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Elite Status Series: US Airways Chairman’s Preferred

by on January 6, 2014 · 5 comments

in Elite Status, US Airways

So far in our Elite Status Series, we’ve covered American, Delta, Southwest and United. Last week, TPG contributor Nick Ewen went through the first three tiers of elite status in the Dividend Miles program: Silver, Gold, and Platinum Preferred. Today, he tackles the highest level currently offered: US Airways Chairman’s Preferred status – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.

Now that we’ve crossed into 2014, we are rapidly approaching US Airways leaving Star Alliance (which, in case you haven’t been following, will happen on March 31) and eventually the integration of the Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage programs. However, until that point, the two carriers continue to operate their own loyalty programs, and today’s post will take a look at the final (top tier) elite status with US Airways: Chairman’s Preferred.

US Airways Preferred status qualification requirements.

US Airways Preferred status qualification requirements.

Qualification

For starters, Chairman’s Preferred status is earned after flying 100,000 Preferred-qualifying miles or taking 120 Preferred-qualifying segments in a given calendar year, so it’s roughly equivalent to Delta Diamond Medallion and American Executive Platinum. Just like the other three tiers I already covered, your status 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 Chairman’s 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. The qualification levels will likely change someone once American and US Airways fully integrate their respective frequent flyer programs, so be sure to follow TPG to keep abreast of these upcoming changes.

Benefits

As soon as you qualify for Chairman’s 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 Chairman’s flyers enjoy:

  • First class upgrades
  • Checked bag fee waivers and priority baggage handling
  • Bonus miles
  • Preferred seating
  • PreferredAccess (with priority check-in, security line access, and boarding)
  • Guaranteed seating
  • Star Alliance Gold status
  • Priority standby
  • MoveUp and Mileage Upgrade fee waivers
  • Award processing, quick ticketing, and award redopsit fee waivers
  • US Airways Club membership discount

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these benefits to help newly minted Chairman’s 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: All Chairman’s Preferred members (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 7 days prior to the departure date, though Chairman’s 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 Chairman’s Preferred members and their companions would wind up near the top of the upgrade list, above Silver, Gold, and Platinum flyers.

As mentioned in earlier posts, US Airways uses status first but then looks at the number of Preferred-qualifying miles you’ve flown on US Airways-operated flights in the last 12 months to determine your place on the list. As a result, two Chairman’s Preferred members trying to score that last first class upgrade would be prioritized not by fare class or time of ticketing but by how much each has flown US Airways in the 12 months leading up to the flight’s departure date.

Chairman’s Preferred members obviously stand the greatest shot at scoring a complimentary upgrade, but as is the case with any carrier, your true chances at a seat up front will depend on the date, time, and (of course) the number of US Airways miles you’ve accrued in the immediately preceding 12 months.

Here’s where things get interesting. In addition to these unlimited complimentary upgrades, Chairman’s Preferred members also receive 2 electronic certificates each year that allow them to upgrade long-haul revenue flights (to Hawaii, Europe, South America, and the Middle East). Each certificate is valid for a one-way upgrade for the Chairman’s Preferred member and a companion (who must be booked on the same reservation). Like most upgrade instruments, they are capacity controlled and are not valid on award tickets. They also only apply to the long-haul segment; any domestic connecting flights will clear following the regular advanced complimentary upgrade policy above. To redeem, you must call the Chairman’s Preferred desk and have the phone agent apply the certificate to your reservation.

Unfortunately, these upgrades pale in comparison to those offered by both United and American (though I’d count it as a wash with Delta):

CARRIER

Number

Transferable?

Fare Class Restrictions

Delta (old)

4 for Platinum, 6 for Diamond

(Choice Benefit)

Yes, but only for companion on same reservation

Only full-fare coach

(Y, B, or M)

Delta (new)

4 for Diamond

(Choice Benefit)

Yes, but only for companion on same reservation

None

American

8

Yes

None

United

6 (plus 2 more for every 50,000 PQM’s or 60 PQS’)

Yes

Several fare classes excluded to certain markets (see here for details)

US Airways

2

No (but a companion can be included on each one)

None

The inability to use the certificates on others’ tickets is a glaring difference with United and American, as is the paltry number provided (though adding a companion at least puts these instruments on a somewhat level playing field with Delta).

Checked baggage fees are waived for Premier Golds.

Checked baggage fees are waived for Chairman’s Preferred members.

2. Checked bag fee waivers and priority baggage handling: Just like Gold and Platinum Preferred flyers, Chairman’s Preferred members and up to 8 additional travelers on the same reservation can check three bags for free on US Airways flights. In addition, Chairman’s Preferred travelers also enjoy priority baggage handling, ensuring that their bags are among the first to arrive at baggage claim. For more information, visit this link.

3. Bonus miles: On all qualifying paid flights on US Airways, United, and Lufthansa, Chairman’s Preferred flyers earn a 100% mileage bonus (as always, these do not count as Preferred-qualifying miles). However, remember 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 30th, 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.

Chairman’s Preferred travelers also earn the same 500 mile minimum that all other preferred members enjoy on 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 Chairman’s Preferred member would accrue 1,000 miles (the 500 mile minimum plus the 500 mile bonus).

4. Preferred seating: Chairman’s Preferred members also enjoy the same access to priority seating as Silvers, Golds, and Platinums, opening up Preferred/exit row seats (blocked to non-elite members) and Choice Seats (free for elites but available for purchase by non-elites). Remember, though, that these seats do not provide additional legroom, recline, or other tangible benefits like Delta’s Economy Comfort or American’s Main Cabin Extra.

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 Chairman’s Preferred members.

5. PreferredAccess: Similar to Delta’s “SkyPriority” and American’s “Priority AAccess,” PreferredAccess offers Chairman’s Preferred 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 timesaver.

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

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

6. Guaranteed seating: Just like Platinum Preferred flyers, Chairman’s Preferred members are guaranteed an economy seat on US Airways-operated flights (excluding US Airways shuttle flights) when purchasing a full Y-class ticket, even if the flight is full. These tickets will obviously not be cheap, but if you absolutely have to get to a destination and a flight is sold out, this is a nice guarantee to have.

7. Star Alliance Gold Status: Just like Gold and Platinum travelers, Chairman’s Preferred members traveling on a Star Alliance carrier through March 30 will enjoy Star Alliance Gold status. This entitles them to an array of benefits:

  • Priority standby and waitlisting on Star Alliance carriers (only applies to revenue tickets)
  • Priority check-in, security line access, boarding lanes, and baggage handling
  • One additional piece of checked luggage (beyond the standard allowance)
  • Lounge access for you and 1 traveling companion when traveling to most international destinations (outside the Caribbean & Latin America)
Preferred members with Gold status or higher get Star Alliance gold status.

Preferred members with Chairman’s Preferred status get Star Alliance gold status.

As always, remember that these benefits will only apply to flights through March 30, 2014, as that is the day that US Airways officially leaves Star Alliance. Any flights after that date (regardless of when they were actually booked) will no longer offer these benefits to Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred flyers.

However, if I were to speculate, I would guess that Chairman’s Preferred members will actually come out ahead here, since there’s a decent chance that their status would grant them oneworld Emerald status, opening up first-class check-in and first class lounges (regardless of their booked class). Again, this is just speculation on my part, but pay close attention to announced changes as March 31st approaches.

8. Priority Standby: As a Chairman’s Preferred flyer on US Airways, you can take advantage of priority standby when trying to switch to an earlier flight without any open seats. Your status will (obviously) place you near the top of the list and ahead of Silver, Gold and Platinum flyers, increasing the likelihood that a last-minute seat opening will go to you.

9. MoveUp and Mileage Upgrade fee waivers: Just like Silver, Gold, and Platinum flyers, Chairman’s Preferred members can avoid fees when moving 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 same switch would cost a non-elite member $75 for domestic and short-haul international flights or $150 for long-haul international flights.

In addition, Chairman’s Preferred flyers 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.

10. Award processing, quick ticketing, and award redeposit fee waivers: Chairman’s Preferred members can also take advantage of the same award ticket fee waivers that Gold and Platinum flyers enjoy: no Award Processing fees (saving anywhere from $25-$50, depending on your destination) and no Quick Ticketing fees for award reservations booked within 21 days of departure ($75 for Silvers and non-elites). This can be especially helpful for booking alliance partners that may not open up space until the last minute.

In addition, Chairman’s Preferred members also enjoy no fees on award tickets that are cancelled (in full) and refunded to their accounts. All other Preferred levels (plus all non-status flyers) are subject to a $150 redeposit fee when they cancel an existing award ticket in full. Be sure to think about using this benefit in conjunction with the upcoming changeover from Star Alliance to oneworld. If you have a ticket booked for this spring or summer on Star Alliance carriers but would rather travel with oneworld airlines, you may be able to cancel those existing reservations and redeposit the miles without a fee. These can then be used to book new award tickets.

However, keep in mind that many of the “gems” of the US Airways award chart will likely disappear with the integration of the Dividend Miles and AAdvantage programs (e.g. 90,000 miles in business class to North Asia with a stopover in Europe, 110,000 miles in business class to South Africa, etc.). Be sure to compare the miles you paid with the miles required on the new ticket to see if it’s worth making the switch. As always, follow TPG closely as these changes are announced.

Preferred members get a discount on US Airways Club membership.

Preferred members get a discount on US Airways Club membership.

11. Discounted US Airways Club membership: Chairman’s Preferred members can also purchase a yearly membership to the US Airways at a slightly higher discount than that offered to Silver, Gold, and Platinum members: $325 (compared to $375 for other elite members or $450 for regular Dividend Miles members). 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. Chairman’s Preferred obviously takes a lot of flying to earn, but with the Hawaii/international upgrade certificates, higher upgrade priority, additional bonus miles, and award ticket redeposit fee waiver, it definitely gives you a leg up over Platinum travelers! Remember that these benefits are good through at least March 30, after which point they will likely change, so keep following TPG for these announcements throughout 2014.

Any Chairman’s Preferred members out there? Feel free to share your personal experience in the comments section below, and stay tuned for a final wrap-up post on the various unique aspects of the US Airways Dividend Miles program.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Shawn

    are you sure choice seats are free for elites?

  • tom

    Hi, are there any airlines aside from delta that u can earn status via spending big money?

  • LouS22

    Choice seats are not free for Preferred. Even as Chairman, getting the choice seat fee waived can be annoying and is not guaranteed.

    I believe there are four types of seats: regular, choice, preferred, and exit row. All preferred have access to preferred and exit. Non preferred may have the option to pay for exit row and choice.

  • Mrs338

    I travel popular business routes and at peak times. However, going from Platinum (with very few upgrades clearing) to Chairman’s late last year, I’ve cleared most flights since the status change. The 4 days to 7 in advance really helps.

  • kasiav

    I can confirm that CPs will be granted Oneworld Emerald beginning March 31, 2014 – was just bumped from P to C and received the official email todaywith the detailed benefits

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