When Will US Airways and American Let You Combine and Transfer Miles Between Accounts?

In response to news that US Airways and American Airlines won’t actually combine to become one airline until late 2015 (at the earliest), Stuart Falk asks,

In the light of this when would you expect one would be able to transfer miles between programs?

They may or may not make it possible to transfer points between US Airways and American frequent flyer accounts before programs get combined.

  • US Airways/America West allowed it.
  • Delta/Northwest did too.
  • And so did United/Continental.

So you would expect that American and US Airways would.

It isn’t just about customer convenience, although that is important too. Dragging things out this long is frustrating for customers. That is especially true when there isn’t true elite recognition reciprocity between the two airlines. Elites can only upgrade at check-in if first class upgrade seats are available at that time (American elites can also get added to the US Airways airport standby list). US Airways elites cannot book one-way awards like American allows, and can’t get fee-free changes and redeposits when booking awards with American miles. And US Airways tickets aren’t valid for standby travel on American or vice versa under normal circumstances (i.e. outside of irregular operations when one airline re-accommodates you on the other).

Instead, it’s actually a service to the airline to get customers to link their frequent flyer accounts. It is an enormous data challenge to merge frequent flyer programs. There are more than 100 million members of the two programs. Many of those members have accounts with both airlines. They have to figure out how to match those up. Names could be the same but addresses are different (old addresses, home vs. business addresses). Names could be the same, and addresses the same, but people are different (father-son in the same household, for instance).

Engaged customers can fix this before it even becomes a problem.

And that’s why I have to think that the airlines will make it possible to combine miles, or move than back and forth between accounts (they may or may not permit miles to be moved in both directions, or moved at-will more than once).

That would need to happen several months before airlines combine in order for it to make any sense and be useful — to consumers, to the airline to get consumers to do it and help their data problems, and to justify the cost of the IT work.

So if the airlines combine in late 2015, and the programs combine in late 2015, I’d guess — and this is speculation — that linking accounts and moving miles would become an option by the second quarter of 2015. Although I hope it happens sooner.

And I hope that, given the long timeframe for the programs to combine, that there is more elite recognition across airlines that happens before then… along the lines of true upgrade reciprocity, with US Airways 100,000 mile flyers getting the same upgrade priority and timing of American 100,000 mile flyers, and even potentially with each airline’s international upgrades being valid on the other airline’s flights.

I’d also love to see some more alignment of the two programs before they’re actually combined. For instance, I think it would be a great symbol if US Airways top tier elites got 8 systemwide upgrades in 2015, for instance.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] As someone who is trying to combine 50,000 US with 5,000 AA for a US-HKG J award, I hope I don't have to wait until the 2nd quarter which could be as late as June and as early as April…quite a wide time range (is March technically part of 2nd quarter??). AA has specifically stated that they will provide a way to "link" accounts in "early" 2015 (before the mileage programs are combined in the 2nd quarter)…my guess (and hope) is that they may provide a way to move miles at that point given that the last three airline mergers (HP/US, DL/NW, UA/CO) all allowed it a few months prior to full program integration. http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea….iles-accounts/ […]

  2. […] As someone who is trying to combine 50,000 US (from the credit card) with 5,000 AA for a one-way US-HKG J award, I hope I don't have to wait until the 2nd quarter which could be as late as June and as early as April…quite a wide time range (is March technically part of 2nd quarter??). AA has specifically stated that they will provide a way to "link" accounts in "early" 2015 (before the mileage programs are combined in the 2nd quarter)…my guess (and hope) is that they may provide a way to move miles at that point given that the last three airline mergers (HP/US, DL/NW, UA/CO) all allowed it a few months prior to full program integration. http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea….iles-accounts/ […]

Comments

  1. Do not count on automatic reciprocal upgrades! AA does not want to pay the cost to upgrade Sabre to be able to handle it. On the US side, it could be done today (as the code is already there from US/HP and CO/UA). Look at how US has better recognition of AA elites and can place them on standby for upgrades already. Don’t be fooled, it all comes down to $$$ and AA is being ridiculously cheap here, and it’s incredibly frustrating for all elites.

  2. Now that cross fleeting is starting, it’s quite a disservice for elite members that AA isn’t offering any status reciprocity. So while the airline is free to use either side’s metal, the elite is treated very differently based on whose metal operates.

  3. “@IT nerd – I’ve thought (and written) that the way to do it in my mind is to offer reciprocal status match”

    This is a great idea – How do you get the two airlines to agree?

  4. Well they may not be able to let you combine accounts but they have managed to not allow the 5,000 mile barclay credit for reward flights that are booked on AA metal for US Air DM card holders. I’m in the middle of booking a trip to Asia today and go through the whole deal via US Air and all along it’s quoting me 5k savings per passenger until I go to pick flights and of course all the flights are AA. You get a little pop up telling you that you won’t get the discount if you pick that flight. BS I say. It shouldn’t matter.
    I sound disappointed don’t I?

  5. Gary,

    You mentioned that the earnings call revealed that AA is viewing AAdvantage as a competitive differentiator. Can this be taken to mean that they are less likely go go in a revenue-based direction?

  6. The reciprocal status match is best done after linking the 2 programs
    Can you imagine 3 MM members asking for their status match to be processed one by one?

  7. With regards to US members still not being able to book one-way awards – does that also apply to class of service? For example, I was thinking of booking a RT from JFK-HKG on CX using Dividend Miles, but with one direction in Biz and the other in First for 115k. Is that allowed or will they charge me the full 120k?

  8. I know its frowned upon, but if I were to sell my US Air miles and that account ultimately got closed do you think that would have any impact on my AA account? I know its not the best use of my miles, but I have tons of miles and need cash to fund all the trips I’m taking and rarely use US Air miles.

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