Comparing American AAdvantage And US Airways Dividend Miles

US Airways joined the oneworld alliance just a short couple of weeks ago, and a lot has changed in that time with the frequent flyer programs of both American and US Airways.

Since they joined oneworld I’ve done what I can to cover many aspects of redeeming US Airways miles for travel on oneworld, and vice versa, including:

But beyond that American has made some substantial changes to both the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs last week:

American AAdvantage changes:

US Airways Dividend Miles changes:

Anyway, all that leads me to the point of this post. While American and US Airways are now “one company,” they still maintain separate mileage currencies, and there’s no way to transfer miles between AAdvantage and Dividend Miles yet.

So which program’s miles are more valuable — AAdvantage or Dividend Miles?

I’m in the process of sharing my updated valuations on miles, as the last time I shared my valuation of miles was a bit over a year ago. At that time I valued the two currencies as follows:

  • American AAdvantage – 1.8 cents/mile
  • US Airways Dividend Miles – 1.6 cents/mile

So with all the changes the past few weeks, which miles are now more valuable — AAdvantage or Dividend Miles?

First, here’s a chart with the major policy differences between the two programs:

American AAdvantageUS Airways Dividend Miles
One Way AwardsYes! All awards are one-way.No. All awards price at the roundtrip rate.
StopoversNo.One stopover at a OneWorld hub or US Airways transatlantic gateway city.
Open JawsYes, because all awards are one-way.Yes, if you don't already have a stopover.
Routing RulesCan exceed MPM by 25%, but can't transit a third region outside of certain exceptions. Over the water carrier must publish a fare for the route.No more than five segments per direction, otherwise nearly anything goes.
Change/Cancellation PolicyRouting can be changed for no cost provided origin and destination stay the same.Awards cannot be changed or modified once travel has commenced. Otherwise can be changed for a fee.
Fees For Non-Elites$150 to change origin/destination city
$75 Close-In Ticketing Fee
$150 Cancellation Fee
$50 Dividend Miles Processing Fee
$75 Close-In Ticketing Fee
$150 Change/Cancellation Fee

Now lets look at each individual policy and which carrier “wins:”

One-way awards: American AAdvantage wins

It’s quite simple. American allows one-way awards at half the cost of a roundtrip, while US Airways doesn’t (well, they’ll let you redeem miles for a one-way, but it’ll cost you the same as a roundtrip).

Stopovers: US Airways Dividend Miles wins

Up until recently American arguably had the more generous policy, as they allowed a stopover at the North America international gateway city on a one-way award. Unfortunately between eliminating that and Explorer awards (which allowed an unlimited number of stopovers, up to the segment limit), American no longer allows stopovers of more than 24 hours on awards.

Meanwhile US Airways continues to allow one stopover either at a US Airways international gateway city or at a oneworld hub, so they do have the more generous policy.

Access to award availability: American AAdvantage wins

As I wrote about a few days ago, US Airways has issues “seeing” some oneworld award space. I don’t think it’s intentional, but rather a function of US Airways transitioning systems, so it’s a combination of some system glitches and agents that aren’t properly trained yet.

So American wins, given how long they’ve been in oneworld and that they easily have access to all partner award space.

American-Awards
Easily book many oneworld awards directly on aa.com

Change/cancellation policies & fees: American AAdvantage wins

There are two aspects to this. First of all, lets talk about the actual change policies, ignoring the fees. US Airways doesn’t let you make any changes to itineraries once travel commences, while American will let you still modify an itinerary after travel commences. So American AAdvantage wins there.

American AAdvantage also wins in terms of their ticketing, change, and cancellation fees. US Airways charges a “Dividend Miles processing fee” which is $50 for most regions and applies regardless of whether you book online or by phone, while American just charges a $25-35 ticketing fee if you book by phone.

In terms of changes, American lets you change routings and dates for free, as long as the origin and destination remain the space. For other changes or cancellations they charge a fee of $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger.

US Airways, on the other hand, charges $150 per person to make any change or to cancel a reservation.

So American AAdvantage wins by a long shot.

Routing rules: US Airways Dividend Miles wins

American has ridiculous routing rules compared to most other programs. They won’t let you route from the US to Asia via Europe. They won’t let you route from the US to Africa via the Middle East. They won’t let you route from the US to Australia via Asia. For that matter, they won’t even let you route from the US to Southern South America via Peru, which is in many cases the most direct routing.

US Airways, on the other hand, has among the most generous routing rules. They’ll allow all of the above routings, and then some.

US-Routing-Rules
Routings allowed with US Airways but not American

I hope that when the two programs merge they either adopt US Airways’ routing rules (or lack thereof), or otherwise at least update American’s routing rules in a logical way that reflects the times and their alliance partnerships.

Redemption rates: US Airways Dividend Miles wins

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago comparing award redemption rates between American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles. On the whole US Airways Dividend Miles has lower redemption rates than American, though it does depend on the specific region.

I value US Airways miles higher than American miles

All things considered, at the moment I do value US Airways miles higher than American miles. Between the ability to do stopovers, overall redemption rates, and much more generous routing rules, I think they’re a bit more valuable. Of course there are still benefits of booking through American, like more generous change policies/fees, the ability to book one-way awards, and easy access to all oneworld flights with award space.

My valuation of American AAdvantage and US Airways miles

What do I value American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles at for award redemptions today? I’d like to clarify that I think further devaluations are coming, so my valuation of these miles isn’t based on “hoarding” them, but based on their current value under the current award charts with the current rules.

As things stand right now, I would say I value American miles at about 1.6 cents each (compared to 1.8 cents last year) and US Airways miles at about 1.7 cents each (compared to 1.6 cents each last year). By no means scientific, but that’s my perspective.

I’d be curious to hear how you guys value American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles!

Comments

  1. Don’t forget that US Air still has the following *A partners:
    Aegean
    Air China
    Air New Zealand
    Avianca
    Ethiopian Airlines
    EVA
    Shenzhen Airlines
    Singapore Airlines
    South African Airways
    TAM
    TAP
    Turkish Airways
    You can’t mix and match oneworld and *A awards on the same ticket.

  2. Ben, quick question, in regards to AA change policy (no fee for same origin/destination), is JFK/LGA/EWR consider as the same origin/destination? Thanks.

  3. Lucky, that US Airways “no changes after trip has commenced” is a real deal-breaker for me. (You just never know what might come up, and the cost of buying or redeeming for another ticket while en route can be astronomical.)

    The biggest reason I value UA miles higher than others is the combination of better *A award seat availability and more flexibility to make changes. (Granted, I’m UA Gold, which makes changes much less costly than for non-elites.)

  4. Which one is better for a LAX-PEK-KWL award ticket? Is it true that I can not stop at PEK with AA’s latest change, which leaves the US being the only option ?

  5. @ JW: You could have never taken a stop at PEK anyways unless you were using AA explorer awards which is history now

  6. @ JW — Even prior to the recent changes American didn’t allow international stopovers, so I’d go with US in that situation.

  7. @lucky @Christopher I was told it had to be the same airport. So,if you want to change from LGA to JFK, they will charge you fee.

  8. “agents that aren’t properly trained yet.”

    Lucky, have US agents EVER been properly trained? 😀

  9. I have a bad feeling that since US Airways management will be running the show, combined airline’s policies will not very generous (except, perhaps, allowing one-way awards).

  10. For me, I value AA miles more that US. That exclusively stems from the superior 1-way redemption and change costs AA has compared to US. Routing, and the stop-over ability that generally accompany that, have never been a big attraction with me because I value “getting there” efficiently and comfortably as more important that the “flight experience” others seek via routings. That’s probably because I have now officially entered “geezerdom” and no longer “play the game” with the same zeal that I used to. Endurance is with the young.

  11. @ JB — Great point, though conversely American partners with Alaska, Air Tahiti Nui, Etihad, Gulf Air, etc., which US Airways doesn’t partner with.

  12. I would value US Airways miles higher than what you have. I guess it’s to each his own. I travel to India frequently and US allows me to travel on CX via HKG on one single award unlike AA that requires me to pay for 2 awards (N. America-HKG; HKG-India). Secondly, US somehow charges a lower cash amount when flying through LHR on BA (weird, I know); I was surprised that I paid $156 all-in on my recent Business class redemption to India while flying an all-BA itinerary on the outbound. Most importantly, US charges 120k miles to India in Business R/T while AA would charge 135k.

  13. @Kiok, I called AA to double check, and the agent allowed the change without fee. Appreciate your help, as well as Ben getting back.

  14. I have a dilemma. I ticketed for my two family members in their 70s during the LH YYZ-MUC error late last year.

    The original ticket was (one way, 70k each on UA):

    YYZ-MUC (LH F)
    MUC-FRA (LH J)
    FRA-BKK (LH F)
    (22 hour layover)
    BKK-HKG (TG F)

    Now, the FRA-BKK leg has had an equipment change and now they’re downgraded to LH C. So the only things attractive about this itin. are:

    1. LH FRA FCT (they can still access since the YYZ-MUC in F is on the same day as the FRA-BKK in C, right?) and

    2. Thai F service on BKK-HKG leaving at 8am (yikes!)

    Would you recommend I change them to fly CX r/t instead?

  15. Also to add, the YYZ-MUC LH F leg would still be eye-opening for them, but blah, it’s only eight hours and really now the entire itin. is only 50% in F and the other 50% in C.

  16. @ Ken Y. — Hmm, are they excited about doing that much flying? If not, and there’s an “easier” itinerary on Cathay I would probably do that.

  17. Well, they’re hooked on business class ever since I got them tickets two years ago and last year. I thought it’d be nice for them to fly LH First for the first and probably the last time. For CX, the route would probably be one or two stops max, ex. JFK, YVR, SFO or LAX.

  18. I live in Hawaii and want to go to Europe on a business class award. It’s basically the same distance from Hawaii to Europe going east or west. I like flying on Asian carriers and wondered if US would let me go to Europe flying JAL and Cathay Pacific across the Pacific and Asia for the business class award price of 100k miles. As one stopover is allowed at a hub, could I also stopover in HKG and still only use 100k miles?

  19. @ Richard H — Depending on the agent that might be possible, but I technically don’t think it would be allowed, so may take several calls.

  20. Hi Lucky,

    I am trying to book a award ticket from ZRH to SYD, the AA website prices it out 45K for one way economic class, routing via LHR then PVG. However, if I chose PVG as stopover, then the computer prices it out as two segments, 35K from ZRH to PVG, 25K from PVG to SYD. My question is that is this because PVG is not a one world hub? or some computer glitch? Do you think call AA reps would help solve the problem?

    Thanks

  21. Woops! I forgot AA award ticket does not allow stopover… Gee, confusion with US air…Sorry for the dump question.

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