What to do When Airlines Merge
How can you take advantage of a shifting airline landscape? When airlines merge, savvy frequent-flier program members look for opportunities.
I often get questions from frequent fliers who worry about their miles when they hear stories of a possible airline merger. My advice to these travelers: Stop fretting and start doing research.
Members of frequent-flier programs should make a habit of reading the programs' newsletters; they can also rely on such tools as Google Alerts or Yahoo! Alerts to help them keep track. Since their main concern is missing out on information about mergers, they should set up an alert with one or both of these free services to look for certain keywords. When those words come up in news reports or other public information, the service lets you know.
For instance, United Airlines and Continental are in the process of merging. If you are a Mileage Plus member, you might set up an alert for "United Airlines AND merger" or "Mileage Plus AND merge accounts" (or similarly with Continental OnePass, if you're a member). These notices will help you know when to start paying more attention to the news.
Also, understand that you typically won't have to do anything active to merge your frequent-flier accounts after two airlines merge, other than having the same name and address associated with both programs. Having one program registered under your home address and another under your business address can often result in mismatches or, at the very least, more work on your part and the carriers' to identify the problem. I ended up with an orphan Delta SkyMiles account even after merging my main Northwest account into SkyMiles after those two airlines merged. Apparently I had a second Northwest WorldPerks account that I didn't know about.
But mergers are not just about moving miles from one program to another. You might also consider them an opportunity to see what the new joint program looks like. If it is a true airline merger, then you may have no choice other than the new merged program. But if a change in partnerships or a change in alliances-similar to what happened when Continental OnePass moved its alliance partnership from Delta Air Lines to United Airlines and US Airways-is involved, then you may want to stop and compare your programs.
Is the program to which you're the most loyal the right one to keep using, or is there another program that might suit your needs better? During mergers and partner realignments, there are often incentives to stay or leave one program or another, so it's worth your time to examine your options. After all, as the airlines themselves often say these days, the time is ripe for even more changes.