Last year, US Airways mistakenly offered 18 points per $1 at BookingBuddy.com, which is like a Kayak.com airfare search engine. That probably should have been my first sign that something was amiss at US Airways.
Anyways long story short, my Parents were already planning on going to India, so I booked them 2 Economy tickets via BookingBuddy and thanks to US Airways and that mistake promotion, I acquired 45,000 US Airways miles for free.
I added on to that haul with an additional 20,000 miles via US Airways Grand Slam promo last year.
To be honest, I’ve never flown US Airways or even redeemed any miles with them. My main rationale for acquiring the US Airways miles was that they were free and that I knew I could use them on Star Alliance flights, I just had no idea what a pain in the butt that process would be.
Booking Via USAirways.com
This weekend, I was booking our flight to Washington DC and Baltimore for July and Kayak was showing almost $350 per a person each way, so I opted to use miles.
I was trying to avoid using any Ultimate Rewards or United miles because those are much more valuable for international trips or for redeeming free Hyatt nights. Unfortunately, I also couldn’t find any availability on American Airlines using British Airways Avios.
I then remembered that I had my cache of US Airways miles so I thought I might as well use those for 2 free Star Alliance flights as United.com was showing tons of availability.
I headed over to USAirways.com, entered my flight information, and thought I would be able to see all the flights on Star Alliance partners like United, while at the same time quickly being able to book our tickets online. Mistake #1
The following US Airways award calendar came up.
As you can see from the original United search image above, United charges only 10,000 miles per a person each way, for a grand total of 20,000 miles round trip per a person.
From the US Airways chart, you can see they have tiered structure based on seasonality.
In this case they wanted a whopping 30,000 miles each way, PER A PERSON!
So my options were to spend 40,000 United miles for 2 tickets or 60,000 miles for 1 ticket on US Airways.
Remember 60,000 miles is also enough miles for an Economy trip to Europe!
Also notice how US Airways sneaks in extra fees on the award, as compared to United who charges the actual amount of tax.
Worse than charging 60,000 miles for an Economy domestic ticket, is the fact that USAirways.com, does not show availability for anyone but US Airways! Additionally, all US Airways flights to the East Coast route through Charlotte in this case, so what would be a non-stop 2 hour flight on United, would be at a minimum 4 hour flight on US Airways.
I honestly could not believe how incompetent US Airways and USAirways.com was to think that it is acceptable to charge 60,000 miles for a domestic Economy trip and then to purposely inconvenience their Customers by not offering the ability to book non-US Airways partners online and purposely withholding non-stop flights on Partners. Talk about putting your customer first!
Anyways I decided to give US Airways a call at 800-428-4322 to see how exactly you book Star Alliance flights with US Airways miles since it clearly wasn’t available online.
Surprisingly, I got an agent extremely quickly and told her where I wanted to go, the United flight numbers, and asked to see if she could pull it up.
Without delay, the non-stop United flights I wanted were available and only 12,500 US Airways miles each way.
Apparently Star Alliance partner flights are cheaper than flying US Airways, since US Airway’s own website was quoting 60,000 round-trip. If anyone is interested, here is the US Airway’s Star Alliance Partner Award Chart.
Luckily, the normal $30 phone fee was waived since you can’t book Star Alliance tickets online, however we still did have to pay the $18 in taxes and $25 per a person award redemption fee.
The fees were extremely annoying but still cheaper than spending $700+ on airline tickets.
Anyways, for those of you that have US Airways miles, I have complied some helpful tips for redeeming them.
Top 10 List
1. At all expenses, don’t even bother trying to book or check award availability on USAirways.com. Just say NO!
2. When searching for US Airways Award Availability, use United.com.
3. Redeeming US Airways miles on Star Alliance partners is far more cost effective than redeeming the miles on US Airways flights, so if possible always opt for Star Alliance Partners. A full US Airways Star Alliance Partner award chart can be found here.
4. All non-US Airways flights operated by United, Lufthansa, etc, have to be booked over the phone by calling 800-428-4322. Use United.com award availability to search for the flights you want to take and provide those to the US Airways representative when you book over the phone.
5. One way award flights are not allowed on US Airways, unless you want to be charged (in miles) for a round trip award.
6. If you book a Star Alliance partner on the phone, the $30 phone fee should be waived, however everyone will still get hit with a $25 domestic, $35 for Latin America/Caribbean, $50 for Hawaii/Europe/Middle East/South America/Australia/Asia/Africa,etc.
7. Open Jaw (Flying into 1 city, departing from another. Chicago -> New York, then Boston -> Chicago), is permitted.
8. 1 stopover is permitted. However stopovers can only be in Star Alliance hub on the Carrier you are flying on. For example, you could only stopover in Zurich Airport if you were flying on Swiss Air since Zurich is their hub. List of Star Alliance Hubs by Carrier can be found here.
9. If you book an Award Ticket within 21 days of departure, you will get hit with a non-refundable $75 ticketing fee.
10. If you try to book an award ticket on the phone and the agent isn’t able to book a certain ticket or is quoting you the wrong amount of miles, simply hang up the phone and try again until you find an agent that can help you.
Hopefully these tips save some Readers some time, money, and hassle. If anyone has any additional tips, feel free to leave a comment below.
As always if you ever have any questions about redeeming miles, feel free to contact me at FrequentFlyerUniversity@gmail.com