Yesterday US Airways sent out an announcement about changes to their mileage upgrades and to award booking fees effective February 15.
They’re adding mileage upgrade co-pays, an idea already adopted by United/Continental and American (Delta just refuses to allow mileage upgrades on all but the highest fares). They’re imposing “quick ticketing fees” on awards booked within 21 days of travel instead of within 14 days. And they’re reducing the free baggage allowance for Silver members from two to one.
Here’s the new mileage upgrade chart:
Upgrades were a straight 15,000 miles each direction, confirmable any time after booking if available. That was cheap on long segments, considering no co-pay, but rather silly on flights up and down the East Coast. And US Airways offers a lot more first class seats than before now that they’ve been adding it to their regional jets. Those first class seats were taken up mostly by free elite upgrades, especially short-haul. It also meant that the seats were often available in advance as award tickets, few would redeem just for short-haul domestic first class but US Airways availability is outstanding for connecting to an international gateway city as part of a long-haul premium cabin award. Reducing the mileage cost of short-haul upgrades may increase demand for those upgrades and mean that awards on those same flights become a bit harder to get.
Interestingly, as in the past, US Airways mileage upgrades are per flight rather than per direction. DC – Charlotte – Florida would be two upgrades though at the lower mileage cost that’s not terrible. Still, now it means two co-pays. But I might actually confirm an upgrade on US Airawys now for DC – West Palm Beach or Ft. Lauderdale at $50 and 6000 miles.
The co-pays are waived for US Airways elites and full fare passengers, which means for that cohort this is a huge improvement since it’s just a reduction in the mileage cost of confirmed upgrades. For everyone else, US Airways upgrades remain the least expensive among their competitor (United/Continental, American, Delta) carriers. A bit of good and bad in this, but at worst certainly competitive. And of course, the US Airways first class product isn’t much to write home about, but domestically the key really is the bigger seat anyway.
The ‘quick ticketing fee’ though is just annoying. It wouldn’t bother me so much if they called it an incentive not to use miles to displace last minute purchased tickets that tend to be more expensive, something about aligning relative prices. But referencing it as “quick ticketing” is just silly since US Airways does instant e-ticketing of their awards regardless of whether travel is last minute or far in advance.
There was a time when tickets were paper and had to be shipped and the process might need to be expedited for a last minute award, but that’s many years in the past, and increasing the window where a “quick ticketing fee” applies is just silly, generates the sense of being a junk fee, not unlike the fee that US Airways imposes on international redemptions simply for being international. US Airways does like their fees, but if you use the program for international premium cabin awards on partners those fees are certainly worthwhile, even if frustrating or even maddening. Golds, Platinums, and Chairmans Preferred members are exempt from this fee, though Silvers are not.
All in all nothing too terrible, I do worry that it’s not too far off before US Airways revises its award chart again, since next month will mark two years since they’ve done so.