Monday, January 13, 2014

US Airways $99 Companion Pass

Flight #74/75 – US Airways 2071/630
New York (LGA) – Austin (AUS) via CLT
Saturday, January 11, 2014 
Depart: 8:43AM / Arrive: 2:11PM 
Duration: 5 hr 24 min 
Aircraft: Airbus 319 
Seat: Row 13A, 13B and 13C (Economy) 
Earned: 1,576 miles
Cost: $254 / person (round trip) 
Lifetime Miles: 140,893 miles

My father had a few business meetings down in Texas this week, so my mother and I flew down with him to keep him company (or as my mother says, "to keep him out of trouble"). After all, years ago, when he went to Texas for his friend's 25th birthday party, my father ended up in cab full of strangers on a combo bachelor-bachelorette party heading to a "gentleman's club" where he proceeded to fall dead asleep in the corner. But I digress...

However, now that I've been forced to pay for my own seat on flights (now that I'm no longer considered a true lap child), my parents have started to find it quite expensive to travel around. Given we were flying back during Martin Luther King weekend in January, fares from NYC to AUS/SAT were running close to $300+ per person at the time we were booking.

Luckily for us, my father still had his US Airways $99 Companion passes from his February 2013 application for the Barclays US Airways Mastercard. However, like most things in life, this benefit came with strings!

1. Only for $250+ Fares. While $250 sounds like a reasonable price for the 1st ticket, you're probably assuming $250 includes taxes and fees. Nope. The $250 is for the base fare only. Most of the time, we have a lot of luck finding domestic flights that are closer to $200-220 in base fare, thereby keeping our total ticket under $300/person.

So when you're required to book a $250+ base fare, you're actually looking at a $300+ ticket all-in. Whenever we've tried to use this US Airways certificate in the past, we've been "successful" in finding either (a) US Airways fares that were too cheap to use the certificate for or (b) alternative airlines that ended up cheaper than had we used the certificate.

But for this particular LGA-AUS itinerary ($485 for the 1st person), the cheapest alternative fare (United for $286/person, or $857 total) ended up being higher than using the US Airways companion certificate for 2 companions ($763 total, or about $254/person).

While we did have to connect in Charlotte on both the outbound and the return, the US Airways fares earned us 100% mileage on Aegean Airlines (vs. only 50% on United), so that we'd be closer to reaching Lifetime Star Alliance Gold Status with them.

2. Blackout Dates. As you can see in the certificate image above, there's a handful of 2014 holiday weekend dates that this perk cannot be used for, including Jan 3-5, Feb 14, Mar 16, 23, Apr 13, 27, May 22-23, Jun 19-20, 22, 26-27, Jul 6-7, 27, Aug 3, Oct 10, 19, Nov 30, Dec 1, 19-20, 26-28.

There were also some other city-specific blackout dates:
  • NYC and Las Vegas Jan 30-31, Feb 3-4 (for the Superbowl)
  • New Orleans Feb 28, Mar 2, 5 (for Mardi Gras)
  • Dallas Apr 3-4, 8 (NCAA Basketball Final Four)
  • Louisville May 1-2, 4 (Kentucky Derby)
Fortunately for us, MLK Weekend (Jan 17-20) wasn't blacked out (pun intended?).

3. Calling In to Book. As the certificate states, you need to use this certificate by calling the US Airways call center at 1-800-428-4322. This is considered a negative, because my family likes using computers and doing things ourselves online as a general rule in the Songer household. Not because we're anti-social or don't like interacting with people, but because there's a smaller chance of anything going wrong.

As you older toddlers know from playing the Telephone Game in preschool, the original message almost always gets distorted by the time it reaches the final person. As such, booking airline tickets over the phone can be a high-risk exercise, especially when atypical first names are throw into the mix. Note: Fortunately, US Airways doesn't outsource its call centers to foreign countries, so you can rest assured that you will reach someone who speaks perfect American English.

4. Paper Certificate. Unlike many other benefits in today's electronic age, this perk from Mastercard required the actual paper certificate to be filled out and mailed in to:

US Airways - TBM
799 Hanes Mall Boulevard
Winston-Salem, NC 27103

After calling in to book the reservation, you have to write down the Confirmation Code provided by the phone agent and then promptly main in the certificate. They say you have 24 hours to mail the document, so we didn't want to find out what happens if we were late.

So in the end, we found a reasonable $254 average fare (not an amazing deal like you might have first expected) to a destination my father had to go to anyway. However, given that my father will be reimbursed up to $500 for his business related flight, makes paying cash for this trip a lot easier to swallow. Factoring that in, we're only out of pocket for $263 net, bringing our per person fare down to $88/person!

No comments:

Post a Comment