Now that I’m actively looking into how I can switch my status from United Airlines to either Alaska or American Airlines (or both), I’m wondering the best way to do it without losing the benefits I’ve already obtained on United. After all, I have another round of Regional and Global Premier Upgrades coming up for 2014. They would expire unused — and that would be a shame. There are also occasional times when United might just have the best fare or the most direct routing. Right now I’m looking at an upcoming trip to St. Thomas where United is $200 cheaper than American Airlines.
Fortunately, the merger between US Airways and American Airlines has introduced an interesting opportunity that grants departing elites the chance to leave United with the bill.
US Airways will be leaving the Star Alliance on March 1, 2014, and join the Oneworld Alliance a month after that. The merging carriers expect to introduce reciprocal benefits even sooner, starting on January 7, though it remains unclear exactly what that will entail. I expect more news later this year once the merger is approved by the bankruptcy court.
Don’t let the delays concern you too much. I think it is all but certain that whatever miles you earn with US Airways in 2014 will count toward elite status with the new American Airlines. The programs are so similar that there’s no reason to think they might value one program’s miles less than the other’s. The only real question is what will happen to elite qualifying points (used only by American) since these are counted separately from elite qualifying miles. I predict that if the EQP earnings structure persists in 2014, any EQMs earned with US Airways will be added to both EQP and EQM balances with American.
Now for the best part! As long as US Airways is still part of the Star Alliance, you can fly on United Airlines — use your upgrade instruments to do it in business or first class, clear a complimentary upgrade, or select an Economy Plus seat — and credit those flights to US Airways. After US Airways leaves the Star Alliance, then sometime during the year those miles will likely be combined with those at American Airlines to count for elite status at the new program. Your United flights will earn American status.
Some of you might still want to look for a status trial or challenge. Some others, like me, have already squandered such opportunities in past years. Rather than fly 50,000 miles in cheap trips for the first couple of months, struggling to earn my way up from nothing to mid-tier status, I figure I should do it from the relative comfort of United’s front cabins.
This post is largely speculation, but I think it ought to work. Any better ideas, or explanation of where I went wrong?