American Airlines and US Airways Merger – One Traveler’s Wish List

Coming soon to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport?

American Airlines and US Airways are destined to merge, if you believe the many airline industry talking heads. If the merger is inevitable, it opens many questions and concerns. But I don’t want to go there. Instead, I offer my wish list for an American Airline and US Airways merger. Are my suggestions practical or workable? I have no idea. But they’re food for thought. What would you add?

Follow US Airways into the Star Alliance
When I fly US Airways, I earn miles that I could use on Asiana Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Air New Zealand or even United Airlines. That gets me to a lot of great destinations on highly rated airlines (well, except for United). On American’s OneWorld side, Qantas and Cathay Pacific are the best offerings. Star Alliance just has a bigger, better footprint.

More intercontinental flights from Phoenix
The nation’s seventh-largest metro area has some of the most meager, provincial airline service in the country. It has just one not-even-daily intercontinental flight to London Heathrow. London is a great gateway to the rest of Europe, and there are plenty of London hotels and other attractions. But for other intercontinental hubs, I have to fly to LAX, Houston, New York or Chicago first. That’s intolerable, and the American Airlines – US Airways merger could be a game changer for a metro area of 4.2 million people. More intercontinental flights would take a bite out of a major obstacle for leisure travel: time and stops.

Turn it into a true US flag carrier
When an American flies a national carrier like Qantas, Air New Zealand or Asiana, we get our very first taste of the countries they represent. And next to U.S.-based airlines, they’re a revelation. Look at what our domestic carriers offer visitors from abroad: a bunch of airlines rated at three stars by Skytrax. A merged American Airlines and US Airways should make it their mandate to represent the U.S. around the globe – and they need to aim for airlines that people enjoy flying.

Bring back the 747
The 747 represents American innovation and longevity. Its latest iteration, the 747-8i, is a magnificent piece of technology. Is it not strange that two airlines that name-drop the country’s name don’t have the 747 in their fleets? Bring it back and, along with the 787, the merged US Airways and American Airlines will represent some of the best ideas in commercial aviation.

Re-Brand with a vengeance
Make this a new beginning. Think of this as using existing assets to create a new entity with no bad baggage. Make it destroy pre-conceived notions. New logos, new liveries, new attitudes, new destinations, new mission, new culture. Make this opportunity more than another bland merger.

This post is sponsored by expedia.co.uk, part of the world’s largest online travel company. It features millions of published and discounted fares from more than 450 airlines. You’ll also find comprehensive online destination guides, maps and more and expedia.uk.com.

Air Miles, Student Travelers and More: Ideas for Airlines

If any airline can make flying cool again, it’s V Australia – it’s all about destinations, image and cultivating young travelers.

It’s time for a smart airline to cultivate tomorrow’s frequent fliers: teenagers and students.

My niece, Emily, recently turned 16. My wife and I want to get her a batch of frequent flier miles as soon as her parents get her an account with her preferred airline (that’s a not so subtle hint to my brother, Erich). The last time I visited Emily, she said she’d like to visit Australia. Right there, I had the idea in my head: Get her some air miles. That’s been easier to say than to do – and airlines are missing a major opportunity.

How Airlines Can Step Up

First off, offer deals for student flights. Maybe even tie it into an incentive based on grades or scholarships. Second, offer a promotion that encourages parents to open air miles accounts for their kids. Give a slight break on the cost of the miles, and throw in some sort of cool extra. Like what? Maybe a discount card good at hostels world-wide. Maybe a single-use day pass to an airline lounge. Maybe a tour of the airline’s hub operation to see what it’s like to work at an airline. Whatever it is, make it functional or creative – both, if possible. Show student travelers that they’re important – now and in the future.

Make Flying Cool Again

Airlines and their marketers forget something: that student travelers are blasé about the experience of flying. They’ve grown up in a world where people think flights are stressful, inconvenient glorified bus rides. The adults around them are indifferent to how great it is to fly across the country at 35,000 feet.

That’s not the way I grew up. Flying was cool. I looked forward to the flight just as much as the destination. Any forward-thinking airline can give this back to a new generation of fliers. They’ll need some help from an older generation of fliers, but it can work. It could build loyalty through air miles and just making young travelers feel welcome.

Give student travelers are a chance to have dinner in Chicago and then wake up to breakfast a few hours away from Sydney, and you’ll have them hooked for life.

Got Any Ideas?

Let me put the question to teens and their parents: What sort of "Welcome to Travel" frequent flier offer would get student travelers excited? What besides air miles would help?

This post is sponsored by Student Flights, providers of student travel, cheap international flights, cheap hotels, round the world flights and more.

7 Thoughts on Asiana Airlines

asiana 777
An Asiana 777 takes to the sky. (ykanazawa1999 via Flickr)

UPDATE: I’ve posted a review of my 5 flights on Asiana Airlines.

I just booked tickets for my first trip to Asia. This fall, I’ll fly Asiana Airlines to Incheon and Tokyo. U.S. Airways, one of Asiana’s Star Alliance partners, will get us to LAX and from San Franciso International. The plan is to go first to Seoul, hit the countryside and then make a quick visit to take in the otherworldly craziness that is Tokyo.

So why Asiana, which isn’t one of the better-known names in the United States?

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330
I'd love to fly on a Hawaiian A330. Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.

It’s online booking actually works -- unlike those of ANA, Korean Airlines and JAL. I considered those heavy hitters (hoping that ANA might have a 787 Dreamliner flying by then). Too bad their online booking is clunky to the point of non-functional. The online booking experience is a flyer’s introduction to an airline. It needs to work flawlessly every time. Asiana’s does. You’ll notice I don’t mention the big American carrier’s That’s because I have yet to see evidence that any U.S. carrier outside of Hawaiian Airlines provides the level of service of its overseas counterparts. More on them below.

It’s prices are the most reasonable I could find. A good chunk includes taxes and fees, though. Out of curiosity, I set up the same flights on Continental.com, also a Star Alliance member. Tack on another 10 percent. Not egregious, but not worth rolling the dice – American-based carriers just don’t have a reputation for good service, and mediocrity can make a long flight hell. Oh, and some of the flights are operated by United on its older 747-400s.

It has a great reputation for service. It’s the SkyTrax  Airline of the Year Award winner for 2010 -- the same year Global Travelers magazine named its in-flight service the world’s best. And its online booking actually works (I’m sure you read that somewhere recently --)

It has a very shiny new fleet. That’s always a plus, as is its reputation for rigorous maintenance. I’m looking forward to my first flight on a Boeing 777, which I’ve heard is a sweet ride for people who actually like commercial air travel.

Why Asiana Isn’t Quite Perfect

  • No direct flights from Tokyo to the United States during the times I searched. We have to go back to Incheon. That costs a bit of time. But hey, it’s another ride on a 767, one of my favorites.
  • An Asiana 747 freighter just crashed. There’s word that the flight disappeared after reporting a fire onboard. I can’t think of the last time an airline has last two aircraft very quickly, so that puts stats in my favor! And freight versus commercial service. I have no cause to worry.
The Very Worthy Second Choice
Hawaiian Airlines. I love the idea of skipping LAX and flying from Phoenix to Honolulu to Incheon to Tokyo to Honolulu to Phoenix. I also hear Hawaiian Airlines totally rocks, providing inflight service on-par with foreign carriers. The timetables just didn’t favor my allotted time. I also would’ve been more interested if I could’ve caught a ride on a Hawaiian A330 instead of a 767. Again, I like the 767 … but I’ve never been on an A330. Yes, these things do weigh into a flying geek’s decision making.
Also, Hawaiian’s site doesn’t take advantage of its Star Alliance buddies to get me from Incheon to Tokyo. One thing I learned: If you book all from one site, you’re covered better for mishaps like missing a connection. Qantas left us high and dry because we booked separately from Auckland to LAX and LAX to Phoenix. The ground staff lost some serious brownie points, but I also learned to book more efficiently.