After months of endless speculation, with most media repeating the same tired statistics about what would become — in theory — the biggest carrier since the merger of United and Continental, American Airlines and US Airways finally announced their merger today.
I watched the little promotional video they put on YouTube, and it isn’t until 59 seconds in that they mention American started the first airline loyalty program, which I would consider more innovative than most of their claims. (Lists of past mergers just make me think of past failed airlines. As for the largest aircraft order in history? They got themselves in that pickle to begin with by sticking with an aging fleet.)
I do like American Airlines and hope that they’re able to maintain their service levels after absorbing US Airways. That’s what this merger sounds like to me, anyway, is US Airways CEO Doug Parker giving everything to American and promising to adopt American’s practices in exchange for becoming the new CEO of an even bigger company. But I’ve regretted every US Airways flight I’ve ever been on, regardless of the cheap fares. Only time will tell, but just calling in to the Executive Platinum desk this morning to upgrade some readers reminded me of how much better American treats their top-tier elites than does United Airlines.
This merger doesn’t directly affect me because I find it very difficult to fly American Airlines as a regular customer. Just as Mommy Points indicated this morning, neither American nor US Airways offer many flights near her home in Houston, and the same is true for my home in Seattle. If I wanted to fly American, more likely than not most of those itineraries would begin with a flight on Alaska Airlines. Looking at this still from the merger video, you’ll notice a conspicuous absence of flights on the West Coast and throughout the Pacific, Asia, and the Middle East.
I don’t really have any interest in going to Latin America or the Caribbean, and I have plenty of existing options to visit Europe.
It makes more sense to split my loyalty between United and Alaska, using the former for flights involving connections and the latter for when I need a nonstop. That’s exactly my plan for this year. In fact, Alaska’s Twitter team promised me some info on their status match process just last night.
I do expect some benefits. The miles I’ll be earning with Alaska, and the Avios points I already earn from my British Airways Visa, can be used on American Airlines without any trouble. Expanding the American Airlines route network will only make those programs more valuable to me. But I don’t expect to be crediting much paid travel to American’s AAdvantage program in the near future.