It’s been almost a year since travel behemoths American Airlines and US Airways first announced their plan to merge into the world’s largest airline. This morning, after months of negotiations and several concessions from both parties, the market finally opened with AAL shares on NASDAQ, representing the financial future of the new, officially approved American Airlines Group, Inc.

The $11 billion dollar deal salvaged a struggling American Airlines from bankruptcy, but required both airlines to surrender major gate slots across the country—more than one hundred total—at hubs that include Washington's Reagan and New York's LaGuardia airports.

In an e-mail to AA Advantage members, president Scott Kirby assured customers that there would be few immediate changes. It's likely to be a year and a half or more before the two carriers operate as one, although they could begin selling each other's flights by March next year. Mergers can be messy things, and there may be many hiccups before travelers can fly on the fully realized American Airlines, complete with its recently redesigned logo and livery.

But as early as the New Year, travelers can begin accumulating and using collective miles, which will be transferred to AA’s Oneworld Global Alliance in March 2014. That means US Airways frequent fliers who want to book Star Alliance flights with their miles ought to do so now.

Also in January, US Airways’ elite flyers will begin enjoying waived bag fees on American flights, and preferred status members on both lines will have reciprocal lounge access.

There are certain conveniences that come with having a massive network of 6,700 daily flights across the globe, but some travelers could see familiar regional routes disappear as the new airline begins identifying cutbacks. Doug Parker, CEO of the newly combined airline, took to the airwaves today to say that fares won't rise "as long as demand stays the same." Our fingers remain crossed.

Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar / Alamy