American Airlines and US Airways made tweaks – some substantive – to their frequent flyer loyalty programs on Tuesday. The airlines also said they now have new checked bag policies; some previously free bag situations have been eliminated. US Airways customers also will gain new entertainment options on international flights.
What's the news mean to the average frequent flyer? Here’s a synopsis of what American says it’s doing with the changes. Following that is a link to a Dallas Morning News’ online site with a good blog review about which of the changes are “good” and “bad” for travelers.
First, the changes…
Mileage Redemption Structure: Effective April 8 for travel starting June 1, Dividend Miles members now will book last seat availability awards for flights year-round without any blackout dates. For AAdvantage members, AAnytime award travel will now be available more for than half of the year at an even lower redemption level.
Previous redemption rates called for 25,000 miles one way, and the new redemptions will start at 20,000 miles one way. Redemption mileage during the remainder of the year will begin at 30,000 miles one way for last seat availability.
The exceptions will fall on the busiest travel days of the year. On those days, American will offer a higher award redemption option, which will be available starting at 50,000 miles one way.
Checked Bag Policies
American has also updated its checked bag policies. For flights operated by American, these changes take place for tickets issued starting April 8. For flights operated by US Airways, these changes take place for tickets issued starting April 23.
The changes include removing the second bag charge on flights to and from South America. Also, AAdvantage Gold members and Dividend Miles Platinum and Gold members will receive one fewer free checked bag than they do today.
Customers traveling on an AAnytime award or a full-fare economy ticket (on legacy American) will no longer receive free checked bags.
Lastly, Citi cardholders will continue to receive one free checked bag, and starting April 30, that same benefit will also apply to customers who have the US Airways MasterCard with an annual fee of at least $79.
American will continue to offer five free checked bags to military servicemen and women traveling on orders and three bags to military servicemen and women on personal travel.
Customers in first class on flights operated by US Airways will now enjoy an updated selection of fresh meals on most flights longer than 1,000 nautical miles, or about two hours 45 minutes in duration.
Customers in international business class on flights operated by US Airways will have new entertainment options with new Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones.
In US Airways’ business class on Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, travelers will be able to access 60 movies and a greater variety of television programs, as well as audio selections on the new Samsung Galaxy Tab.
US Airways’ business class on Airbus A330 aircraft will offer double the number of previous entertainment options with more than 250 movies and 350 audio choices.
For details on inflight enhancements, visit www.usairways.com.
But What Do The Changes Mean?
Dropping the level for a free domestic ticket to 20,000 miles is a good perk for consumers, but at the same time, the airline added those tiers -- which means some travelers may actually pay far more in miles for a free ticket than they did under the previous program.
Changes in the bag program will likely disappoint other consumers. Here’s an aviation blog published by the Dallas Morning News with its “good” and “bad” evaluation of the changes.