Airline mergers are hardly good for consumer and today proves it yet again as we were all just #Parked. Airlines try to claim that airline mergers create more competition, adds tons of benefits for frequent flyers, and consumers benefit from larger network. But lets be real, since the creation of the the Super Pac (AA, United, Delta) Elite benefits and non elite consumer benefits have been stripped and removed. With just three super airlines now ruling the US Aviation industry, policies which use to be somewhat consumer friendly are lost as the three major airlines are positioned to make more money than ever before and competition dwindles. Today, as US Airlines and American further their integration process AA and US Airways announced a new multi tier award chart and new baggage policies. Some for the good, others for the worst, and the policy changes are taking a toll on Elite Benefits.
New Award Chart:
Starting June 1, 2014 the AA and US Airways award ticket prices will increase for AAnytime awards, which allow even the last seat on the plane to be bought with miles. The new award chart introduces a five tier structure similar to Delta Air Lines, the difference is that milesAAver awards are not increasing in price and off peak award pricing for travel will remain available throughout different times of the year in the economy class cabin.
The new award chart includes milesAAver levels 1 & 2, and AAnyTime awards levels 1, 2, 3. MilesAAver level 1 awards are off peak and level 2 are standard or peak MilesAAver prices. For AAnytime awards, prices for AAnytime 1 awards are currently lower than current AAnytime awards, but level 2 AAnytime awards will cost 5,000 additional miles or more depending on the region. American also left room for even further devaluation (HORRIBLE business practice and not consumer friendly) by adding a mystery category known as AAnytime level 3. Level 3 awards are not defined but instead are listed by asterisks which is defined as “*AAnytime Level 3 awards are offered on a few select dates and will require higher number of miles to redeem.” So I ask, what will these level 3 awards cost and what dates? Will it depend on the mood of the agent, the computer, or something else?
OneWorld Explorer Tickets will no longer be issues:
“oneworld Explorer Awards are no longer available for award booking. We will continue to honor any award tickets issued on / before April 7, 2014.”
If the introduction to the 5 tier chart wasn’t a blow enough, without notice AA has also decided to discontinue the OneWorld Explorer ticketing option. This making American Airline AAdvantage members second class citizens in the OneWorld Alliance as they are the only airline that do not grant access to Admiral club on all flights to top tier fliers or offer OneWorld Explorer tickets Thanks for the advance notice American, glad to know you are no better than Delta and share the anti alliance trait!
New Baggage Policies:
American Airline is also adjusting their baggage polices to align more with the other big US carriers (i.e. Delta & United). With only 3 major carriers left, American no longer needs to offer more consumer friendly pricing or benefits to lure passengers on board. AA gave no advance notice of this change, and tickets issued on or after 4/8/14 will abide by the new policies.
- Second Check bag is now free to South America
- Starting 4/30/14 US Airways Barclay Cardholders who pay $79 a year or more now can check 1 bag for free.
- Advantage Gold & Platinum will now be able to check 1 less bag than before. Gold members can check 1 bag and Platinum 2, down from 2 and 3 bags respectively.
- Customers traveling on an AAnytime award or a full-fare economy ticket (on legacy American) will no longer receive free checked bags
Overall, the changes are not completely horrible, but the introduction of a 5 tier award chart system and a mystery category is not a welcome change to the AAdvantage program. American Airlines and US Airways have been the final hold out of legacy carriers to change their award program; with what I am sure will be a major devaluation to come after the merger is completed to align their award chart more on par with Delta and United. The baggage policy is not a welcome change overall either, but good things cannot last forever.
The US Aviation market has changed drastically in the last 5 years with the mergers of US legacy carriers. With only three super airlines controlling the majority of the US market, instead of being fragmented across 6 legacy carriers and several smaller carriers, airlines are now free to screw the consumer every which way till Sunday. After all there is no longer any major competition. Frequent Flyers beware, doing what is right for the consumer is out (oh wait, it’s been out since 9/11 as the airlines have something to blame it on) and now trending: More cash in the pockets of CEOs and Wall Street investors. We’ve just been #Parked