The only frequent flyer program merger I really remember is that of the Piedmont program (my first) into the then US Air program. They added a 7 in front of my Piedmont number, and everything kind of magically rolled together. Later, I got a new US Airways Dividend Miles number, no doubt related to that airline’s adaption of the Sabre computer system. Then came the US – HP merger, and somehow I managed to keep my US number. And that is the account that will soon be merged into my AAdvantage account.

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As has been widely reported, American has made it official that March 28 will be a big day. To their credit, American is taking a very methodical approach. Here’s how they put it in their email to US members today.

On March 28, we’ll begin moving Dividend Miles® accounts into the AAdvantage® program. This transition to a single loyalty program will take several days.

As you requested, we’ll transfer your Dividend Miles award mileage balance, Preferred-qualifying activity and million mile balance into your AAdvantage account on a one-to-one ratio. We’ll determine your elite status level by looking at your combined elite-qualifying activity for 2014, and separately, your combined 2015 year-to-date elite-qualifying activity.

We’ll email you when we start moving your Dividend Miles balances and later when everything is combined. During this transition, aa.com and usairways.com will only show your AAdvantage account balance. Until everything is combined, you can continue using your primary loyalty account.

Here’s what you can expect in the coming days:

Redeeming Dividend Miles for travel

Please complete any pending or immediate Dividend Miles redemptions before March 25 at 11:59 p.m. CDT. After that, we’ll disable Dividend Miles redemptions. Once we’ve merged your accounts, which will take several days, you’ll be able to redeem on aa.com and with AAdvantage reservations.

Using your credit card

US Airways Dividend Miles® MasterCard® credit cards will soon be replaced with new AAdvantage® AviatorTM MasterCard® credit cards. Until your new credit card arrives, continue to use your current US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard.

Traveling with us

If you’ve already booked travel on American or US Airways using your Dividend Miles number, we’ll update your reservation with your AAdvantage number.

Why We Will Remember This

As a program with a combined 100 million members, this is a big deal. The work going on behind the scenes to merge program data is a larger data migration project than I can imagine. It’s reasonable to expect a few glitches, and I would take the steps I recommended here as soon as possible. I think most of us get that this is not a small undertaking, but the real reason we will remember this is the way American has communicated with us. I can’t count the number of emails I’ve had from American and US Airways spelling out exactly what was going to happen and how, especially in recent days as we’ve move ever closer to the merger date for the loyalty program. So far, this has been a model of how to manage things, and a model of how to communicate with program members. So far, so good.

-MJ, March 24, 2015

 

A recent news item at The Street.com piqued my interest. The story was about how well the airlines were doing in social media. Toronto based Engagement Labs measures the social presence of brands on “networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.” According to the article, American came out on top for Twitter and Facebook, while United ranked second for Twitter. Delta, on the other hand ranked third at Facebook and sixth at Twitter. (Image courtesy of Twin Design / Shutterstock.com)

airline social media

I’m not surprised that American scored well. They seem highly engaged on Twitter hand have been good about responding to my own questions the handful of times I’ve broached an issue via Twitter. I can’t really speak to United. Delta, on the other hand, will engage at times but that usually comes from the @DeltaAssist team as opposed to the main @Delta handle. Southwest’s Twitter team, while not mentioned in the article, recently responded to a blog I wrote, reaching out to help with an issue I raised.

This is all well and good, but it leads me to ask, does it matter? While I enjoy a little light banter via Twitter as much as the next guy, the things I care about when it comes to travel are operational reliability, schedule, and price. As long as I’m getting where I want to go on time and with my bag, I’m good. On the other hand, in an increasingly social and millennial oriented world, I think outreach via social channels is not only desirable, but required. Airline social media teams need to be equipped with the tools and authority to identify and resolve issues. In doing so, they can get ahead of potential service problems, and possibly prevent service issues from spinning into formal complaints. Kudos to American for building a winning social media team. Will Delta step up their Twitter game and build upon their successful @DeltaAssist channel?

-MJ, March 24, 2015

 

According to NBC News, Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas is the latest ship to experience a “man overboard” event. From the article,

“Rescuers were searching early Monday for a cruise-ship passenger who fell (emphasis mine) overboard near the Florida Keys, according to the Coast Guard.”

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First, my heart goes out to this individual’s family and friends. Second, you don’t “fall” off a cruise ship. You either jump or you get drunk and start doing stupid things like sitting on or hanging too far over the railing, one wrong slip, and….. if you have the good fortune to actually survive the fall, you’re going for a swim. Getting drunk might play a role in the only other possibility I can think of – getting pushed overboard.

No matter where the fault lies in why someone goes overboard, man overboard detection systems are on the market. While I’m admittedly uninformed of their utility, I have to wonder if it isn’t time for the industry to step up investment in them? Obviously, one life saved should make them worth the price, before you even get to public relations value. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock

-MJ, March 23, 2015

 

 

Gary is reporting tonight via Traveling Better that we are just 6 days away from a combined frequent flyer program at American Airlines. Apparently, March 28th is the target date, but like most things IT, that could change. Even if the date turns out to be a week or 2 later, I think it’s safe to say that major progress has been made. Depending on how it turns out when the switch is flipped, I’d call it impressive progress. Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 3.28.01 PM

At the risk of being called a cheerleAAder, I’ve said that American is getting something right in this merger. We’ll see how the actual mileage program merger goes, but so far, so good. In the meantime, we’ll wait and see what happens. It is reasonable to expect a few nits in the process. As I’ve recommended before, I’d take a screen shot of my mileage balances with both AA and US right away, perhaps even take a daily shot if you have frequent account activity as the program merger is apparently imminent.

With a single operating certificate apparently days away as well, could we see a reservations system cutover shortly after the end of the summer travel rush? I’ve been speculating way too much around here lately. No matter the timing, there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes for sure. Here’s to hoping for the best.

-MJ, March 22, 2015

 

The Dividend Miles program’s days are numbered, and it will soon merge into the AAdvantage program. When the programs merge, the Citi AAdvantage cards will be the credit card partner for American Airlines, but US Airways MasterCard members can continue to keep their cards and accrue miles, and their cards will be converted to the AAdvantage Aviator cards. While Barclays won’t be able to offer new accounts to AAdvantage members, it can continue to offer the US Airways MasterCard to new applicants until Dividend Miles merges into AAdvantage.

It’s a good deal, with 50,000 bonus Dividend Miles for the first purchase (and paying the $89 annual fee) that will become AAdvantage miles when the programs merge. As I had not had a US Airways MasterCard for a while, I decided to apply. While I wasn’t instantly approved, I let the application peculate for a day or 2, and sure enough, I was approved. My card arrived in today’s mail and I immediately activated it online. Nothing unusual there, but what really surprised me was this offer:

Dividend Miles, AAdvantage, US Airways MasterCard

I had read that a lot of US Airways MasterCard members were getting this offer. What I didn’t expect was to get the offer as a brand new account holder. The terms & conditions implied that it was targeted. While 1.5 miles per dollar won’t lead me to use this card for every purchase, it will certainly get some consideration for non-bonused spend. MrsMJ joined me in applying for this card too. If you’re at a good place for a new application, I think this one is one of the easiest decisions out there. 50,000 miles for $89 dollars? Yes please.

-MJ, March 21, 2015

The weekend is here, and it looks like a beautiful day outside in LA, aka Lovely Atlanta. The biggest news this week from my perspective was the smattering of blogs and news articles on the future of Alaska Airlines. Interesting times. Let’s take a look at this week’s posts.

Enjoy your weekend!

-MJ, March 21, 2015

There has been a bit of news in the papers and the blogosphere about Alaska Airlines recently. Admittedly, I’m guilty of my own bit of pontification about Alaska. The articles in the local Seattle press have run the gamut culminating in a piece Thursday in the Puget Sound Business Journal on the possibility of Seattle losing a corporate philanthropist if Delta buys Alaska. I’m not sure what’s in the water lately, but let me state this – everybody please calm down!

First, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hades that this Justice Department (and maybe the one after it) allows another airline merger anytime soon. Second, the airlines have merged enough in my book. Finally, the only possible place I see where a case for a merger (outside of an economic collapse) might be made at some point in time is in the low cost end of the business. Afterall, I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that early on, the company that eventually became JetBlue was this close to being affiliated with Sir Richard’s Virgin Group….take it for what you will.

All that said, there’s some justified interest in America’s most partnered airline, Alaska. Here’s what I think is going to happen.

  • Alaska and Delta are going to break up
  • Delta is going to continue to encroach on Seattle
  • Alaska will continue to succeed in its hometown
  • Delta might just carve out something for itself in Seattle too but no guarantees
  • Alaska will enhance its partnership with American by joining Oneworld
  • The end

Yes, I think Alaska’s days of going it alone in the classic sense of the word are going to end. That doesn’t mean that Alaska Airlines can’t continue to be its unique and independent self, but I think it’s going to do so within the context of a major airline alliance, and I happen to think it’s going to be Oneworld. What do you think?

-MJ, March 20, 2015

 

 

I was reading emails on the train to work this morning, and came across my Dividend Miles statement. Opening it as I usually do I found something at the top of all the usual marketing messages:

american airlines, us airways, aadvantage, dividend miles

My final Dividend Miles statement. It’s not like I didn’t know this was coming, but what miles and points enthusiast could help but reflect? US Airways and Dividend Miles were put together from a hodgepodge of airlines. The most notable for this native North Carolinian was Piedmont Airlines, which happened to be home the first frequent flyer program I ever joined – the Piedmont Airlines Frequent Flyer Bonus Program.

Piedmont was a source of pride, and inspiration for me in many ways. I started out in aviation at the ripe old age of 15, with more than one Piedmont pilot helping mentor me through. The AvGeek in me somehow or another I cobbled together enough miles to redeem an award ticket to the west coast just prior to the merger with US Air. I flew First Class for the first time on a Piedmont 767. Piedmont was the only airline I’ve flown that had a dedicated “beach music” channel on IFE. Those of you from the mid-Atlantic coast will get that. I was ruined for life at age 19. Of course, I went on to fly for another airline and then another career, but I think it’s only fitting that the mileage program that got me started is now part of the airline where I grew up.

So today I salute Dividend Miles. Thanks for the ride!

-MJ, March 18, 2015

A headline caught my eye yesterday – Analyst amazed by Alaska Airlines’s ability to fight off Delta, not ‘just roll over and die’. The article, from the Puget Sound Business Journal, goes on to quote IdeaWorks Co. President Jay Sorenson,

“I don’t think it’s gone according to plan for Delta, because Alaska Airlines didn’t just roll over and die,” Sorenson said. “This intense competition seems to have made them (Alaska) into a better airline, and I would never have predicted that outcome.”

I, for one, am not surprised. Alaska Airlines is a unique company, and an airline I’ve long admired. My first experience flying them was…ahem…a few years ago, aboard a Boeing 737-200 combi from King Salmon to Anchorage. I thought they were unique and cool then, and nothing has happened since to change my opinion, nearly 20 years later. Alaska Airlines has a history of innovation and has been a technology leader in the airline business, a characteristic I value. (Image courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

alaska airlines, delta air lines, partnership

Admittedly, Alaska’s partnership with Delta has not worked out like I thought it might. In retrospect, I probably should have known better, but I digress. Delta is an airline that is not just confident in its well-documented operational capabilities, it is convinced. One might have envisioned that a long term partnership with an airline that dances with multiple partners, notably one of Delta’s largest competitors, would not sit well in the psyche of an Delta’s leaders for the long term. I suppose the possibility exists that Alaska and Delta could get to some kind of equilibrium in Seattle, but I’m not optimistic. Will it be a bad break up? Who knows? But when it happens, I predict Alaska Airlines will still be standing in Seattle.

-MJ, March 17, 2015

Other than the snow, sometimes I miss living in the northeast. One of the biggest reasons is the lack of relatively frequent rail service. Nonetheless, I still try to stay tacitly plugged in when it comes to Amtrak Guest Rewards. Right now, they are offering a double rewards points deal from March 16 through May 16, 2015.

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Click here, log in to your account, and register. Terms and conditions below:

Earn double points on qualifying Amtrak travel from March 16, 2015 12:00:00am CT through May 16, 2015 11:59:59pm CT. Must be an Amtrak Guest Rewards member and register for this offer online at AmtrakGuestRewards.com/DoubleDays to participate. Members must include their membership number when making reservations for travel to qualify. Limit of two qualifying one-way segments per day. Amtrak Guest Rewards points will not be awarded for cancelled or refunded reservations or tickets. Other terms and conditions may apply.

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