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In this post, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explains how you can use the US Airways companion certificate to bring a friend along on your next trip at a steep discount.
I’m sure many of you got in on the US Airways Premier World MasterCard (and the 50,000-mile sign-up bonus) before the card was officially retired. One of the published benefits of that card was a companion certificate that allowed you to bring along up to 2 friends or family members for $99 each (plus taxes and fees) when you purchased a qualifying ticket. Fortunately, these tickets are still valid even though the Dividend Miles program has ceased to exist. Having just booked one of these companion tickets myself, today I’ll take you through the steps for utilizing this benefit before it expires.
The certificate should be included in your welcome packet, which typically arrives a week or two after you receive your card. It’s actually printed with all of the rules and restrictions, so let’s start by reviewing those before we discuss the redemption process:
1. You must book a round-trip coach ticket on a US Airways flight. Earlier this month, American and US Airways received a single operating certificate. However, this hasn’t changed anything for us as travelers. US Airways still has its own website, and you’ll still see its planes in the sky. Until the two carriers combine reservations systems, you’ll still see flights operated by US Airways, and your companion certificate is limited to these flights. This excludes codeshares, so you can’t book a US Airways flight number that is operated by American (for example).
2. Your travel must start in the contiguous 48 United States, and your destination must be either in the contiguous 48 states or Canada. This means that you can’t originate in Canada, and it also specifically excludes travel to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
3. Your base fare must be $250 or more. Fortunately, US Airways’ website makes it very easy to see this when searching. Once you’ve selected your flights, you’ll see a fare breakdown that splits off the taxes & fees on the ticket:
Even though the total fare for this flight is higher than $250, the base fare is only $232, so you couldn’t use the companion certificate on this itinerary.
4. You must still pay taxes for your companion(s). Even though this is advertised as a “$99 Companion Certificate,” you’re still subject to certain taxes and fees, which will vary slightly depending on your destination and the number of connections you make. I’ll break this down for my own ticket later in the post.
5. You and your companion(s) must be in the same fare class. If there’s only one ticket left in a certain fare class, you won’t be able to book your companions, as all 2 (or three) of you must be in the same fare class.
6. There are blackout dates. Unfortunately, the certificate can’t be used every day. Here are the dates that are blacked out for redemption:
- Systemwide — January 3, 4; February 13; March 15, 20, 22, 26, 27, 29; April 2, 3, 6, 12; May 21, 22; June 25, 26, July 5, 6; October 18; November 20, 28, 29; December 18, 19, 26, 27.
- Specific cities — January 15 From Dallas (DFW); January 29, 30 to Phoenix (PHX); February 2, 3 from Phoenix (PHX); February 13 to New Orleans (MSY); February 18 from New Orleans (MSY); April 7 from Indianapolis (IND); April 30 and May 1 to Louisville (SDF); May 3 from Louisville (SDF).
As you can see, these blackout dates tend to apply around holidays (systemwide) and around special events in certain cities (e.g. the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, etc.).
7. You must purchase the tickets at least 14 days in advance and stay between 2 and 30 days. In other words, you can’t use the certificate at the last minute, and you can’t book a ticket without staying at least two nights at your destination.
8. You must purchase the tickets and complete travel by the dates on the certificate. It appears that recent applicants (myself included) have until September 30th to book the flights and until December 31st to complete travel. However, I strongly recommend locking in your travel before then. As American and US Airways move closer to integrating their reservations systems, you’ll likely see American taking over more and more US Airways routes. Remember that this certificate is only valid on flights operated by US Airways. If your desired flight is suddenly operated by American, you’ll be out of luck.
Despite these restrictions, I found that the process of booking the ticket was relatively straightforward (and I’m not the only one!). My wife and I needed a round-trip flight from my home airport of Orlando to Philadelphia for a wedding in August. Our dates were set, but we were a bit flexible on the departure times of both flights. Here’s how you can lock in your flights:
1. Find the flight you want on USAirways.com. My first step was to visit US Airways’ website and search for flights on my desired dates. I was using the certificate for a single companion (my wife), so I searched for two tickets. It is essential that you search for the total number of tickets you plan on booking (you plus one or two companions), since all passengers must be in the same fare class. You also want to make sure that the base fare (before taxes and fees) is at least $250. I found flights at perfect times that were $252.09. Score!
2. Call 1-800-428-4322 to book the flights. Unfortunately, you can’t book these flights online, so you must call US Airways reservations. You could actually skip step 1 if you’d rather rely on the phone agent to search availability. Personally, I always prefer to spoon feed flight information to the agent when I call. You’ll also be asked for the SHARES Reference Code, which is printed on the certificate. Mine also had a Certificate Number, though I wasn’t asked to provide it.
3. Pay for the ticket with your US Airways MasterCard. This should be a no-brainer, since the card earns you 2 miles per dollar spent on US Airways purchases, but this is actually a requirement of the certificate.
4. Mail the certificate in. The final step (and probably the most important one) is to mail the physical certificate to the address listed with your confirmation code, travel date, and flight number written on it. My phone agent told me that there was a slight typo and that I should send it to “US Airways – TBC” instead of US Airways – TBM,” and I’d be interested to know if you’ve been told the same.
In addition, I was told that the envelope must be post-marked no more than 24 hours after booking to guarantee the fare I booked. You can bet that I ran right to the post office so as not to take any chances! Be sure to keep this in mind, as calling to book a ticket on a Saturday night would leave you vulnerable to price increases.
For what it’s worth, I also paid for $500 of insurance on the letter. The terms & conditions say that no copies are accepted, and in fact, if you copy or scan the certificate, the word “VOID” appears across the entire front. I didn’t want to take any chances with the postal service!
So how did I do? As noted above, I found a base fare of $252.09, with the total ticket coming to $299.20. I added my wife as a companion (plus an infant in arms, at no charge), and her ticket came to $127.20. Here’s how that broke down:
- Companion base fare: $92.09
- 7.5% U.S. Transportation Tax: $6.91
- September 11th Security Fee: $11.20 (2 segments at $5.60 each)
- U.S. Domestic Segment Tax: $8 (2 segments at $4 each)
- Passenger Facility Charges: $9
As you can see, the base fare and 7.5% tax add up to the $99 advertised price on the companion certificate. The other taxes and fees (totaling $28.20) were still my responsibility.
All told, I spent $426.40 for two tickets that would’ve cost $598.40, a savings of $172, or roughly a 29% discount. Not bad for flights we needed to take anyways!
It’s also worth noting that the certificate explicitly states these tickets are eligible to accrue miles, though it does specify that you can only earn Dividend Miles (partner programs are ineligible). Of course, the Dividend Miles program no longer exists, so I added both of our AAdvantage numbers to the reservation. I assume that we’ll be able to earn those miles, but only time will tell.
What the future holds
Unfortunately, we’re approaching the final months of these companion certificates, since the US Airways Premier World MasterCard is in the process of being phased out. In the fall, Barclaycard announced the card’s replacement by introducing the Aviator Silver and Aviator Red cards. The lineup of personal Aviator cards also includes the Blue and standard Aviator cards, and there’s a business version as well.
The Red card is the standard conversion, though many (including TPG) are being offered an upgrade to the Aviator Silver card. The Blue and “regular” versions are cheaper (with $49 and $0 annual fees, respectively) but come with fewer benefits. Unfortunately, only the Silver card includes a companion certificate benefit, and that’s only unlocked when you spend $30,000 in a card membership year! The $195 annual fee on the card is also a big jump from the US Airways card.
If you were fortunate enough to open a US Airways MasterCard before the integration of the Dividend Miles and AAdvantage programs, congrats! Hopefully you’ve made a purchase and paid the $89 annual fee to earn the 50,000 bonus miles. However, don’t overlook the companion certificate that’s included in the card’s welcome packet. It can be a great way to save hundreds of dollars on your next US Airways flight.
What are your experiences redeeming the US Airways Companion Certificate?