The US Airways / American Airlines merger – which has been on the cards since American filed for bankruptcy last year, has now been confirmed. The BBC story is here. The merger will take a while – quite a while, probably a year – before the full effects start to take shape. However, from a miles and points perspective, this is what you can expect:
US Airways will resign from Star Alliance, and the new airline (which will retain the American Airlines name) will be a oneworld member
This can only be good news for Avios collectors, since you will have a far wider network of US flights on which you can redeem. BA Silver and Gold card holders will also find their status gets them benefits on more flights. It is, in parallel, bad news for Star Alliance status card holders and mileage collectors, who will see their US flying options reduced.
(Theoretically, Avios redemptions on BA aircraft to/from the US may become harder to find now that US Airways frequent flyers will be able to book them. However, since they have to pay fuel surcharges on BA redemptions whilst AA redemptions are tax free, it should not have a major impact.) The US Airways and American frequent flyer programmes will be merged This is good news if you have a small amount of US Airways and American miles, since you will be able to merge your two piles together. What has happened in recent US airline mergers is a two stage process. Initially, the two programmes remain separate but you can freely transfer miles between the two schemes. At some point down the line, the two schemes will fully merge – presumably under the AAdvantage name.
Existing holders of large amounts of US Airways miles may want to redeem now
In general, the US Airways redemption chart is more generous than the American one. It is more likely than not that the AA redemption chart will prevail, pushing up redemption prices. However, the impact of this will be outweighed by the move of US Airways from Star Alliance to oneworld. If you wanted to use your US miles for flights on Lufthansa, Thai, Swiss etc then you will need to redeem before the resignation takes effect (no date yet).
If you have US Airways elite status, you will be losing your Star Alliance elite status – so you need to look for a new airline if you want to keep it
This one is less likely to be an issue for UK based flyers, of course. These are the key changes. There is also likely to be some tweaking of the UK-US flights that the two carriers operate, with some US Airways flights also gaining a BA flight code and becoming codeshares. All of this takes time, however, so don’t expect any immediate changes in the next couple of months.