Elite Status Series: US Airways Silver Preferred

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So far in our Elite Status Series, we’ve covered American, Delta, Southwest and United. Today, TPG contributor Nick Ewen tackles US Airways Preferred status starting with Silver – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.

For the past year (or at least since February and the official announcement), the frequent flyer community (not to mention the air travel industry in general) has been a buzz with the ups and downs up the American and US Airways merger. There’s no doubt that this will have important and long-lasting implications for elite members on both airlines. However, as of now, it’s still business as usual with both carriers and their respective frequent flyer programs. In earlier posts, TPG covered all three tiers of the American AAdvantage program. We’ll now shift our attention to the US Airways Dividend Miles program and its Preferred status tiers. Today’s post will focus on the lowest level of elite status on US Airways: Silver Preferred.

US Airways Preferred status qualification requirements.
US Airways Preferred status qualification requirements.

Qualification

For starters, just like Silver Medallion on Delta, Premier Silver on United and Gold on American, Silver Preferred status is earned after flying 25,000 Preferred-qualifying miles or taking 30 Preferred-qualifying segments in a given calendar year. When you earn status, it will be good for the remainder of the calendar year in which it is earned plus the entire next program year (which runs from March 1 through the end of February). If you just earned Silver Preferred status, it will be good for all of 2014 plus January and February of 2015. To maintain your status past that point, you would need to fly the required segments/miles during the 2014 calendar year, which would extend your status through February 2016.

However, keep in mind that these qualification levels apply to the Dividend Miles program, which will eventually be rolled into the AAdvantage program. As of now, it is anyone’s guess as to how their elite qualification thresholds will be integrated. The best-case scenario (which TPG has speculated about in the past) would be that your qualifying activity in both programs will eventually be combined towards next year’s status qualification, but that’s just a projection and shouldn’t be taken as fact. Only time will tell how this shakes out.

We'll have to wait to see how the merger affects US Airways Preferred status.
We’ll have to wait to see how the merger affects US Airways Preferred status.

Benefits

As soon as you qualify for Silver Preferred (and the status is reflected in your online profile), you can begin taking advantage of numerous benefits on US Airways-operated flights. A complete list can be found here, but Silver flyers enjoy:

  • First class upgrades
  • Checked bag fee waiver
  • Bonus miles
  • Preferred seating
  • PreferredAccess (with priority check-in, security line access, and boarding)
  • Star Alliance Silver status
  • Priority standby
  • MoveUp and Mileage Upgrade fee waiver
  • US Airways Club membership discount

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these benefits to help newly minted Silver Preferred members take full advantage of their new status:

Preferred members have a shot at first class upgrades.
Preferred members have a shot at first class upgrades.

1. First class upgrades: Any Silver Preferred member (plus one companion traveling on the same reservation) can enjoy complimentary, space-available upgrades to First Class on domestic (excluding Hawaii) and short-haul international flights. These seats are capacity controlled and may clear as early as 2 days prior to the departure date, though Silver members booked in Y or B class may be upgraded any time after ticketing. If an upgrade doesn’t clear at least 24 hours in advance, it is transferred to the airport standby list, and Silver Preferred members and their companions would fall toward the bottom of the priority list.

However, US Airways does prioritize both the advance upgrade list and airport standby list differently than other carriers. The first component is status, but within a given level, the number of Preferred-qualifying miles you’ve flown on US Airways-operated flights in the last 12 months determines your place on the list. In other words, if two Silver Preferred members are fighting for one seat, the one who has more Preferred-qualifying miles racked up in the calendar year so far will take priority, even if the other flyer has paid more for a ticket (which is how Delta would prioritize the list).

Since Silver Preferred is the lowest level of elite status, not surprisingly, upgrades on certain routes and at certain times may be hard to come by. However, it does seem like Silver members on US Airways have an easier time of scoring upgrades than Silver flyers on Delta. I have a good friend based in Philadelphia who has about a 50% upgrade percentage this year, including several transcons like PHL-SFO.

If you travel enough, eventually your luggage will get misdirected.
Preferred members get free checked bags.

2. Checked bag fee waiver: Silver Preferred members are exempt from the fee that regular Dividend Miles members must pay for checking their first bag ($25). This also applies to up to 8 additional passengers traveling on the same reservation, though group travel (reservations with 10 or more people) will not enjoy the fee waiver. Full details are available here.

3. Bonus miles: On all qualifying paid flights on US Airways, United, and Lufthansa, Silver Preferred flyers earn a 25% mileage bonus. As always, these do not count as Peferred-qualifying miles but instead just help pad your account for future redemptions. However, please keep in mind that some fare classes on both United and Lufthansa offer lower (or no) mileage accrual, and all codeshare flights booked with either carrier after March 30 will give ZERO mileage credit. Check out this page (then click on “Loyalty Program” at the top) for more information on which Star Alliance partners will continue to offer mileage accrual and redemption options after March 30, and as always, keep following TPG for up-to-the-minute news on the AA-US merger and its impact on partner mileage accrual/redemption.

In addition, Silver members also earn a minimum of 500 miles on all US Airways operated flights, regardless of the distance actually flown. For example, a flight from Charlotte to Atlanta would only net a regular Dividend Miles member 226 miles, whereas a Silver Preferred member would accrue 625 miles.

Preferred members get access to Choice seats.
Preferred members get access to Choice seats.

4. Preferred seating: Silver members can also reserve Preferred coach seats on all US Airways operated flights, including exit rows. There are actually two different “classes” of economy seats on domestic and international flights: Preferred/exit row seats (blocked to non-elite members) and Choice Seats (free for elites but available for purchase by non-elites).

The price a regular Dividend Miles member would have to pay for Choice Seats varies based on the route and even the specific flight time, and it is based on each individual flight (rather than pricing out based on the entire journey). More information can be found here, but as an example, a round-trip flight from Philadelphia to London-Heathrow had Choice Seats available at $50 each way, a fee that would be waived for Silver Preferred members.

Here's a list of US Airways airports with priority security facilities.
Here’s a list of US Airways airports with priority security facilities.

5. PreferredAccess: Similar to Delta’s “SkyPriority” and American’s “Priority AAccess,” PreferredAccess offers Silver Members priority check-in counters, expedited security lines, and priority boarding. Keep in mind that these are not available at all airports, but at those that do have Preferred facilities, this can be a valuable time saver.

Silver Preferred members also get Star Alliance Silver status.
Silver Preferred members also get Star Alliance Silver status.

6. Star Alliance Silver Status: Silver Members are also entitled to priority standby and priority waitlisting on Star Alliance carriers (though neither benefit applies to award reservations). Keep in mind that US Airways will be exiting Star Alliance (their last day is March 30, 2014), which will remove this benefit. Based on the email I received on December 16, existing codeshare reservations with Star Alliance partners after that date are safe but will be rebooked with new flight numbers from the operating carrier and will not offer US Airways Preferred members any benefits.

7. Priority Standby: If you have a last-minute change of plans and want to grab an earlier flight, having Silver status can help, as you are given priority over non-elites for standing by for an open seat (should one become available).

8. MoveUp and Mileage Upgrade fee waivers: US Airways currently offers all travelers the ability to move up to an earlier flight on the day of departure, as long as the new flight is within 6 hours of the original departure time, has open seats, and has the same number of stops. This would cost a non-elite member $75 for domestic and short-haul international flights or $150 for long-haul international flights; however, Silver Preferred members have those fees waived.

In addition, Silver Preferred members do not have to pay fees if they use their miles to upgrade a domestic or short-haul international flight to first class. These fees vary from $25 (for a flight <500 miles) to $150 for flights to/from Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Hawaii.

Preferred members get a discount on US Airways Club membership.
Preferred members get a discount on US Airways Club membership.

9. Discounted US Airways Club membership: Silver Members can also purchase a yearly membership to the US Airways at a discounted rate ($375); regular travelers would have to spend $450 for the same membership. Keep in mind that after March 30, 2014, club access for US Airways Club members will change significantly; additional details are provided here.

So there you have it. Again, there’s no doubt that the clock is ticking on these specific benefits, but if you are new to Dividend Miles Silver Preferred status, you at least have the first three months of 2014 to utilize these benefits. Be sure to follow TPG closely to learn about any and all upcoming changes as US Airways and American integrate their loyalty programs over the next few months.

Any Silver members out there? Feel free to share your personal experience in the comments section below!

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