A US Airways/AA Merger Isn’t All Bad For Domestic Travelers

If you read this blog very much you know that due to where I live, I don’t spend most of my flight time on either US Airways or American Airlines except when I am using miles or points.  I love US Airways points for other Star Alliance airlines (and their Envoy Suite I flew a few days ago wasn’t bad either), and I like American Airlines because British Airways Avios can be used very effectively for some short hops from hub to hub in the US. Read this post for some of the perks of booking flights on American using Avios. 

Now no one knows what a combined US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer program will look like (though we know the great US Airways Star Alliance awards will be gone), but we do pretty much know that there will be more good Avios domestic redemptions as a result since those awards are priced and booked via British Airways, and are only tied to American Airlines saver award availability, and not any specific American Airlines award chart.  For example, with the US Airways network joining the American Airlines and OneWorld family, I would now have access to direct flights from Houston to Phoenix, Charlotte, and Philadelphia using Avios (at least based on the current US Airways route map, which I am sure will be tweaked some).

Based on the current BA Avios distance based system for OneWorld partners, flights from Houston to Phoenix or Charlotte would be 7,500 Avios each way, and Houston to Philadelphia would be 10,000 Avios each way.  This is less than the typical 12,500 each-way/25,000 miles round trip it would have previously cost on these routes via US Airways or American Airlines miles.  Those destinations combined with other direct flights to current AA hubs like Dallas, Chicago, Miami, LA, and NYC give a fair number of destinations that my family can get to for a relatively few number of Avios – especially if transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards happen again in the future.

There will be many changes coming from this merger, and not all of them will be good, but as always, there will be some small victories along the way.  This is likely to be one of those for those who like to travel to some domestic destinations via miles and points.  Fingers crossed that the two airlines take some of the strengths from each others frequent flyer programs instead of creating a new one that is less than the sum of its two parts…

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  1. Either way you look at it, the US airline industry is headed for oligopoly status, which is the exact opposite intent of the airline deregulation act of 1978.

    Eastern, Western, Piedmont, Pacific Southwest, TWA, Pan Am, Mohawk, Allegheny, etc. all gone; now we are down to three super carriers (Delta, United, “Merged” American) and Southwest as the national “low cost” carrier. As for commuter lines, they better figure out how to operate without being held captive by the super carriers for revenue, or their days are over, too.

    JetBlue, Spirit, Virgin America, Alaska, etc. are all ripe for being squeezed out of gate slots and fares undoubtedly will go up. Virgin America is on deathwatch already. Alaska will survive based on monopoly status over the 49th state, but in twelve to eighteen months, the pain of flying in the United States will only get worse.

  2. I’m somewhat of a fan of the merger but I was also a fan of the TWA AA merger and I got hurt when we (STL) lost dozens of gates and a hub. I doubt PHL and or PHX remain hubs. Just guessing but unless they do some unusal stuff the hubs will go toward the larger cities that AA already has.

  3. For those in eastern half of the country, the coverage is excellent.

    For those in western half, this merger barely improves things. And for those in northwest, they would continue to rely on Alaska Air.

  4. I’m based in Philadelphia, and so always USAir and never American. I’m wondering what a distance-based award system like AA has would do for the northeast where many of USAir’s flights are short-haul business routes (PHL-BOS, PHL-DCA, PHL-PIT) where they often jack up the price because of the lack of competition. As someone who frequently flies these routes, but doesn’t have the corporate account to back it up, I’m wondering if you think there would be better award availability or none whatsoever because those routes at 4,500 miles would be too good a deal. How does American deal with this on other business-heavy routes elsewhere in its route map?

  5. Sorry, in my above comment I was referring to using Avios to book on AA. Would this be possible on short-haul, heavily trafficked routes?

  6. As a DFW based flyer I am cautiously optimistic. In the past year I began branching out to United just because of award availability. It involves a connection, but worth the effort to get biz/first.

  7. Our family has a couple hundred thousand US Air miles and a couple hundred thousand AA miles. I am looking forward to the prospect of additional hubs to use our British Airway miles. We mostly fly domestic and I have a hard time finding good flight options for our US Air miles. We use our AA miles primarily to get to/from Hawaii and Alaska. I’m hoping that the award availability is more like AA’s than US Air’s. And that the roundtrip miles getting to/from Hawaii and Alaska is also in-line with AA’s milesaver 35k (Hawaii) and 25k (Alaska)

  8. At first I was borderline devestated by this news because I fill up my United miles with my frequent US Airways flights and will lose star alliance benefits. However, this post has made me realize the potential benefits with Avios that I hadn’t thought of. My primary flights anymore are between my current “home” airport and two midwestern cities to see family–both of which have a direct flight on US Airways. Provided that neither of those flights get cancelled in this merger, it is now only 15,000 Avios miles to travel roundtrip, rather than the “off peak” (only in September!?!) of 20K with a US Airways Mastercard discount, but more realistically 35K to 55K (flights I would never book with miles to book anyway).

    US Airways Award Chart:
    http://www.usairways.com/en-US/dividendmiles/usemiles/awardchart.html

    Avios Award chart can be found on this Points Guy page
    http://thepointsguy.com/2012/04/maximizing-british-airways-avios-series-distance-based-awards/

    (@mommypoints–do you have any links to the award charts for all the airlines on your page anywhere so that we don’t have to search for them at different sites? I Didn’t see a page on your site, but I didn’t look hard either).

    So for two roundtrip flights it is only 30K Avios points. A “cheap” flight on my typical routes is typically $180-$250 depending on which city before taxes/fees ($360-$500 before taxes fees for two tickets). In other words, I would be getting about 1.2-1.6 cents per mile on the average “cheap” flight that I take usually once every month or two–and that is booking months out in advance. At least one blogger claims that Avios is worht 1.7 cents per mile, which is close to that range. Plus, I would be able to book last minute weekend flights, as opposed to planning out months in advance when I would have to leave. And, Ultimate Rewards transfers to Avios…meaning all of these URs that I have sitting there means I may never have to pay for this roundtrip flight again… Or, if all of my Avios and UR run out, I may just open up an Amex during the next big promo… Now, if only UR would offer transfer bonuses to BA like Amex does… In other words, I view this as potentially saving me $300-$500 a month just b/c of all of my BA Avios miles and UR rewards that I have been trying to figure out what to do with anyway.

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  10. I’m trying to find out how to “earn” avios. Are there domestic flights (Alaskan or American) that actually earn points. Not really sure how I will ever obtain enough avios to redeem??

    Thank for your help.