The integration of the American Airlines AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles frequent flyer loyalty programs will offer customers a more cohesive and beneficial travel experience, according to Suzanne Rubin, President–AAdvantage Loyalty Program, American Airlines.

On Dec. 9, 2013, American and US Airways announced the legal close of its merger.

“Although we have come together as one company, the new American is on a journey to integrate the two airlines,” Rubin told Loyalty360. “This complex integration process to combine under one operating certificate is expected to take an additional 18 to 24 months. We’ll continue to function as two separate airlines and will maintain two separate loyalty programs for quite some time, but are working together to build the world’s best airline, the new American.”

Rubin explained that the process of integrating the two frequent flyer programs began in January when loyalty program customers were able to earn and redeem miles on both carriers.

“At the same time, we began recognizing elite status across both carriers by rolling out reciprocal elite status recognition for a number of elite benefits,” Rubin said. “The next phase of frequent flyer program integration is focused on expanding those reciprocal benefits to more complicated processes like upgrades and to bringing both sets of customers and their balances together into a single database. Along the way, we will also work to align the programs where gaps exist. The final phase of program integration will occur when the two airlines merge onto a single Passenger Service System. This will be a multi-year process.”

At this point, Rubin said, existing technology platforms will be used to continue servicing loyal customers.

“Ultimately, we will migrate US Airways Dividend Miles customers and accounts to the American Airlines AAdvantage platform and will adopt American’s Passenger Service System,” she said. “We are early in the process so we may encounter opportunities to employ new technology along the way.”

What’s more, Citi and American Airlines recently announced that following the integration of the American Airlines AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles frequent flyer loyalty programs, Citi will exclusively issue new credit card accounts to support the combined American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program. The combination of the two frequent flyer programs is expected to occur sometime in 2015.

The combination of US Airways and American Airlines will serve nearly 100 million loyalty members, 6,700 daily flights and 339 locations in 54 countries worldwide. Effective this month, current Citi/AAdvantage credit card members continue to enjoy all their card benefits throughout the travel experience. Effective this month, Citi/AAdvantage Platinum and Executive card members will begin to enjoy select benefits on US Airways codeshare flights booked on AA.com. For example, Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card members can earn double miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, flight discounts and 10% miles back on AAdvantage miles redeemed for US Airways codeshare flights booked on AA.com.

When it comes to customer loyalty, Rubin said it indicates a preference for a particular brand or service, and then there is advocacy when loyal customers actually share their preference with others.

“We seek to generate customer loyalty through everything we do: starting with the brand, to the booking process, to the in-airport experience, to the in-flight experience, to the loyalty program and to the customer service we provide all along the way,” she explained. “The definition of customer loyalty hasn’t changed, but we get better and better at understanding what drives it, recognizing it, and rewarding it.”

When asked what keeps her up at night as a marketer, Rubin didn’t mince words.

“Relevancy and consistency,” she said.

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