Required Reading for Frequent Flyers
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More Mileage Plus Changes
[Sep 2011 Issue]
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In addition to a new credit card, other upcoming changes have been announced for the new combined Mileage Plus and OnePass frequent flyer program. Continental OnePass members who rather like their account number will be able to keep their member number. So if you have your eight-digit OnePass number memorized, you won’t need to remember a new 11-digit number when your OnePass account becomes a Mileage Plus account on Jan. 2, 2012.

United systemwide upgrades can now be used on Continental flights and all United elite members are allowed to reserve exit row seats at no charge when making reservations. This option was previously only offered to elite members at the Premier Executive tier or above. Non-elite members have the option to purchase exit row seating when making reservations.

Miles in the new Mileage Plus program will expire. The current expiration policy for United Mileage Plus is that miles will expire in 18 months without any account activity whereas miles don’t expire with Continental OnePass. The combined program will adopt the United Mileage Plus expiration policy of 18 months. Until the merger is complete, members can transfer miles between their United and Continental accounts, an activity that will reset the expiration date of your miles. If you are concerned about expiring miles, remember to transfer your last remaining miles from OnePass to Mileage Plus on Dec. 31, 2011 and all your miles will have a new expiration date of June 30, 2013.
New AA Awards for Elites

American AAdvantage has introduced new Dynamic Air awards for elite members only. Unlike standard flight awards, Dynamic Air awards will vary according to the fare. With Dynamic Air awards, elite members can book any coach class seat for travel within the mainland U.S. for as few as 10,000 miles one way and the maximum mileage amount is 25,000 miles one way, the equivalent of a domestic AAnytime Award. These awards cannot be changed but they are refundable for a $150 reinstatement fee (waived for Executive Platinum members). There are no blackout dates or inventory restrictions on Dynamic Air awards and they can be booked online at www.AA.com/DynamicAirAwards. Also, they will not be subject to the 21-day close-in ticketing fee.

Bottom line: Dynamic Air awards are available in addition to MileSAAver and AAnytime awards so elite members now have more flexibility when redeeming for flights within the United States. If you can’t find a MileSAAver award for 25,000 miles roundtrip, this new option could save you some miles when booking domestic coach awards, especially when you are needing to book a ticket at the last minute. Southwest Airlines, Virgin America and JetBlue all have award charts based on dynamic pricing, but until now, offering awards that fluctuate in tandem with fares hasn’t caught on with the legacy airlines. United Mileage Plus and Delta SkyMiles have similar programs where credit cardholders can pay for part or all of their ticket with miles, but American’s Dynamic Air Awards don’t correlate exactly to the fare price where one mile equals a dollar and are capped at 50,000 miles.

Before booking a Dynamic Air award, check to see if SAAver awards are available first so you don’t end up overpaying for your flight. Frequent flyer Bob Baker priced a trip from Boston to Tucson in October and said: “There were Saver awards available for the dates I wished to fly at 12,500 miles each way; Dynamic Air Awards at 30,000 miles roundtrip plus $10; and AAnytime Awards available at 25,000 miles each way (50,000 total). The Dynamic Air Award is intended, I think, to be an “in-between” award, i.e., between Saver and AAnytime. The hassle is that you have to look at award reservations on one AA site, and Dynamic Air Awards on another. The two awards reservation systems should be incorporated into the same site for AA’s elite members.”



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