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USAirways Frequent Flyer Program--Awesome If You Don't Plan On Actually Using Your Miles!

USAirways Frequent Flyer Program--Awesome If You Don't Plan On Actually Using Your Miles!

Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:39 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 901
USAirways Frequent Flyer Program--Awesome If You Don't Plan On Actually Using Your Miles!

I just had to share this. We've been flying USAir for over 15 years, almost exclusively. My wife & I have some miles built up and decided to redeem some for a vacation to New Mexico in March.

To make a long story short, although USAir flies from our home in Myrtle Beach to Albuquerque, when I tried to redeem miles and make reservations on the website, there is not a single seat available on any day for the rest of 2006 (much less the March dates we wanted).

When we called, USAir said a variety of things, such as: (1) there are only 2 or 3 seats available for FF travel on any given flight; (2) you need to book a year in advance; and (3) there are no seats available, there is nothing we can do (this from a supervisor). My wife pointed out that the flight we wanted is not full; we could purchase tickets. Didn't make any difference.

I believe they call this capacity control in the industry. As to our particular situation, I'd call it an utter and complete disregard of customer loyalty. And I have to question the legitimacy of the entire FF program if this is any indication of how it works.

Just wanted to alert readers as to our experience. And one final question, as we are in the market for a new airline to use: is your preferred airline's FF program any different than this?
beach_dweller is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:52 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,379
It's pretty much the same story for all US airlines' FF programs in my experience. The award seats on most flights are very few and are snatched up as soon as they are available.

I don't know of any strategy to get around this, frankly. You might try on the Airlines board here at Fodor's....
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:53 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Did you tell the phone agent, or did the phone agent, to check availability on United?

UA/US are generally more easy to get FF seats than say DL/CO/NW. So, if you find it tough, some people find it even harder.

Also, you may want to try other departure cities. There may not be many FF seats out of Myrtle Beach.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:54 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,716
Sad to say but the story you relate is not unusual. It's pretty much the same with all airline FF award programs. There are usually only a limited number of award seats available on any given flight (2 to 4 is the norm) and they are normally "released" 11 months prior to departure dates. Savy travellers will be on the phone with the airline at 12:01AM 330 days out to book their flight. Occasionally airlines will "release" additional seats for award travel as the depature dates get close but there's no set timing or rules that are followed. FYI- the fact that a flight has plenty of empty seats does not mean award seats are available. Sorry this post is not more encouraging but it's a fact of life in the FF Award Seat universe.
A_Traveller is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,300
I have had good luck using American Airlines and have been member with them for long time. I used to rack up lots and lots of miles on business trips to Europe and am still using those miles to book free seats. I do try to book way in advance and be a bit flexible on dates but so far I have always been able to get two seats when I wanted. Perhaps AA has more seats allocated on each flight. I was also a many mile flier on TWA before Ichan killed it and again I was always to get seats as needed on TWA ff program. I have also found American is very good about using partner airlines as well, for example AA to London then on British Air to Edinburgh, or AA to London then on BA to Munich, both of which I have done. I have no complaints so far with American AAdvantage.
Curt is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:09 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,437
I agree, FF seat scarcity is not unique to US Airways.

This may not be the way you want to do it, but most (all?) programs offer you the option to use more miles (usually twice as many) to get a seat without capacity controls. On US Airways, it's called a "premiun" award. It would mean using 50K mile per ticket instead of 25K, but if you have miles to burn and can't use them any other way, it's worth considering. You say you've been using US exclusively for 15 years, so it sounds as if you should have quite a few miles built up, unless some have expired.
KT is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:09 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 735
Try using your miles for an upgrade. Here's the way I see it:

I can afford an $800 ticket to Paris. I cannot afford a $6000 first class ticket to Paris. I used 80,000 miles (something like that) to upgrade my husband and myself a couple of years ago. I feel like upgrades are the best use of FF miles if you do that math on what you are saving.

I'm not sure what the price differentials are domestically, but it's at least a 4 hour haul from MB to NM, right? You might think about sitting up front.

Also, do you have enough miles for a premium award? my understanding is that for double the miles, you can bypass black out dates and other controls on US Air.
Litespeed_Chick is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:12 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 34

Sadly, wanted to repeat that this is also the case for FF programs in Canada. For my Aeroplan ( Air Canada ) program, I have to book all "hot ticket" flights a year in advance ( Disney, Vegas, etc. )
For booking domestic flights, we can usually get something a couple of months prior to flight.
I keep saying I'm going to cancel my card, but I have taken 6 big trips with my points that have saved me some serious change.
wagonwheel2 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,663
I have had a similar experience, since I often fly USAir to Philly. Now I have a Capital One Miles award card, and I have always been able to get the exact date I wanted (often flying USair!). I guess it's time for you to change to that type of program...
joan is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:19 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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I fly USAir frequently, direct from LGA to the town where my parents live. I've never had a problem booking a free seat, usually less than 6 weeks in advance.

Perhaps it has something to do with the airport of origin?

Gekko is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,114
Just a couple of thoughts.

1. You are not alone. This is a problem throughout the industry.

2. You waited too long. For award travel in March, February (or even earlier) is way too short a time.

3. Are you looking for "Mileage Saver" or "Premium" award seats? (The premium seats require twice the mileage but have very few or no capacity controls.)

4. Figure you paid (the airline, a credit card company, somebody) around a penny and a half per mile (which is pretty much the average). Most frequent flyers value their FF miles at about 2 to 2.5 cents each. Thus a 20K mile award has a "book" value of $400 - $500. But... a cheap coach round trip flight from Charlotte to Albuquerque in mid-March is $322 (MYR lots higher because of limited service - well worth driving to CLT.)

On the other hand, a first class RT ticket is $1366. For the same 20K miles that would get you a round trip coach ticket (if seats were available) you can upgrade one way to first class from that cheap fare. For another 20K miles you can ride back in FC. Total miles per person = 40K (less than a "premium" coach award) but resulting in you getting a $1360 ticket for $322 plus 40K miles. $1038 in savings divided by 40K miles = something like 2.6 cents per mile. In other words, you've made a profit of a penny per mile on the 40K miles used. Plus - ironic, isn't it - you'll earn miles for the coach ticket that you've upgraded, so the net hit on your FF account will be less than 40K, meaning your yield will be better than a penny. Plus (and no guarantees, mind you) your chances of being able to use miles for upgrade will be vastly better than for the coach award.

The vast majority of mileage addicts will tell you that the best use of miles, especially when "everyday" award seats are scarce, is to use them to ride up front, either as a direct award (especially on longhauls - Europe for instance) or as upgrades. I am a solid member of the that majority.

So don't throw in the towel. Beat them at their own game.
Gardyloo is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:32 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,759
The problem may well be the fact that you are originating in MB. I would guess if you were to drive to CLT this problem would vanish. You might also try flying out of Wilmington (ILM). ABQ is also not a regular US Air flight, in the past it was code-shared (but originated by United). I am sure the current flight is now what used to be an American West flight. For awhile, US Air did not even fly to ABQ. Hope this helps. I am also a victim of the US Air monopoly here in CLT. I feel your pain. You know you could probably fly Hooters Air here to CLT for next to nothing, then use your miles.
SAnParis is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 11:06 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
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Thanks for the commiseration and for the great suggestions. I am considering the options many of you have suggested.

For the record, we have used FF miles with USAir quite a few times over the last 15 years. But not during the past 3 or 4 years.

Also, I did try to redeem the miles in December for a March trip (although I realize even that is not enough lead time).
beach_dweller is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 11:11 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Typically we try & book them as soon as they become available & we have used them in the last few years for PR as well as Paris & Germany. But we have always planned well in advance. We are going to the Caribbean next month using miles & we booked those flights in November, but had to alter our dates slightly & also had to fly into St. Maarten rather than Antigua.
SAnParis is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 11:13 AM
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I have used frequent flyer miles frequently over the past couple of years but in my situation, I'm only booking one ticket.

I've never had any problems booking a ticket to Bufmuck Egypt but I always wait until the last possible minute.

The reason is that whatever seats the airlines don't sell, they start opening for FF miles closer to the date of departure.

So a year out the entire plane my only have two FF seats but by the time the plane flies, there may be ten FF seats.
Feb 22nd, 2006, 11:13 AM
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PS How was the marathon?
Feb 22nd, 2006, 11:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 901

thanks for the tip (I had seen your advice to someone else before, so we do plan to keep trying). Myrtle Beach Marathon was great--hard, but great, as I shaved about 25 minutes off my time for the Marine Corps Marathon (4:06 versus 4:31)!

Litespeed Chick,

you'll love this. I just checked to see if I could upgrade with my miles. Nope, as a regular FF member I am not permitted to upgrade these flights.
beach_dweller is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 11:46 AM
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That's Great! A couple more minutes and you'll qualify for Boston!

Are you going to run NYC? Tip, book your hotel now whether you run or not. Quikbook has the Park South Hotel for $200 a night which is a steal for that weekend. At least $150 less than everyone else and it is a gorgeous little boutique hotel!

I booked already and if Mr.GoTravel and I don't do Amsterdam or Florence in December I'll either run or volunteer.
Feb 22nd, 2006, 12:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 735
Chuck - uh oh. I think was Silver Preferred (touch me) when I did that deal. Now I'm not. I wonder if this means I have 130,000 useless miles?

No, wait. I'm pretty sure I deliberately paid more for my Paris tickets than was necessary just to get the right class of ticket so I could do the upgrade. It was a pain in the ass as I recall. (my husband is tall and broad and really needs the extra room)

Litespeed_Chick is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 06:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,546
2 years ago I used USAir FF to get 2 BC seats on AirNZ to NZ. Recently I used USAir to get 2 BC seats to Greece on Lufthansa. When it works, it is great. I have the feeling that they are more willing to give seats on foreign airlines.

BTW, my opinion is that using double miles for seats just isn't worth it for the usual flight.
Jed is offline  

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