Why I’m excited by the American Airlines/US Airways merger

Source: American Airlines

Source: American Airlines

I’ve read a lot of whiny posts on forums like FlyerTalk and Milepoint over the last several months, as well as on a number of blogs, about the (now approved) merger of American Airlines (AA) and US Airways.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll miss the stupid cheap award tickets you could buy with US Air’s many Dividend Miles sales, and the world of travel they bring (if you can plunk down that kind of cash).  But unlike the many bloggers that live near an affected hub or are bemoaning the downgrade of the their elite status, I could give a crap about that stuff. Me? I’m excited about the merger.

You see, I live in Edmonton.  That’s Edmonton, Alberta (not Kentucky).  A city that hasn’t been served by AA, other than whatever codeshares they have with WestJet.  Edmonton did have one US Airways route, from YEG to PHX, which is also served by WestJet (and on codeshare with AA).  With this redundant routing, it appears the US Airways route will be dropped, but that is no skin off my nose.

So why am I excited?  Because I love Mileage Plan, the Alaska Airlines frequent flyer program.  I’m sure that makes a lot of you think, “uhhhh…ok.”  But I’ll explain.  With most of my destinations lined up and down the West Coast, Alaska Airlines has been my primary airline for well over a decade.  And they have probably the best frequent flyer program for those of us who have trouble with airline loyalty, as you can earn elite status and miles on partners like Delta, KLM, British Airways, and yes… American Airlines.  While the Mileage Plan program is awesome (and getting better it seems), I have found the Alaska Airlines product to be slowly falling behind its competitors.  The only way to get from YEG to SEA is on a very uncomfortable Bombardier Q400 aircraft, so I really don’t enjoy the very start and very end of every trip I take with them.  And sometimes it just feel unproductive to be backtracking to Seattle when heading to East Coast destinations.

With the AA/US Airways merger, there is now an additional route straight from YEG to DFW, which means no more having to drive to Calgary to enjoy the super-discounted off-season awards from North America to Europe, or having to fly to Seattle first.  For just 40,000 points, one can fly roundtrip from Edmonton to major hubs like Paris, Madrid and London.  And that works with both AAdvantage miles and also Mileage Plan miles.  Similar routes on Delta are 60,000 Mileage Plan points (if you can even find availability).  AA has similar off-peak awards to many other locations, which I will be looking into more closely in the next few months (and will likely report on).

Also, AA has fantastic fare sales to places like the Caribbean, which are usually quite costly on Air Canada and WestJet from Canada.  A particularly good destination is Puerto Rico, which is also now an inexpensive cruise port for southern Caribbean routes.  Another boon for those of us in the Great White North.

I’m also a big fan of the British Airways Executive Club (Avios) program, which I collect through an RBC Avion credit card (to take advantage of the Avion –> Avios transfer bonuses).  AA flights are redeemable through Avios right on the website, whereas you have to phone the call center to redeem Avios for Alaska Airline flights.

So while I (almost) feel bad for all of you AA devotees in Washington DC or New York that may see some minor inconvenience or watering down of your elite perks, I’ll be enjoying more options in my little part of the world and hopefully at a lower cost.

Anyone else seeing the bright side of this merger?  Please comment and share your thoughts.

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