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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.
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:
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?