Through the end of the month, US Airways is offering up to a 100% bonus on purchased miles. Specifically:
- Buy/gift 5,000 – 9,000 miles, get a 25% bonus
- Buy/gift 10,000 – 19,000 miles, get a 50% bonus
- Buy/gift 20,000 – 29,000 miles, get a 75% bonus
- Buy/gift 30,000 – 50,000 miles, get a 100% bonus
Why should we care? For all its faults, US Airways has one of the most reasonable award charts out there and some of the most generous award routing rules. And as a Star Alliance carrier, US Airways miles can take you very, very far. Couple that with the ability to buy miles for pennies on the dollar, the potential for a trip of a lifetime at well below market prices becomes very real.
US to North Asia (with a Stop in Europe)
A sweet spot in the redemption chart is United States – North Asia (includes China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan) for 90,000 miles in Business and 60,000 miles in Coach. The best part is that US Airways allows routings to Asia via Europe, and it also permits one stopover in addition to your final destination.
The funny thing is that US Airways prices a roundtrip to Europe in Business at 100,000 miles, but by continuing to Asia, you’re essentially getting a 10,000 mile discount.
Consider the following itinerary on Star Alliance carriers:
- NYC -> Frankfurt (connection) -> Hong Kong (destination for x days)
- Hong Kong -> London Heathrow (stopover for x days) -> NYC
This itinerary prices at 60,000 miles in economy and 90,000 miles in business. And given US Airways is effectively selling miles through this promotion at a rate of .0188 cents/mile, the cost is around $1100 and $1700 respectively. Now, there is the potential for around $300 in taxes and fees on top of that, but even at $1400 and $2000, this is still a phenomenal deal for a close to round-the-world trip in international Business class.
For those who don’t want to take a stopover in Europe, US Airways will also allow routings the traditional way: over the pacific. Take a stopover en route to Hong Kong, for example, in Thailand. But if it were me, I’d personally go for the itinerary I outlined a couple paragraphs above, choosing to purchase a roundtrip ticket from Hong Kong to Thailand as they’re pretty cheap. In my experience, it generally makes more sense to take the stopover in Europe and pay for intra-Asia flights with cash. That’s the best way to truly unlock the value in the miles.
Plan, Hold, Buy, Ticket
US Airways allows itineraries to be placed on a 3 day hold, even when the redeeming individual has no miles in his or her account. This allows for a risk-free purchase. Plan the desired itinerary ahead of time, then buy the miles after the fact.
(1) Searching for availability: I like to use united.com to search for availability on Star Alliance Airlines, as US Airways doesn’t show partner availability via their website, but they have the same access as United does to that availability. Search point to point on united.com via the “one-way” option and select “award travel.” You need to find flights at the “saver” level (in blue). Look for economy saver or business/2-cabin saver, depending on the award type you want (you can’t mix/match economy/business with US Airways, so the flights need to be all saver economy or all saver business). Also, ignore the mileage costs as they don’t matter; remember, we are only looking for availability through united.com. It might take awhile to piece together an award, but it’s always doable with a certain degree of flexibility. Take screenshots or copy down the flight numbers/dates/cities as you’ll need that next.
(2) Call US Airways: Since partner awards can’t be booked on usairways.com, you’ll need to call reservations to piece together your reservation. Relay the flights you found on united.com, flight by flight, to the US Airways agent. I usually tell the agent that I found the flights with another US Airways agent earlier in the day but am now ready to book. The process might take awhile, but the agent should get it done. If he or she seems incompetent, just hang up, call back. When the reservation is assembled, ask US Airways to put it on hold. You have 3 days to ticket. Just keep the confirmation number. You should be able to see the reservation at usairways.com immediately.
(3) Buy the miles and ticket: Once you’ve had a couple days to mull it over, buy the miles. Call US Airways and quote your confirmation number. They’ll deduct the miles from your account and charge any applicable taxes and fees (usually under $300).
That’s it! Just remember that this promotion ends on May 31st. I expect these deals to end when US Airways merges with American Airlines later in the year. I’d also advise against buying miles speculatively. If you can find the award space now, put the reservation on hold, and then buy the miles. There is nothing worse than being stuck with miles that you can’t use.
For any questions and help with booking a ticket like this, please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org