Reader Autolycus asked the following question on my post on Monday about the best Star Alliance programs for premium cabin redemptions post-United/US Airways:
Lucky, thanks for this very helpful post. Is there any chance that some time between now and maybe the end of February, you could do up a post to help people decide what their best options are for US Dividend Miles before and after the alliance switch? Or just the pros and cons of each alliance, given the current US Dividend Miles award chart and routing rules?
Probably unintentionally this is a really loaded question and there’s not a straightforward answer, so I’ll split my thoughts up into a few parts.
We don’t know what US Airways mileage redemptions will look like post-March 30, 2014
March 30, 2014 will be US Airways’ last day in Star Alliance. As of March 31, 2014, they’ll belong to OneWorld. That’s about all we know as of now. Here are a few questions we don’t have answers to yet:
- Will US Airways use their current award chart, the American award chart, or have a new award chart altogether once they join OneWorld?
- What routing rules will US Airways have when they join OneWorld?
- Will American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles be transferable between accounts at that point?
- Will US Airways Dividend Miles be redeemable for premium cabin travel on American’s non-One World partners, like Alaska, Air Tahiti Nui, Etihad, etc.?
- Will US Airways have access to American’s distance based OneWorld awards?
Given how little we know, it’s tough to recommend holding off on redeeming miles, since US Airways has a fairly lucrative award chart.
The best uses of US Airways miles prior to March 30, 2014
The US Airways award chart is extremely lucrative pretty much across the board, so wherever you want to go you’ll have a hard time beating their award chart. Here are a few of my favorite US Airways redemptions:
- 90,000 miles for business class to North Asia.
- This is just about the lowest cost in the industry for business class to Asia, so it’s quite a value.
- By US Airways’ definition, North Asia goes as far South as Hong Kong. Furthermore, US Airways lets you route from the US to Asia via Europe, so you can have a stopover in Europe enroute.
- This is pretty funny since US to Europe in business class costs 100,000 miles, so you save 10,000 miles by continuing on to Asia. Check out my previous post about the Star Alliance business class products with the best availability.
- 120,000 miles for first class to North Asia.
- While Star Alliance first class isn’t as readily available as it once was, there are still some airlines that release a fair amount of first class award space.
- 110,000 miles for business class to Australia/New Zealand/Africa.
- This is considerably cheaper than the competition, not to mention that US Airways will let you route from the US to Australia via Asia (and sometimes Europe), which is often helpful given how limited award availability is nonstop between the US and Australia/New Zealand.
Like I said, just about their entire award chart is lucrative, so it doesn’t matter where you’re trying to go, it’s a great value regardless.
General advantages of redeeming US Airways Dividend Miles
So what are the main benefits of redeeming US Airways Dividend Miles under their current program?
- Extremely generous routing rules.
- While at most other airlines computers price award tickets, at US Airways agents manually price awards.
- Add in the fact that many of US Airways’ agents are geographically challenged, and this can add to some amazing redemption opportunities if you have the patience to play phone roulette.
- Star Alliance has excellent business class award availability to Asia and Europe.
- All things considered, the Star Alliance has the best award availability to Asia, as you can redeem miles on Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Asiana, EVA, Singapore, Thai, United, etc. Since you can route via Europe, that opens up lots more carriers as well.
- While availability to Europe isn’t great, it’s much better than it is through OneWorld, where the primary transatlantic airline is British Airways, which imposes fuel surcharges on redemptions.
- Some real award chart gems.
- US Airways simply has some amazing premium cabin gems on their award chart that that American just can’t compete with, like business class to North Asia for 90,000 miles, or business class to Africa or Australia for 110,000 miles.
- All of these regions are significantly more expensive on the American AAdvantage award chart.
Recent US Airways 90,000 mile business class award redemption to North Asia
General advantages of redeeming American AAdvantage miles
- OneWorld distance based awards.
- If you want to redeem miles for a routing with multiple stops it’s tough to beat American’s distance based awards, whereby you can fly up to 16 segments and stopover in each city for as long as you’d like.
- Great award availability to the Middle East and India.
- American partners with Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, both of which translate into tons of availability for travel to the Middle East and India. Meanwhile it’s much tougher to find that much space using US Airways miles at present, as this is a rather under-served region for the Star Alliance.
Generally speaking I’d do everything you can to redeem US Airways miles by March 30, 2014. That’s not necessarily because I’m convinced that there will be some new, horrible award chart come March 31, but rather because you have the choice between what you know (which is pretty damn good) and the uncertain future.
Furthermore, while American AAdvantage awards remain a great value, after March 30 the opportunities to redeem for quality Star Alliance carriers in premium cabins will become considerably more expensive overall, so this will be the last chance for many of us to redeem at such low rates.