Actually getting the merger between American Airlines and US Airways finalized took a while. Getting the first bits of cross-airline recognition implemented went much more quickly; it took less than a month from the closing of the merger until the initial changes were rolled out to travelers. And, sure, the changes made are the low-hanging fruit, but they are significant to the very frequent flyers, the passengers who theoretically provide the bulk of the profits to the airline.
The reciprocity announced today is pretty simple and easily summed into three categories:
- Reciprocal lounge access for members – Now up to 54 total lounges in 45 airports; the 45 airport footprint is the largest of US carriers and possibly the most of any carrier worldwide.
- Reciprocal earn & burn for miles – The earning includes elite status bonus miles and qualification towards elite status for all US or AA operated flights when credited to either program. Similarly, redemption across both carriers is possible using the award chart from the program where the miles are being redeemed. The aa.com site already shows US-operated flights as options and, rather surprisingly, the US site is showing AA flights as award options, too.
- Limited reciprocal elite benefits – Some elite benefits, such as priority baggage handling, security screening, boarding and check-in services are being offered across both airlines to all elite members of both programs. Other elite benefits such as upgrades are not being offered. Not too surprising as the upgrades are run with rather different policies today and it is not yet clear which will be kept in the future.
So, yes, this was quick action on the part of the new American to get some benefits in place. That’s great news for customers. But we’re a long, long way away from everything being done. Baby steps in the right direction is certainly a good thing.
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