As you may (or may not) know, I also have a points consulting service, whereby we help people redeem their airline miles. I have several colleagues working with me, and they’re some of the most knowledgeable and passionate people I know in this hobby. During my dad’s round the world surprise birthday trip they offered to step in and help with some guest posts. Thanks to the positive feedback, they’re back with more. This post is from my friend Tiffany, whom you’ve heard from before.
US Airways and American announced their award programs would be combined in the second quarter of 2015, which led to many questions about whether it was better to redeem US Airways miles now or wait. Now that the merger is imminent, Ben asked if I could go through the options again.
First though, let’s have a moment of silence for what has been one of the more lucrative (and certainly most entertaining) mileage programs out there.
US Airways Dividend Miles has made premium cabin travel downright affordable for many of us. They’ve offered a promotion on purchasing or sharing miles nearly every month that I can remember, and with rates ranged from ~1.2 to ~1.88 cents per mile, it was a pretty reliable way to get discounted business class tickets to Asia.
Beyond that, their agents are stupendously entertaining. Or maddeningly frustrating, depending on your perspective.
But if you wanted to rack up miles cheaply, and push the limits of a program, US Airways has been the place to do it.
As Dividend Miles disappears, so does much of the fun in this game, at least for me.
Anyways, let’s talk about US Airways miles redemptions, and what is reasonable over the next little while.
To start out, it really helps if you are comfortable with the basics of US Airways and American routing rules.
Rather than rehashing everything here, there are a few of Ben’s posts that you should reacquaint yourself with:
- American Airlines Award Routing Rules
- US Airways Award Routing Rules? (yes, that question mark is intentional)
- US Airways Award Stopover Rules And OneWorld Hubs
Go ahead and read ’em. I’ll wait.
So there are a few key things we want to consider:
- Elite status
Stopovers, one-ways, and open-jaws
American doesn’t allow connections of more than 24 hours on a single award ticket, so if you’re looking at flying to Istanbul and spending a few days in London en route, US Airways is going to be the better option.
Similarly, US Airways prices one-ways at the same rate as a round-trip. So if you just need a one-way ticket back to the US from Frankfurt, you’re likely better off using American miles.
As far as open-jaws are concerned, it likely doesn’t matter. The region involved is going to have a greater impact. This is because American prices round-trip awards as a combination of two one-way awards, so it really doesn’t matter what your origin and destination are.
This, to me is the biggest factor. In most cases, US Airways has the more lucrative premium cabin award chart from the United States, with the exception of Southeast Asia and Peru/Colombia/Venezuela/Ecuador.
If you want to compare the various charts, Ben has a handy guide with all the various regions and cabin classes and the corresponding mileage requirements with both American and US Airways.
(I’ll wait again, it’s okay)
To summarize, here’s the breakdown of which program has the better mileage rates for a given region:
|For flights to:||Book through:|
|Central America / Northern South America||American*|
|South America||Either, unless you need a stopover or a one-way, or are going to Easter Island|
|Europe||Either, unless you need a stopover or a one-way|
|Middle East||US Airways has the better rates, American offers awards on Etihad|
|Northern Asia||US Airways|
|Central Asia / Indian Subcontinent||US Airways|
|South Pacific / Oceania||US Airways, unless you're going to Tahiti|
However, how you intend to get there is potentially more important than where you’re going when it comes to choosing between the two programs. US Airways has better pricing for nearly all regions, and a priceless understanding of geography.
This means you can basically route however the heck you’d like, and aren’t going to be subject to American’s rather antiquated routing rules.
If you want to have a stopover in Europe or route through the Middle East on the way to Southeast Asia that’s completely acceptable, for example, though it might take a few phone calls. So even for routes that are technically more expensive with US Airways, you might still want to explore options through Dividend Miles, even though it technically requires more miles.
If it means you can route more creatively (with a stopover), then it might be worth the mileage premium.
For most people, in most cases, redeeming your US Airways miles before they merge with AAdvantage is the way to go. I’ve previously summed up the decision process as such:
And I’m not joking about the time required. I love calling US Airways, but know I’m in the minority there.
Hold times can also best be described as “atrocious” this week. I held for the Chairman’s Preferred desk for over two hours on Thursday night, so the amount of patience required cannot be overstated.
And it goes without saying that being especially nice on the phone is going to be important as well. This will be a stressful few days for Reservations agents.
For those of you redeeming miles this week, good luck!