Airline merger 101: What does it mean for the consumer? - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Money

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Airline merger 101: What does it mean for the consumer?

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Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013 10:03 am

OK, the big question for most of us — employees excepted — is how will the merger between US Airways and American Airlines affect the price of a ticket?

Sorry; I don’t know.

But keep reading.

We do know what will likely happen with both airlines’ credit cards and frequent-flyer programs — and it involves action you should take now.

That’s what I came away with after we talked with Brian Kelly, AKA The Points Guy. Kelly left a Wall Street job in 2011 to keep a close eye on the industry and “share his travel points knowledge with eager consumers across the globe via his website, ThePointsGuy.com,” according to the site.

First, let’s look at the frequent-flyer program. Right now, they’re staying as is. But Kelly thinks eventually, they’ll use the American Airlines system.

Recommendation: Buy US Airways miles cheaply if they run promos. You’ll eventually be able to redeem through AAdvantage (American’s mileage program).

Or you could use them to take advantage of what Kelly calls “amazing US Airways redemptions” — like 90,000 miles to northeast Asia in business class comfort — while they last.

The key is “while they last.” When the programs are merged, the “amazing” US Airways deals may go away, so Recommendation: Redeem your US Airways miles soon, Kelly urges.

As for credit cards and all those frequent-flyer miles you can rack up by swiping the plastic, Kelly says one of the best in the business is the US Airways World MasterCard. The reason? The crazy bonuses you get. How about a first-use bonus of 40,000 miles? I found the American Airlines Citibank Card also has a new signing bonus of 30,000 miles.

Who knows which card the merged airlines will eventually go with.

Recommendation: Consider both cards so you get all of the opening bonus miles that can be used now or transferred to any new card. But make sure you know the annual fee up front.

Back to that question at the beginning: Will ticket prices go up?

While airline officials say the merger will actually increase competition.

C’mon.

You’re taking away an airline! If you’re betting, it’s safe to say higher prices, and soon, is a good bet.

• ABC15 Investigator Joe Ducey is Arizona’s consumer alert expert. Watch his reports weekdays on ABC15 at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., and email him with questions or news tips anytime at jducey@abc15.com.

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