Future US Airways Dividend Miles Awards On OneWorld Carriers

US Airways will be leaving the Star Alliance on March 30, 2014, and joining OneWorld on March 31, 2014.

This is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles are two of my favorite programs on the award redemption front, though are useful in totally different ways. If I had my choice I’d keep both programs separate under their current schemes for as long as possible, though of course that’s not an option.

US Airways leaving the Star Alliance stings especially bad, given that United MileagePlus recently devalued their award chart, making Star Alliance premium cabin award redemptions rather unattainable at a reasonable cost nowadays.

So there are a few questions that come to mind regarding US Airways’ March 31 transition to OneWorld:

Will OneWorld awards be bookable at American or US Airways award levels?

I think a vast majority of us hope that OneWorld awards through US Airways will continue to be bookable at US Airways award rates. After all, who wouldn’t want to fly Cathay Pacific business class to North Asia for just 90,000 miles? And my guess is that if OneWorld awards are actually bookable through US Airways (see below) they will be at the current rates.

Cathay_Pacific_A330_Business_Class
Cathay Pacific Business Class would be an absolute bargain for 90k US Airways miles!

If it’s any indication, US Airways’ award chart for travel on American has the same redemption rates as US Airways’ current chart.

I’m sure we’ll see a new “combined” award chart soon which will be devalued — following the lead of Delta and United — but I can’t imagine it will be overnight as they switch alliances.

Will the routing rules of American or US Airways apply for US Airways OneWorld awards?

As it stands, American and US Airways have very different award routing rules.

At American, the computer prices awards, so there’s not much potential for human error. On top of that, issuing tickets isn’t instant, so once they’re confirmed the ticketing department can still catch any mistakes and correct them before the ticket is issued. That being said, American’s routing rules are simultaneously extremely generous (they let you exceeded the maximum permitted mileage by 25%) and extremely restrictive (they have ridiculous zone restrictions) out there.

Meanwhile at US Airways everything is done manually and tickets are issued instantly. Agents manually price award tickets, and there’s no backup to catch them if they mess up, since the tickets are issued right away. So from their perspective the issue isn’t really the incompetency of many of their agents, but rather that there aren’t many “checks” in place.

I don’t know the first thing about IT, so you guys tell me — could US Airways program their computers overnight to have the same restrictions, even though the two carriers are still using different reservations platforms?

Will US Airways allow one-way awards and distance based awards?

I dunno! My guess is that if they adopt American’s award chart they will. However, if they stick with their current chart, I doubt it.

Will OneWorld awards even be bookable using US Airways miles?

Maybe I just don’t have enough faith in US Airways’ systems, but I kind of see this as a possible outcome. I wouldn’t be surprised if as of March 31 US Airways Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage miles become fully transferable, and all OneWorld bookings have to be made through American.

In a way this would be the “easiest” solution for American, in that they’d keep their current award chart, routing rules, and could slowly transition agents to the new system.

While making some award bookings with US Airways agents over the past few days I’ve asked in passing whether they’ve received any OneWorld training yet, and they all indicated they hadn’t. I can’t imagine they’ll train agents overnight in OneWorld vs. Star Alliance, so to some degree I feel like this is the most practical option.

Then again, based on their knowledge of the Star Alliance, I can’t imagine the learning curve is that much if they’re looking for a similar level of proficiency. šŸ˜‰

What do you see as the most likely outcome?

Comments

  1. “if as of March 31 US Airways Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage miles become fully transferable, and all OneWorld bookings have to be made through American.” – this does seem to be the most practical… but what would the US Air agents do then? Just book revenue tickets?

  2. Didn’t I ready somewhere that certain Us Air partnerships will continue post 3/31….I seem to recall EVA was one on the list. Fwiw I think I saw this on a blog post – not sure I’ve seen anything official from the US Air.

  3. Since AA has the IT already set up for bookings with OW partners, and since it has already added the capability to book US with miles, it’s hard to imagine they won’t use that platform eventually. And if they use that platform, I would think one way and AA rules would govern eventually. What they will do in the interim is anyone’s guess. It seems like it would be awfully ineffecient for US to completely change its partner booking platform temporarily, only to move over to AA’s later. I guess the one alternative is they unveil some entirely new IT platform that is fully integrated, but I have a hard time envisioning that.

  4. I am just praying that they keep US as it is till Jan 2015, and just change partners that the agents can search and book on after the 31st of March.
    SIN / India for 160k on EY is great to look forward to for a year.
    Australia for 110k in Bz is even better.
    A r/t with a stop over “at a hub” is fine as well.

    In 2011, I was able to use the better CO rules for awards to HI with a stop in SFO than the UA rules, which did not allow stops on domestic trips.

  5. >I am just praying that they keep US
    >as it is till Jan 2015, and just
    >change partners that the agents can
    >search and book on after the 31st of March.

    To me what ffi said seems the most likely, unless IT has been working on this a lot longer than it seems.

  6. its kinda mind boggling even at less than 28 days away and there is no clear rules or methodology between the programs. I just hope they dont drop a bomb shell at the endth of the day like Delta did

  7. Ben,

    I need to pick a small nit: “Premium cabin” partner awards are certainly still obtainable at not unreasonable levels via UA MP. You bloggers just like to obfuscate “premium cabin” and “first class” as interchangeable. I’m perfectly content in my “premium cabin” business class seat šŸ™‚

    A bit more seriously: My travels are actually about visiting the destination, with a strong preference on getting there in a flat bed and not an economy class seat. IOW, J is good enough for me.

  8. @Dan Even business class took a huge hit in the devaluation, unless you’re referring to flights on United metal, which have a fraction of the availability of partners.

  9. I expect them fo follow the BA-BD model. After March 31, US awards can only be booked on the remaining US partners. It is unclear what sort of availability US will offer, for example VS are a US partner but you can only book Y awards. I could see the same bad availability happening with the ex-* partners.
    If you want to book OneWorld airlines with US miles, you will need to move your miles over to AA where you can book under the existing AA scheme.I expect that you will be able to move miles fairly soon. This solution is by far the most straightforward and requires no process changes at either airlines award booking departments. Every other solution is far too complicated and costly. All we can hope for is fairness when the new unified award chart finally comes into place.

  10. @ Mike — They did announce that, though we don’t know in what capacity they’ll partner. We don’t know whether it’ll be on the earnings and/or redemption side, how long it will last, and if partners can be mixed on one ticket. Only time will tell.

  11. @ Dan — Hah, fair enough, but even business class has gone up substantially in price. I mean, Europe went up by 40%, and United is now 50,000 miles more expensive than Aeroplan. Admittedly Aeroplan imposes fuel surcharges on some carriers, but that 50,000 mile premium almost balances those out.

  12. @Steve

    I guess it’s all relative, no? I just booked a trip to Australia using UA miles. UA metal all the way = 70k, ANY premium partner metal bumps the trip to 80k miles. This was super annoying, because I had to use US to get to LAX from DC. The return was on OZ+US, which still cost 80k miles. I can’t say that partner J took a “huge hit” without saying that UA J took a serious hit either.

    There are some bizarre quirks I have yet to wrap my head around. My initial outbound to OZ was on UA’s LAX-MEL 787 flight, but after tweaking my dates by a few days, I rebooked it on IAD-PEK-SYD. The IAD-PEK flight is in UA Global F, and PEK-SYD is on CA J. The quirk is that this itinerary cost the same for me to fly UA F is it did to fly UA J on the original itinerary. (US F to LAX bumped up the price.)

    Ben, FTR: In response to your Ask Lucky advice the other day, by moving my dates, I was able to get the return on QF J on the A388, connecting to AA F. Cheaper, simpler, quicker, and I get to fly on the A388. While there was some appeal to the CX product and routing, it’s still ~27 hours of flying time vs ~18.

  13. we should brace ourselves

    they’ll take AA’s routing rules, adopt a chart half way between DL and UA, use AA’s IT platform, preserve the only sacred thing (25K domestic saver RT)

    But AA really need to update their routing rules. Many logical ones (like SYD-AUH-LHR or SCL-LIM-JFK) are banned.

  14. This is seriously stressing me out. I am on the cusp of another 90k J award to Asia. Maybe i’ll just take advantage of the 100% bonus on purchase miles…

  15. I’m trying to decide if I should book US-Australia now at 110 on Star, or hold off to see if I could book it on OneWorld next month. But if the rates shot up I’d be so annoyed with myself for waiting!

  16. @Lisa

    Speaking as someone who just booked an OZ award, my first question is: Why is this even a choice? (Straight up serious question, I realize most people ask it rhetorically.)

    By waiting, I assume you want to book in either CX or QF inventory. QF can be hard to find, although I can see the appeal of wanting to fly on CX metal. But US-HKG-SYD makes for a LONG flight. You are looking at 25 hours of flying (one way) if you start your trip at ORD or JFK.

    With *A, you’ve got some UA metal options through LAX and SFO. I’m also seeing some OZ itins come up through ICN, although you’re likely to get less than a premium experience. ICN-SYD is serviced by their old 777-200 config, which you will also find from SFO and ORD. JFK availability can be scare.

    There’s always the old habit that I’ve fallen into: Book the trip now and pay the redeposit fee (or better yet, simple change fee) if something better opens up. Even when redeposit fees are running $200 and change fees are running $100, I find it’s well worth paying to get the vacation you want.

  17. Oneworld rant here. I dislike that it all the oneworld partners display false availability. For example just because asia miles says there is saver awards, aa might say no. Just because BA.COM says there are awards available, they might not be bookable.

    That said, I think there will be real problems with availability. It is hard enough now to find oneworld availability across the Atlantic. Once we have even more US Airways points it is going to be even worse. For example I was looking at booking a BA First award from Vancouver to London, and even though various parts of BA.com said there was availability, there is an entire 2 days where you could redeem a First class ticket this year. And that is just one of many, look at AA.com, I don’t think they have a single flight on AA in business available this year from Dallas to London and they run 3-4 flights daily on that route in the summer.

    To add insult to such poor availability there is no real source of true availability. You have to call and hope the agent is going to spend the energy to help you out. So in short, I don’t anticipate a very easy transition for using US miles for oneworld flights.

  18. I am looking to go on Safari.
    Any chance these miles can be used to get from Boston to Nairobi

  19. Lucky, whatever US decides, do you think they’ll at least announce it a few days before March 30? Or will we have no idea until it’s too late (for those us on the fence as to whether to book something now or post-OW)?

  20. @ italdesign — It’s anyone’s guess. I do hope that they’ll give some notice, though wouldn’t count on it either, unfortunately.

  21. My take:

    1) SHARES has historically only had connections to Skyteam and Star, never to OneWorld for RAS (which is code for redemption availability). The system really operates just like a ‘switch’ though, so changing from Star to OneWorld for awards is pretty simple. The only thing is testing to make sure all the links work since US has not been connected to OW carriers prior to this.

    2) Even if US switches without any glitches on day one, you still have the utterly clueless US agents. There is no learning curve, or amount of training, they are just plain awful due to the lack of knowledge and tools they are given to work with. We’ll still have to contend with this.

    3) The award chart is going to be harmonized for OW redemptions. I mean, US has to update all the charts anyways to remove reference to Star, so why not take the opportunity to update the redemption levels as well?

  22. Hi, Lucky:

    I have a question on the US/AA slots divestiture. I am currently around MSP, and DCA-MSP is announced to be discontinued by Cactus. However, non-stop tickets are still being sold in the system. Did new AA drop only all of the nonstop flights or they just reduced the frequency? difficult to find an answer on news and reports.

    Thanks!

  23. @ Terence — Sorry, wish I had an answer. My guess is that if they’re still selling seats then the route won’t be discontinued, and it’s just a reduction in frequency. But not 100% sure.

  24. Thanks Lucky!

    btw just thought of some (perhaps temporary) perks using Dividend miles; just tried their rewards search for LAX-JFK, not bad for 50k in first class on AA nonstops šŸ˜€

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