US Airways Dividend Miles members will no longer earn the 500-mile minimum on flights purchased on or after March 1, 2008 for travel on or after May 1. Dividend Miles is eliminating the minimum 500 miles for short hops and will begin awarding miles based on the actual distance flown. Many programs overseas do not offer a 500-mile minimum but in the U.S., it’s a standard feature of frequent flyer programs. US Airways told Dividend Miles members in an email that it’s making the change “to offset record fuel prices and rising airline related expenses while maintaining the benefits you’ve come to expect.”
While many Dividend Miles members may protest, we view the change as not really a major concern when you look at average flight distances. According to the 10-K reports filed by US Airways last year, the average distance flown on each segment of every route on US Airways flights in 2006 was 792 miles. So the change isn’t going to affect the average member’s mileage earnings, but it really depends on your flight habits and where you live.
If you live somewhere along the East Coast, then this change will likely have an impact since many of the regional flights between cities on the East Coast are fewer than 500 miles in distance. For example, a frequent flyer who regularly flies between New York LaGuardia and Philadelphia will now earn only 189 miles roundtrip instead of 1,000 miles — around 80 percent fewer miles. Over the course of a year, someone flying this route every other week would earn 26,000 miles with the 500-mile minimum, but only 4,914 miles under the new earning plan.
As for elite status, the change will affect the number of elite qualifying miles in your account, but you can still earn elite status based on segments flown. The lower accrual rate won’t necessarily make it more difficult to qualify for elite levels (some programs, including Delta SkyMiles, do not allow elite qualification based on the number of segments flown).
US Airways partners with United through the Star Alliance and we asked Jeff Kovich at United Airlines whether the change will affect how many miles Mileage Plus members will earn on US Airways flights. He said that United members will continue to earn the 500-mile minimum, “The US Airways policy change has no impact on United Mileage Plus members, regardless of whether they are traveling on United or codeshare flights.”
You can go to WebFlyer.com, click the Mileage Calculator on the left bar on the homepage to calculate the mileage between short-haul cities you normally fly to see if this latest change by Dividend Miles will affect your mileage earnings.
As we said, the change might not have much of an impact on the mileage balances of members — but the members’ sense of loyalty is another matter to consider.
US Airways is also implementing a new ticketing fee for award tickets booked online with short notice. Non-elite members redeeming miles online for award travel will be charged $50 per ticket when booking within 14 days of departure. The $75 fee for award tickets booked through the call center within 14 days will remain the same. US Airways’ Chairman’s and Platinum Preferred members will not have to pay either fee.