I’m burning my USAirways miles

I’m flying USAirways today, and plan to burn my last 40,000 miles with the carrier for a flight later this month. Since Randy Petersen’s AwardGuard is currently not open to new members and the status of USAirways is questionable, I’m making use of my miles while I can.

There’s a chance, of course, that the airline will survive. And even if it doesn’t, the Dividend Miles program certainly has value and another airline may find a way to exploit that value — and potentially honor the accumulated miles in the program. These are all probabalistic. I wouldn’t go burning miles just for the sake of doing so — but as the opportunity is arising to get some good flights now, I’m making use of them.

Truth is that I’m not redeeming more miles than I otherwise would. So there’s no firesale going on in my mind. Instead, I’m choosing to burn USAirways miles instead of miles with other carriers.

This is a good strategy for me anyway because USAirways miles are perhaps the most easily replaceable. They’re a partner with American Express Membership Rewards (where I have hundreds of thousands of points parked). Amex points transfer to USAirways more or less in realtime. And USAirways allows you to hold an award reservation for three days on the website without having miles in the account. So there’s no reason for me to hold their miles — I make a reservation when I need it and then transfer the points into the account. I’m keeping my USAirways balance around 750 miles.

Why am I so nervous about the carrier?

I recently noted that partner lounge access is being restricted for USAirways Club members and that USAirways was considering selling off assets to raise cash. Even after bankruptcy their cost structure remains incredibly high. They renegotiated leases and lowered some costs bust their labor expense remains high. While they seem to be filling their planes they are doing so at low fares.

The latest development comes from reports that several airlines have made bids for the assets that USAirways is considering letting go of. The Northeast Shuttle should fetch somewhere north of $100 million, and the gates and slots at LaGuardia (and Washington Reagan) have value. That’s because the assets have the potential to earn a profit. While the airline will be able to raise cash and potentially stave off the end, without those assets it will also be harder to recover.

With no clear new business plan, losses are likely to continue — exascerbated by the departure of profitable assets. USAirways has problems that only liquidation may solve.

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 Milepoint.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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