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American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles will be officially merging programs the weekend of March 29th. And US Airways Dividend Miles redemptions will be shut off at the end of the day on March 25th (tomorrow).
Right now, each program has its own award price chart, so the merger will involved moving to a single chart, and that means some prices will go up.
US Airways Dividend Miles members will see some price increases, with 6 of 20 price differences lower on the US Airways side than the AAdvantage side. All American AAdvantage award prices will remain the same.
Moreover US Airways currently allows free stopover stays on awards, which AAdvantage prohibits, so lock those in if you want them (and if you can get through to US Airways’ phone lines).
Here are side by side comparisons of each airline’s base level ‘Saver’ award prices from the U.S., to give you an idea of which awards you should book now to beat price increases. The prices are round-trip, in thousands of miles.
Hawaii – If you have Dividend Miles, you’re currently paying about 5,000 less for flights to Hawaii than American AAdvantage members during normal travel periods. Expect that 40,000 mile award to switch to 45,000 miles once the programs merge.
Asia – There are lots of differences to Asia – with puts and takes on both sides. If you are planning to go to Japan, Korea, or Mongolia, and have AAdvantage miles, use them now – as the 50,000 mile off peak award is at risk of increasing, though probably in a later change. The US Airways award of 60,000 miles will probably increase to the AAdvantage peak 65,000 mile level during peak periods (October – April).
If you’re headed to China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan, and have Dividend Miles, consider redeeming now at 60,000 miles, or risk paying 70,000 miles or more.
For Southeast Asia, if you have AAdvantage miles, book now or risk an increase to 80,000 from 70,000 miles roundtrip.
And for India and the Middle East, use US Airways miles while you can to save 10,000 miles or more.
Australia / South Pacific – Use your AAdvantage miles now at the great rate of 75,000 miles roundtrip for Qantas flights. Expect that to increase to 80,000 miles or more with the merger.
Business Class / 2 Cabin First Class
Hawaii – This will be better for Dividend Miles members.
Japan / Korea / Mongolia – 100,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class is a steal with AAdvantage miles – and will remain so for now.
India / Middle East / Central Asia – US Airways Dividend Miles come out ahead here at just 120,000 miles, and that price will end March 25.
Southeast Asia – 110,000 miles with AAdvantage is also a steal that will stay in place for now.
Australia / South Pacific – 110,000 AAdvantage miles is a great deal if you can find award space, which is rare on Qantas. Considering that Delta charges 160,000 miles for the same region, and you can see this is a good value that sets AAdvantage apart.
Africa – 110,000 US Airways miles is an outstanding deal to Africa, and is 40,000 miles less than what AAdvantage charges, one of the biggest discrepancies between the two charts. Get in on this now, and remember you can route on Qatar Airways without large surcharges for trips to Africa.
3 Cabin First Class
Hawaii – Unless you’re flying a transcon flight from New York or Miami to Los Angeles and connecting onto Hawaii, you won’t run into this pricing, but it is 15,000 miles cheaper to fly to Hawaii in 3 cabin First Class with US Airways than AAdvantage miles. That will end March 25.
China, Hong Kong, Taiwan – US Airways charges an amazingly low 120,000 miles roundtrip in first class on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, while American charges 135,000 miles. Lock this in by March 25th.
Africa – This is the biggest difference among the charts, and will end on March 25th for Dividend Miles members. Unfortunately there aren’t many options that don’t involve fuel surcharges, with British Airways the primary 3 cabin carrier to Africa (Qatar’s first class space and routes are very limited). Though if you’re lucky you might swing a longer route via Asia on Cathay Pacific.
What about fees?
For now, there are no changes to AAdvantage fees, which is good news, as the Dividend Miles fees were generally higher and more restrictive.
US Airways members are used to a $25-$50 ‘award processing fee’ just to book an award, even online, higher change fees (US Airways charges $150 for any award change), and no free date changes 21 days before departure. Those fees will disappear, and aren’t yet part of the new AAdvantage.
Punishing AAdvantage members with new fees is risky at this point of time, given how sensitive the merger process is, and we think it would create a lot of ill will among AAdvantage members at a critical juncture.
But eventually, American management will look to additional revenue (read: fee) opportunities from AAdvantage members, especially considering how fee heavy the Dividend Miles program was.
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