US Airways Will Raise the Price and Limit Your Ability to Buy Elite Status Starting March 1

Some pretty big news this afternoon.

US Airways lets you straight-up buy elite quaifying miles or segments. With the Dividend Miles program there’s frequently no need to ‘mileage run’ or take extra flights just for the miles in order to reach status, it’s usually cheaper just to have them charge your credit card.

In fact, you can go from 1 mile flown to top tier Chairmans Preferred (100,000 mile flyer) for a flat $2999. Compare that to Delta where they want you to fly 125,000 miles with minimum ticket revenue of $12,500.

US Airways has a history of unconventional means of qualifying for elite status. At the end of 2006 they offered an ‘everything counts’ promo where even miles from sending flowers and renting cars counted towards elite status. That way they wouldn’t have mileage runners taking all the first class upgrades. Hah.

But now that they’ve merged with American Airlines, the philosophy is changing (which is interesting for American flyers who may have been worried about the future based on how US Airways has historically monetized elite status and loyalty).

One consequence of that is that effective March 1, US Airways is

  • raising the price to buy qualifying miles and segments
  • restricting you to only be able to buy enough miles or segments to reach a tier that you are within 25,000 miles or 30 segments of

Here’s the old and new pricing:

If you were going to buy status for the current year (i.e. through February 2015) then it would be best to do it by the end of the month.

Unfortunately the timing of the change means you will not be able to use this technique, with current rules and pricing, for next year’s status.

  • You have to wait until May 1 for the purchased qualifying miles or segments to count towards 2015 status.
  • And the way it works is that the miles and segments don’t actually increment in your account balance. US Airways effectively discounts the miles or segments you need to fly to earn the status you’re buying up to.

I had hoped this tool would be an arbitrage play for American AAdvantage elites, where American elites could buy up their status for next year on the cheap through US Airways.

But it doesn’t look like it will work out that way in any real sense. In fact, my guess is that even purchased qualifying miles after May 1 won’t add along with American qualifying miles towards 2015 status when the programs combine. When you buy them, your total qualifying miles in your US Airways account doesn’t increase, only your status does. So there’s not a number of status miles to get added to whatever balance you’ve earned in your American AAdvantage account.

More good discussion of how the US Airways ‘buy up to preferred’ program works.

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. @aviators99 – it will only last through Feb 2015.

    And you have to buy up from your earned EQMs, not any status you might happen to have above that 🙂

  2. Wow this sucks. I am about to board a UA flight so I can get a few miles on US to bring down the cost for CP to regain EXP but I guess that won’t be working :-/ Random side note Gary was just at the Offprice show in Vegas. Talked to the lady at the AMEX booth and turns out she just met one of your friends moments before I got there. Small world! She mentioned your blog and I told her about all the valuable tips you give and about boarding area in general. She still thinks that UA took over CO and how UA ruined CO *roll eyes* I told her to look up the CEO and get back to me.

  3. Gary
    Why the May 1 number?
    If I am a Plat on US I can buy up to Chairman now for 999
    After March 1, it will cost me 2499!

    US allows you to use either EQMs from 2013 or 2014 to decide your status for buying up.
    If you bought up after Oct 1 2013, your status is good until 2015 Feb

    My advice to anyone flying US is buy up today to CP
    Gets 2 SWUS (+ free companion SWUs) for 2499 at most
    Take a trip to TLV or EU in Sept – pays for upgrades
    You get 10 months of free domestic upgrades and free award cancels
    itself worth a whole lot

    I bought up in 2009 and never regretted the 999 or the 400$ Hop Skip Jump mileage run – for 1400$, I had CP for 25 months – 4+4 SWUs, and a whole bunch of LH F trips with free cancels using TIB miles with free silver gifts x2, and free upgrades to boot.

  4. Just confirmed. $838 for me to buy up to Chairman’s (at least for the next few days). Not sure what to do.

  5. @aviators99 – if you’re going to fly US Airways a few times this year, do it. If not… unclear when there will be upgrade reciprocity with American, probably sometime this year but unclear when.

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