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US Airways Puts Elite Status Up for Sale

US Airways Puts Elite Status Up for Sale

US Airways has been particularly aggressive in their efforts to sell frequent flyer miles, for a time regularly offering a 100 percent bonus on purchased miles, effectively halving their price.

From there, it is only a short hop to putting elite status up for sale as well. After all, selling elite status is simply selling elite-qualifying miles.

Offer Details

Members of US Airways’ Dividend Miles program can buy as many elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) or elite-qualifying segments (EQSs) as they need to reach any of the airline’s four elite tiers: Silver (earned after 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs), Gold (50,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs), Platinum (75,000 EQMs or 90 EQSs), or Chairman’s (100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs).

Pricing is as follows:

  • $249 for 1-1,999 EQMs or 1-2 EQSs
  • $399 for 2,000-4,999 EQMs or 3-6 EQSs
  • $579 for 5,000-9,999 EQMs or 7-11 EQSs
  • $789 for 10,000-14,999 EQMs or 12-18 EQSs
  • $989 for 15,000-24,999 EQMs or 19-29 EQSs
  • $1,299 for 25,000-49,999 EQMs or 30-59 EQSs
  • $2,199 for 50,000-74,999 EQMs or 60-89 EQSs
  • $2,999 for 75,000-99,999 EQMs or 90-119 EQSs
  • $3,999 for 100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs

Through May, the pricing will depend on the member’s current or previous year’s elite-qualifying activity, whichever is greater. Between June and December, pricing will be based on activity in the current year.

Status remains in effect through February 2012.

Deal or No Deal

Elite status is worth having, inarguably. The question raised by this initiative is: Just how much is it worth?

Assuming you’re starting with no EQMs in your account, is it worth $1,299 to enjoy a year’s worth of entry-level elite perks? Is it worth $3,999 to obtain the complete portfolio of Chairman’s Preferred perks?

There’s a bit of a paradox here. Elite benefits—upgrades, first and foremost—are worth the most to those who travel the most. But those who travel the most have the best chance of earning elite status by flying, and thus are the least in need of purchased EQMs or EQSs to attain elite status.

Perhaps that provides a clue to who stands to benefit most from this opportunity. As is typically the case with buying miles generally, buying your way to elite, or upgrading from a lower to a higher elite tier, may make the most sense for those who only need a few thousand EQMs to reach their goals.

Any offer that swells the ranks of the elite, as this will, is likely to draw mixed reviews from travelers who earned their status the old-fashioned way.

Many elite perks, and upgrades in particular, are a zero-sum game—there are only so many to go around. And if more program members are allowed into the elite fold, there’s inevitably more competition for those limited benefits.

It remains to be seen how much this will affect individual members’ upgrade success rate. But it can’t help.

Reader Reality Check

How much is elite status worth to you?

If you already have elite status, how do you feel about US Airways selling it?

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  • Rich

    As a long time Chairman, I despise these offers. I get upgraded regularly but often have to book flights shorter than seven days prior to departure. With swelling ranks of lower leve elites, it is frustrating that upgrades are not available since their numbers have grown dramatically over the last few years. I do not have statistics to back this up but the number of people lined up to board with elites definitely seems to be growing exponentially. It would be nice if US Air would recognize those of us who actually fly rather than those willing to lay out the bucks.

  • TBS

    An easier way to elite status is to take their 3 month miles/segments challenge. The up front cost is small. And you get that level status out of the gate.

  • Chris H

    Dear Mr Chairman, since your company is shelling out the bucks for you and I am paying my way to elite status, you should stop whinning and I should be the one complaining about you!