Elite Status Series: US Airways Gold Preferred
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So far in our Elite Status Series, we’ve covered American, Delta, Southwest and United. This week, TPG contributor Nick Ewen tackles US Airways Preferred status. He started with Silver, and today we move on to Gold Preferred status – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.
As mentioned in the post on Silver Preferred status with US Airways, things are definitely up in the air regarding the impending merger of the Dividend Miles and AAdvantage program. However, for the next three months (until US Airways officially leaves Star Alliance on March 30), it’s business as usual, so today’s post will take a look at the next elite status tier in the Dividend Miles program: Gold Preferred.
For starters, just like Gold Medallion on Delta and Platinum on American, Gold Preferred status is earned after flying 50,000 Preferred-qualifying miles or taking 60 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 Gold 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.
As discussed earlier, any future speculation on elite qualification in the combined US-AA loyalty program is just that: speculation. It remains to be seen how the new airline will credit 2014 preferred/elite-qualifying activity, so be sure to follow TPG closely for any new information as it comes out.
As soon as you qualify for Gold 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 Gold flyers enjoy:
- First class upgrades
- Checked bag fee waivers and priority baggage handling
- Bonus miles and 500-mile minimum
- Preferred seating
- PreferredAccess (with priority check-in, security line access, and boarding)
- Star Alliance Gold status
- Priority standby
- MoveUp and Mileage Upgrade fee waivers
- Award processing and quick ticketing fee waivers
- US Airways Club membership discount
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these benefits to help newly minted Gold Preferred members take full advantage of their new status:
1. First class upgrades: Any Gold 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 3 days prior to the departure date, though Gold 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 Gold Preferred members and their companions would wind up above Silver members but behind Platinum and Chairman’s Preferred flyers.
As mentioned in the Silver Preferred post, US Airways prioritizes both the advance upgrade list and airport standby list differently than other carriers, using status first but then using 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 Gold members fighting over the last first class seat 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 your departure date.
Gold Preferred members will obviously land above Silver flyers in the upgrade hierarchy, 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. I know a DCA-based Gold flyer who frequently travels for leisure at off-peak times, and his upgrade percentage is well over 75%.
2. Checked bag fee waivers and priority baggage handling: While Silver Preferred members are exempt from the fee that regular Dividend Miles members must pay for checking their first bag ($25), Gold Preferred members and up to 8 additional travelers on the same reservation can check three bags for free on US Airways flights. In addition, Gold members 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, Gold Preferred flyers earn a 50% mileage bonus (as always, these do not count as Peferred-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 no 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.
In addition, just like Silver members, Gold Preferred travelers 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 Gold Preferred member would accrue 750 miles (the 500 mile minimum plus the 250 mile bonus).
4. Preferred seating: Gold members can also reserve Preferred coach seats on all US Airways operated flights, including exit rows. As discussed in the Silver post, these open up Preferred/exit row seats (blocked to non-elite members) and Choice Seats (free for elites but available for purchase by non-elites). Unfortunately, these seats do not provide additional legroom, recline, or other tangible benefits (in sharp contrast to Delta’s Economy Comfort and 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 Gold Preferred members.
5. PreferredAccess: Similar to Delta’s “SkyPriority” and American’s “Priority AAccess,” PreferredAccess offers Gold 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.
6. Star Alliance Gold Status: Gold Preferred members traveling on a Star Alliance carrier through March 30 will enjoy Star Alliance Gold status. This entitles them to priority standby and priority waitlisting on revenue tickets on Star Alliance carriers (just like Silver Preferred members) plus several additional benefits:
- 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)
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 Gold flyers.
7. Priority Standby: We all enjoy the flexibility that status can provide, especially when it comes to same-day flight changes. As a Gold Preferred flyer on US Airways, you can take advantage of priority standby (ahead of Silvers and non-elites) when trying to switch to an earlier flight without any open seats.
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, Gold Preferred members have those fees waived.
In addition, Gold 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.
9. Award processing and quick-ticketing fee waivers: In addition to the aforementioned fee waivers, Gold members can also avoid two additional ancillary fees on award tickets: the Award Processing fee (ranging from $25-$50, depending on your travel destination) as well as the Quick Ticketing fee for award ticket 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.
10. Discounted US Airways Club membership: Gold Preferred members can also purchase a yearly membership to the US Airways at the same discounted rate that Silver members enjoy: $375 (compared to $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. Again, there’s no doubt that the clock is ticking on these specific benefits, but if you are new to Dividend Miles Gold 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 Gold members out there? Feel free to share your personal experience in the comments section below!
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