Update (as promised in the post I made below last July): You can once again use Points.com to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to USAirways via Aeroplan. You will get 84,011 USAirways miles for trading in 100,000 Aeroplan miles. Those USAirways miles will soon become American Aadvantage miles at an equal ratio and you can use them currently for American or Star Alliance flights.
You can transfer a maximum of 100,000 miles out of an Aeroplan account per year.
USAirways as we know it will soon become American and join the OneWorld alliance. It’s a big loss for the Star Alliance. It’s unknown when exactly this will happen though November 1st has been tossed around as a potential date. There will likely be a period when you can transfer miles back and forth between the programs before they all become American miles.
Here is what you need to know.
1. Aeroplan Transfers.
You used to be able to transfer Air Canada Aeroplan miles (and by extension American Express points) into USAirways at a 1,000:840 ratio via Points.com. Currently all transfers to/from USAirways are unavailable. While some have reported online that this is because of the upcoming merger I confirmed with a points.com chat agent that it is only due to technical difficulties and they are working to restore that functionality. The agent also said that the transfer ratio will remain unchanged when the USAirways transfer functionality is restored. Of course the agent can also just be in the dark. I will post an update if and when the transfer ability is restored.
Bottom line: Nobody can tell you for certain what is going on, but hopefully people will still have a last chance to convert their Aeroplan and AMEX miles and points to USAirways with just a 16% haircut. Those USAir miles will soon become more valuable American miles. Why do I say that they are more valuable? Sure there some advantages to USAirways miles but American miles can be used one-way. You can get a free stopover on a one-way flight which means you can get a free domestic round-trip to places like Florida, California, Alaska, or even Hawaii on top of an international round-trip award ticket (Only one allowed on USAirways though it does has more flexibility). You can change your travel dates for free ($150 on USAirways). You are able to change your travel dates even after departure even on partner awards (Not allowed with USAirways). You can redeposit additional award tickets at the same time for just $25 ($150 on USAirways). And you can easily book first and business class travel on award winning OneWorld airlines like Cathay Pacific with no fuel surcharges, something that is blocked on Star Alliance award winning carrier Singapore. I run through the difference between Cathay business and first on their JFK-Vancouver flight in this trip report.
2. Aegean Star Alliance Gold
The easiest way to earn what can possibly be a lifetime of Star Alliance Gold elite status is going away. I wrote about Aegean Star Alliance gold status in this post. It only takes 19,000 flown miles to earn the status and so far people who have it are reporting that it doesn’t appear to ever expire though it’s recommended to credit at least 1 Star Alliance flight to the program every 3 years after earning it to keep your entire account active.
Now the Aegean gold program isn’t changing but Aegean doesn’t credit miles or only gives partial credit for cheap airfares on most airlines.
USAirways is the one exception where you can almost always receive full mileage credit with Aegean, even on deeply discounted airfare rates.
Star Gold gets you and all of your companions 3 free 70 pound bags when flying on airlines like United and free lounge access at some 1,000 affiliated lounges worldwide when flying on the Star Alliance. In fact Aegean Star Gold even gives free United domestic lounge access-something that United Star Gold doesn’t even offer to their own elite members.
Bottom Line: The clock is ticking if you want to go on a mileage run to pickup 19,000 miles on USAirways to credit to Aegean for their amazing Star Gold program. While it may cost you $1,000 to book the flights to earn that, just figure out how much you’ll save on baggage and lounge fees for you and your family with the Star Gold status.
3. Starwood point transfers.
Starwood point transfers are a little funny. Some airlines require that the name on the Starwood account and the mileage account match. Others do not.
Now you can transfer Starwood points to other people in your household, but if you don’t have the same address then it can’t be done easily.
American requires that the names match in order to transfer Starpoints to miles.
USAirways does not require that the names match-you can transfer points to anyone.
Both offer 25,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.
Bottom line: If you want to transfer Starpoints to eventually become American miles without the hassle of doing intra-Starwood transfers (something that you can get banned for if you abuse repeatedly) then you’ll want to transfer them to USAirways before Starwood kills the ability to transfer points there.
4. Travel to Israel.
American is effectively banned from flying to Israel thanks to leftover TWA pension obligations. If they fly a plane to Israel it would likely be repossessed by those who feel that American assumed TWA’s liabilities and owe them lots of money with interest.
They are trying to settle those issues but if they don’t we may see the end of the USAirways flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv.
If they do work out those issues expect American to shift the flight from Philadelphia to JFK and/or Miami.
Beware that El Al may decide to sever its relationship with American if they become a competitor and you may no longer be able to use American miles on El Al. Though if El Al would do that they would lose codeshare access to other US cities that they get from American though they can always set one up with an airline like JetBlue.
Bottom line: Lots of unknowns on this one but if you want to fly on El Al with your AA miles then you should book travel now. If you want to use your United miles to fly to Israel on USAirways book that now as well.
5. Surcharge-free travel.
-DansDeals broke the news back in January that ANA had stopped collecting a fuel surcharge for travel on United and USAirways. That post has lots of info on their program.
They have an awesome award chart (38K miles to Europe, 60K to Israel, etc) and allow 4 free stopovers and it stings to lose the USAirways option though at least there’s still United.
-Same story with Singapore as I wrote about here. If you have those miles you’ll be losing a valuable surcharge-free partner though United remains an option and of course those miles are awesome for redeeming on Singapore business, first, and suites class.
Lufthansa charges a fuel surcharge on most airlines except for USAirways, so you may want to redeem those miles for travel on USAirways before they leave the Star Alliance. I wrote about their program in this post. There’s no fuel surcharge on domestic United tickets but once you cross the ocean Lufthansa charges a fuel surcharge to travel on United.
-Note that United miles aren’t affected nearly as much as these program as they never collect a fuel surcharge for award travel. In fact once USAirways is gone they are one of the only carriers that can still say that.
Bottom line: Star Alliance miles on many foreign carriers will be worth less thanks to losing a valuable surcharge-free partner.
Have any other tips? Hit the comments!