Elite Status Series: US Airways Platinum Preferred
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So far in our Elite Status Series, we’ve covered American, Delta, Southwest and United. Earlier this week, TPG contributor Nick Ewen went through the two lowest elite tiers in the Dividend Miles program: Silver and Gold Preferred. Today, he tackles US Airways Platinum Preferred status – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.
As mentioned in my earlier posts on US Airways Silver and Gold Preferred, the next three months remain business as usual for the Dividend Miles program. That will all change on March 31, when US Airways officially joins Oneworld. Until that point, however, current elite flyers can still take advantage of numerous benefits when flying US Airways and its current airline partners, and today’s post will take a look at the next elite status tier in the Dividend Miles program: Platinum Preferred.
For starters, Platinum Preferred status is earned after flying 75,000 Preferred-qualifying miles or taking 90 Preferred-qualifying segments in a given calendar year. That sure is a ton of time at 35,000 feet! Just like other programs, 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 Platinum 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. However, your 2014 qualification will likely be different once the Dividend Miles and AAdvantage programs are integrated, so stay tuned to TPG for additional updates.
As soon as you qualify for Platinum 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 Platinum 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 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 Platinum Preferred members take full advantage of their new status:
1. First class upgrades: All Platinum 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 4 days prior to the departure date, though Platinum 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 Platinum Preferred members and their companions would wind up above Silver and Gold members but behind Chairman’s Preferred 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 Platinum 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.
Platinum Preferred members will obviously land above Silver and Gold 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.
2. Checked bag fee waivers and priority baggage handling: Just like Gold Preferred flyers, Platinum Preferred members and up to 8 additional travelers on the same reservation can check three bags for free on US Airways flights. In addition, Platinum 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, Platinum Preferred flyers earn a 75% 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.
Platinum Preferred travelers also earn the same 500 mile minimum on all US Airways operated flights that Silver and Gold members enjoy, 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 875 miles (the 500 mile minimum plus the 375 mile bonus).
4. Preferred seating: Platinum Preferred members also enjoy the same access to priority seating as Silvers and Golds, 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 Platinum Preferred members.
5. PreferredAccess: Similar to Delta’s “SkyPriority” and American’s “Priority AAccess,” PreferredAccess offers Platinum 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. Guaranteed seating: I’m sure many of us have had last-minute travel needs come up, whether it’s an important business meeting or a family emergency. As a Platinum Preferred member, you 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. While this is obviously a pricey proposition, it’s nevertheless nice to know that you can get where you need to be, even if the one flight to your desired destination is totally sold out.
7. Star Alliance Gold Status: Platinum 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)
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 Platinum flyers.
8. Priority Standby: As a Platinum 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 place you ahead of Silver and Gold members, making it that much more likely for you to get home earlier should a seat open up.
9. MoveUp and Mileage Upgrade fee waivers: Just like Silver and Gold flyers, Platinum 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, Platinum 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 and quick-ticketing fee waivers: Platinum members can also take advantage of the same award ticket fee waivers that Gold flyers enjoy: no Award Processing fees (saving anywhere from $25-$50, depending on your travel destination) as well as 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.
11. Discounted US Airways Club membership: Platinum Preferred members can also purchase a yearly membership to the US Airways at the same discounted rate that Silver and Gold 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. Unfortunately, making the jump from Gold to Platinum requires a lot more flying but doesn’t offer a huge leap in benefits: 25% more bonus miles, higher upgrade/standby priority, and guaranteed seat availability. However, many may feel that these are enough. Remember that you still have at least the next three months to utilize these benefits before Dividend Miles is rolled into the AAdvantage program, and as always, stay tuned to TPG for up-to-the-minute news about how the merger will impact US Airways elites.
Any Platinum members out there? Feel free to share your personal experience in the comments section below!