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.
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 America||Wait.|
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.
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.
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 Asia||Book - 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.
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.
In the US they fly the 777-300ER to Houston, Los 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.
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’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.
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.
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’ US destinations include New York and Washington.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?