US Airways Trial Preferred Status Challenge

With Tuesday’s announcement that the American and US Airways anti-trust suit has been settled with the DOJ, it’s a good time to start thinking about the implications this can have on your elite status with US Airways and American. As I mentioned yesterday, one possible way to take advantage of this is by outright purchasing status with US Airways.

They’ll literally let you “buy up” to whichever status level you’d like. Here’s the US Airways chart for “buying up” to Preferred status:

US Airways Preferred Status

As you can see, you can outright purchase 100,000 PQMs for $3,999, or it’s a better deal if you have any qualifying activity to purchase up to 99,999 PQMs for $2,999.

But US Airways also offers status challenges for a fee, and those willing to fly a certain number of miles in a 90 day period should consider a US Airways Trial Preferred status challenge.

US Airways gives you the status upfront, and charges you the following amounts:

  • Dividend Miles Silver Preferred status costs $200
  • Dividend Miles Gold Preferred status costs $400
  • Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred status costs $600

US Airways Trial Preferred

Then your status beyond the 90 day trial period is determined by how much flying you do in that 90 day period:

  • If you fly 7,500 miles or 10 segments you get Dividend Miles Silver Preferred
  • If you fly 15,000 miles or 20 segments you get Dividend Miles Gold Preferred
  • If you fly 22,500 miles or 30 segments you get Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred
  • If you fly 30,000 miles or 40 segments you get Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred

This status will be valid through February 28, 2015, and only miles earned flying US Airways and US Airways Express qualify (meaning travel on Star Alliance partners wouldn’t qualify). This is also only valid to those that don’t currently have status with US Airways, and that haven’t done a status trial in the past 12 months.

So to be clear, if you do the Silver challenge and fly 30,000 miles you’d get Chairman’s status. Meanwhile if you did the Platinum challenge and only flew 7,500 miles you’d get Silver status.

If you’re willing to fly there’s no doubt this can be a better value than outright buying status. Say you pay $600 for Platinum status upfront (which you don’t have to do, you can just purchase Silver status, but let’s say you want your flights to be comfortable so you’re maximizing your chances at an upgrade). You would have a really easy time flying 30,000 miles for under $2,399, which is how much you’d otherwise pay to buy up to Chairman’s Preferred status (factoring in the $600 fee you’re otherwise paying for Platinum status upfront). And that’s not even accounting for the redeemable miles you’ll earn.

It’s almost certain that there will be elite reciprocity and status matching between American and US Airways next year, though I wouldn’t count on getting the eight systemwide upgrades that American top tier elites get in the next program year. You do, however, get the two systemwide upgrades (each valid for travel with a companion) that US Airways Chairman’s Preferred members get that are valid on most fares, and I wouldn’t be surprised if those could also be used on American before the end of the year.

Whether or not it’s worth it depends on your exact circumstances, but there’s certainly potential for this to be more than worthwhile.

Comments

  1. Seems to me that if you’re doing the challenge the $400 difference between doing it as a Silver and a Platinum is at least partially offset by the benefit in redeemable miles you’d earn (15K extra miles).

  2. @ Ted — No, you’re not really evening “buying” the PQM, but rather “buying up” to the status without even technically receiving the PQM at all.

    The T&Cs state: “Preferred status purchased through the ‘buy up to Preferred’ program is non-refundable, and purchase does not earn you Preferred-qualifying miles or Preferred-qualifying segments. Program is subject to all Dividend Miles terms and conditions.”

  3. @ LarryInNYC — Agreed, if I were going for Chariman’s I’d definitely do Platinum not only for the additional bonus miles (which almost pay for the difference in and of themselves) but also for much higher upgrade priority and other benefits.

  4. I’m taking this to mean that an award ticket doesn’t earn miles and therefore would not qualify toward the purchased, trial status offer?

  5. I’m actually considering this. What are the Platinum benefits for _international_ travel on US Airways. Don’t think there are many, are there — no upgrades, no lounge access?

  6. While I like the idea of a buy status program, especially at the low prices US Airways charges, I believe if you are looking to get American Airlines status out of this you should be very cautious.

    Maybe you could do a post on predictions for a combined airline.

    If you look at the past mergers, United/Continental and Delta/Northwest upgrade, fees and benefits tended to merge to the lowest or worst for the consumer.

    I would predict that perhaps a merged airline we would see Executive Platinum members getting either 2 system wides per year OR Executive Platinum members needing to do a co-pay similar to US Airways. I would also expect service levels (meals / wifi) to merge to the lower US Airways level.

  7. Hey Ben: The challenge link states that to reach (for instance) Platinum Preferred you need to _fly_ 30K miles in the 90 day window. It does not say that you need to credit the miles to Dividend Miles.
    .
    Do you know if that’s strictly accurate, or will only miles credited to Dividend Miles (rather than another partner program) count towards the “total miles flown”?

  8. Sorry, Ben, I’m not being clear. If I fly 30K miles , for money, on US Airways in the 90 days but I credit the miles so they accrue in Aegean (or Lufthansa, or American, or whatever is available at the time I fly), do the miles count as “flown”.
    .
    In other words, do I have “fly” the 30K miles, or do I have to _earn_ 30K Dividend Miles PQMs in the 90 day period?

  9. @ LarryInNYC — I’d be willing to bet you have to actually credit the miles to US Airways. They don’t have any other way (in practice) of tracking how many miles you’ve flown.

  10. I spoke to a US Air rep and was told that buying Silver means I can only achieve Silver even if I fly to a higher level. It seems odd that they list Chairman’s without a corresponding price for the trial. I assumed that this meant you would achieve it if you flew 30K miles but I’m not sure now. I would love clarification.

  11. @ Zippy — Hmmm, are you referring to the trial status challenge or outright purchasing status? If the former, you can absolutely qualify for a higher status level by flying the above amounts.

  12. @ Zippy — Yeah, if you sign up for a Silver/Gold/Platinum trial you can most definitely get Chairman’s status if you fly the required amount.

  13. @ Zippy, I bought the trial Silver and earned Gold status during the 90 days. I’d say the rep didn’t know what she was talking about. 😉

  14. What if I buy the trial but don’t make the miles…..can I buy up for the remaining miles to achieve silver?

  15. @ chris — Sure, you can always buy up, but that’ll cost you quite a bit, so I’d think about it carefully before deciding on a challenge or just deciding to buy up.

  16. So let’s say I do the 90 trial in November 2013, buy Silver/Gold/Platinum, and I fly enough in 90 days to qualify for Gold status at the end of my trial, which is end of Jan 2014. Am I able to advance to the next tier on my flights after Jan starting at the Gold base (fly an additional 25k and get bumped to Platinum), or do I have to actually fly 75k miles in 2014 before I qualify for Platinum (since your accrual would start from zero in the new calendar year)?

  17. I’m thinking of switching from Delta to AA but AA doesn’t offer EXP Challenge. If I sign up for US Challenge, can I get PQM in the following case.
    1) Flying code share flight. US number. AA Metal.
    2) Flying AA marketed and operated flights.

  18. @ andrew — While you earn PQMs for travel on American, only US Airways flights count towards the challenge as of now, per the T&Cs.

  19. Hi, Lucky!

    Now as US merged with AA, would they count miles from AA flights towards the qualifying miles during that 90-day trial?

  20. @ Terence — Unfortunately the terms still seem to indicate that only US Airways and US Airways Express flights qualify.

  21. I signed up for the silver perfered and was upgraded to gold when I flew 15000 qualifying miles. I also recieved two first class upgrades during that time. The program nearly paid for its self, during my first trip beacouse I flew with my family and bagage fees where waived.

  22. The current version of Trial Preferred absolutely offers credit for both US and AA coded flights. The overall flying experience is definitely a *major* downgrade from DL, but the perks still make it worthwhile.

  23. The current T&C’s state “Only bookings made after the member’s status has been upgraded reflect his or her new status.” First, this sentence is a bit cryptic. Second, however, it seems odd that existing bookings for travel within the 90 day window wouldn’t accrue the benefit of the status. Anyone have experience with how the challenge affects pre-existing bookings for future travel within the 90-day window?

  24. Lucky,

    Can I sign up for the US Airways Trial Preferred (Platinum @ $600) and turn around and use this for a challenge on United? I fly United twice a week, and this could be a way to challenge for United Platinum.

  25. Hi Lucky,

    Just to confirm what may have already been discussed: if I pay for the Silver trial ($200 for 7,500 miles), and end up flying 15,000 miles or more within the 90 days, I will be able to attain Gold Preferred?

    Thanks!

  26. I also had the same question as Dave regarding the T&C on pre-existing booking. I have a pre-booked flight coming up next week, and am wondering if I should go ahead and start the trial.

  27. Hi Lucky,

    If what Carl Black says is true, and nobody challenged him on this post, it means that you can fly 30K miles mostly on AA within 3 months, and get US Chairman status, right? The only requirements is that the flights should be bought as US air tickets, right?

    If so, it looks a better way to get eventually Executive Platinum when they combine their programs.. However, for flights to Asia (DCA to HKG, for instance), the same ticket with the same itinerary and same airlines (mostly AA metal) costs $5500 on US site and $1186 on AA site. Or would AA tickets credited on US Dividend miles qualify for the challenge?

  28. Lucky,

    Do you know whether the 50% bonus class of service Preferred-qualifying miles in First and Business Class count in the challenge. That is, if one flies 5000 miles all in first class, earning 7500 PQM’s, would they keep Silver?

  29. I’ve been a Chairman’s Preferred for 4 years. While I only have miles to qualify for Gold, I’ve always done the buy-up to Chairman, usually a $2,000.00 to $2,500.00 expense. Well worth it for the Chairman status. With recent conversations with USAIR and their email notices, it is my understanding that you can only buy up one level above your current actual miles status i.e. silver to gold. gold to platinum. platinum to Chairman. And that you can’t jump multiple levels, regardless of what the buy up cost is? Does the “challenge offer” reverse this? Can you pay X amount (whatever that might be) to buy up from say Gold to Chairman?

  30. @ ed — That’s correct. But if you do a Silver challenge, for example, you can still earn Chairman’s Preferred if you fly 30K during the promo period.

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