With American Airlines and US Airways merging their frequent flyer programs as of next year, what does this mean if you've bought miles on either airline to use for 'free' redemption flights on Oneworld partners such as Qantas, Cathay Pacific and British Airways?
Mileage balances held in US Airways' Dividend Miles scheme will be converted to American's AAdvantage miles on a 1:1 basis in the second quarter of next year.
Until then, you’re still free to redeem those miles through US Airways at the current US Airways award rates, while any existing miles sitting in your AA account aren’t affected by these changes.
If you’ve taken Australian Business Traveller’s advice to buy miles in previous months, but you’ve instead decided to save them for a rainy day, their value may actually increase once they’re moved across to AA.
That’s because the number of miles needed to book an award flight varies between the schemes, with AAdvantage commanding fewer miles than Dividend Miles on certain routes to book the same seat on the same flight.
Whether you’re looking to travel sooner or later, here’s what it means for your secret stash of US Airways Dividend Miles.
Redeeming miles for flights to Asia
When flying from Australia to destinations across Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, travellers need to fork out 90,000 Dividend Miles for a round-trip journey in business class, or 120,000 miles in first class.
On the other hand, it takes just 70,000 AAdvantage miles to make the same business class booking to most Asian destinations, and 90,000 AA miles in first class.
From the second quarter of next year, your existing balance – that may be enough to get you somewhere in business class – will instead get you to that same destination in first class where it’s available, such as on British Airways from Sydney to Singapore.
The only exceptions are Japan and South Korea, where the 90,000/120,000-mile rates also apply in AAdvantage.
Redeeming miles for flights to the Middle East
Qantas flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Dubai, along with Qatar Airways’ services from Melbourne and Perth to Doha, will also need fewer miles to book following the changeover.
US Air currently commands 120,000 miles in business class and 150,000 miles in first class (where available) on a return journey, although AA charges just 90,000 miles in business class and 120,000 miles in first on the same flights.
Again, the number of miles needed to book a business class flight today will actually land you a first class sojourn on the Qantas A380 from next year.
Redeeming miles for flights to South Africa
Also winners of the shake-up are travellers heading to South Africa on Qantas’ Sydney-Johannesburg flights.
Round-trip business class costs dip from 130,000 to 100,000 miles once your balance resides with AA, while economy journeys enjoy a similar drop from 100,000 miles to 75,000 miles.
As is the trend, business class flights will be available from next year using the same number of miles that economy flights demand today.
Redeeming miles for flights to Europe, the Americas
London bound? There’s no difference between redeeming AA and US miles between Australia and Heathrow, although first class does increase by a mere 5,000 miles in each direction.
Between home soil and American cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth and New York, business class rises slightly from 110,000 to 125,000 miles, with first class moving from 140,000 under Dividend Miles to 145,000 miles under AAdvantage.
That said, these particular flights are usually in high commercial demand and have very few award seats available, so if a trip to the Land of the Free is on the horizon, book as soon as you can – firstly before the ‘cost’ increases, and secondly before your preferred award seat disappears.
The number of miles needed to fly between Australia and South America, such as on Qantas’ Sydney-Santiago flights or LAN’s Sydney-Auckland-Santiago services, is unchanged.
All things considered, the changes brought about by the merger of American Airlines AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles are generally of great benefit to existing customers.
These travellers now have the confidence that their Dividend Miles balance won’t simply disappear – but will even become more valuable – when the airlines flick the switch in 2015.
More on AAdvantage and Dividend Miles:
- American Airlines, US Airways to combine frequent flyer programs
- Buying US Airways Dividend Miles for low-cost Oneworld flights
- American Airlines, US Airways to offer reciprocal first class upgrades
- Buying miles for discounted flights: Dividend Miles vs AAdvantage
- US Airways joins Oneworld: Qantas frequent flyer perks, and more
- Low-cost Qantas business, first class buying AAdvantage miles
- Life after Qantas Lifetime Gold: AAdvantage
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