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Airlines have to report their results to Wall Street every quarter, and these reports include conference calls that are a rare chance for the public to hear what’s on the mind of airline executives, offering clues of what changes are in store for passengers, good and bad. With American and US Airways merged and integrating their operations, lots of change is in store for fliers of both airlines.
Yesterday’s conference call yield some good and bad news for fliers of the new American…
American will keep ‘Main Cabin Extra’ seats on its existing planes and will add the feature to US Airways aircraft. There is no word on exact timing, part of it has to do with the ability to sell such seats in US Airways’ systems, and when those systems are ready an announcement on deployment will be made. Management felt an announcement could come in the next few months, and until then we won’t know how many seats they will put in each plane. But expect it to be like American today, which offers fewer extra legroom seats than Delta, and especially United, which offers the most extra legroom seats of any airline.
This will bring groans from some fliers, but this is no change from American’s original plan.
American will expand capacity on those planes, which make up most of its domestic fleet, from 150 seats to 160 – 164 seats. They may also reduce the space in first class to accommodate this. Slimline seats are now being adopted by all of the major airlines, and are unfortunately known for being harder and less comfortable than traditional seats. They theoretically offer more knee room, but airlines tend to put the seats closer together to offset any of that gain. This change will start by the middle of this year, with other types of planes to follow.
The good news is management confirmed the number of first class seats on these planes won’t change, which makes sense since they said they’re basically matching the configuration Delta uses, which has the same number of first class seats.
This is bad news for passengers. American’s current 777s are configured with 9 seats across in Economy Class. As part of an upgrade to Business Class seats, American wants to increase the number of Economy Class seats it has on these aircraft. The base plan is to go from 247 to 260 seats. That will happen by pulling out the First Class cabin and installing ‘slimline’ seats that can be packed more tightly. But there is another proposal being considered that would increase the number of seats on the plane to 289.
How will they do that? By going from 9 to 10 seats across in Economy. It currently does this on its new 777-300 aircraft, but if it does it on its 777-200 planes, it would be the most crowded version of this plane among US carriers.
No firm decision has been made here, and if it does go this route the changes won’t start to be implemented until 2015.
After that, as reported earlier, Citibank will be the exclusive provider of new American AAdvantage credit cards, while people with US Airways cards will be converted to American AAdvantage cards from Barclays. Those cards will not be open to new applications in 2015, so if you want a Barclays version of the American AAdvantage cards, apply for a US Airways card by the end of this year.
As for frequent flier program changes, nothing was mentioned.
Executives did talk about offering more opportunities for passengers to pay for upgrades at a discount, but was clear in saying these would happen ‘after elites’ have had an opportunity to upgrade.
Today, American and US Airways fliers can earn and use miles on each other’s flights, and elite members receive basic partner benefits like priority boarding, checked bag waivers, and priority seating.
But things like upgrades and new mileage amounts for frequent flier redemptions have yet to be set and probably won’t be for several months to come.
Starting March 31, US Airways Dividend Miles members will be able to book flights on OneWorld partners like British Airways with their miles. At that point there might be some changes to US Airways redemption tables, but since the programs will remain separate it’s possible those will be minor, with the bigger adjustment happening late this year or early next year when the programs fully merge.
Now is a great time to earn miles with the New American to be ready for changes.
As of the date of this post, you can earn:
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