Reader
Question

I Have 116 segments On US Airways And 25 With American Airlines. Should I Buy The Upgrade On US Airways To Chairman Preferred Status?

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It’s the end of the year, and elite status is on everyone’s mind, including that of TPG reader Mitch, who tweeted @thepointsguy with the following question:

 “I will be at 116 segments on US Airways and 25 with American Airlines by the end of the year. Should I buy the upgrade on US Airways to Chairman Preferred status?”

I have actually been getting a ton of e-mails from readers about the US Airways and American Airlines with the merger, and this is one of the issues they are bringing up. Mitch has a bunch of US Airways segments and he wants to know if he should buy up to top-tier Chairman’s Preferred on US Airways as they have a program that allows him to do that. In Mitch’s case, he needs just 4 more segments to qualify, so that would cost him $399.

US Airways will let you buy up to Preferred status with miles or segments.
US Airways will let you buy up to Preferred status with miles or segments.

But Mitch’s real question is whether doing so will also get him American AAdvantage Executive Platinum status once the two airlines merge their frequent flyer programs, and it is a question I have been trying to get clarity on for a while now but have not gotten an answer on. However – and this is bad news for Mitch – my gut is going to tell me “no.”

The American US Airways news is only the latest in a string of high-profile airline mergers.
The American-US Airways prompts questions regarding elite status.

My understanding is that right now the two airlines are clearly focused on simply executing the merger and getting through the busy holiday travel season. They still have a way to go with combining their technology, their culture, their management teams and more.

The merger just went through last week so a lot of things have still not been solidified. So I don’t think they are at a point yet where they are ready to combine their elite programs, as there are a lot of big differences there, such as American does not offer a complimentary unlimited upgrades for their mid and lower elites while US Airways does, and US Airways’ program has four tiers while American’s just has three.

What I think will happen is that US Airways’ Dividend program will still function as is for a large portion of 2014 and even though they are joining Oneworld at the end of March 2014, they are still going to have a lot of Star Alliance partners since they’ve got codeshares – these mergers are tricky things.

Here are the latest updates from the US Airways website regarding the Dividend Miles program in light of the merger:

  • US Airways will be exiting Star Alliance on March 30, 2014. You’ll be able to earn and redeem miles on Star Alliance carriers until that date. Any existing reservations for travel on a codeshare flight with a Star Alliance partner after March 30, 2014 are safe, however, you’ll be rebooked with a new flight number from the carrier operating the flight and you’ll no longer earn miles or receive Star Alliance Gold or Silver benefits.
  • US Airways will no longer offer codeshare flights for sale with United Airlines after December 9, 2013 and with Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa and SWISS after our exit from Star Alliance on March 30, 2014. Any existing reservations are safe, but you will not earn miles for flights on these carriers after March 30, 2014.
  • US Airways plans to continue relationships with the following airlines, which means you’ll be able to earn and redeem miles on these select partners even after we’ve exited Star Alliance: Aegean, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Ethiopian Airlines, Eva, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAM, TAP and Turkish Airways.
  • As US Airways’ agreement with United Airlines comes to a close, US Airways Club members will no longer have access to United Clubs after March 30, 2014. United Club members will no longer have access to the US Airways Club after that date as well.
  • US Airways customers with Star Alliance Gold status will no longer have access to Star Alliance lounges after March 30, 2014.
US Airways will be exiting Star Alliance on March 30, 2014.
US Airways will be exiting Star Alliance on March 30, 2014.

Basically, the only reason I would say buy up to Chairman’s Preferred status is if you want Chairman’s, which has some decent benefits on its own. You still get complimentary upgrades as well as systemwide upgrades – though not as many or as easy to use as on American, for example. But I wouldn’t suggest buying up to Chairman’s Preferred assuming that you are going to get Executive Platinum and those eight valuable upgrades at some point next year.

The beauty of the US Airways Buy Up program for elite status is that it’s relatively inexpensive. With new revenue-based elite status programs, airlines usually want you to pay at least 10 cents for every elite qualifying mile – that’s the amount that United and Delta have pegged on the value of each elite mile with their new revenue requirements in their elite programs.

As of now, however, US Airways will still let you buy up to its top tier, Chairman’s level, which usually requires 120 segments or 100,000 elite-qualifying miles (equivalent to Executive Platinum on American Airlines), for $3,999 outright even if you haven’t flown a single mile. However, as long as you have at least one elite-qualifying mile in your account, the cost to do this is $2,999, about 3 cents per elite qualifying mile. Airlines usually sell regular redeemable miles for that much so it’s actually a pretty reasonable price if top-tier elite status is your goal. And as I mentioned, Mitch would only need $399 to buy up from where he is at the moment.

The perks of Chairman’s Preferred on US Airways include upgrades, priority baggage handling and extra baggage allowance, bonus miles, reserved preferred seating, reservations assistance and US Airways Club Membership discount. For a full list of benefits, click here.

You need 120 segments to reach Chairman's Preferred.
You need 120 segments to reach Chairman’s Preferred.

To achieve American’s top tier of Executive Platinum, you must fly 100,000 qualifying miles or 100 segments or earn 100,000 points in a calendar year (January 1-December 31). The main reason I like it is that once you get Executive Platinum status you receive 8 systemwide upgrades that are good on any fare class. However, there are many more benefits and I detail them all here in this post, along with the best ways to reach Executive Platinum.

Due to several factors including the fact that (for now) there are no revenue requirements for elite status, you can earn it based on flying or on the fares you buy, and some super valuable benefits like systemwide upgrades that can be applied to pretty much any published fare, and American’s new planes coming online, I think American AAdvantage Executive Platinum status is the best top-tier airline status out there and the one that I’m sticking with for 2014.

The New American Airlines will take to the skies on January 7, 2014
The New American Airlines will take to the skies in January 2014

My guess is that by the end of next year US Airways and American will combine elite status programs but not this year. Buying up could still make sense but don’t do it if you only want Executive Platinum on American.

For more information on the merger and the elite status programs of both US Airways and American, see these posts:

A Rundown Of Things To Come With The New Post Merger American Airlines

Elite Status Series: American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum

Rumor: US Airways Joining Oneworld – Book Awards Sooner Than Later

Official American Airlines US Airways Merger Announcement and What It Means For Consumers

Top 10 Potential Positive and Negative Changes of the US Airways American Merger

Maximizing A Potential US Airways American Airlines Merger

How To Prepare for a US Airways AA Merger

American and US Airways Board Approve Merger – The Potential Winners and Losers

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