This post is part of a four-part series. In Part 1, we looked at the mechanics of the US Airways program. In Part 2, we’ll look at its award chart and rules to find valuable awards. In Part 3, we’ll value specific Dividend Miles awards. In Part 4, I’ll put a number on one Dividend Mile.
If you read Part 1, you were probably struck by how unfavorably the Dividend Miles program compared to United’s Mileage Plus. It is true that the rules and fees of Dividend Miles are inferior. That’s only half the story though. The other half is the award chart, where US Air has a distinct advantage. This post will focus on exploiting the award chart by finding great deals.
In this post, I’ll detail what I think are some of the best Dividend Miles awards from North America. Of course if you don’t want to go to the places I’m mentioning, these awards are worthless, so there is a huge subjective component to finding valuable awards. But in this post I’ll focus on objective factors like the quality of the seat, the number of miles needed compared to competitors, and number of cities visited. Here are some of the best value US Airways awards:
1. Off peak Envoy class to Europe. Off peak dates for Europe are January 15 – February 28, so hardly the ideal time to visit. But if those dates don’t put you off, you can fly from anywhere in North America to Europe roundtrip for only 60,000 Dividend Miles. Of course, the flights have to be on US Air planes, but US Air flies to Frankfurt, Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Zurich, Brussels, Dublin, Madrid, Munich, and Manchester, so there are a lot of great destinations.
And as we learned in Part 1, you can have a stopover at a US Air hub in the United States or you can fly an open jaw like LAX-MAD, CDG-LAX, handling your own transportation between Madrid and Paris.
Most of these routes are operated by A330s, so you’ll be getting a flying bed for only 30k each way, the normal coach price! No other airline comes close to offering such a cheap roundtrip flying bed to Europe.
On the same dates, you can also fly roundtrip in coach to Europe for only 35,000 miles. This is a great deal too. It’s similar in quality to American’s 40,000 mile off peak roundtrips, although AA lets you fly oneway if you prefer.
2. Off peak coach to Rio de Janeiro. For two months each year, US Air offers off peak roundtrips from the US to Rio for only 35,000 miles. Unlike the European off peak months, these months are usually in the spring and fall, when Rio is actually quite lovely to visit. Most airlines charge 60,000 roundtrip to Rio, so this is an amazing deal that saves 25,000 miles!
Off peak Envoy class to Rio is also offered for 60,000 miles roundtrip. It’s a ten hour flight from Charlotte to Rio, so Envoy class is worth considering. Unfortunately this route is operated by a 767, which has angled lie flat seats, which many people hate. I think they’re too uncomfortable to sleep in, so I’d rather take advantage of the roundtrip off peak in coach, but many people would prefer spending 60,000 miles for the Envoy seats. Most airlines charge 100,000 miles roundtrip in business class, so this deal saves 40,000 miles!
3. Business class to North Asia. US Air’s definition of North Asia is China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, S. Korea, Taiwan, and the ‘stans. You can fly to any of those countries for only 90,000 miles roundtrip, which is 30,000 miles less than United charges for a roundtrip to the same destinations.
This is not an off peak award like those mentioned above, so it’s allowed year round, and you can fly any Star Alliance partner to Asia.
4. Off peak coach to the Caribbean. Every September, you can fly a roundtrip in coach from anywhere in the continental US to one of US Air’s many Caribbean destinations for only 25,000 miles roundtrip, a 10,000 mile savings over the normal price. For some itineraries this is a great deal, though if you are MIA or JFK based, Avios are probably a better deal.
5. Coach or business class to Africa. US Air charges only 70,000 for coach and 110,000 for business class roundtrips to Africa, both of which are 10,000 miles less than United and other competitors. I detailed in the United series some of the great Star Alliance options to Africa.
6. First class to Hawaii. I want to preface this by saying I actually don’t think it’s a good deal at 70,000 miles roundtrip to fly in domestic first class from the mainland to Hawaii. However, United charges 80,000 miles, and American charges 75,000. Keep in mind though that the seats are just slightly bigger recliners than coach not the flying beds of international first and business classes. If you’re determined to fly to Hawaii in first, though, US Air offers the best deal.
Comparing the charts of United and US Air, you’ll see that in many other cases, US Air charges fewer miles than United for a roundtrip in one or all classes. Don’t forget that this is offset by the lack of oneway pricing with US Air miles, worse stopover rules, and higher fees.