United Domestic First Class for only 50,000 US Airways Miles

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This past Sunday’s reader question asking whether US Airways miles are useless got me thinking about the airline’s Dividend miles program and interesting ways that to pull value from them specifically as opposed to miles on any Star Alliance carrier.

I remember reading a blog comment recently that the US Airways partner award chart lists both domestic business class and first-class redemptions for only 50,000 miles roundtrip, even though United currently offers true first and business class within North America (in the 4th quarter of 2012 they will be moving to a 2-cabin configuration with lie-flat beds).

The mileage requirement for business and first class is the same: 50,000 miles.

This means you can get a roundtrip ticket (no one-ways for US Airways redemptions) in United first class for the same 50,000 miles I’d need for business class and 20,000 miles less than I would need if I were just redeeming United miles. I decided to test out the chart, so I searched United.com for award availability in first class on the 757-200 ps transcontinental service for about two weeks from now in mid-September.

I saw that there was first class availability from JFK-LAX on September 13 with a return on September 17 – just right for a long weekend in LA. A coach ticket on these flights would have been $344, and a first class ticket would have been a whopping $6,278!

That same first class ticket would have cost me over $6,000!

Seeing availability on the flights I wanted, though, I called US Airways – you have to in order to book award tickets – and had them book the same exact itinerary for me for 50,000 US Airways miles plus $5 in taxes, a $30 Dividend Miles booking fee, $75 for booking less than 21 days in advance since I don’t have elite status (Gold, Platinum and Chairman’s Preferred have the award booking fee and quick ticketing fees waived). Even subtracting those fees from the fare, my miles were worth 12.34 cents each – a great value!

My confirmed itinerary on United via US Airways.

Alternative Strategies

I don’t have a lot of US Airways miles sitting around since I’ve been concentrating my flight activity on United. However, I could still buy US Airways miles with a 100% bonus until August 31, at a rate of about 1.9 cents each. The 50,000 miles I would need for this redemption would cost me $950 this way. Not cheap, but considering I’d still be saving over $5,000 on a first class ticket, I might think about it. This would also be just $600 more than buying a coach ticket, and I’d be willing to shell out an extra $600 for confirmed first class with lie-flat seats!

The first class cabin aboard a United 757-200 ps.

Earlier this morning I also wrote about a great way to turn Amex points into US Airways miles by first transferring them to Aeroplan and then exchanging Aeroplan miles for US Airways miles via points.com. The transfer ratio ended up being 1 Amex point to 0.85 US Airways miles. To get the 50,000 miles I’d need for this redemption, I would need just about 59,000 Amex points. That’s still better than the 70,000 United miles.

There are plenty of ways to get enough US Airways miles for one of the 757-200 ps’s lie-flat first class seats.

Finally, let’s not forget one of my favorite US Airways transfer partners, Starwood. When you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to partner airlines including US Airways, you get 5,000 bonus miles, so to end up with 50,000 US Airways miles, you’d only need to transfer 40,000 Starwood points to your Dividend Miles account – pulling even more tremendous value from those points (assuming you value first class redemptions).

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