Randy Petersen Calls Out US Airways For Egregious Changes to Their Award Chart

Randy Petersen‘s opening remarks in the December, 2009 Inside Flyer are on US Airways’ planned changes to their award chart going into effect in January.

Bottom-line, Randy points out that US Airways is especially stingy in making awards available on their own flights to Dividend Miles members. They’ve gone from redeeming 9.1% of their miles flown as award tickets down to a meager 4% — less than half the rate of Continental, which has never been known as especially generous on awards.

And already US Airways imposes transaction fees just for redeeming an award. Those fees are often as much as the cost to the Dividend Miles program of the award seat itself. Their change fees are uniquely high among their peers (think $250).

Now that an award seat in business class to Europe can cost as much as 350,000 US Airways Dividend Miles, they’re even imposing blackout dates — there are several days a year when you can’t even squander your miles that way.

The real outstanding question is how this will all effect Star Alliance partner award redemption. My guess is that the award chart pricing will go up some, US Airways isn’t likely to charge less to redeem business class awards to Europe on Lufthansa for instance than on their own flights. But otherwise I’m hoping it won’t change partner redemptions at all.

And if that’s the case, then from my perspective this is much ado about nothing — because you shouldn’t be redeeming your US Airways miles to fly on US Airways anyway. Rather their 120,000 mile award from the US to North Asia (as far South as Hong Kong) in first class is mighty tasty. And they permit Atlantic routings as well (North America to Hong Kong would be 125,000 miles in first class — charging the higher Europe to Asia pricing). Plus no award blocking as practice by United, they’re a great option for Star redemptions — for now.

The problem of course is that with moves like US Airways is making, coupled with their past inanities (like temporarily abolishing elite bonus miles), one simply does not trust them as a place to accumulate miles. I love them for allowing 3-day award holds and transferring points into an account or buying points when they’re offering a 100% mileage bonus as they are through the end of December. That is, they’re great for putting an award on hold with no miles in an account, and putting miles in the account only to ticket. But I sure don’t want to accumulate too many miles over there. In fact my account and my wife’s account are both pushing 160,000. We’ll definitely need to grab a redemption soon.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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