The Short Window to Use US Airways Miles for Award Tickets on Both Star Alliance and oneworld Airlines

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.

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. Does the continuation of US Airways relationship with Aegean, even if only for a short time, suggest that one will continue to earn Aegean qualifying miles on US Airways and at the same preferential rate as currently (that is, 100% earning for most fare classes)?

    I’m 5K short of * Gold via Aegean and would love to earn that with one transcon to be flown sometime this spring.

  2. I’m also looking forward to using Avios out of DC on former US air flights. Will the BA website be up and running at midnight on March 31 to do so? Thanks.

  3. @LarryInNYC – I’m in the realm of guessing to say yes since we do not have specifics and as far as I know Aegean has not provided an update on its bilateral relationship with US Airways. Looking at the EVA Airways relationship it is only codeshares that will continue to earn miles. So there can be all sorts of wrinkles, contours, and nuances to all of this on a partner-by-partner basis. In that sense it is too early to say for sure.

  4. I have flights booked on United in mid-April and late June. Can I still credit the miles to US Air because the flights were booked before 3/31?

  5. I just booked some nice 95k RT award seats from MCI to CDG for next February. I did it all online which was nice since I wanted to fly the Envoy product A332. What I found interesting is that you did see some mix and match between AA flights already but clearly not all sAAvers seats showing. For example you could see flights to Tokyo on AA but not to some European cities they clearly fly a bunch to. I wonder what will happen as they change my flight times, etc. as I go through 2014 and how hard it will be to rebook or maybe upgrade somehow on an AA flight. We’ll see.
    Right now the best deal I saw was for low DM’s you can get to Dublin from the US with great availability in early 2015. From there you can switch over to Avios flights, etc. and save the huge LHR taxes. Using DUB as your round trip hub sort of.

  6. @Tj – that doesn’t mean all of these relationships will extend through the end of the Dividend Miles program or that awards on those airlines will be combinable with oneworld airlines.

  7. Gary what are my odds of being able to substitute for an AA segment (SFO JFK) after 4/1 on a star alliance award to VIE? Currently flying US through PHX. This trip is set for May.

  8. Wanting to book a trip on US AIR in order to obtain United miles (Star Alliance) for a trip starting on March 31st. The partnership ends on March 30th. Will the miles be credited to the United account?

  9. I wanted to book a flight on US Air to obtain United miles (Star Alliance) for travel on 3/31 but their alliance is ending on 3/30. Do you think we can accrue United miles on US Air flights? It says March 30th is the last day to book. Is it book by or travel by?

  10. We saw similar when BMI was bought by BA. All partnerships remained on day 1 but it was quickly clear this was due to notice periods in the contracts. After a few months all were gone.

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