, but they are making major changes in unison, especially in the last few weeks.

Below are 17 changes made, mostly yesterday, in the order of my take on their importance. As I said yesterday, I am much more upset about how these changes were made (most of numbers 3-17 were made with no notice) than the fact that they were made.

1) On March 30, US Airways left the Star Alliance.

US Airways lost valuable partners for award redemptions like United, Lufthansa, and Thai. US Airways did maintain several Star Alliance partners including EVA, South African, and Turkish.

Some of those Star Alliance partners are disappearing this year, so make sure you book those partners in 2014 for travel through 2015.

2) On March 31, US Airways joined oneworld opening up great partners like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Qatar.

Unfortunately you cannot combine oneworld and the remaining Star Alliance partners on a single award.

Despite the change from Star Alliance to oneworld, no award routing rules changed for US Airways awards.

All the other changes were made yesterday, most with no notice.

3) American Airlines is no longer allowing stopovers on awards.

You used to be able to get a stopover in each direction at the North American International Gateway City. That opened up the chance to get two free oneways on roundtrip awards. That chance is no more.

Check out this award I priced out from Los Angeles to New York, stopover, New York to London. This would have cost 20,000 miles total. Now it costs 32,500 miles.

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4) American Airlines has eliminated the Explorer Award.

This is a huge blow for me personally because I was planning on booking myself one of these up-to-16-flights around-the-world awards that I’ve explained here.

American Airlines had by far the best round-the-world awards until yesterday, and now it has no option for round-the-world awards.

5) US Airways increased the amount of miles for a business class saver award from the US to North Asia from 90,000 to 110,000 miles roundtrip.

I covered this in detail yesterday.

The takeaways: Book your next US Airways award to North Asia in First Class for 120k miles instead. Or use the even sweeter spot of Central America to South Asia for 90k miles roundtrip in business class.

6) American Airlines is increasing the phone fee it charges on award tickets to $35.

It was $25 until yesterday. This phone fee is unavoidable on tons of American Airlines awards because most oneworld partners are not searchable and bookable on aa.com.

7) Starting April 30, customers who have the US Airways MasterCard® will receive one free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions.

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8) American Airlines AAnytime awards are going to a three tier system.

Until yesterday, American Airlines had the best value “standard” awards. For double the price of a MileSAAver (saver) award, you could get the last seat on the plane.

I had never taken advantage, but there were some circumstances where that would have been a good deal.

No more. The new American Airlines award chart has three levels of AAnytime awards, so if you’re getting the last seat on the plane, expect to pay through the nose.

By the way, if you click that link, you might notice that MileSAAver awards have two levels too. That’s not a substantive change, just a change from the old nomenclature. What used to be called “off peak” awards, which are only possible to certain regions, are Level 1. What used to be peak awards are Level 2. No MileSaaver prices changed.

9) US Airways is ending black out dates.

Even with three tiers of award prices, US Airways had some routes and dates with no availability at any price. That’s no more, but I’m sure the former black out dates will have exorbitant price tags that I’ll avoid.

10) US Airways High Level awards are splitting into two tiers starting June 1, 2014.

The US Airways award chart will soon have Low, Medium, High Level 1, and High Level 2 awards.

11) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, US Airways Silver and American Airlines Gold will only get one free checked bag on American Airlines flights.

12) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, full fare economy passengers on American Airlines are going from two free checked bags to zero.

13) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, people flying economy AAnytime awards on American Airlines are going from two free checked bags to zero.

14) For tickets issued April 23, 2014 and later, US Airways Gold and Platinum Elites and American Airlines Platinum Elites are going from three free checked bags all the time to only two free checked bags when they fly economy on US Airways flights.

15) For tickets booked after April 8, 2014 on American Airlines flights, the free checked bag between the US and Mexico/Caribbean/Central America for all passengers is gone. New prices: $25 for the first bag, $40 for the second.

16) For tickets booked after April 8, 2014, the you will only get one free checked back on American Airlines flights to/from Brazil. You used to get two.

17) American Airlines’ unacocompanied minor fee is going from $100 to $150 each way.

I may have missed some other changes because US Airways and American Airlines didn’t communicate all of these is one place. Please let me know what I’ve missed in the comments.



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21 COMMENTS

  1. I’m still pretty new to the points & miles game, so I’m sorry if my question is a bit naive. My husband and I both got the 100k offer for the Citi AAdvantage card. We were planning to use the miles to fly to Europe, and add one-ways to Hawaii. So I can no longer do this? Ugh.

  2. The elimination of the AA Explorer Award is indeed a blow. I was hoping to use the Explorer Award in May 2015 to visit India. Now what? What is my best alternative now?

  3. If you had to guess, when would you say we’ll be able to freely transfer miles between our US and AA accounts?

  4. One nice perk for elites are losing is the “no-fee” points upgrades. After 4/23 that will be eliminated for all elites (even Chairman). Elites of course can get complimentary upgrades but at Silver those quite often don’t materialize so locking in an upgrade with some points was always nice (especially when traveling with family). Buying a cheap coach fair and (if available) immediately confirming in first (for no charge) was GREAT! That way we’d still get the flight points towards status, etc.

    • There are no new MileSAAver levels. They just renamed off peak as Level 1 MileSAAver and the normal MileSAAver is Level 2. Both will be available to Avios.

  5. Did US Airways drop the blackout dates for miles redemption immediately or is that change going to happen in the near future?

  6. Hey Scott:
    Sorry this is slightly off-topic but the other day you were discussing USAir availability on BA.com and asking for examples of flights that show up on AA and/or USAir website but not on BA. I just came across the problem again so thought I’d share the example so you can hopefully shed some light. Flying CHS-ATL June 3, returning June 7. AA.com shows one USAir flight out for 12.5k and two options for return flights, both USAir, for 12.5k. BA.com shows only First class availability with Avios on *a different outbound flight altogether* and no availability at all coming back. Am I missing something??
    Thanks,
    OMP

  7. I booked a round trip ticket from Seoul back to the States in June using dividend miles. Then I wanted to fly back to Seoul next March. At the time of booking I was unable to book next March. Do you think I will be able to get a clean change? (that is nothing in addition to the general change fee.)

    • I don’t fully understand your question. But all legs must be flown within one year of your original booking date.

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