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How does the AA bankruptcy affect your tickets and your miles?

The news of a major U.S. airline filing for bankruptcy is not exactly surprising: Since 1991 airways such as Pan Am, United, US Airways, Northwest and Delta have. But when American Airlines announced Tuesday that it had filed for reorganization under Chapter 11, many travelers probably didn't see it coming.

A subsidiary of the AMR Corp., AA has been flying (in one form or another) since before World War II, and until now has never experienced this level of financial turmoil. The action resulted in the stepping down of AMR chief executive Gerard Arpey, who has held the position since 2003, and company job cuts will almost certainly follow.

But how does this affect customers? Will service be disrupted? Are all accumulated frequent-flier miles in danger of disintegrating?

According to the airlines, your tickets and miles are still intact and in effect.

American Airlines has posted a statement on its website explaining in detail: “American is honoring all tickets and reservations as usual, and making normal refunds and exchanges” and intends “to maintain a strong presence in domestic and international markets.”

As for your miles, the announcement states: “The AAdvantage miles that you've earned are yours and will stay yours, subject to usual policies, until you choose to redeem them for a great award with us,” then further notes that "throughout the coming year, we will be adding even more opportunities to earn miles, as well as new ways to redeem those miles.”

While these guarantees have been expressed, all frequent-flier members and ticketholders should be sure to check the AA site disclaimer page, which states:

“American reserves the right to change AAdvantage program rules, regulations, travel awards and offers at any time without notice, including the right to, among other things, (1) modify or cancel any award or offer, (2) change program benefits, mileage levels or rules related to mileage credits or travel awards, or (3) add embargo dates, limit award travel seat availability, or otherwise restrict travel awards or offers. American may make these changes even if use of accumulated mileage credits or awards is affected. The accumulation of mileage credits does not entitle members to any vested rights.”

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