US Airways Preserving Award Chart After March 30th

My birthday may have just come early, as according to Australian Business Traveler, US Airways will be maintaining their current award chart after they leave Star Alliance on March 30th!

I love US Airways miles for a variety of reasons. Dividend Miles can consistently be purchased for less than 2 cents each, they have generous routing rules for award tickets, and the most entertaining reservations agents in the airline industry.

Just last week I speculated as to the future of US Airways awards once they join OneWorld, noting:

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.

However, I didn’t think that keeping both programs separate under their current schemes for as long as possible was even going to be an option.

According to a spokesperson for the new combined carrier, I was (fortunately) wrong:

US Airways will continue to run Dividend Miles as an independent program to American Airlines’ AAdvantage, with its current award chart used to determine redemption rates instead of adopting the American Airlines’ table.

“After US Airways’ entry into oneworld, US Airways will maintain its current award chart” the spokesperson advised, with bookings for Oneworld airlines available through US Airways.

This means that the “sweet spots” in the US Airways Dividend Mile chart will be preserved, such as 110,000 mile awards to Australia, or my favorite 90,000 mile award to North Asia.

Cathay_Pacific_A330_Business_Class
Cathay Pacific here I come!

US Airways will also continue its partnerships with certain Star Alliance carriers for the time being, including Aegean, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAM, TAP and Turkish Airlines.

Of those, Air China, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA, TAP and Turkish Airlines are the only carriers that release a significant amount of partner award space, but it’s still far better than I was anticipating.

US Airways doesn’t actually publish routing rules on awards, and their computer doesn’t have to validate routings, so what’s legal is entirely dependent on the agent you get. The only “strict” rules, in theory, are as follows:

  • You’re allowed no more than five segments (four transfers) in each direction of travel
  • You’re allowed a single stopover OR open jaw on an award ticket between regions
  • If you have a stopover, it has to be at a Star Alliance hub or US Airways transatlantic gateway city

But even those aren’t strict rules, because there’s nothing in their computer system that prevents any of the other rules from being broken. I’m not sure if additional constraints will be added to the system prior to their entry to OneWorld, but as the agents I’ve spoken to recently haven’t yet had any supplemental training in preparation, my guess is that it will be business as usual at US Airways, at least for the time being.

Given that US Airways presently has a separate award chart for redemptions on American Airlines, my guess is that you will not be able to mix OneWorld and Star Alliance carriers on a single award. Of course, that assumes that US Airways agents know the rules of the Dividend Miles program to begin with…

However, this certainly won’t last.

Neither US Airways nor American have made significant changes to their award charts in several years, and given the changes at Delta and United the new combined carrier could certainly raise the costs of award redemptions while remaining competitive with other US-based carriers.

In the meantime though, how do I feel about being able to redeem US Airways Dividend Miles on carriers like Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Japan Airlines and Qantas at the current award rates?

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How about you? 

Comments

  1. Happy happy joy joy. Now I need to get up to speed on the best ways to search for one world availability.

  2. If we buy these US Air miles, do we have to use them right away or can we eventually fold them in with out AA account down the road?

  3. It’s a good news so far.
    I wonder if there would be YQ charge when redeeming award flight on BA like AA does.

  4. I can’t imagine US redemptions will avoid BA YQ (and might incur modest IB YQ).

    I do not expect *A partners to be combinable with oneworld carriers on the same award (or even necessarily with each other).

    And I don’t think we can expect all of these partnerships to last through the end of the Dividend Miles program.

  5. Finger crossed that the share miles sale will come back! $1000 for RT Cathay Biz with stopover? day dream comes true…

  6. I have a complex *A award to Europe for May. I’m flying a mixture of Austrian, lufthansa, united, and Air Canada. But I have three segments just to get from SFO to JFK! If something better pops up on American will I be able to add it on 4/1?

  7. So, if I understand this post and policy by USAirways correctly, this means you can fly AA/BA/Iberia to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan, Frankfurt or Moscow as a stopover and connecting to North Asia via Hong Kong on CX for 90K Biz Class and 120K 1st Class?

    The only question becomes whether that comes with or without AA/BA heinous fuel surcharges?

  8. @Lucky – I assume you’ll be experimenting with USAirways agents to see what routing you can get away with 🙂 Either way, interesting development. I just need more vacation time and ideas of places to go. Though, the latter is easier to figure out.

  9. I’d be ecstatic if they allow BA without the YQ, considering BA is the only oneworld carrier with non-stop international service out of ATL. ! I’ll bet it won’t happen, unfortunately.

  10. when will we have the option to exchange mileage between usair and AA for free?
    if so then it will be awesome as most people dont have many usair miles.

  11. I do not think they said you can book OW airlines under the US award chart. I hope I am wrong but I suggest holding off on the celebrations until we see how this plays out

  12. Ben – do you mean that they may not allow Etihad redemptions with USDM or not allow at all even with AA miles?

  13. @tom, seems clear to me, if the source can be trusted:

    “After US Airways’ entry into oneworld, US Airways will MAINTAIN ITS CURRENT award chart” the spokesperson advised…

    (emphasis mine)

  14. Does this mean that US Airways’ existing routing rules will apply to OneWorld metal post-March? In other words, trips to Australia via Asia instead of relying on non-existent Qantas availability? If so, I’ll be booking my JFK-HKG-SYD in CX and QF First Class asap!

  15. Hi Lucky, if I look at the AA search engine for award tickets I find different categories, such as Saver and AAnytime. There is hardly ever any Non Stop Saver Availability but tons of AAnytime Availability, also on other carriers such as BA. Would you think that after March 31st US can lock in to the AAnytime flights using 125.000 Miles for a return ticket or will they just offer what is available in Saver?

  16. @ Stefan — I suspect you’ll just be able to redeem miles at the saver level. If you can redeem it at the standard level it would likely be at double the price (at least).

  17. For these type of award tickets how long can you stay at once place? Can I fly to Taipei via Europe but then stay in Taipei for 3-6 months before coming back home?

  18. @ Benny — Absolutely, you can stay as long as you want, as long as travel is complete within one year of the date the ticket is issued.

  19. Speaking of Australia– is it likely to be easier to book on OneWorld vs Star Alliance? Been almost impossible to find seats so far.

  20. @ V — Well Qantas is in OneWorld, but the catch is that they’re really stingy with releasing fist and business class award space nonstop between the US and Australia. If US Airways allows OneWorld routings to Australia via Asia then I’d say it will get a bit easier. Otherwise it will get tougher.

  21. Hi Lucky. Question. I have used miles many times thanks to you, but have never actually stayed longer than 24 hours in the U.K. I have a ticket on hold to Asia, with a stopover in the U.K. The taxes seem extremely high on this trip. Is U.K. the reason for the high taxes?
    LAX-PEK-HKG(DIST)-BKK-LHR(STOPOVER)-ORD-LAX

  22. Ben – can you explain your thinking behind doubting that US Airways will maintain its routing rules after March 31? I’ve always assumed that an airline’s award chart and its award rules are part of a single policy. If they change one, why wouldn’t they change the other – or vice versa?

  23. @ Josh — I don’t think routing rules are explicitly tied to an award chart. In other words, if US Airways raised award rates that wouldn’t necessarily mean the rules will change.

    On March 31 agents will be given new information about booking codes for OneWorld, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if among that are some basic restrictions (you can’t route from the US to Asia via Europe, etc.). Just speculation on my part, though.

  24. Lucky: there are two aspects with USAir’s announcement via email today: the entry into OneWorld and continuing certain partner airlines. Zero details were provided as to award chart amounts/changes/usage rules. None. That said, I think using DM miles for partner awards will be carrier specific awards, i.e. I don’t see them allowing to mix OW carriers and partners and I don’t think their computer system will be set up to do that. Say you want to get to Auckland then on to HK or Sydney from NA, you’ll probably will be able to book Air NZ from LAX/SFO/YVR on that single carrier, but if there’s no Air NZ seats from Auckland to HK, you’ll have to get a separate award for Qantas or Cathay to get you there, or buy a ticket. Also, you’ll have to pay for a ticket or book a separate award to get to the U.S. gateway in the aforementioned case. I can already see the confusion on 31 March! Overall the USAirways DM StarAlliance program was the best and moving to OW is a huge downgrade. OW is weak and BA’s fuel fees are extortionate, it doesn’t have the capacity or network that SA has, ditto SkyTeam. I’ve already noticed the lack of saver award levels for months down the road on the AA site. While AA might not raise its award chart, I think they’re working around that by simply not offering many saver level awards. Clever.

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