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Welcome to my new version of the Sunday Reader Questions, called “Ask & Tell”! I’m excited to be producing these high-quality videos on a weekly basis as I answer all of the excellent reader questions that come in, and hopefully you’ll notice a big improvement in video, sound and overall quality. I look forward to your feedback, but in the meantime, let’s get to the first question for the day.
I was hanging out at the Dallas Amex Centurion lounge this past weekend (I got in thanks to my Amex Platinum card) while out there for the Snowball Express events, and decided to answer a question about the upcoming American-US Airways merger from a TPG reader named Teddy who tweeted me the following:
“@thepointsguy I am booking a 2014 European trip. Is it better to book now with US Airways miles or wait until I can use on Oneworld & Star Alliance?”
There’s no clear-cut answer here – it really just depends on what you want to do, Teddy. When the two airlines’ frequent flyer programs merge in 2014, I do anticipate some changes in the amount of miles it will take to travel – in other words, I expect some airline award chart changes to come up.
Right now, you can fly to Europe for 60,000 miles in economy or 100,000 miles roundtrip in business class using either American or US Airways miles. However, with American, you’ll find a lot of that European award availability is actually on its Oneworld partner, British Airways, which means you’re going to get stuck paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in carrier-imposed surcharges and taxes because you’ll be transiting through London, so if you’re looking to save some cash, it might make more sense to book using US Airways miles instead.
But why settle just for Europe? US Airways has some amazing routing rules where, if you’re flying business class, you can go through Europe to North Asia and have your final destination be somewhere like Hong Kong or Taipei but stopover in your European destination on the way there before continuing on to Asia and then back to the US from there, and that will price out at 90,000 miles instead of 100,000 miles – it’s one of those award chart sweet spots that will probably disappear post-merger. So it’s actually cheaper to fly around the world than just to Europe and back!
Now, if you don’t care about business class and you’re not looking to tag Asia onto your trip, then I’d suggest looking into both airlines’ offpeak awards. With American, you can get to Europe for as few as 40,000 American miles roundtrip in economy from October 15-April 15, while US Airways has offpeak awards for as little as 35,000 miles roundtrip though their off-peak awards are much more restrictive just January 15-February 28. Otherwise, it’ll cost you 60,000 miles on either in economy roundtrip.
So it really just depends on where you’re looking to go and what class of service you want, as well as whether you’re looking to take advantage of US Airways award chart sweet spots or whether you want to wait, but the good news is, you have plenty of options!