Last Chance To Book US Airways Star Alliance Awards

US Airways will be joining the OneWorld alliance on March 31, 2014, which is a day after they leave the Star Alliance.

Award tickets on OneWorld carriers will be priced using the current Dividend Miles award chart, at least initially, so this will open up some great opportunities to use US Airways miles on carriers like Cathay Pacific and Qatar.

However, this also means you only have three days to book US Airways tickets on Star Alliance carriers. While some individual partnerships will be preserved with Star Alliance airlines, you likely won’t be able to mix OneWorld and Star Alliance carriers on a Dividend Miles award.

This means connections might be more problematic, not to mention that in many regions the Star Alliance route network is significantly more comprehensive than that of OneWorld, so certain destinations will be more difficult to reach on OneWorld carriers.

So this isn’t completely comprehensive, but I thought it might be helpful to provide a general overview of whether I think it’s better to book now on Star Alliance carriers, or wait to redeem your US Airways miles on OneWorld beginning next week:

For Travel To:Should You Book Now Or Wait?
North America (Domestic US & Canada)Book!

US Airways actually has decent domestic award space at present, and United and Air Canada have space on some routes as well. No real reason to wait here, as American's domestic availability has been horrid lately.
HawaiiBook!

I don't anticipate award space to Hawaii getting worse with the move to OneWorld, but it's such a popular destination right now that if you see availability that works for your dates, I'd just go ahead and book it now. While American partners with Alaska and Hawaiian, these carriers don't belong to OneWorld and won't initially partner with US Airways.
Central / South AmericaWait.

OneWorld already has a stronger route network here due to American and LAN. TAM will be joining OneWorld on March 31st as well.

Your options in Star Alliance are effectively limited to United and Copa, so you're likely better off waiting.
EuropeBook!

Even with losing US Airways, Star Alliance still has about 50% more northern transatlantic flights than the combined OneWorld carriers. Furthermore, about 1/3 of the OneWorld capacity is on British Airways, which will incur fuel surcharges on award tickets.
Middle East / Africa Tough Call - Probably Book

American has strong coverage in these regions, as they are partners with Etihad in addition to their alliance partner Qatar. US Airways won't be inheriting that relationship right away though, which means future options will be more limited.

Star Alliance has good coverage here with Turkish, Ethiopian, Egypt Air, South African, and even Lufthansa, and given that route density you're probably better off booking now.
IndiaBook!

This is more of a "hedge your bets" recommendation than anything else, as availability to India can be pretty hit or miss.

Both Star Alliance and OneWorld have decent coverage here, so if you see something compelling I'd probably book it, as you can always change it later if there's a better OneWorld option.
North AsiaBook - Business Class | Wait - First Class

I've written extensively about the value of US Airways' 90k business class awards to North Asia, and part of what makes these such a great value is that the Star Alliance business class products on this route are truly phenomenal.

If you're hoping for first class, Cathay Pacific and JAL have decent availability, so you might be better off waiting. I'd probably book business class tickets now though.
Southeast AsiaWait.

Technically Star Alliance has great coverage here, though given that Singapore has been stingy with business class space lately, and Thai is notorious for product and schedule changes, you're likely better off waiting.

OneWorld has good coverage here as well, with Cathay Pacific, JAL, and Malaysia releasing a good amount of space. Sri Lankan will be joining the alliance on May 1st, which should provide further options.
Australia / New Zealand Tough Call - Book Or Wait

So in theory OneWorld is the better option here, given that they partner with Qantas. In practice, however, they don't release a ton of award space.

That being said, neither does Air New Zealand, or the other Star Alliance carriers, so it's a bit difficult either way. With OneWorld we'll theoretically be able to book Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong and Qatar Airways via Doha.

Bottom Line? Award inventory to Australia and New Zealand is really limited, regardless of alliance, so I'd probably lock something in now if you can make it work. But otherwise availability shouldn't get significantly worse with OneWorld.

If you’re going to redeem Dividend Miles for Star Alliance carriers, which products should you focus on?

Air China Business Class:

Air China’s new business class product is available on all their 777-300ER aircraft, and based on my recent flight from Paris to Beijing in it, is actually a really nice product.

Air_China_Business_Class_77705

In the US they fly the 777-300ER to HoustonLos Angeles, and New York, and award space is especially good out of Houston and Los Angeles. The Houston service isn’t daily, though has business class award space on virtually every flight, while the Los Angeles service is twice daily, and again there’s space on almost every flight.

AirChina-Business-Award-Space

AirChina-Business-Award-Space1

ANA Business Class

ANA business class award space is also readily available if planning in advance. ANA’s US 787 destinations include San Jose and Seattle, and both routes have spectacular business class award availability.

ANA-Business-Award-Space

ANA’s other US gateways include Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington.

  • The Chicago service recently became twice daily, so award availability in business class is excellent on that route.
  • Meanwhile the New York service is twice daily as well, and award space is especially good on the later flight.
  • Just remember that the flights operated by the “77W” feature the new business class cabin, while flights operated by the “777” feature the old business class cabin. The later Chicago to Tokyo flight is operated by the “777,” so you’ll want to avoid that if possible.
  • The Washington to Tokyo flight is also often operated by the “777,” so you’ll want to avoid that as well.

ANA-Business-Award-Space2

ANA-Business-Award-Space3

Asiana Business Class

Asiana’s new business class product (which deserves an award for the coolest name in the world — Quadra Smartium) is available on their aircraft designated as “77Ls” and “77Ws,” which fly from Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles and San Francisco. If booking in advance award space on these routes is phenomenal. Asiana has great service, a fantastic hard product, and excellent catering.

Asiana-Business-Award-Space1

Asiana-Business-Award-Space2

Asiana-Business-Award-Space3

Austrian Business Class

One of my favorite transatlantic business class products is Austrian business class. Their entire fleet now features their new fully flat business class product, but my favorite part of flying with them has to be their DO&CO catering and dedicated coffee menu. I’ve flown Austrian business class from Vienna to Tokyo Narita, and had a great flight.

The challenge with Austrian is that they tend to be pretty quirky with releasing award space. Presently, however it seems like Austrian is loading business class award availability 90 days out, almost to the day.

So if you are booking travel between now and the end of June, you have a shot at finding space.  Otherwise you’ll want to look at other products.

Austrian’s longhaul destinations include Bangkok, Beijing, Chicago, Delhi, Male, New York, Tokyo, Toronto, and Washington. Availability out of the North American cities isn’t fantastic, but there is certainly space available on certain days.

Brussels Airlines Business Class

Brussels Airlines is a good option for transatlantic flights, and they offer a “staggered” business class configuration, whereby each row has a different configuration.

Brussels-Airlines-Business-Class

Brussels Airlines’ US destinations include New York and Washington.

Brussels-Business-Award-Space

EVA Air Business Class

I’d say that the single Star Alliance airline with the most business class award space is EVA Air. They release an unreal amount of business class award space, and even have one of the best business class seats in the world, which is in a herringbone configuration. I’ve flown EVA Air longhaul to the US twice now, once from Taipei to San Francisco and another time from Taipei to Los Angeles, and enjoyed both flights immensely.

EVA_Air_Royal_Laurel_Class03

When booking EVA Air be sure to aim for a 777-300ER, as these planes feature their Royal Laurel Class, which is their reverse herringbone business class product.

Their North American gateways on the 777-300ER include Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto. You’ll generally want to avoid Seattle and Vancouver, as these routes are operated by 747s with their old business class product (though later in the year they’ll be launching 777-300ER service to Seattle).

EVA-Business-Award-Space

EVA-Business-Award-Space1

EVA-Business-Award-Space2

EVA-Business-Award-Space3

LOT Business Class

Okay, full disclosure — my flight on LOT back in January left a LOT to be desired. But it was also operated by one of their ancient 767s. LOT now flies 787s with a new fully flat business class product on their North America bound flights to Chicago, New York, and Toronto.

LOT’s business class award space is fairly good out of all of their North America gateways, though the thing to keep in mind is that LOT award space doesn’t show up on united.com, so you’ll want to use the ANA tool to search for space on them. This is probably part of the reason award space on them is fairly good, since most people don’t know the space is there.

LOT-Business-Award-Space

LOT-Business-Award-Space1

Turkish Business Class

Turkish isn’t as great about releasing award space as they used to be, though with some effort it’s not too tough to snag space on them. They have many North America gateways, including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Washington, and soon Boston and Montreal.

Turkish-Airlines-Business-Class

Generally business class award space is readily available on the Houston route, though a bit tougher to come by on the other flights. Most of their flights to the US are operated by aircraft with the new business class product.

Turkish-Business-Award-Space

Bottom Line:

Depending on your travel goals, it might make sense to wait to redeem your US Airways miles once they join OneWorld on Monday. For others, this is a “last call” to book Star Alliance awards before the deadline. I’d expect hold times to be outrageous on Sunday, so would suggest booking sooner rather than later!

As always I’m more than happy to answer questions in the comments section, or if you need more detailed help booking and are ready to pull the trigger, feel free to check out our award consulting service, PointsPros.

What about you? Are you hoping to book a final Star Alliance award this weekend, or are you waiting for OneWorld?

Comments

  1. Thanks Lucky for this very helpful post and the reminder. I just booked my business NYC to Seoul via Asiana and Narita back to NYC via ANA. The agent was able to book my flight from NRT to JFK on ANA and the email confirmation I got shows the correct date of Tuesday 2/24/15. However, when I log in to my US Airways account, it says Monday 2/24/14. I think this happened because of the 330 day rule. Should I wait to call to see what happened or call now? 2/24/15 is 330 days from 3/31/14 (I’m assuming 3/31/14 will be the day when they show 2/24/15 as available to book because of the 330 day rule). I’m afraid if I call now, the agent will tell me my flight on 2/24/15 isn’t allowed to be booked yet even though the agent I spoke to was able to book it for me.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. @ Ang — Sounds to me like you should be good to go. What does the ANA website show? I would confirm with ANA that everything looks correct, and then you should be good to go.

  3. Hi Ben, do you mean “Europe – Book” even for partners that continue codesharing with US Airways after March 30, like Turkish or TAP?
    Thank you.

  4. @ Tatyana — Well chances are you won’t be able to mix Star Alliance and OneWorld after March 30, so I would still book now because eveni f you can book TAP or Turkish, it may be tough to find a routing without travel on other airlines as well.

  5. I’m not sure if i have seen a definitive answer but would AA EXP award ticket reinstatement benefits be applied to an award using US Airways miles, in the event that plans change?

  6. Kind of a mundane question, but one I’d imagine a lot of us flirt with. When United (for instance) shows availability – often on multiple flights and routings – and the USAir agent intones “we don’t show any availability, sir” … is that a hangupandcallback moment, or is there really limited allocation? I run into this just with the first leg domestic portion of a routing, and not the complicated availability of something like Lufthansa.

  7. @ tim — Until they offer reciprocal elite benefits there won’t be any fee waivers for Executive Platinum members booking US Airways awards (though I’m hopeful they’ll offer reciprocal elite benefits sooner rather than later).

  8. @ dale m — It could be either. There is some space that US Airways blocks. For example, they block certain ANA flights and Lufthansa first and business class flights (discussed here: http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2013/11/15/us-airways-blocking-lufthansa-award-space/), but there’s not really a way around that. That being said, some agents are clueless, so if it’s an award on another airline that they can’t see, chances are you’ll just want to hang up and call again.

    Good luck!

  9. great post as always. can you please explain why one should book now for biz class US to north asia? cathay also has good coverage, and if eva and cathay have near identical biz class seats and service, wouldn’t it be more of a tie or perhaps worth waiting since one can stopover at HKG en route to the final destination in north asia?

  10. or… layover 2x in hkg enroute to the stopover and final destination since cathay would require you to connect in hkg.

  11. Booked 110K award ANA 787 and NZ 777 via NRT and PVG to AKL late summer/winter. Hard to find NZ flights. Avoid the NZ 767 as they have the old cradle seats. First time for me on these two carriers. Sad to see USAir and SA awards go. That said, JAL, Cathay, Finnair and AA Flagship is worth looking forward to. Also, even though you probably won’t be able to mix OW and the US partner carriers, it shouldn’t cost too much to make a connection to a gateway if you want to fly TAP/TK/CA etc.

  12. @ Al — Ultimately there’s no absolute right or wrong answer for any of these regions, but Star Alliance does have more options to North Asia than OneWorld. Star Alliance has ANA, Asiana, and EVA, while OneWorld only has Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

    Keep in mind that while we know which award chart US Airways will use, we don’t know which routing rules they’ll use. American doesn’t let you route from the US to Asia Zone 1 via Asia Zone 2. That means you can’t route from the US to Japan via Hong Kong.

    It’s anyone’s guess what US Airways’ routing rules will look like (if they have any).

  13. @ Lucky – I believe that IAH-PEK on CA is going to become daily starting March 30, 2014, isn’t it?

  14. Lucky: There are many unknown transition details out there and hopefully these will be known on 31 March. I suspect at this late date US/AA are still figuring out which i’s and t’s to dot and cross. No one knows how long the DM chart will be in use, or how long DM partners will be on board, or how they will be booked/rules. US should have released such details at least a week before they take effect.

  15. @ steve — Agreed, though in fairness US has been running their program for years now, and I still don’t think they have rules, so… 😀

  16. Lucky, what are your thoughts on the “creative geography” benefits of US Air agents? I assume since they will still use the same call centers for the time being that you might even get some better routings than AA allows? Or do you think the US Air agents actually received and have been trained on the AA platform so it will be computer driven?

  17. @ Peter — I’m certainly hoping that they don’t start letting computers price award tickets. And I would guess initially they won’t, at least until they integrate into a single system for both carriers. Could be wrong, though.

  18. Wow that would be huge for redemptions to Australia and other routing restrictive regions! E.g. We could fly CX through HKG in F instead of grabbing the ever-elusive QF f award. Of course all hypothetical at the moment. Thanks!

  19. When you write “that US Airways blocks certain ANA flights”, where can I find more info on that? Don’t wanna plan my itinerary and then have US not see the availability.

  20. Is award availability shown for both Austrian and Brussels Airlines on the United award availability tool?

  21. @ Josh — It’s pretty random. They seem to block certain Air Japan flights out of Narita (which operate to Hong Kong, Shanghai, etc.), along with certain transpacific flights. But haven’t noticed any specific patterns.

  22. @Lucky – I tried booking TAM F yesterday to no avail. The agent went back and forth for about an hour and 40 minutes (she really tried), but the system wouldn’t price it (or the rate desk). There seems to be a memo allowing only a small flight range and the JFK/GRU flights aren’t included. Taken from her with a grain of salt, but the bottom line is they wouldn’t ticket it, even after she managed to snag the space.

  23. Hi Lucky,

    Will I still be able to redeem Dividend miles on Eva Air flights, after March, till May 14?

    Thanks!

  24. Booked my last 90,000 business award to N.Asia last night. Originally tried to get a MIA-ZUR flight on Swiss but US Air agent couldn’t see availability despite it showing on ANA and United.Hung up and called back 3 times and all said “not available.” Anyway, routing turned out to be MIA-LIS-ZUR (stopover) on TAP Portugal (a first for me)then continuing to NRT on SWISS and return NRT-ZUR-MIA all on SWISS. Tried to get an Asian carrier trans-Pacific on way back, but dates didn’t work out. Final result:3 long hauls in SWISS business, which I enjoy as long as I snag a seat with the foot cubby hole open to aisle so not as constraining and 1 long haul on TAP Portugal which I have no idea what to expect.

  25. I put my 3 US Airways awards on hold. My fee additional to taxes will be $40(award ticketing)+$50(phone fee) per person. Is it accurate for international awards? Any way to avoid it? Thanks.

  26. @ Tatyana — There’s only a $50 Dividend Miles processing fee. There’s no telephone booking fee if booking on Star Alliance partners.

  27. Free stopover in Europe while going from USA to Asia (pre/post Mar 31)?

    Do US Airways routing rules it possible to go from Australia thru Europe (stopover) to USA (destination)?…going thru Asia 1st with no stopover?

  28. @ Cody — There’s a chance you may get away with it, but generally you can’t route from the US to Australia via Europe when redeeming US Airways miles. All depends on the agent, though.

  29. What about the US to Asia with stopover in Europe…will we still be able to get that free stopover in Europe post Mar 31 (I guess it would be on OneWorld carriers, if we can do it, right?)

  30. I am flying my wife and 4 kids from Perth to USA (back to see family) with a stopover in Paris to visit the kids friends for 3-4 days.

    Debating whether this will be easier or harder in oneworld vs. star. It may be a moot point if the free Europe stopover goes away after Mar 31 for oneworld bookings which is why I’m asking.

    If it does go away, here’s my thought process on options pre Mar 31…

    1) Try to convince US Air agents to allow me to route Australia to USA with stopover in Europe…PER-BKK-CDG(stop)-VIE-IAD…then find my way back from IAD to PER.

    2) buy a cheap $200 roundtrip Jetstar or Air Asia flight from Perth to Bali and start and end the award travel in Bali (SE Asia region) so I can get the stopover in Europe.

    Oneworld is much quicker (don’t have to go thru SE Asia) and easier to book Australia to USA (especially from Perth), so if the Eurpoe stopover can’t happen then I’ll probably wait until after Mar 31.

    Thoughts?

  31. Booked a roundtrip on EVA tonight just in case of any funny business after Mar 31st. Was tempted to try ANA business, but found a spot on LAX-TPE Hello Kitty Jet and can’t pass that up. Also loving the Royal Laurel reverse herringbone.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  32. @ Cody — From Perth you may just be better off with OneWorld. I think getting an agent to book the European stopover is unlikely, but you never know.

  33. Lucky, thanks to you, a friend found a biz award ticket that he needed to Europe in early June. Austrian Airlines did not come up on the UA tool. I believe he found it with ANA. US could see what he found with the tool. He’s a very happy guy today.

  34. Is N.Asia(HND/TOKYO) TO N.America(YVR/Vancouver)
    Via Europe(LHR/Heathlow)stopover NOT valid?
    This route was denied as invalid routing by 2 Specialist today in
    U.S.Air British phone center.I was told this was OK as of Yesterday.What shall I do now?

  35. @lucky-Thank you for your quick reply.
    I have not called US number yet.
    My routing is
    HND-LHR(STOPOVER)
    LHR-MUC-YVR
    YVR-SFO-LAX-ICN-PEK-HND
    I will try US number this time.

  36. I called Dividend Miles ServiceCenter
    @800-428-4322.Being hold for more than 50minutes so far.It was less than 1 minutes hold for England number.Is this normal?

  37. @ Typhoon5 — Yes, hold times with US Airways are wildly variable, especially given how many people are booking awards this weekend due to the program changes.

  38. I’m having the same problem with hold times, unsurprisingly. Ben, is the call center open 24 hours on weekends? If so, I’ll just call them back at 3:00am.

  39. I called US Airways Reservations on Sunday, March 30 at 9:14pm Phoenix time and they already pulled bookings for Star Alliance. No bookings available for One World either until March 31. Dirty dogs pulled it at 11pm Eastern time!

  40. I called US Airways yesterday (Sunday March 30) at 3PM EST and the wait time was l-o-n-g. I already had an award on hold so after a 30-40 minute wait, was able to book it. Flying Asiana A380 and Hello Kitty flight! Agent did warn me that they wouldn’t be able to change the booking after that day due to their exiting Star alliance.

  41. @lucky – I used my Dividend Miles back in December 2013 to book two award trips in May and August 2014. I have the reservation codes for Lufthansa, Thai, Singapore and Asiana for those trips. However, this morning, I checked the websites of these airlines and entered my reservation code. Each one of them said that the reservation code entered is not valid/cannot be found. Do you know what’s going on or is anyone experiencing the same thing? (Note: I checked these reservation codes just last night and I saw my reservations all confirmed.)

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