The first steps in the gradual integration of American Airlines and US Airways have been announced. These are just baby steps. Eventually, the two airlines' frequent flyer programs will be combined, and your miles will be merged. (If past mergers are any indication, you may even be given a little mileage bonus to provide both membership numbers, so look out for that). And you'll also see membership rules "aligned" in coming months, since the two programs are quite different. US Airways, for example, charges $25 to $50 to redeem miles (unless you're a elite member), a policy we hope that will not survive the merger.
So here's what to expect as from today:
• AAdvantage and Dividend Miles members can earn and redeem miles when traveling across either airline's network. All travel on eligible tickets on both airlines will count toward qualification for elite status in the customer's program of choice.
• Elite members of each airline can enjoy select reciprocal benefits of both the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs, including First and Business Class check-in, priority security and priority boarding, complimentary access to Preferred Seats, priority baggage delivery, and checked bags at no charge, consistent with the current baggage policies for each carrier.
• Members of the American Admirals Club or US Airways Club will have reciprocal club benefits, providing them access to the 35 Admirals Clubs and 19 US Airways Clubs. In addition, American AAdvantage Citi Executive cardholders will have access to US Airways Clubs.
• Airport and Web check-in timeframes will be aligned for both US Airways and American.
• Boarding announcements will align to accommodate elites of both carriers.
• Airport ticket counters and gates at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport are now co-located.
From what we hear, American's IT department will be leading the software integration, and as the airline that invented Sabre and many other IT innovations, we expect they won't have the same computer glitches that United experienced in swallowing up Continental.