US Airways, having
taken over merged with larger American Airlines, will be leaving the Star Alliance (where it partners with airlines like United, Lufthansa, Turkish, Asiana, Thai, etc.) on March 30 and joining the oneworld alliance (where it partners with airlines like British Airways, Iberia, LAN, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, etc.) on March 31.
As a result, March 30th is the last day to book Star Alliance awards — awards that combine flights on its various Star partners.
Starting March 31st you’ll be able to use US Airways miles to book award tickets on its various oneworld partners. Already you’re able to book awards on American Airlines.
I’m most looking forward to using British Airways points to book short-distance awards for cheap miles (4500 points each way for flights under 650 miles) from my home airport of Washington National where US Airways is the dominant carrier and offers many flights up and down the East Coast.
I’m also looking forward to — my guess, which could be proven wrong — using the current US Airways award chart on oneworld’s partner airlines. If they do not change the award chart that means 90,000 miles from North America to North Asia, as far south as Hong Kong, roundtrip in business class. Oneworld airline Cathay Pacific is based in Hong Kong and has a fantastic business class product and flies from New York JFK, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Australian Business Traveller, though, is reporting that you will still be able to use US Airways miles on Star Alliance airlines after March 30th.
I suspect, however, that things will not be quite as flexible as the piece would lead us to believe.
US Airways will allow its frequent flyers to earn and redeem Dividend Miles on a dozen Star Alliance airlines – including Avianca, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and TAM – in addition to all Oneworld members when the airline joins Oneworld on March 31 this year.
First off, you might wonder why Australian Business Traveller has such an interest in US Airways? It’s because they sell miles so cheap so frequently.
The surprising move could turn US Airways into one of the most flexible airlines for award bookings, especially when it comes to bulk-buying Dividend Miles to pad out your account.
Here’s what they think is going to happen — US Airways will continue to be able to book award tickets into the future on the following partners even after their departure from oneworld.
However, a media spokesperson for American Airlines confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that US Airways “will continue its Frequent Flyer partnership… with Aegean, Air China, Air New Zealand,, Avianca, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAM, TAP and Turkish Airways.”
This is all true, but it isn’t as true as it sounds.
US Airways has bilateral relationships with many of its partners that extend past its March 30th departure from Star Alliance. That doesn’t mean those partnerships will last very long.
Take Taiwanese airline EVA Airways (which may have the world’s best business class — essentially the same seat as Cathay Pacific, ore-order meal options, and Dom Perignon champagne — plus, of course, some Hello Kitty-themed aircraft): their redemption partnership with US Airways will end May 15. (HT: SanDiego1K)
As US Airways already announced that it will secede from the Star Alliance on March 30, 2014, therefore, we are regretful to inform you that the Frequent Flyer Program partnership between EVA Airways (BR) and US Airways (US) will be terminated effective from May 15, 2014.
We do not yet have termination dates for each partner, and it’s conceivable some Dividend Miles partnerships could last as long as the Dividend Miles program does (my guess remains that US Airways Dividend Miles folds into American AAdvantage sometime in late February or early March 2015).
But it isn’t the case that you’ll be able to book award tickets on all of these airlines into the future — although TAM, of course, will continue to be a partner as the Brazilian airline transitions out of Star and into oneworld and they are a partner of American Airlines AAdvantage already.
Meanwhile, the flexibility to use miles on these bilateral partners may be greatly reduced once US Airways exits the Star Alliance.
US Airways permits roundtrip awards only (or rather charges a full roundtrip price even for one-way awards). And they only allow mixing and matching of alliance partner airlines on the same award. If you book award travel on one of their non-alliance airline partners you can combine travel with US Airways flights but not with other airlines. That means you need to use the same airline partner in both directions (or fly US Airways in one direction). That can be highly limiting.
Of course the constraints currently in place could be relaxed. But inferring from current rules and what we know about how partnerships are unwinding, I would expect that:
- The window to use US Airways miles on some of their partners from the Star Alliance who remain partners after March 30th will be quite short.
- Flexibility in booking award tickets on these partners will be highly constrained, compared to how easy it has been to combine partners on award tickets while they were US Airways’ alliance partners.
Still, flexibility is great and having the option to book some Star Alliance airline awards even after US Airways leaves the Star Alliance is great — even if short-lived.