American and US Airways combined frequent flier programs over the weekend. And if your miles from your US Airways accounts aren’t yet showing up in an American AAdvantage account, be patient. They’re still working through all of the conversions, and you’ll get emails from American updating you on the progress.
While they’ve done a good job of communicating about what’s going on with your account, they’ve been less clear about the changes you’ll see as a US Airways Dividend Miles member now that it’s all part of American AAdvantage.
If you’re just a regular flier saving up for an award, here’s what you should know about your new American AAdvantage account:
Good. No more award ‘processing’ fees.
US Airways had horrible fees just for the right to book any award ticket, even online. They cost $25 – $50 per reservation, but they are now gone. The only time you’ll get charged for booking an award ticket now is if you try booking your ticket 21 days or less before your flight. That’s a $75 fee.
Good. You can change dates for free.
US Airways socked you with a $150 fee if you made any change to an award ticket. American AAdvantage is more generous.
You can now change the date of any award ticket for free up to 21 days before departure, no matter whether you booked it with American or US Airways miles. It’s a great feature that United and Delta don’t offer.
Good. You get free bags on both airlines.
If you hold a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard. Citi Executive AAdvantage MasterCard, or former US Airways Premier MasterCard, your free bag benefit now works on both American and US Airways flights. Just make sure you have the American AAdvantage number associated with your card in your reservation.
Good. You can book other airlines online.
US Airways’ website was sneaky about not showing you other airlines you could book with your miles.
American’s website is much better about that.
Partners like British Airways, Finnair, Air Berlin, Qantas, and more show up automatically when you search on AA.com. But be aware there are still some big missing airlines, like Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Etihad, TAM, and Japan Airlines. If you’re trying to get to Asia, India, South America, or the Middle East, give American a call to search those other airlines for you.
Or if you’re into doing things yourself, the British Airways website lists most of them, but you’ll have to go through the hassle of setting up a free login for their site to search.
Good. One way awards are okay.
US Airways charged you double if you wanted to book a one way award. American lets you book one way trips with your miles for half the price of a roundtrip, which is fair. That’s useful if you want to use other miles to book the other direction of your trip, in case American doesn’t have award space on the day you want to return.
Good. You can upgrade both American and US Airways flights
It’s the same price to upgrade with your miles or certificates on either American or US Airways now that the programs are combined. You can see the prices here. Just be careful to avoid booking ‘code share’ flights, which we talk about below.
And if you’re an elite member of AAdvantage or the former Dividend Miles, your elite upgrades are now more useful. Every AAdvantage elite member can now get upgraded at the usual US Airways upgrade windows on US Airways flights. And if you want to upgrade on American flights you can do so via American’s rules, which involve special upgrade credits that are being deposited to your accounts. It’s all laid out step by step here .
Bad. Want to go to Asia, Africa, or Australia? The rules are harder.
US Airways used to let you fly just about any way to get to your destination when booking with miles. But American is more strict. Here’s a brief rundown of its rules for routing you on an award ticket.
- Africa: You must go via Europe or Doha with Qatar Airways. No flying via Asia or South America.
- India / Middle East: You must go via Europe, or directly to the Middle East / India. No traveling via Asia. But if you want to go to India, you can pass through hubs like Doha or Amman, as they are all part of the same territory as far as American Airlines is concerned.
- Asia: You must go over the Pacific, and can’t go via Europe, which can often times be the same distance when you’re flying from the East Coast. That’s a bummer.
- Australia: You can only go straight from the U.S. to Australia. No flying via Asia, which US Airways allowed and opened up a lot of options.
Bad. The US Airways companion ticket is ending.
If you had a US Airways MasterCard, you were probably enticed by the annual certificate that let you bring up to 2 companions along on a trip for $99 plus tax. That’s going away. Everyone is being given new ‘AAdvantage Aviator ‘ cards, and this is the last year those certificates are being given out. The last of them expire on October 31, for travel through the end of the year. And the travel must only be on US Airways flights.
Going forward, there is a more expensive Aviator card, the Aviator Silver, which lets you earn a companion certificate each year, but you have to spend a big $30,000 a year on your card to earn it. Which is a lot harder than the old system.
Bad. Code share flights are still a mess.
If you see ‘Operated by American Airlines’ or ‘Operated by US Airways’ when you’re booking your flight, it’s probably a code share.
Instead, go to the website of the airline that’s running it to book your flight and get a native flights. So if you see ‘Operated by American Airlines’ when searching USAirways.com, head over to AA.com to book that flight. And if you see ‘Operated by US Airways’ when you’re trying to book a flight on AA.com, try heading over to USAirways.com to pull up that flight.
The reservation systems of the two airlines are different, so you’ll experience fewer headaches if you buy your ticket with the airline that’s actually flying your plane. American has some examples here. and we’ve included two below.
If you see this on AA.com, try booking via USAirways.com
If you see this on USAirways.com, try booking via AA.com