8 Things a United Elite Can Do Now That US Airways Is No Longer a Partner

A well-known DC-based reader asks what to do when flying US Airways now that his lifetime United status won’t get him elite privileges.

My wife and I are United Premier Gold (for life via my [Million-miler status]) but we frequently fly from DCA to Sarasota on US Airways. She by herself more than I.

Now that USAirways is no longer Star Alliance, we have lost our early boarding privileges, which are so valuable to avoid [gate] checking bags…

Is there a credit card option that enhances boarding for her, me and us together when used to buy tickets? Any other ways to gain earlier boarding? (We are both Global Entry so we don’t need any privileges for security.)

My recommendation is for you each to separately sign up for a US Airways MasterCard, the bonus miles after first purchase are well worth the annual fee for the first year. After that first year there are several options as well.

Here are Eight Things You Can Do:

  1. Switch loyalty. I think that the American AAdvantage program (and indeed the US Airways Dividend Miles program) is currently superior to United MileagePlus in several dimensions — although as with all such things, it depends on what you value most. If your primary goal is earning miles to redeem for premium cabin awards to Europe without fuel surcharges, the United still wins. But a DC-based flyer who used to be a United elite flying US Airways often might consider switching programs. (This won’t appeal to United lifetime elites especially those taking advantage of United’s spouse elite status benefits for million milers.)

  2. Buy temporary status from US Airways. Trial preferred lets you get status for 90 days (Silver is $200) and then flying on US Airways during that timeframe will determine the status you keep. (It’s no longer an especially good deal to just buy the status.)

  3. Get easy status with a US Airways partner. Even the first level of status with another oneworld airline gets free checked bags and priority boarding. You can send airberlin topbonus your United status — requests go to service@topbonus.de with a copy of existing elite status credentials (eg elite member card and printout of online activity) — and they will offer a ‘status challenge’. You get elite status with airberlin for 4-6 months along with an offer that 8500 status miles keeps silver or 17,000 keeps Gold. (airberlin Gold status also gets free lounge access when flying US Airways and American.)

  4. Get a US Airways co-brand credit card. This gets you zone 2 boading. And you should do this anyway. It will soon be your last chance to get a signup bonus for a US Airways credit card. When Dividend Miles and AAdvantage combine, existing US Airways cardholders can keep their cards but it will not be possible to sign up for a new card. There are several offers for the card, my recommendation is for 40,000 miles after first purchase and $89 annual fee. The card gets you priority boarding. You may not wish to keep this card after year one, as the cost may not be worthwhile on an ongoing basis.

  5. Get an American Airlines co-brand credit card. American cardholders do not yet get priority boarding when flying US Airways, but that will come. And right now you can get the Citi Executive card with 100,000 mile bonus (after $10,000 spend within 3 months, and with a $200 statement credit towards $450 annual fee; comes with American and US Airways lounge access). This isn’t a card that’s worth keeping after year one unless you would otherwise buy a lounge membership. Also after year 1 of US Airways cardmembership, getting the standard Citi AAdvantage card will come with priority benefits and generally has no fee the first year as well, meaning that you can do two years of priority at least.

  6. Buy priority security and boarding at check-in. US Airways calls it preferred access and pricing starts at $10 each way.

  7. Just board early. You may or may not get called out on it, I don’t usually see US Airways gate agents strictly enforcing boarding order, but don’t do this of course if it bothers you that you might get scolded. You can also flash the Citi Executive card, if you get that, and possibly confuse an agent trying to enforce boarding order. (See also Using Elite Security Lines When You Aren’t Entitled.)

  8. Find someone to gift you American AAdvantage Gold status. I earn tons of points on my ticket purchases through American’s small business ‘Business ExtrAA’ program. Two of the less expensive points redemption options are gifting Gold status and gifting an Admirals Club membership. If you know anyone with Business ExtrAA points, American Gold gets priority boarding.

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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  1. You’re not seriously encouraging people to ignore the rules and purposely board out of turn, are you? C’mon.

  2. Hilarious how few saver seats there are
    now that US Air left Star/United.
    United should just close UAL.com as there appears little left to redeem for 🙂
    What a ruined program though still only half as terrible as Delta
    I will long remember United in its glory days when it was the best

  3. find someone to gift AA Gold Status? i wish i had friends like that…anyone here want to gift me?

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