Note: This post may have a shorter shelf life due to the impending US Airways merger.
Our Award Booking Service receives numerous requests from clients trying to maximize the value of their miles. These savvy travelers want to fly in the best premium cabins and take advantage of any and all liberal routing rules available.
Luckily, many of our clients have large Dividend Miles balances. Dividend Miles are tops on the Mile Value Leaderboard for a few reasons including: other than being limited to one stopover or one open jaw on a roundtrip itinerary, there are nearly limitless ways to squeeze extra value out of an award itinerary.
Because US Airways manually prices each award, you can get away with quite a bit. For instance, you can connect in Europe en route to Asia or even visit four (!) continents on one roundtrip award. Simply put, they don’t have a computer program in place to say “no.”
There is a downside to this policy, however. An agent might reject your itinerary and cite a seemingly official US Airways routing rule.
I can assure you that most of these “rules” are made up by the agent. Sometimes if an award looks complicated to an agent, they will create a rule of out thin air to make you and your complicated itinerary go away.
What are some commonly quoted US Airways award rules you can bend? How do you do that?
One of my favorite faux award rules concerns stopovers. US Airways permits one stopover per roundtrip award. I’ve been told numerous times that the stopover city must also be a Star Alliance hub. I’m here to tell you that simply isn’t true.
The Star Alliance certainly has a lot of desirable hub cities for stopover purposes: Istanbul (Turkish), Vienna (Austrian), Seoul (Asiana), Tokyo (All Nippon Airways), Lisbon (TAP Portugal) to name a few. However, many of our clients want to take their stopover in other cities. Below are two examples that disprove the Star Alliance Hub City Stopover rule.
One of our clients in Philadelphia wanted to visit family in Sofia, Bulgaria after their trip to Bangkok. Sofia certainly isn’t a Star Alliance hubs, though it is served by many Star Alliance carriers. I expected to face a bit of resistance in booking this itinerary.
- Philadelphia -> Frankfurt (Lufthansa)
- Frankfurt -> Bangkok (Thai)
- Bangkok -> Frankfurt (Thai)
- Frankfurt -> Sofia (Lufthansa)
- Sofia -> Vienna (Austrian)
- Vienna -> Venice (Austrian)
- Venice -> Philadelphia (US Airways)
For the more visual learners out there, below is the routing from Bangkok, courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper:
In economy, the roundtrip price between North America (Philadelphia) and South/Central Asia (Bangkok) is 80,00o Dividend Miles. I cleared the first hurdle when the phone agent priced the award at 80k along plus approximately $150 in taxes plus the mandatory $50 Dividend Miles processing fee on all international awards.
I was ready to ticket on behalf of the client, but unfortunately when the agent verified the routing with the rate desk, she came back with the dreaded “Star Alliance Hub City Stopover” rule. I politely asked her to keep the itinerary on hold and I would make the necessary changes later in the day.
Sometimes, hanging up and calling back is the best remedy for getting an award booked. I immediately phoned US Airways again and found a much more proactive agent. Within fifteen minutes, I had the award booked for our client. They would not only be able to enjoy Bangkok on their vacation, they would also see their family in Sofia on the return. That’s a winning itinerary!
This successful booking isn’t an anomaly. We had another Los Angeles-based client with a boat load of Dividend Miles. He wanted to have a stop in Paris en route to their guided tour through China.
I was able to piece together the following award for a couple.
- Los Angeles -> Houston (United First)
- Houston -> Frankfurt (Lufthansa Business)
- Frankfurt -> Paris (Lufthansa Business)
- Paris -> Beijing (Air China Business)
- Beijing -> Los Angeles (Air China Business)
This award was a bit trickier to pull off. The first few agents I spoke with balked at the around-the-world routing. However, no one mentioned that Paris isn’t a Star Alliance hub city. After a few tries, I was able to secure this award for my client at an absurdly great 90,000 Dividend miles/person plus minimal taxes and fees. Remember that US Airways charges 90k miles for a roundtrip business class award between the US and North Asia, one of the best values on any award chart.
How to Earn Dividend Miles
The easiest way to rack up miles is to get the US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase.
- Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles on qualifying transactions
- EXCLUSIVE: Redeem flights for 5,000 fewer miles
- Zone 2 boarding on every flight
- Enjoy 2 miles per $1 spent on US Airways purchases
- Earn 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else
- Annual companion certificate good for round-trip travel for up to 2 companions at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
- First Class check-in
- Please see terms and conditions for complete details
Application Link: Barclay’s US Airways Premier World MasterCard
It’s very easy to construct advantageous routings on a US Airways award. US Airways agents manually price awards, unlike some other airlines that have computers to reject certain routings.
You might meet resistance and be given excuses why you won’t be able to ticket your award. One of those excuses is that your stopover city must also be a Star Alliance hub. In my experience, this is not a US Airways award routing rule in practice, and I’ve provided two examples (Paris and Sofia) of two itineraries that contradict it. When you are told “no”, sometimes the best remedy is keep the award on hold. Hang up and call back until you find a more understanding agent.