Interview with American and US Airways Executives: Impact of Merger on Frequent and Premium Flyers

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JS:  What about frequent flyer programs?DSC_0588

DD:  It’s too early in the process to say anything definitive. We both bring the great strengths in our programs to the table and look forward to continuing that.  What we come up with once this merger is completed will be a world-class program that our customers will love and will be the envy of customers who will be at other airlines.  For AAdvantage, we feel very good about the program we deliver for the program.  We understand how important it is to keep high value customer.  The last thing we’d want to do is mess that up.

AN: We’re going to have the number one program in the world. We just need some time to sort things out.

JS: What about the combined airline’s route network?

AN: We’re bringing together these two networks [American’s and US Airways’] and creating the number one network in the world. We’re going to have nine hubs and we’re going to be able to deliver a lot of more where people want to go, when people want to go.

DD:  The network is the number one thing that our customers day one will experience.  Our dedication to these high value customers and to differentiating experiences, to make sure customers have the type of experience that they desire. They can customize the travel experience to get what they need.  As good as we hope our customers think we are today, we are going to get a little bit better every day.

JS:  Tom and Doug referenced a Q3 timeframe for the combination.  Is that possibly a bit aggressive or optimistic?

AN: [Prior to the announcement] we’ve been working hard in the background to make sure we can meet that timeline.  For example, we’ve already filed our paperwork with the U.S. Department of Justice. We’re excited because we think we can make that timeline. Of course, upon closing of the transaction, all of the hard work really begins including the selection of a new res system.  There will still be a long way to go.

JS: Let’s close with systems selection.  Doug [Parker] said earlier that it’s important to select systems based on where there would be minimal disruption.

AN:  Starting now, we will evaluate systems in the marketplace.  It’s premature to say which one we would select going forward but it will be a 12 to 18 month-long process.  American has Sabre and US Airways has Shares but if you look at mergers that were successful, you look for where the least disruption would be [in a system conversion].

Meanwhile, Lewis Rothkopf says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the merger.  He is a frequent flyer on American with Executive Platinum status, the highest level and a member of FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community.  “My hope,” he told me, “is that the combined entity maintains a focus on premium offerings that differentiates it from others in the market.”  He also wants the combined airline to offer additional destinations.  “American, through its wonderful people in the air and on the ground, has become like family to me over the years,” he said.  “I’d love to see this merger result in a strengthening of those ties in my own key destinations, which include SFO, LAX, ORD, LHR, and BOS.”  He may very well get his wish.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

Update 1: An earlier version of this article attributed the answers to the last two questions to Derek DeCross of American Airines.  They should have been attributed to Andrew Nocella of US Airways.  The article has been updated to include the correct attribution.

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