US Airways Charges For Free Tickets and Sticks It To Their Elites

US Airways announced several changes today including charging for all checked bags beginning with the first, charging for coffee and water in coach, and closing some of their lounges.

But the two changes that really hit home are:

  • An “award redemption processing fee.” American recently announced a minimum $5 fee for redemptions made online, and that crossed a line for me — a fee to use your miles for a free ticket. US Airways takes this to a new level beginning on August 6th: $25 to redeem for US domestic and Canada tickets, $35 for tickets to Mexico and the Caribbean, and $50 for Hawaii and international. (No word yet what this would mean for a Star Alliance award intra-Japan, say. Is it $50 for Tokyo-Nagoya?)
  • The end of status bonuses on top of flown miles for elites for tickets purchased after August 6th. A United 50,000 mile flyer earns double miles for their flying. Why would any elite credit flown miles to US Airways (unless United eliminates the bonus on US Airways flights…)

It no longer makes any sense to credit flown miles to US Airways. Elites should look for another airline unless they’re truly captive based on their market, and should at least consider crediting flown miles to another Star Alliance program unless their only interest is upgrades on US Airways planes (free non-alcoholic beverages now being worth $2, after all…).

Now, it can still make sense to accrue non-flight miles with US Airways. The credit card bonuses can be generous, and even with the new redemption fee the miles go a long way towards premium class Star Alliance awards. The US Airways award chart is still generous compared to many Star Alliance programs. And US Airways seems to lack the technology to filter out otherwise available awards the way that United does.

So continue to accrue US Airways miles, sure, but only spend them for international first and busienss class awards on Singapore, ANA, Asiana…

Nonetheless, the end to bonus miles for elites is a huge shot across the bow of all loyal travelers, especially since every other major program offers such bonuses. And a ticketing fee on all awards — that’s just a slap in the face of members who have earned miles with the promise of free travel, and now will be charged for the privilege of redeeming for that free travel.

Poor showing, US Airways. Poor showing indeed.

Update: Could it get even worse? I write above that US Airways still has a decent award chart, they charge fewer miles for awards than many of their Star Alliance partners.  But I went to pull up the award chart and right now I get the following error:

We’re sorry! We’re working on the website. Our scheduled maintenance should only take a short while, but if you need immediate assistance, call our reservations center at 800-428-4322.Please check back soon.

What kind of maintenance do they need to perform on a downloadable .pdf file? When the rest of the website seems to be working as well as it ever does? Could they be about to put up a new award chart, with higher redemption rates? Nervously watching this one . . .

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, 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. BAsically USAIRWAYS is the worst now. Not only are the reward fees assessed if you want to change your reward ticket you have to now pay a change fee because reward tickets are now classified as non refundable. Basically I have a flight to rome from IND and was flying thru PHL and wanted to brop my IND to PHL flight and it would have cost me $250 to do so. I fly there airline over 100 times a year and they won’t cut me a break to drop a segment of a reward ticket i already shelled out 200 dollars on taxes and fees. Shame on US Airways

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