|by Jason Steele|
US Airways just announced that for the second time in a year, it will be selling miles with a 100% bonus. It is days like this that I wonder if US Airways is an actual airline, or just a company that sells miles and markets award flights on its Star Alliance Partners.
What Is The Deal
First, you have to go to US Airway’s site and buy the miles. The offer is valid from now until September 15, 2011. You can buy miles according to the following terms:
- Buy 10,000 – 19,000 miles = 10,000 bonus
- Buy 20,000 – 29,000 miles = 20,000 bonus
- Buy 30,000 – 39,000 miles = 30,000 bonus
- Buy 40,000 – 49,000 miles = 40,000 bonus
- Buy 50,000 miles = 50,000 bonus
For the purposes of this example, let’s look at the following example: Let’s say you were a student in Denver who was planning to go overseas next summer to study abroad in a place like Prauge in the Czech Republic. You could purchase a ticket in economy class for about $1600. For that price, you will take a variety of carriers as there are few airlines that serve both cities, just Delta, British Airways, and Lufthansa. My proposed alternative would have you buying 50,000 miles and getting the 50,000 miles bonus, for only $1478. That 100,000 miles is enough for a business class ticket from anywhere in the United States to any European destination served by the Star Alliance.
Next, you would have to find award space to Europe. That is no small feat, but it is possible, especially if you are looking this far in advance and are a little flexible. The hard part is getting the flight overseas as well as the flight from your hometown to your trans-Atlantic gateway. Once you get to Europe, my experience is that there is almost unlimited award space availability on Star Alliance carriers such as Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss and others.
Finding award space is the key problem here. I have had great luck finding seats using third party tools such as ANA Airline’s web site and the KVS tool. First you just have to find the transatlantic legs, than the domestic, and finally the intra-european. Next you have to call US Airways to book the partner award. This is easier said than done. Many representatives there are poorly trained and they are relied on to enforce their partner award rules manually. The end result is that some will make up rules and others are just so unfamiliar with their systems that they have difficulty performing this task. In my experience, you often have to politely end the call and try again if the person you speak to is unable to “see” the award seats you already found.
But Wait, There’s More!
After you get past the issues of award space availability, there are several great thing about these award flights compared to paying directly flights. Award flights with US Airways allow you to include a stop over or an open jaw. This means that our hypothetical student could stop off anywhere there is a Star Alliance hub. For example, one of the Star Alliance carriers happens to be Brussels Airlines. If this student wanted to see the start of the 2012 Tour De France, he could ask for a stopover in the Belgian capital, near the city of Liege which will be hosting the first stages of next year’s bike race. He could then c0ntinue on to Prague on Brussels airlines or other carriers, staying for as long as he would like.
One option here to avoid availability issues is to make the reservation first, and then to purchase and redeem the miles. US Airways allows reservations to be held for three days, while mileage purchases are instantly credited to your account.
Finally, by using a US Airways award for summer travel to Europe, you have the opportunity to enjoy some exception service on some great European carriers at a time when airfares are exceptionally high. Lufthansa, Swiss, and others are have business class service that is just so far ahead of US Airways and other domestic carriers, that they I don’t really consider them to be the same products.
This is not a case of free flights, as you will have to pay about $1650 when all taxes and fees are included. If you want something closer to free, you probably need to sign up for some incredible credit card bonus offer when it comes around. On the other hand, this is a great promotion that will let you travel in business class, with a stopover, for about the same cost as an economy ticket with no free stops. For most people, this is an offer that is seriously worth considering.