If you haven’t heard, American Airlines is merging with US Airways. This is just the latest in a series of airline industry mergers, so customers now have a pretty good idea how this process will unfold.
First, the airlines will have to choose which bank will offer its reward card in the future. Currently, American has partnered with Citi while US Airways is a partner of Barclays bank. Fortunately, it has already been determined that the new airline, which will be called American, will continuing offering frequent flier miles through its cards issued in partnership with Citi.
If it follows the same method as other recent airline mergers, the next step in the process will occur when customers are granted the opportunity to transfer miles between their American and US Airways accounts. This will allow members of either program to book awards though the other airlines program. And because US Airways and American Airlines are members of different airline alliances, there is the possibility that members of either program will have a window in which they can book award tickets on airlines that are partners of the other program.
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For example, US Airways is part of the Star Alliance and is partnered with United. If American Airlines customers can move miles to US Airways accounts, then there will be a short period when they could book award tickets on United or any other Star Alliance partner.
But since the new carrier is going to remain in the OneWorld Alliance, it is inevitable that US Airways customers will have access to all the same awards that American customers now have.
What should you do?
One way to maximize the miles earned is to get credit cards from both airlines. Specifically, the US Airways cards from Barclays bank as they are likely to be withdrawn from the market at any time.
Also, US Airways customers who are interested in redeeming awards on Star Alliance partners should be watching closely to see how long they will have that ability. It would be a shame if a cardholder was unable to redeem his or her miles for an award flight on a Star Alliance carrier that is unavailable on the much smaller One World alliance.
Airline mergers represent an opportunity for struggling carriers to return to profitability, but they can also be an opportunity for reward travelers. By making the right moves during the merger process, credit card users can come out ahead when it is all over.