US Airways is running a couple of great promotions at the moment, making it easy to rack up a substantial mileage balance with them quickly.
The first promotion is their 50% bonus on points transferred from any of their hotel partners. This is a pretty great promo, since you’re earning 37,500 US Airways Dividend Miles for every 20,000 SPG points transferred (SPG throws in 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 points you transfer, plus the 50% bonus). Furthermore, American Express Membership Rewards is running a 50% bonus on transfers from Membership Rewards to SPG, making it possible to indirectly convert Membership Rewards points into US Airways Dividend Miles at close to a 1:1 ratio.
US Airways is also running a 100% bonus on purchased miles, making it possible to rack up Dividend Miles at about 1.87 cents each.
With that in mind, I figured I’d share some of the basics of US Airways Dividend Miles so you can determine whether taking advantage of one of these promotions makes sense for you or not.
US Airways belongs to the Star Alliance, and you can find their partner award chart here.
On awards between regions you have the choice between an open jaw OR a stopover at a Star Alliance hub or US Airways gateway city (meaning a transoceanic gateway served by US Airways)
US Airways charges a Dividend Miles processing fee of $25 for travel within the continental US/Alaska/Canada, $35 for travel to Latin America/Caribbean, and $50 for travel elsewhere. The call center booking fee is waived for Star Alliance tickets since they can’t be booked online. The redeposit and change fees are $150 per person. Lastly, if ticketing within 21 days of departure there’s a $75 quick ticketing fee.
You can hold an award reservation for up to 72 hours, even if you don’t have enough miles in your Dividend Miles account.
In theory US Airways follows MPMs (maximum permitted mileage) for awards. In practice I’ve never had an agent check the MPM, because I don’t think they even know how to do so. The only thing they regularly check on is to be sure that you don’t have more than one stopover or one open jaw.
For the most part US Airways agents are geographically challenged, to put it nicely. A few examples from the past couple of weeks:
- Last week I was trying to book a ticket for a client between New York and Dubai, and found a routing through Zurich on Swiss. That’s about as direct as routings get. The agent claimed the routing included backtracking, so I asked her to double check on that. After putting me on hold for a while she came back and said “oops, you’re right, I was a little confused about where Zurich was.”
- On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of people book tickets from Miami to Buenos Aires via Frankfurt without an agent batting an eyelash. After all, Buenos Aires is in Spain, right? 😉
The key with getting a US Airways agent to book whatever you want is to minimize the number of segments involved. If you fly from New York to Frankfurt via Boston, Toronto, Montreal, London, Paris, Zurich, and Munich, that’s actually a legal routing in terms of the MPM, though it will likely confuse the agent, since US Airways agents seem to assume that lots of segments means lots of miles. If, on the other hand, you tried to book Newark to Tokyo via Singapore, you’d be exceeding the MPM by a ton, though I’d be willing to bet most US Airways agents wouldn’t have any issues with it. After all, Asia is tiny and Singapore and Tokyo are like 30 minutes apart, right? 😉
Anyway, what this means is that you can do just about anything within reason with a bit of effort. However, if an agent tells you a routing isn’t legal, just hang up and call again instead of arguing. You’re by no means entitled to a routing that exceeds the MPM, and once an agent notes your reservation you’ll have trouble ticketing it.
Lastly, keep in mind that routings aren’t confirmed till the time of ticketing. What this means is that even if you’re able to place an “illegal” routing on hold, that doesn’t mean the agent has to ticket it when you call back. As a result, if you get a really good routing, I suggest ticketing it right away.
Award tickets can include a maximum of 10 segments.
Award chart gems
- 90,000 miles for business class to North Asia. This is just about the lowest cost in the industry for business class to Asia, so it’s quite a value. By US Airways’ definition, North Asia goes as far South as Hong Kong. Furthermore, US Airways lets you route from the US to Asia via Europe, so you can have a stopover in Europe enroute. This is pretty funny since US to Europe in business class costs 100,000 miles, so you save 10,000 miles by continuing on to Asia.
- 120,000 miles for first class to North Asia. All the same conditions as above apply. I did this exact award just a couple of months ago to Tokyo via Europe, including a couple of segments in first class on the Lufthansa Airbus 380. It was quite a value!
- 110,000 miles for business class to Australia/New Zealand. This is considerably cheaper than the competition, not to mention that US Airways will let you route from the US to Australia via Asia (and sometimes Europe), which is often helpful given how limited award availability is nonstop between the US and Australia/New Zealand.
Future award chart adjustments
I hate to be Mr. Negative, but something tells me that US Airways will be devaluing their award chart substantially over the coming months. They haven’t had a major devaluation for a while now, and they really don’t have an incentive to be priced below the competition on the award front, especially given how inexpensively they sell miles. So I’d only take advantage of the above if you have a relatively short term use for the miles. If you don’t think you’ll be able to redeem the miles within the next six months or so, I’d hold off on doing any transfer or purchasing any miles.