More travelers could have to pay to check bags under changes announced Tuesday to the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flier programs. But they may also be able to book flights on more days with their miles.
Suzanne Rubin, American’s vice president for its loyalty program, said the changes are moving the combined airline closer to a single rewards program, and to industry-standard benefits.
“This does amount to a lot of smaller changes,” she said. “We think it’s logical.”
Some of those changes are likely to rankle travelers, some of whom have been watching closely to see how the December merger affects their frequent flier benefits.
Gold and Platinum members under the US Airways Dividend Miles program will receive two free checked bags, down from three. AAdvantage Gold members will get one free checked bag, down from two.
For most domestic flights booked by those without frequent traveler status, US Airways will continue to charge $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second.
But US Airways customers who hold the airline’s Mastercard credit card, which comes with a $79 annual fee, will receive one free checked bag starting April 30.
Some of the changes will be more popular with travelers. US Airways has eliminated blackout days for travelers using Dividend Miles to book last seat availability. And customers will also be able to check two bags for free on flights to and from South America starting April 23 for US Airways.
US Airways will offer members of the armed forces five checked bags for free when traveling on orders and three free checked bags for personal travel.
US Airways and American together account for more than 90 percent of daily flights at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the combined airline’s second-busiest hub.
Though the two carriers officially merged last year, they aren’t expected to fully combine their operations for more than a year. Until then, as they gradually work towards full integration, the airlines are operating under their respective names.
American is moving to a three-tiered system for redeeming its miles. AAnytime reward customers will be able to book flights starting at 20,000 miles on off-peak travel days, down from the current 25,000 miles. Redemption for last-minute flights will start at 30,000 miles, and redemption for flights on peak travel days will start at 50,000 miles.
Travelers using an AAnytime award won’t receive free checked bags any longer. Neither will customers flying on legacy American Airlines flights who booked a full-fare economy ticket.
Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo