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Is the Future of AAdvantage Secure?

Is the Future of AAdvantage Secure?

When several travel blogs reported that the current head of AAdvantage, Suzanne Rubin, would continue in that position following the American-US Airways merger, there was a collective sigh of relief from the frequent flyer community. The future of the world’s first modern mileage program, and one of the most consistently innovative and dependable, was assured.

(The reports were apparently based on an internal American Airlines document, first brought to light by the Traveling Better forum. I have since confirmed the information with American.)

The optimism may be premature.

It is indeed a plus for the program that Rubin remains in place. But the future of AAdvantage will ultimately be determined by Rubin’s bosses. And their roots are firmly in the US Airways camp.

In her new position as VP – Insights and Customer Loyalty, which includes oversight of the AAdvantage program, she will report to Andrew Nocella, Sr. VP and Chief Marketing Officer, currently with US Airways.

And of course, at the top of the organizational pyramid will be current US Airways chief Doug Parker, whose hunger and tenacity are mostly responsible for navigating the merger through a minefield of obstacles and resistance.

In the end, it will be Parker’s vision of the AAdvantage program, not Rubin’s, that will prevail.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, AAdvantage and Dividend Miles have been managed with very different goals and strategies. AAdvantage treats loyalty as a long-term investment, where Dividend Miles is treated as a cost that must be offset with higher revenues and fees. Dividend Miles, for example, charges $25 simply to issue an award ticket, the only major airline to do so. On the other hand, Dividend Miles is the industry leader in selling heavily discounted miles. But AAdvantage features better award-seat availability. Different program personalities, different behavior.

The new AAdvantage won’t be all things to all people. It can’t be. What it will be will depend on which of several competing visions wins out. Having Rubin’s in the mix is a plus, but it’s way too soon to assume that the new program will be more like the old AAdvantage than it will be like Dividend Miles. We won’t know for sure until Doug Parker weighs in.

The future of the AAdvantage program is very much up in the air.

Reader Reality Check

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of AAdvantage?

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  • Edgar Numrich

    Perhaps it’s already been published, but you have to wonder how much the entities (e. g., co-brand bank charge card issuers, participating miles-for-purchase merchants, VISA, and MasterCard) capture in profit before any miles hit the account of the traveler ~ and then to be skimmed with the likes of reservation, re-booking, and issuing charges. And only after all that to be reminded of the old ad campaign “Where’s the beef?” replaying as “Where’s the seat?”

  • clamshack

    I think the Y saver awards will decrees while the F savers increase domestically (bad for upgrades). I also think we are going to be screwed out of saver AA premium class international awards. The Advantage program will be only useful for partner redemption internationally.

  • Toby

    If AA switches to the Dividend miles sort of loyalty program I’ll definitely be taking my business to United instead. I have no interest in a program which costs money to issue award tickets

  • EdKent

    If you haven’t already applied for a US Airways Credit Card you better do it in the next few months. Wife and I just received our bonuses and look forward to these merging (even if devalued) into the new miles program since we also got the AA credit cards. We’ll be sure to book larger travel before the changes hit, but we’ll have miles from the US Airways cc that we wouldn’t have had. Remember the United and Continental merger and the end of one brand’s credit cards?

  • Keith Lockwood

    Love AA but I will ditch this merged airline faster than you can say “Delta” if they go with the US model…

  • jvmurph

    Trying to get a good flight with AA miles anywhere in the US or internationally is getting harder and harder. I will be letting go of my AAdvantage program and concentrating on United and Southwest.

  • Celsius1939a

    The Dividend Miles program charges for travel are reduced for Silver + members. Upgrades have been really good. I fear that AA program will mess things up for US Airways customers.

  • Roger

    As a long time premium member of both programs, I am hoping that much of Dividend Miles survives.
    Free trips are nice, and I have had similar experiences redeeming miles in both programs.
    But on a day to day basis, upgrades and general treatment are very important to me. And nothing comes close to the ease and frequency of the DM upgrade system. Even when I was a gold level member, I received upgrades over 90% of the time on US Air. Unlike Aadvantage, did not need to track how many upgrades I had ‘earned’, etc.
    As for the $25 fee, that is waived if you use the US Air credit card so that becomes a non-issue.
    Hoping to see a hybrid of the best of both programs.

  • dsliesse

    Having yet to see any merger be beneficial to the customers, I’m definitely pessimistic about the future of the program.

  • metro_struggler

    All these airlines will close shop if the government will allow foreign competition in the US. Can you imagine USAir, AA, UA, DL competing against the likes of Emirates, Cathay, Singapore?