American / US Merger Integration Challenges: Double Crediting Cross Carrier Points

The integration phase of the US Airways and American Airlines merger is on.  Just like any large integration, there are bound to be challenges and glitches.

I think we have discovered a big one.

It appears that for some, if not all flights where a passenger flies American Airlines but includes his US Airways number on the reservation, the passenger gets credited for the flights to both his American Airlines account AND his US Airways account.

I received a report from a friend whose co-worker had this situation, and sent me the screenshots to prove it.

The friend’s coworker, let’s call him Boris, bought flights from his travel agent, American Express to fly from San Francisco to Houston.  Boris has no status with American Airlines and Silver with US Airways.  He bought a first class flight, operated by American Airlines with a routing of San Francisco – Dallas – Houston.  At booking, his American Airlines number was provided.  After booking Boris called American Airlines and changed his frequent flier number to his US Airways number where he has silver status.  He has since taken the flight.

Boris has checked his American airlines and US Airways accounts and now sees this:

US Airways Statement for Boris

US Airways Statement for Boris

On Monday January 20 Boris flew first class on American SFO – DFW – IAH.  US Airways shows these flights as earning 1,464 miles and 500 miles as well as bonuses of 366 miles and 125 miles respectively.

American Statement for Boris

American Statement for Boris

For the same flights on January 20 American Airlines shows these flights as earning 1,464 miles and 224 miles (he has no status with AA) as well as bonuses of 732 miles miles and 112 miles respectively.  These bonuses are the 50% bonus for flying American and crediting to US Airways or vice versa.  And he earned no Silver 25% bonus on the American flights like he did with US Airways.

The systems are obviously a bit out of sync on the dates, and also the flight numbers.  I suspect they are referring to the codeshare flight number instead of the actual flight number.

How long will this glitch last for?  Probably not for long.  US and American’s IT systems aren’t speaking together effectively, at least not at the moment.  That can change soon with some manual intervention.

The Bottom Line:

All in all for this 1,689 nautical miles of flying, Boris earned 2,455 US Airways miles for taking the flight and being silver and 2,532 American miles for flying American but crediting to US Airways. 

Since he had his US Airways number on the reservation, I believe he should have only earned 2,455 US Airways miles + a 50% bonus on the 1,689 of 845 miles for a total of 3,300 miles for this 1,689 nautical mile flight.  In reality he earned a combined: 4987 miles, an error in his favor of 1687 miles.

Poke some holes in this analysis.  What could be causing this other than merger integration teething?

American Airlines is Offering US Air Silver Members Priority Seating (Even Though It Is Supposed to be For Golds and Up)

A colleague of mine is flying American Airlines this week.  He has no status with them and when he goes to select his seat assignments for his flight, American offers him Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seating options for a fee.

American waves this fee for its Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum members, along with US Airways Chairman, Platinum, and Gold Members.  Silver members are not included in the verbiage.  According to AA:

AAdvantage® Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum members and their oneworld equivalents, as well as Dividend Miles Preferred members* and customers who purchase a full-fare Main Cabin ticket receive complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra seats. This benefit was offered to Gold status members to celebrate the launch of our new seating product and was set to expire on December 31, 2013. We have good news — we’ve extended it through February 28, 2014!

We know the extra legroom is important to you when traveling in the Main Cabin, so starting March 1, 2014, we are pleased to offer AAdvantage Gold and oneworld Ruby members, as well as Dividend Miles Silver Preferred members^ two ways to access Main Cabin Extra seats:

  • Purchase Main Cabin Extra for 50% off
  • Enjoy complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra within 24 hours of departure (if seats are available)

Preferred Seats continue to be complimentary for all of our AAdvantage elite status customers and their oneworld equivalents**, Dividend Miles Preferred members**, as well as customers who have purchased a full-fare Main Cabin ticket. Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats can be selected at the time of booking up until check-in. Gold status members may select Main Cabin Extra seats at flight check-in through self-service check-in machines, aa.com or aa.com mobile.

*AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum, oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members. Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred, Gold Preferred and Platinum Preferred members, Alaska Airlines MVP® Gold and MVP® Gold 75K customers and up to 8 traveling companions on the same reservation.

 

A colleague of mine just added his US Airways Silver number to an American Airlines reservation.  He had to call the AA call center to do this.  Sure enough, after loading his US Airways Silver number to the reservation, the website then offered him the main cabin extra and preferred seats for $0.  He added them successfully.

Using US Airways Mobile “Upgrade List” to Snag Upgrades Out of Turn

So US Airways has always had what I considered to be a funny upgrade process.  It is what they call their “preferred upgrades” process.  US Airways has four levels of elite members – from top to bottom: Chairman, Platinum, Gold, and Silver.  If there are enough seats available in “upgrade inventory” – Chairman get upgrades 7 days out; Platinums 4 days out; Golds 3 days out; and Silvers 1 day out until First class is sold out.  There are many pros and cons of doing it like this.  One major con is that as a Chairman or Platinum, if you are buying a last minute flight, or even one 3 days out, there are most likely no upgrade seats left because All the Preferred members have snagged them already, even Golds and Silvers.  One pro is that as a Chairman on a fare bought at least a week in advance to make it into the furthest out upgrade window, I rarely miss an upgrade.  But I do sometimes.

If you get to 24 hours before your flight and you are not upgraded yet, when you check-in you are put on the upgrade list.  Your priority on the upgrade list is set firstly at your level (in my case Chairman), and then I believe time of check-in is the next tie breaker.  The earlier you check-in, the higher your priority on the upgrade list.  However, if you check in at 23 hours and 59 minutes as a US Airways preferred member of any status – Silver through Chairman, and there is a First Class seat left, it will offer it to you right then and there.  This secret many Silver, Gold, and Platinum members have been using for years to snag that upgrade.  Even more bizarre, if check-in has begun and there is say 12 hours left until your flight, and there is already a lengthly upgrade list, you can  “snag” an upgrade out of torn.  And the new US Airways Mobile “Upgrade List” makes it even easier to do so!  In fact, I did it today Houston to Charlotte (even though I was 1st on the upgrade list anyway).  And I noticed it for Lady Tocqueville and she was able to get upgraded today out of sequence and instantly (without having to wait for it to clear at the gate) on her Birmingham to Charlotte flight.

You see, if there are zero first class seats left at 24 hours then every Preferred member will be put on the upgrade list to potentially be called for an upgrade at the gate if a First Class seat winds up going open because someone missed a flight, changed flights, was re-routed, whatever.  That is how the upgrade list works.  But the glitch in US Airways IT infrastructure is this.  If a first class seat randomly pops up, the next US Airways Preferred member of any level who does check-in (or chooses to change seats on the website if already checked in) will be offered the first class seat, even though there is a whole upgrade list ahead of them.  To repeat, the upgrade list is ONLY good for getting the gate to assign you an upgrade should there be first class seats available at the gate just before boarding.  However, if one or more first class seats that were not available at check-in become available, the next US Airways Preferred to check-in is offered by the web-site the offer to choose a seat in First Class.

To monitor this – I used to use http://www.flightstats.com/go/FlightAvailability/flightAvailability.do (The FlightStats.com Flight Availability Tool).  I would search for my flight and if first class was sold out F, P, and A classes would show a 0.  If there were 1 or more First Class seats available, F, P and/or A classes would show a 1 or more.  I then knew to quickly re-check in to my flight or change my seat to snag the 1 seat that was still there.  Monitoring this has gotten even easier.

The US Airways Mobile Website (http://mobile.usairways.com – NOT the US Air Mobile app) now shows the “Upgrade List” for flights of the same day or next day.  This is a new feature US Airways IT has brought online in the last 6 weeks or so.  You can still access this feature, which is not available on the normal US Airways website, from a desktop computer by navigating to here: http://mobile.usairways.com/mt/www-mobile.usairways.com/home.aspx .  Choose “Flight Status” at the top right and put in the Flight Number, Origin/Destination, and date of the flight you want to monitor.  Here is what it looks like from a desktop:

upgrade1

As an example of how this works, let’s use a sample flight.  On November 1 at 11:22AM, US Airways has a flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles.  This is flight number 1973.  Let’s say you were on this flight and your upgrade did not clear at check-in and you are now on the upgrade lost hoping for that first class upgrade on this 4 hour flight.

upgrade2

You would enter an Origin/Destination search for November 1 AM From CLT to LAX.  Click “Check flight status” and all the AM US Airways Charlotte to Los Angeles flights come up for November 1.

upgrade3

Then click “Status” for flight number 1973 at 11:22AM.

Once there click on “Upgrade List” at the top right.

Upgrade4

This is now the key screen, the upgrade list screen.

Upgrade5

In the case of this flight, here is what each field means:

  • Capacity: This plane has 16 first class seats
  • Checked-In: 8 passengers have already checked-in to first class
  • Available: 0 First class seats are available for upgrade (presumably the other 8 are all sold just not checked-in yet)
  • Upgrade List: The first 3 letters of the last name, and first initial of each passenger on the upgrade list and their rank.  At the gate should a First Class passenger misconnect and miss this flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles, passenger “SHI, M” would get the first class seat (if they have not already boarded).

What I discovered today

I had this screen up for my Houston to Charlotte flight today and was monitoring my upgrade.  Even as a Chairman, I was not upgrade on today’s Houston Charlotte 5:30PM flight even though I booked more than 7 days out.  Yesterday, at 23 hours and 58 minutes before the flight, I checked-in hoping to snag any First Class seats that had become available before anyone else did (none did).  Today on my computer I kept this screen open, and the “Available” field always showed 0.  I was first on the upgrade list out of about 14 people.  Every hour or so, I would refresh the screen in my computer’s web browser (presumably you could keep refreshing it from your mobile device as well).  Sure enough – with luck, at around 1PM today “Available” showed “1” instead of “0”.  I immediatley went to US Airways’s website and checked-in again.  Once at the check-in screen I was told I had already checked in but an option was there to “Just Change Seats”.  I chose the “Just Change Seats” option and sure enough the seatmap showed one seat available in first class, and offered it to me for $0.  I clicked through, finished the seat selection, and my new boarding pass reflected my new first class seat.  Woo-hoo!  (sorry I did not do screenprints of this).  I had been monitoring Lady Tocqueville’s Birmingham to Charlotte flight (she, also a Chairman, was not upgraded, although she only booked her flight 2 days ago when first class was already sold out).  Well just her luck, “Available” showed “1” instead of “0” for her flight about the 3rd or 4th time I refreshed the screen to check it.  I quickly logged-on to US Airways’s website as her and checked-in again.  Boom, Baby!  There it was a First Class seat was now suddenly available. I snagged it for her.

The big news here is that even as a Silver member – you can use this trick and snag your upgrades ahead of everyone else due to US Airways IT Infrastructure.  People may criticize me for posting this because the “word may get out”.  But I don’t think this applies to very many people.  And while I could be negatively affected by those lowly Silvers getting upgrades ahead of me for checking-in before me (or once they realize a first class seat that wasn’t there is now there), I don’t think it will happen much.  And I am usually on my game to check in 24 hours out with regular check-backs on days when I’m not upgraded.  Thanks to US Airways mobile site,  doing this has gotten much easier.  Now if there was a way to automate something to look at the “Available” field for your flight and e-mail or text you when it went from “0” to “1”