American and US Airways have merged and now are officially one airline to the government, with a single operating certificate.
As of Wednesday, both airlines will use the “American” call sign when pilots communicate with air traffic controllers. US Airways’ last “Cactus” flight was scheduled to leave London Heathrow Airport at 3 a.m. Wednesday and land in Philadelphia around 11:40 a.m. the same day. US Airways inherited “Cactus” from America West Airlines in its 2005 merger.
Before midnight last night, all US Airways departures used its own legacy codes. After midnight in the US they started using American codes.
This is something that doesn’t directly change the customer experience at all. Flights are still being marketed as US Airways, and the US Airways reservation system and website still exist. But it’s a necessary step to be able to complete the rest of the customer-facing elements of the merger.
Interestingly, Southwest didn’t paint Airtran planes in its own livery until they had a single operating certificate. American has been repainting US Airways aircraft for three quarters of a year already.
There’s already just a single frequent flyer program, but the two airlines operate differently with benefits like upgrades continuing to work differently even for the same people with the same status but across two carriers.
Nonetheless, if American offered ‘channel 9’ customers onboard would hear their US Airways flights referred to by air traffic control as American. Because even though we’ll keep calling them US Airways for several more months — the government will not.
Next up for customers is the single reservation system in the fall. At that point the two airlines really will be one for all intents and purposes, since everything will ‘work like American’ regardless of the planes and crews that you’re flying on.
And then the US Airways website will be decommissioned, which can’t come soon enough.