The Process to Merge American-US Airways to a Single Reservation System Could Start As Soon as July. Here’s How It Will Work.

The day the American-US Airways merger was announced, Doug Parker said clearly that they would learn from the reservation systems migrations of other mergers — this meant the disasters of US Airways/America West and United/Continental (where the smaller carrier’s system was adopted) and the relatively more successful integration of Delta/Northwest.

They made the choice of American’s reservation system official in January of last year but at the time said the transition could take ‘up to 2 years’.

For at least a year they’ve talked about avoiding a “knife’s edge” approach. They haven’t done a cutover of everything at once. This has lengthened the cutover process, but helps minimize risks. For instance they’ve already sunsetted the US Airways Dividend Miles program and transitioned everyone into American AAdvantage, and replaced US Airways account numbers with AAdvantage numbers in reservations.

So far they’ve done a good job — relatively little customer inconvenience.

They’re using the American reservation system just as they’ve migrated frequent flyer programs onto the American platform.

American went out today with information to major business partners about the transition to a single reservation system.

They’ve shared that when the integration is complete they will retaining interfaces that employees of both airlines are already familiar with — training for a new system was a big issue both for US Airways/America West and even more so for United/Continental. This should make it easier for employees to help customers accurately and quickly. (A new interface was something United learned after the fact that they needed to build.)

They’re communicating that the transition is going to be a 90 day process, which could begin as early as July (meaning final integration as early as October). That’s probably a month or so earlier than I had expected.

  • There will be a schedule change that eliminates US Airways flight numbers 90 days into the future. All of those future flights will carry an American flight number only.

  • Existing US Airways reservations that have travel at least 90 days in the future will be migrated to American’s Sabre reservation system, so that they become American reservations for the same flight.

This is brilliant, actually. Only 10% of bookings are made over 90 days in advance. That means there will be a very small number of reservations that have to be migrated over to the American system. During the transition period they’ll stop booking US Airways reservations, and nearly all existing US Airways reservations will be flown during this period rather than having to be migrated.

  • In July they’ll start the transition
  • All flights 90 days into the future will be American flights
  • 90 days after the transition starts they’ll move to the single reservation system, when they are only operating as American with American flight numbers.

They will ‘drain down’ US Airways reservations while continuing to operate US Airways flights and flight numbers. And thanks to this 90 day transition there won’t be nearly as big a data migration challenge to move to one reservation system (Sabre).

They will have moved over much of the data (US Airways reservations made more than 90 days into the future) during the transition period, and will still need to move over remaining US Airways ticket information.

In the meantime, continue to book American flights with an American flight number, and US Airways flights with a US Airways flight number if you want to upgrade prior to check-in. Once flights transition to a single American flight number (travel 90 days after this process begins) this will no longer matter.

Key takeaways:

  • Once the process runs to change future US Airways flights over to American flights, you’ll be able to waitlist for international upgrades (currently upgrade space is available or it isn’t and there’s no waitlisting).

  • These former US Airways flights will not offer complimentary upgrades to Gold and Platinum elite frequent flyers unless they’re under 500 miles — since they will be American flights, and the upgrade process will run on the American system. 500 mile upgrade certificates will apply. (Of course US Airways elites were gifted some of these when the two frequent flyer programs combined.)

  • You’ll need to pay even more attention to the aircraft you’re booking. Cross-fleeting has already been in place but for the most part it’s been safe to assume that legacy American flights had Main Cabin Extra. There’s not been a timetable announced yet for when legacy US Airways aircraft will get extra legroom coach seating. And I know I don’t want to fly US Airways coach. So I’ll keep doing my best to avoid legacy US Airways planes, as a hedge against my upgrade not clearing, because I at least want that legroom.

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. What they really should do is jack up the prices of any USAir tickets until 90 days out. This will reduce the footprint further.

  2. I’d agree that Main Cabin Extra is materially more comfortable than US Airways’ coach, but do you have enough flexibility in your schedule — or budget — to avoid the US’ flights? I certainly don’t. If the route is a US route, I fly US. It’s not awful — we’re talking a couple inches of less legroom. And, as an a oneworld sapphire, I get access to the exit row inventory (which tends to be quite available). I assume you have such access, too. On some aircraft (but not all) that has more legroom than US first class, and is certainly better than MCE.

  3. You mentioned the 500 miles upgrade certificates that US Air elites were supposed to be “gifted”. None have ever shown up in my account – I assumed that they would after the merger was complete, but the way you put it, I should have them by now. Should I reach out to AA?
    I was US Air Silver/am AA Gold now.

  4. Gary – thanks for improving blog content with awesome items like this. You’re winning me back.

    On a related note – how will this change impact those of us sitting on 4x US Airways Companion Certificates from the old Barclays cards? Will those become useless or will we be able to use them on any American flights now?

  5. The companion certificates from Barclays will continue to be valid through their expiration date, and once there are no longer US flights to use them on (July) they should become valid on AA flights.

    Here’s what an AA spokesperson tells me, “Dividend Miles Barclaycard cardholders who still have an outstanding companion certificate need to book by 9/30/2015 for travel completed by 12/31/2015, only valid for flights on US Airways.”

    I’ve asked for more clarification though — since by August/September there will not be any US Airways flights in the schedule for November/December.

  6. @Gardner how many miles did you fly on US metal in 2014? They should be there by now if the formula indicates you’d have gotten some.

  7. @iahphx well there are plenty of routes where schedule works equally well for me via DFW as CLT or PHX and I’ll go out of my way to avoid US metal. But there are times it’s unavoidable, such as north-south flying when I’m in DC.

  8. @Gary – I flew 25, 052 on US last year to requalify for silver (now AA gold). My current 500 Mile upgrade balance on AA.com is 0.

  9. We were told in the agency community to only issue AA tickets for travel after 10/1 even if the flights were on US metal. That dovetails nicely into the 7/4 schedule change that makes all flights AA (and all tickets AA/001) from 10/1 to 5/31 (end of schedule).

  10. When will this kick in for AS mileage plan to get credit for ex-US flights then? October it looks like?

  11. Gary – I have two RT award tickets on American marketed and U.S. air metal that I am not going to be able to use. Do you think the schedule change you mention could help squeeze me out of the $300 to get the miles back from these award flights?

  12. @Gary — Ah, connecting flights. I generally don’t fly those (especially if I’m redeeming Avios miles), and if I am, there’s rarely an “equal choice” between AA and US flights. If there was, though, I’d pick AA, too: it’s just a marginally better experience, including the seating choices.

  13. @Mark there are quarterly schedule changes so depending on when travel is there could be a good chance of a significant enough change to avoid those fees, so often a good idea to wait to cancel/deposit

  14. The real travesty about the US product is the total lack of power ports. That’s the biggest reason why I avoid them

  15. My international itinerary booked with DIvidend Miles/USAirways begins October 13, has a stopover on October 18, and ends November 3 … will I be on two systems on one trip, how will I handle this? What problems should I anticipate?

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