This scenario has come up before since they were close to a deal at one time. The problem this time may be that US Airways has yet to settle down from their merger with America West and it may be too soon and too much of a headache to move the cheese one more time. But don’t be fooled — airlines will do whatever it takes to stay competitive. Same global alliance, same existing mileage partnerships with this possible pairing.
United’s leisure destination carrier Ted would make an excellent extension to the network of US Airways, mostly in the form of the competitive routes of the America West days and its battles with Southwest Airlines. And what better carrier, than the US Airways Shuttle for an airline like United deeply entrenched in the Washington, D.C. area?
With respect to the airlines’ frequent flyer programs, the biggest differences are US Airways very generous upgrade policy vs. United’s and United’s very generous commitment to legroom with its Economy Plus seating vs. the seating in coach with US Airways.
And say what you will, both being Star Alliance carriers goes down easy.
Change: With mergers come change. According to the Mileage Plus terms and conditions, United has the right to terminate the program or to change the program rules, regulations, benefits, conditions of participation or mileage levels, in whole or in part, at any time, with or without notice, even though changes may affect the value of the mileage or certificates already accumulated. US Airways also reserves the right to change, temporarily suspend or discontinue any or all aspects of the Dividend Miles program at any time with or without notice. So if things change, get ready to run on just a moment’s notice.
Expiration of miles: Members’ accounts in both programs will never expire as long as members have account activity at least once every 18 months. This activity includes flying, using partners, redeeming miles for award travel and buying or transferring miles.
Elite Membership: Mileage Plus has three elite levels which earn mileage bonuses of 25 percent (Premier) and 100 percent (Premier Executive and 1K) plus a stealth elite program known as UGS with similar bonuses of the 1K level. Dividend Miles has four elite levels which earn the following bonuses: 25 percent (Silver), 50 percent (Gold), 75 percent (Platinum) and 100 percent [Chairman’s]. United’s elite program is slightly more rewarding in bonuses and we expect that to be the standard, which is similar to both American and Delta’s elite mileage bonuses. Both programs allow members to earn some EQMs with general credit card purchases.
Upgrades: Mileage Plus and Dividend Miles approach the benefit from different directions. There’s little doubt that the upgrades Dividend Miles offers has been a favorite. Unlimited complimentary upgrades (most of the Americas) for the member and companions in all four levels goes a long way toward loyalty to this program and Chairman’s members receive four one-way e-certs that can be redeemed for travel to Europe/Hawaii (two for member, two for companion). But United does have an upgrade policy. For every 10,000 paid miles flown on United, elite members earn four free 500-mile upgrades valid for travel in Region 1 (North America, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Central America). And similar to Dividend Miles, United offers full-fare coach upgrades on Y and B fares within this same Region 1.