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.
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.
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.
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.