Current State of Free Oneways

This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free oneways on United and US Airways awards.

A free oneway is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free oneways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free oneways on its awards last week by nixing all free stopovers because free oneways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport.

What’s the current state of free oneways with major frequent flyer programs?

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17 Changes to US Airways and American Airlines Loyalty Programs Ranked by Importance

US Airways and American Airlines officially merged in December 2013. They are still independent brands with separate loyalty programs, but they are making major changes in unison, especially in the last few weeks.

Below are 17 changes made, mostly yesterday, in the order of my take on their importance. As I said yesterday, I am much more upset about how these changes were made (most of numbers 3-17 were made with no notice) than the fact that they were made.

1) On March 30, US Airways left the Star Alliance.

US Airways lost valuable partners for award redemptions like United, Lufthansa, and Thai. US Airways did maintain several Star Alliance partners including EVA, South African, and Turkish.

Some of those Star Alliance partners are disappearing this year, so make sure you book those partners in 2014 for travel through 2015.

2) On March 31, US Airways joined oneworld opening up great partners like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Qatar.

Unfortunately you cannot combine oneworld and the remaining Star Alliance partners on a single award.

Despite the change from Star Alliance to oneworld, no award routing rules changed for US Airways awards.

All the other changes were made yesterday, most with no notice.

3) American Airlines is no longer allowing stopovers on awards.

You used to be able to get a stopover in each direction at the North American International Gateway City. That opened up the chance to get two free oneways on roundtrip awards. That chance is no more.

Check out this award I priced out from Los Angeles to New York, stopover, New York to London. This would have cost 20,000 miles total. Now it costs 32,500 miles.

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4) American Airlines has eliminated the Explorer Award.

This is a huge blow for me personally because I was planning on booking myself one of these up-to-16-flights around-the-world awards that I’ve explained here.

American Airlines had by far the best round-the-world awards until yesterday, and now it has no option for round-the-world awards.

5) US Airways increased the amount of miles for a business class saver award from the US to North Asia from 90,000 to 110,000 miles roundtrip.

I covered this in detail yesterday.

The takeaways: Book your next US Airways award to North Asia in First Class for 120k miles instead. Or use the even sweeter spot of Central America to South Asia for 90k miles roundtrip in business class.

6) American Airlines is increasing the phone fee it charges on award tickets to $35.

It was $25 until yesterday. This phone fee is unavoidable on tons of American Airlines awards because most oneworld partners are not searchable and bookable on aa.com.

7) Starting April 30, customers who have the US Airways MasterCard® will receive one free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions.

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8) American Airlines AAnytime awards are going to a three tier system.

Until yesterday, American Airlines had the best value “standard” awards. For double the price of a MileSAAver (saver) award, you could get the last seat on the plane.

I had never taken advantage, but there were some circumstances where that would have been a good deal.

No more. The new American Airlines award chart has three levels of AAnytime awards, so if you’re getting the last seat on the plane, expect to pay through the nose.

By the way, if you click that link, you might notice that MileSAAver awards have two levels too. That’s not a substantive change, just a change from the old nomenclature. What used to be called “off peak” awards, which are only possible to certain regions, are Level 1. What used to be peak awards are Level 2. No MileSaaver prices changed.

9) US Airways is ending black out dates.

Even with three tiers of award prices, US Airways had some routes and dates with no availability at any price. That’s no more, but I’m sure the former black out dates will have exorbitant price tags that I’ll avoid.

10) US Airways High Level awards are splitting into two tiers starting June 1, 2014.

The US Airways award chart will soon have Low, Medium, High Level 1, and High Level 2 awards.

11) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, US Airways Silver and American Airlines Gold will only get one free checked bag on American Airlines flights.

12) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, full fare economy passengers on American Airlines are going from two free checked bags to zero.

13) For tickets issued April 8, 2014 and later, people flying economy AAnytime awards on American Airlines are going from two free checked bags to zero.

14) For tickets issued April 23, 2014 and later, US Airways Gold and Platinum Elites and American Airlines Platinum Elites are going from three free checked bags all the time to only two free checked bags when they fly economy on US Airways flights.

15) For tickets booked after April 8, 2014 on American Airlines flights, the free checked bag between the US and Mexico/Caribbean/Central America for all passengers is gone. New prices: $25 for the first bag, $40 for the second.

16) For tickets booked after April 8, 2014, the you will only get one free checked back on American Airlines flights to/from Brazil. You used to get two.

17) American Airlines’ unacocompanied minor fee is going from $100 to $150 each way.

I may have missed some other changes because US Airways and American Airlines didn’t communicate all of these is one place. Please let me know what I’ve missed in the comments.

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US Airways Has Eliminated One Sweet Spot to Asia, but There is a Sweeter Spot

US Airways–with absolutely no notice–made some award chart changes today. The big change to Saver award prices is that a roundtrip in business class to North Asia is now 110k miles roundtrip.

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US Airways’ definition of North Asia includes:

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Macau,
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • and a bunch of ‘stans

Business class awards to North Asia had been under-priced at 90k US Airways miles roundtrip, and many people in this hobby had taken advantage with awards that included a stopover in Europe and Asia in business class. Bill wrote about his experience booking such an award here.

I am not surprised that this award went up more than 20%. It was well below what competitors charged for the route and had been well below for years. I am surprised and angered that we were given no notice of the change to the award chart.

We all understand that 90k miles get less valuable over time. That doesn’t bother me because we all expect it and because earning miles has become far easier over time. What bothers me is a no-notice change. We all earned US Airways miles under the old rules expecting that we’d be able to redeem under the old rules even if that meant a quick redemption after changes were announced but before they came into effect.

This change is especially brutal for anyone who bought 50k US Airways miles yesterday through the US Airways Share Miles program and was planning to use them to go to North Asia in business class. (By the way, I still think the Share Miles promo is a great deal.)

Now, there is no reason to ever book a US Airways award to North Asia in business class.

What cabin has the best deal to North Asia now? What is the even sweeter spot to Asia that US Airways forgot to devalue?

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US Airways Share Miles Promotion Returns for 7 Days Only. Buy Miles for 1.13 Cents Until Sunday!

Until April 13, 2014, US Airways is offering a bonus of 100% on sharing between 30,000 and 50,000 miles between Dividend Miles accounts.

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The US Airways Share Miles promo is typically the best mileage purchasing offer of the year.

Sharing miles works out to buying miles for 1.13 cents each. If you could buy unlimited miles at that price, a roundtrip award from the US to Europe in business class would be only $1,180 plus government taxes, an incredible value.

This is why I routinely max out US Airways Share Miles promotions even when I have no specific use for the miles in mind.

This is a non-targeted offer that only requires membership in US Airways’ Dividend Miles program for at least 12 days and a minimum of 1,000 miles in your account to begin.

Very similar promotions occurred in October 2012, October 2013, and December 2013. I participated fully all three times.

How can you take advantage of the best mileage-buying promotion of the year? Should you, in light of the fact that US Airways recently changed alliances?

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US Airways Losing Four Partners in the Next Few Months

The notes at the bottom of the US Airways award chart have some bad news: US Airways is losing four partners this year.

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On Saturday, I explained Where to Search for Award Space on All 26 of US Airways’ Partners. If you want to fly four of those partners, though, you need to book in the next few weeks.

Which partners is US Airways losing? When do you have to book by? How far into 2015 can you fly the awards? What are good substitute airlines for the partners being lost?

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