US Airways OneWorld Award Routing Rules

As US Airways has finally joined the OneWorld alliance, a lot of the “pieces” are finally falling into place. Up until a couple of weeks ago we had no clue whatsoever what award redemptions on US Airways would look like once they joined OneWorld.

A little over a week ago we learned that US Airways would be maintaining their award chart for OneWorld travel for the foreseeable future. This was exciting news, since US Airways has some real “sweet spots” on their award chart, like being able to fly from the US to North Asia via Europe for just 90,000 miles in business class.

However, we still didn’t know which routing rules US Airways would have for Dividend Miles award tickets.

There were two ways routing rules could have played out:

US Airways could have maintained their routing rules…

…or lack thereof.

Not only does US Airways have a ridiculously lucrative award chart, but US Airways agents also manually price awards. This means that there are often no computer “checks” in place, and it’s often possible to get away with more creative routings than you’d be able to book with other carriers.

Even the award routing rules that US does publish are in many cases more generous than American’s. So even if you’re not trying to be creative, the US Airways rules are often more liberal, allowing international stopovers, the transit of multiple regions, and so forth.

Or US Airways could have adopted American’s routing rules…

American simultaneously has extremely stingy and extremely generous routing rules. On one hand they let you exceed the maximum permitted mileage for a city pair by up to 25%, which is ridiculously generous. Well, at least they let you exceed it by up to 25% as long as that’s not your intention.

On the other hand, American has archaic routing rules for AAdvantage award travel:

  • The transoceanic airline has to publish a fare for the city pair you’re flying. For example, say you want to redeem AAdvantage miles to fly from Tampa to the Maldives, using Etihad Airways for the overwater segments. You can’t, because, Etihad doesn’t publish a fare between Tampa and the Maldives.
  • With few exceptions, you can’t transit a third region. With very few exceptions, American won’t let you transit a third region when traveling between two regions on an award ticket. This means you can’t route from the US to Asia via Europe, or from the US to Australia via Asia, for example. Heck, it means you can’t even route from the US to Southern South America via Lima, even though that’s the most direct routing.

So what are the US Airways rules for OneWorld travel?

I’ve spent nearly as much time on the phone with US Airways this morning as Martin Savidge has spent in a 777 simulator on CNN the past two weeks.

I’ve priced awards to North Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, and all points in-between.

Given the typical geographic knowledge of most US Airways agents, this was more difficult than it sounds. 😉

So I figured I should share a few of my findings in pricing a variety of awards:

It’s business as usual — US Airways routing rules prevail!

I’m sure this will make lots of people do the happy dance.

I’ve held several awards now, and in all cases US Airways routing rules prevailed.

I had no problem routing from the US to Asia via Europe, US to Australia via Asia, or US to North Asia via the Middle East. Woohoo!

Be patient — award taxes have to be manually priced by the rates desk

OneWorld award bookings literally went live just a few hours ago, so I suspect this will change soon.

But for all the awards I tried to price, the rates desk had to manually calculate the taxes, which can take anywhere from five to twenty minutes.

This can also mean that the rates agent may veto a more creative routing, so that’s something to consider if you’re planning on booking OneWorld travel to “The China.”

US-Airways-World-Map

Have a drink before you start calling

This is typically a good rule for booking complex award travel in general, and calling US Airways has always been an opportunity for a drinking game anyways.

US Airways agents were barely starting to get the hang of Star Alliance carriers and destinations, and now they have to learn a new set of airlines and hub cities overnight.

“I’d like to book an award reservation for travel on Qatar Airways?”
“You mean Thai? We don’t partner with them no more.”
“No, Qatar Airways, the airline based in Doha, Qatar.”
“Oh, you mean Qantas?”
“No, Qatar, it’s in the Middle East.”
“I never heard of them before. But if you want to travel to the Middle East I can check if we still partner with EgyptAir.”

And maybe I’m just a horrible human being, but I couldn’t help but call and ask about award space on S7 airlines between Novosibirsk and Urumqi.

Because, well, sometimes in life, you just gotta have a little fun… you feeling me?

Outside of my impromptu geography bee, I also held and priced the following awards:

US to Australia via North Asia in business class — 110,000 Dividend Miles + $170 taxes

Cathay Pacific 897 Los Angeles to Hong Kong 8:25AM-4:05PM (+1 day)
Qantas 30 Hong Kong to Melbourne 7:30PM-7:55AM (+1 day)
Qantas 29 Melbourne to Hong Kong 10:50AM-5:15PM
Cathay Pacific 898 Hong Kong to Los Angeles 10:05AM-6:40AM

US-Airways-OneWorld-Award-1
LAX > HKG > MEL > HKG > LAX prices at 110,000 Dividend Miles on CX and QF with a stopover in Hong Kong

US to North Asia via the Middle East in business class — 90,000 Dividend Miles + $85 taxes

Qatar 708 Washington Dulles to Doha 9:40PM-6:20PM (+1 day)
Qatar 888 Doha to Shanghai 1:15AM-2:15PM
Qatar 889 Shanghai to Doha 12:10AM-5:55AM
Qatar 707 Doha to Washington Dulles 8:45AM-3:10PM

US-Airways-OneWorld-Award
IAD > DOH > PVG > DOH > IAH prices at 90,000 Dividend Miles on QR with a stopover in Doha

US to North Asia via Europe in first class — 120,000 Dividend Miles + $1,613 taxes/fuel surcharges

As expected, US Airways will be imposing fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways, so I wouldn’t recommend this as a terrific value, by any means. I still couldn’t help but hold a ticket for travel between the US and North Asia on British Airways the whole way:

British Airways 114 New York to London 9:50PM-9:55AM (+1 day)
British Airways 25 London to Hong Kong 6:35PM-1:15PM (+1 day)
British Airways 26 Hong Kong to London 11:15PM-4:55AM (+1 day)
British Airways 113 London to New York 3:55PM-6:45PM

British-Airways-Fuel-Surcharge-Breakdown
NYC > LHR > HKG > LHR > NYC prices at 120,000 Dividend Miles, and very high fees on BA

Bottom line

This is really everything we could have asked for, as far as I’m concerned. You don’t even know how badly I want to just keep calling and pricing awards for OneWorld travel, just to see what airlines and countries they come up with. Stay tuned for my take on OneWorld geography a bit later!

Have you booked a OneWorld award using US Airways miles yet? If so, what was your experience?

Comments

  1. For an existing US Airways ticket with Star partners, is it possible to change the europe-north Asia-USA part of the ticket while leaving the USA-Europe with it’s currently booked Star partners? Or would they have to rebook the whole thing?

  2. What search tool will you use for finding availability for the US to Asia via Europe awards? When US Airways was part of Star Alliance, you would use the ANA award tool, so I’m curious what will work best for finding flights.

  3. @ Blue Skye — I use the American website to search for space on partners they show, but for partners they don’t show (like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Qatar Airways) I use the British Airways website.

  4. Is British Airways pretty much our only option (especially from LAX) for award travel to Europe on Oneworld? Oneworld is really strong on travel to Asia, but if we want to go to Europe, our choices seems very limited.

  5. @lucky, US airways tells me that for any changes to a Star Alliance ticket, the miles have to be redeposited and a new ticket issued on one-world.

  6. I booked a simple LAX – HGK business award on CX just after midnight and I was that agent’s first One World booking. In September there are many open dates. I have a feeling that first class awards on Cathay Pacific will be slim pickings soon.

  7. @Lucky — I am seeking to book an award from DCA to JAX on using Avios on US Airways. On the US Airways site it says there are 4 flights with “High” first class seats free. Should I be able to book these on BA?

  8. Lucky, what are the chances of having IND-DFW-LAX-HKG, HKG-SIN (stopover), SIN-HKG-LAX-DFW-IND priced as North Asia?

  9. @ italdesign — Very low, with that routing there’s no way you can justify Singapore being the stopover and Hong Kong the destination when you’re transiting Hong Kong in both directions.

  10. Hi Lucky, similar question to Italdesign’s. What if he changed his trip to DFW-LAX-HKG-SIN (open jaw), HKG-LAX-DFW. Does that help in chances of pricing as North Asia?

  11. Ben, yeah those are both from the east coast so not all that helpful for me. Wish there were better options to europe from LAX for the longhaul portion. Dont’ want to have to fly some crappy US carrier halfway to europe.

  12. Thanks for biting the bullet and figuring this out for us. Amidst the sad news of CVS Vanillas going by the wayside, this is definitely a bright spot in the day!

  13. Reading through US Airways routing rules on stopovers:

    “You’re allowed one stopover per US Airways itinerary at a US Airways gateway or international destination, or in a partner hub city if you’re traveling on an award partner.”

    Does this mean one could do IAD-DOH, stop in DOH for as long as I wanted, then continue on DOH-HKG and price it as a North Asia award, assuming that DOH counts as a partner hub city for Qatar?

  14. @ Chris — Yes, that’s correct. Assuming of course you get an agent that interprets the rules that way. Some agents interpret the rules as saying you should pay the award price for the most expensive region you transit.

  15. When you say the airline must “publish a fare” between the city pairs, how exactly do I check on that? Does that mean if I go to the airline website and type in my origin and destination, it should come back with a ticket that they will sell me entirely on their own metal? Or is there some other official way of checking.

    I’m wondering for other airline alliances as well, I understand that’s not the case with US Air award bookings. Thanks!

  16. As a follow-up question of Sam’s. I also came across the same situation when I booked last SA award ticket via US. The agent stated that for any changes, the miles have to be redeposited and a new ticket issued on one-world. Is there any possibilities that I just change part of the ticket if the award is available on OW parters. Thanks.

  17. If I were to book a flight to Europe, if I wanted to connect through say DOH instead of forking over the insane fees BA charges I would have to pay more miles as though I were flying to DOH correct?

  18. @ chasgoose — All depends on the agent you get. Some would price it as a Europe award, others would price it as a Middle East award, and others wouldn’t allow it since it’s not necessarily a legal routing. But with a few calls you should be able to get it booked in your favor.

  19. @ Lucky – Is possible to book North American to the Indian Subcontinent via American Airlines’ Asia 1/Asia 2 zones (i.e. on CX LAX-HGK-BOM)on a single award?

    Also, another point of interest would be to book an award that would circumnavigate the globe. (i.e. JFK-DOH-BOM-HGK-(YVR)-JFK)

    It’ll be great to hear what you find!

  20. Thank you for all the hard work, Lucky!

    P.S. US agents probably love S7 — it’s the only airline I can think of whose code is the same as its name 🙂

  21. Lucky, would JFK – HKG – BKK – HKT and back BKK – DOH – JFK be able to be ticketed in Business for 90k and what would first price out at?

    Or do I need to return on the same route?

  22. Does anyone have information about award round the world flights on US? It is no longer listed on the award chart. When calling up, they told me the same rules as was previous with Star Alliance – 200k for Coach, 300k for Business, etc. Plus a maximum of 10 segments, 5 stopovers. I was really looking forward to the Explorer award that AA offers, but I guess that’s not in the cards?

  23. @ Dave — Correct, US Airways isn’t offering distance based explorer awards. Those should eventually be bookable once the programs merge, though.

  24. hi lucky

    was wondering if you have had any luck finding and placing cathay first class seats on hold after the switchover?

  25. I found odd that US agents is still not able to see JAL’s ticket in the system. Any idea?

  26. ThanksLucky for all the great info. Just when I figured the ANA tool out! Duh. Can you suggest some valid routes to HKT from Yyz biz or First with pos stop over in uk for travel jan1 – April 20 2015

  27. Which tool best to see if my usair miles can be used to return us from BNE to JAX early Sept 2014 – 9/9-9/15 timeframe -open to stops. I know that business class is hard to snag but thought I should try otherwise will use AA miles to return in Y
    thanks!

  28. @ cheryl — You need to search segment by segment, but you’ll want to use the American website and the British Airways website, which I’ll be publishing a tutorial on very shortly.

  29. Are you having trouble getting US Airways Agents to see/book JAL flights? I have several that I can see on BA.com but agent’s can not seem to access.

    This is the third time I’m getting burned by a similar problem in the past week– first YUL-IST (TK), then ORD-NRT (NH), now YYZ-NRT / HND-BKK; so frustrating!!!!

  30. So at this point is it still possible to book an award flying only US and US partners without touching other OW? I understand that it is not possible to book both US partners and OW on the same ticket.

  31. @lucky, thanks. very helpful. I’ve been trying to book to the maldives, via us for the past four days. Have LAX-HKG on hold, but the HKG-MLE route, tough available on Qantas search, and through AA, is not showing up as an existing flight in USAirs system.

    Looks like this is happening to others. bummer.

  32. Lucky,
    I’m trying to get back from BKK at the end of May beginning of June, i have EWR outbound, i found availability in business on Emirates BKK – DXB – IAD on the qantas site, but I’m not sure if Emirates is bookable? I need to get back to PHL or EWR any suggestions, i’m stopping over in Honk Kong.

    How many segments does US allow?

  33. Lucky,
    I’m trying to get back from BKK at the end of May beginning of June, i have EWR outbound, i found availability in business on Emirates BKK – DXB – IAD on the qantas site, but I’m not sure if Emirates is bookable? I need to get back to PHL or EWR any suggestions, i’m stopping over in Honk Kong.

    How many segments does US allow?

  34. @ Chris — US Airways allows five segments per direction. You can’t redeem US Airways miles for travel on Emirates, though.

  35. Does anyone know if we can still use award points to book Thai Airways?? They are a partner.
    🙂

  36. Im desperately trying to find availability from Brisbane, Australia to any UK airport on 29th April or a few days later. Im using KVS tool but finding it painful to use as i dont know segments with the oneworld airlines. Is there an easier way to search?? Thanks 🙂

  37. Hi Lucky,
    I just called agent to try to get NYC-MAD(or DUS or LHR)-DME(Stopover)-HKG-NYC. But the agent just said I can not put DME on the trip to HKG because it has to be en route. Is there any way that I could argue? Thank you!

  38. @ Vince — It’s a case where you may have to hang up and call again, unfortunately. I’m sure you can find an agent willing to book it.

  39. Lucky,
    Yes I called again and finally got an available route on JFK-HEL-SVO(stopover) then DME-HKG-DFW-LGA. I think I could switch between airports in the stopover city since it seems the case. The agent was being very helpful and friendly except that she said I need 100k miles to redeem this itinerary because I have stopover in Europe so they have to charge me on the highest area which is 100k for Europe. I am wondering if there is way to argue? I do really appreciate your help!

  40. @ Vince — There’s no way to argue, but you can hang up and call again and hope for an agent that interprets the policy differently. Some agents think they’re supposed to charge based on the most expensive region you transit, while others think they’re supposed to charge based on your final destination. I’d definitely not argue, because if you do they’ll no doubt notate your record. But if you’re polite, keep it on hold, and call back you may get an agent that prices the award differently.

  41. Need some advice on booking AA/OneWorld award and you seem to be the expert. How do I contact you directly?

  42. A little off topic but if i want to make date changes only to an existing usdm award (all CA) does it require a redeposit, thus new n asia price?

    And I if I want to make routing changes I include BR, redeposit also? Entire itinerary would be CA and BR, current partners

    Thanks

  43. @ E — I’m not 100% sure one way or another, but I think you may be able to make either of those changes without totally redepositing. I would recommend calling to ask.

  44. The routing has both a stop over and open jaw.. So if I called and they notice that, they’re not alllowed to cancel it outright correct?

  45. I have to say that you are the first American outside of family to know and mention my home town in Russia
    I’m pleasantly floored

  46. I have to say that you are the first American outside of family to know and mention my home town in Russia
    I’m pleasantly floored

    “And maybe I’m just a horrible human being, but I couldn’t help but call and ask about award space on S7 airlines between Novosibirsk and Urumqi.”

  47. Hi Lucky,
    Thanks for a great blog, it’s on my daily to read list!

    Do you know if it’s possible (or would be) to book a US – North Asia award
    LAX – (via pacific) – HKG(destination) – LHR (open-jaw) TXL – NYC

    Would the starting and stopping in different cities in the US be a valid trip or would it count as having 2 open-jaws making it invalid?

  48. @ Eric — You’re only permitted one open jaw, so having two open jaws would make that routing not legal.

  49. Hi Lucky! I have a question on US Airways routing .
    Is South &Central Asia to Mexico & Central America
    via Europe(90,000miles) allowed?

  50. If I want to look at award availability on Cathay Pacific, do I have to create a Marco Polo Account and Pin? Is there no way to look at award availability without creating a frequent flier account with them?

  51. Hi Lucky, thanks for all the great info! Just a question on whether you know whether;
    1) return dates can be longer than a year from date of booking ticket (ie, could I return Jan 2016..) and
    2) can tickets be changed / modified or extended once issued?

    Thanks!

  52. @ BG — All travel has to be complete within a year of the date of issue. Tickets can be changed/modified once issued for a fee, though you can’t extend the validity period of the ticket.

  53. Hi Ben,

    How about flying to South America transiting trough Europe? Would the following itinerary be valid?

    JFK-LHR (stopover with fuel surcharges on BA)-GRU –> Flying BA
    GRU-MAD (no stopover and no fuel surcharges due Brazilian regulations)-JFK –> Flying IB

    Thanks!

  54. Hi Ben,

    I have an award ticketed at the 90k level for later this year (caribbean-HKG(stopover)-SE Asia (dest)-Caribbean). I needed to change the dates on the return portion, and after feeding the flights the agent went to check with the rates desk. When she came back, she said that I would have to pay 20k miles more per person since I was stopping over in HK.

    In your recent experience, have the folks at US airways got stricter with the miles needed when transiting/stopping over in a third region, or did I just have some bad luck with a rate desk agent? I am going to try again anyways.

  55. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the article, very helpful indeed.

    I have an award booking that is supposed to be invalid (as it exceeds MPM) ticketed – unfortunately some of the segments have no F availability so I have booked them as J for now.

    Question I have is given the ticket could be invalid according to certain agent, is there a risk that my ticket will be cancelled and invalided when I call them again to change the segments in J to F? I am wondering whether I should just leave them in J and not risk losing the entire booking.

    Also what generally happens for these tickets if there is a schedule/aircraft change and the booking needs to be updated? In other words is there a risk that USDM will cancel the booking automatically prior to departure (or worse during the trip) because the booking is deemed “invalid”?

    Thanks,
    WL

  56. @ WL — They can’t just cancel it. They can certainly put a note in there saying no further changes are allowed, but they can’t cancel it. If there’s a schedule change you should be able to make “reasonable” changes to make it work.

  57. Thanks Ben – thats helpful. Looks like I dont have to fear my ticket getting changed/cancelled when I ring up to make changes.. (which will be a nightmare)

    Given that I have paid for full F miles and am only upgrading from J to F on the same flighjt, I would think that the agent wont need to ask the rates desk for quotes? I am guessing all the agent would do is to charge me $150 for change fee? My routing is fairly reasonable and I didnt have any issues with the agents when I was putting this together – though as soon as it hits the rates desk I had to HUACA.

    I am just waiting for F in 2 CX legs to pop up, they are both intra-asia. 1 of them showing F7 A6 and the other F1 A1 (which I probably have no chance getting F). Am I right that CX only releases 1/2 F seats 330 days out and nothing until 1 week prior to departure? What do you suggest is the best strategy to get myself upgraded on the F7 A6 leg?

    Thanks,
    WL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *