04
Jun

6 Reasons the USAirways Award Chart Rules (and 1 Reason it Doesn’t)

Posted By Trav

As I was booking my tickets the other day for my Tokyo-Singapore-Bali-Mumbai August adventure, I was reminded of how much I love the USAirways award chart.  While all award charts and programs have their quirks, USAirways seems to have more than most, which can make earning USAir frequent flyer miles an awesome value if you use them right.

To help understand the ins and outs of USAir miles, and the best ways to use them, I’ll give you the 6 reasons why I think USAir’s award chart rules.

1.  Great redemption rates

Each airline has their own rate of how many miles a flight costs and typically these are fairly standard:  25k miles for a domestic US flight, 60k to Europe, 80k to Australia.

While USAirways falls in line with some of these, they also have some outlier rates for certain flights that are lower than the competition (especially in business class), and are rarely, if ever, higher (I actually couldn’t find a single time that USAir’s rate was higher than the competition!).

Some examples of routes that USAir is considerably cheaper than the competition (mileage needed is for a roundtrip ticket):

North America-Africa economy:  70k on USAir (75k AA, 100k Delta, 80k United)

North America-Africa business class:  110k on USAir (150k AA, 140k Delta, 120k United)

North America-North Asia economy: 60k on USAir (65k AA, 70k Delta, 65k United)

North America-North Asia business: 90k on USAir (100k AA, 120k Delta, 120k United)

Japan-India economy:  40k on USAir (45k AA, 50k Delta, 60k United)

Japan-India business:  60k on USAir (60k AA, 70k Delta, 80k United)

With such a generous award chart, not only are flying for free by using your frequent flyer miles, but you are able to stretch them even further!  Gotta love it!

2.  Off-peak award discounts

USAirways is the only American carrier who offers off-peak award discounts in both economy and business class and if your travel dates coincide with their off-peak schedule, you are getting a STEAL!  I’ve written about it in depth in this post, but here’s the cliff notes version:

A roundtrip economy ticket from North America to South America will only cost you 35,000 miles if you travel during either March or May and a business class ticket will run you 60k.

If you fancy going to Europe and can travel between the off-peak times of January 15 and February 28th, you’ll get the same deal; 35k roundtrip in economy or 60k roundtrip in business.

For comparisons sake, these tickets would normally cost 60k in economy and 100k in business for most carriers, including USAirways during peak season.  By traveling off-peak, you can save almost 50%!

3.  5,000 mile discount for having a Barclays USAirways Mastercard 

If you have a Barclays USAirways Mastercard, you’ll receive a 5k mile discount on any award tickets when you fly USAirways.  Note that this offer is not valid if you use your USAirways miles to fly on a partner airline but only if you fly on the USAirways flight itself.

This is great for anyone wishing to fly domestically in the US, to the Caribbean, or even to Europe.

USAirways operates its own flights to cities all across the United States and the Caribbean and also flies to many cities in Europe, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Athens, and even as far east as Tel Aviv.  To see a list of all the places USAirways flies, you can us their interactive map).

Many people have coupled this discount with the off-peak rates and flown to Europe between January and February for 30,000 miles roundtrip!  There is absolutely no better value out there than a 30k trip to Europe.

4.  USAir allows stopovers

A stopover is any time you stay in a city for over 24 hours before heading to your final destination.  Stopovers are a GREAT way to maximize your miles and I highly recommend considering using stopovers when you fly.  You can see 2 awesome places all for the price of 1 ticket.

For example, let’s say you are flying from Philadelphia to Rome.  Instead of simply going direct to Rome, you could stopover in London or Paris, spend a few days there, and then continue on to Rome.  Unless you under an extreme time crunch, there is absolutely no reason not to take advantage of stopovers.

Technically, USAirways allows 1 stopover per itinerary, but…

Gumby and USAirways…both extremely bendable!

5.  USAirways has really “bendable” routing rules

I say technically because there site specifically states “Either 1 stopover OR 1 open-jaw are allowed per award ticket”.

However, USAir is renowned for allowing many, many creative routes on an itinerary that break this rule and which can allow you to visit 3 places all for the price of 1 ticket.  I’ll give you a perfect example.

I recently booked a roundtrip ticket from Tokyo, Japan to Mumbai, India.  According to the rules, I was allowed 1 stopover OR 1 open jaw (when you fly in to one city and out of another).

I decided that on the way from Tokyo to Mumbai, I’d like to take advantage of my stopover and stay for a week in Bali, Indonesia.  This was perfectly ok and within the rules.

However, when I saw that I was going to make a connection in Singapore, I decided that instead of just staying at the airport, I’d like to visit some friends who lived there.

I decided to press my luck and try to get a second stopover.  Since the agent didn’t know the rules allowing only 1 stopover, I was granted a second stopover in Singapore.

Lastly, there were no good flights out of Bali airport (DPS) to Mumbai, but there were great flights from Jakarta (CGK) to Mumbai.

However, I didn’t want to fly in to Jakarta since I’d be spending my vacation in Bali, so I was able to convince the agent to let me fly from Singapore into Bali airport but fly out of Jakarta.  Hello, open-jaw.

My final itinerary looked like this:

Tokyo to Singapore.  Stay in Singapore 2 days as a stopover.  Singapore to Bali.  Stay in Bali for 6 days.  I’d then take the ferry from Bali to Jakarta and leave from Jakarta airport (open jaw) to Mumbai.  From Mumbai, I’d then fly home to Tokyo.

All told, I was able to get 2 stopovers and 1 open jaw, and all for the same price (40,000 miles) that’d I’d pay if I flew direct from Tokyo to Mumbai and back. Talk about “bendable”!

6.  No fuel surcharges

When you use USAirways miles to fly, whether you are flying on a USAirways flight itself or on one of its partner airlines, you will NEVER pay a fuel surcharge.

This is a huge deal, since many airlines are now imposing fuel surcharges on award tickets and they can range between $400-800 a person.  With USAirways, you’ll never have to worry about that!

The one downside

USAir does not allow you to book one-way tickets when using frequent flyer miles.  Instead, you’ll always have to book a roundtrip ticket, meaning that you’ll have to end your trip back where you started it.

This isn’t normally a huge deal for most travelers, seeing as they leave from their home, go on vacation, and the come back.

However, it does put a crink in the plans of people who are looking to travel to multiple destinations on a round the world trip or someone who might have miles spread across a variety of airlines but doesn’t have enough miles in USAir to book the whole ticket.

Most of the times, this is either inconsequential or a small price to pay for the other awesome perks that USAir’s award chart but it is something you should be aware of.

Hopefully, as many other airlines have now moved towards allowing one-way tickets, USAir will soon follow suit.

Best Credit Card to Earn USAirways Miles

If you want to take advantage of USAir’s awesome award chart but don’t have enough miles, I’d suggest you take a look at the Barclays USAirway Mastercard.

Not only will this card save you 5k miles each time you fly USAirways (as mentioned above) but you’ll also receive a decent sign up bonus.

It also waives the annual fee for the first year, so there is no reason not to add this card to your collection.

For a more detailed review of the USAirways Mastercard, check out the Best Current Deals page.

What other award chart quirks do you love?  Is there an award chart that you find to be as generous as USAir’s?  Let us know in the comments below?

(photos courtesy of theMM, psiconauta)

 

 

33 comments

  1. Adam says:

    Hi,
    Are you sure that USair is a transfer partner of chase UR? If so that would be great, but I’ve heard there not. I’ve been working with you to create a trip and this could possibly be helpful if true.

    1. Trav says:

      @Adam- Whoops! I was thinking of Starwood points transferring to USAirways. My mistake. I’ve updated the post.

  2. Vard says:

    How do you go about getting the 5K discount if having the mastercard? I do not see any option online and worried that by calling i’ll be charge the phone fee.

    1. Trav says:

      @Vard- Make sure you are signed in to your USAirways account when you do the booking. When you first get to the USAirways homepage and sign in to your account, there should be a little silver button next to your name and mileage balance that says “DMS” in the top right hand corner. This is how the system knows that you are a Dividend Miles Select member (meaning you have the credit card).

      If you just got the card recently, it may take the system a little while to process that you are DMS member. If you don’t see the DMS notation next to your name and you want to book a ticket immediately or you’ve had the card for awhile and its still not showing up, you can either email or call USAirways Dividend miles to make sure they know you have the card. They can manually fix it in the system.

  3. Ken says:

    Gumby!

    1. Trav says:

      @Ken- Gotta love him! Any chance I have to stick him in a post, I have to take it!

  4. Jason Xu says:

    Were you talking about one-way ticket here?
    “North America-North Asia business: 90k on USAir (100k AA, 120k Delta, 120k United)”
    United has saver award which is 60K.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jason Xu- Great question. All the prices listed are for roundtrip tickets. USAir only allows you to book roundtrip awards, and so I calculated all the airlines based on how much they would cost roundtrip. I’ve changed the post to make it more clear.

      1. jetsetboy says:

        Trav,

        One more downside to using Dividend Miles to book a trip, and I think this is just as bad as not allowing one-ways: once you start traveling on your itinerary, USAir does NOT allow any changes, so you’re stuck with whatever you’ve booked.

        1. Trav says:

          @jetsetboy- Agreed, that is a major pain in the butt. There are alot of quirks about USAirways chart and rules so I wasn’t quite sure where to draw the line, but yeah, that’s a pretty big downside!

          1. jetsetboy says:

            Yeah, I would say those two are the major ones.

  5. Vard says:

    my account is now linked for the 5k discount, thanks for the help guys!

    so i’ve found a flights from PHL – MAD round trip (2/15/13-2/24/13) for the 30k miles because it is off peak. i’ve been searching for an open jaw option because i plan to visit additional cities to madrid and would prefer to not have to get back to MAD for the flight out.

    Does anyone have a suggestion?

    1. jetsetboy says:

      Which other cities do you plan on visiting? Will they all be in Spain, or will they be in other countries as well?

      1. Vard says:

        I wanted to also visit Barcelona and Lisbon, for $50 flights you can’t beat that! And I don’t mind adding another 24+ hour journey to another city in order to not have to go back to Madrid for the flight home. I’ve done a Euro trip before so have been in most big cities in Germany and France. Was looking at flying home from Frankfurt but couldn’t find a US air flight which would also be off-peak mileage.

        1. Trav says:

          @Vard- Went to USAirways website and the list of European cities that fly back home to Philadelphia include: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt, Dublin, Glasgow, London, Lisbon, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Rome, Tel Aviv, and Venice. I’m not saying that all will have availability, but what I would do is rank them as far as places you’d want to visit and then just start looking up availability from each back to Philadelphia on USAir’s website.

          Also, don’t forget that while the rules say you can have a stopover OR an openjaw, many people, including myself, have been able to get both. This way, you could really see alot of places. An example would be PHL-MAD(stopover)-Rome then open jaw Venice (or anywhere you’d like to go) to PHL. Basically, you’d be visiting 4 European cities on one ticket and would only have to worry about getting between your final destination (in this case Rome) and the other city (Venice), which is cheap and easy on Ryanair or something like that.

          Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions! Should be an epic trip!

          1. vard says:

            Thank you Trav! I’ll certainly follow your advice And report back on the final booking.

            Just curious though how’d you find those routes as options? did you use the interactive map on US Air site?

          2. Trav says:

            @vard- Yeah, I just went to USAirways interactive map, put in Philadelphia and looked for all the destinations from there. It listed them all (and there are lots) but I just looked for the ones going to Europe. Not sure if there is any easier way, but its not too hard.

  6. Jon says:

    Trav–how do you go about searching USAir awards like USA-India? The USAir website doesn’t even have Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. as an option and the interactive map shows nothing in India. Thanks!

    1. Trav says:

      @Jon- Great question. The key is understanding that you can use your USAirway miles to fly on all other Star Alliance partners since USAirways is a member of Star Alliance. So even though USAirways doesn’t fly a route from USA-India, some of its partners do! Unfortunately, USAir’s website won’t show you flights for their partners, so to search for all Star Alliance partners, you can use United’s site to see what flights are available or a tool like Award Travelr (which is linked on the Frequent Flyer Toolkit page).

      See this post and video tutorial on how to find Star Alliance Availability: http://www.extrapackofpeanuts.com/the-free-flight-primer-part-four-finding-star-alliance-award-availability/

      1. Jon says:

        Thanks Trav! I just didn’t put it together with USAir/Star Alliance/United. Much thanks.

        1. Trav says:

          @Jon- Yeah, understanding alliances and flying on partner airlines is one of the more confusing aspects of using frequent flyer miles so I’m glad that you were able to figure it out! Opens up a world of possibilities!

  7. Vard says:

    Hey Trav.

    I’ve listened to your advice and tried to find some different routes that you suggested. Here is the problem, when i’m using the interactive map for the trip i’ve already found with off peak miles (-5,000 for the CC) [PHL -> MAD 2/15/13 – 2/24/13]the map does not show available flight but I am able to see it on the award booking section.

    When i look at it further (on Kayak, US air site, and interactive map) there don’t seem to be any flights currently in the system from PHL to LIS or BCN after October 2012. So i’m assuming that is also the reason why i can’t find those options available if i had a layover in FRA or somewhere else in europe on the way to spain.

    do you have any suggestions? do you think thes flights will pop up later? just a little odd that only MAD is showing up.

    1. Trav says:

      @Vard- I’ve had a look too, and it certainly is weird. On the interactive map, it shows that there are direct USAirways flights from PHL to both LIS and BCN. However, when I try to do a dummy booking between PHL and BCN or LIS for your dates in February, it tells me that USAirways doesn’t fly between those two cities!

      I’m not sure if this is because they haven’t released availability for those dates yet (which seems odd, since its not that far away) or if they are canceling the flights to those cities (which would also seem odd, since I haven’t read about it anywhere).

      I also looked on some other award booking search engines and nothing was showing up between PHL and BCN or LIS.

      My suggestion would be to call a USAir rep and ask about it. They may or may not know, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I’d assume they would know if they were canceling the service to those cities, at least.

      If you do call and find something out, please let me know.

      1. Trav says:

        @Vard- I just did some looking and it jogged my memory. The reason flights to BCN and LIS aren’t showing up is because USAirways only offers seasonal service to some European destinations during the summer months. The destinations that are seasonal flights in the summer only include Barcelona, Lisbon, Venice, Athens, Glasgow, and Dublin.

        That is why you can’t find availability from those cities during February. You’ll have to go in and out of any of the other European destinations that they operate all year round.

  8. Sam Thomas says:

    So from what you say, it seems reasonable that the following would be doable….

    US-JNB-AFR (some other African city) -(stopover)
    AFR-JNB-BOM (destination)
    BOM-JNB-same African city
    AFR-JNB-US

    So two stopovers in the same non-hub city.

    If that doesn’t work could you do

    US-JNB-AFR (some other African city) -(stopover)
    AFR-JNB-BOM (destination)
    open-jaw
    AFR-JNB-US

    One stopover and one open-jaw. So you would only have to buy BOM-AFR.

    Worst case is that there is a stopover in JNB (a hub city) and buy two r/ts to AFR

    Miles
    US-JNB (stopover)
    JNB-BOM (destination)
    BOM-JNB (stopover)
    JNB-US

    Purchased
    JNB-AFR-JNB
    JNB-AFR-JNB

    Any thoughts?

    1. Trav says:

      @Sam Thomas- The important thing to remember about USAirways is that they are super lenient with their routing even if it doesn’t follow their rules. I’m not 100% sure, but it seems fairly unlikely that their rules would allow you to route through the same city twice, let alone stopover there twice. However, just because their rules probably say you can’t do it doesn’t mean that a representative won’t let you do it. My suggestion would be to put together the itinerary you want, write down all the flight numbers and times for each leg (I use awardtravelr.com usually to find flights) and then call that in and spoonfeed it to the rep.

      That is exactly what I did for my upcoming trip in which I successfully pulled of two stopovers and 1 open jaw.

      Even if they don’t allow the first scenario, the second one seems very likely that they would let you do it, even though the rules state “1 stopover OR 1 open jaw”. The third scenario would have you stopping over twice in the same city (JNB) so that might be less likely at being approved.

      But again, the best advice is just to get all your information ready exactly how YOU want it (regardless of the rules) and then call in and give them the information and see if it gets approved. If it doesn’t, you can always change things around or you can hang up and call back and talk to another rep who might approve it.

      Good luck, let us know how it turns out!

      1. Sam Thomas says:

        Cool. My sister will appreciate it. We have her on a J tkt to AFR but she wants to go to BOM also and I thought this might help. Thanks so much. Your post was very helpful.

        1. Trav says:

          @Sam Thomas- Thanks! Glad you found it helpful. Hope she can get the itinerary she wants.

  9. vard says:

    just want to give an update that I finally booked my Spain 2013 trip. I was attempting to fly phl – mad – phl – mbj . 3 separate times the Rep on phones said not allowed. so I simply booked the easy rt to mad. not bad for 30k miles gotten from I card sign up.

    1. Trav says:

      @vard- Good job! The problem with the adding the MBJ leg probably arose because you were attempting to add on a leg that went to a different region from where you originated. You started in the North America region (PHL), went to Europe, and then tried to stopover in North America (PHL) and continue on to the Caribbean region. That’s probably what tipped them off that it wasn’t exactly falling within the rules. Usually, sticking to the same region is a safer bet at trying to get an itinerary.

      Still, you got a free trip from a signup bonus, and that’s awesome! Have fun!

Comments are closed.

'

Join Our Community of Over 8,000 Travelers

Enter your email address below and get my free 20 Travel Hacking Strategies guide, completely FREE! You'll also be kept in the loop every time a great travel pops up so you'll never miss a deal again (like the $300 tickets to South Africa I just scored)!

Cancel