Last week, US Airways announced several changes to Dividend Miles, all of which take effect next year.
New Upgrade Prices, Co-Pays
The most potentially troubling of the changes affects the price of mileage upgrades.
Starting February 15, 2012, non-elite Dividend Miles members will be assessed cash co-payments in addition to miles when upgrading on US Airways flights. The new co-payments range from $25 to $150 each way, depending on the flight distance and the route. (US Airways already charges a $300 co-payment in addition to 30,000 miles for upgrades on Europe and South America flights, and 40,000 miles for upgrades on Middle East flights.)
Somewhat offsetting the increased out-of-pocket costs, the number of miles required for the affected upgrades has been decreased.
For example, whereas upgrades are now priced at 15,000 miles each way within the continental U.S. and Canada, the new prices will reflect the flight length, as follows:
- Flights under 500 miles: 5,000 miles plus $25
- Flights between 500 and 999 miles: 6,000 miles plus $50
- Flights between 1,000 and 1,499 miles: 7,500 miles plus $75
- Flights between 1,500 and 1,999 miles: 9,000 miles plus $100
- Flights over 2,000 miles: 10,000 miles plus $150
Even with the added co-pay, upgrades on the shorter flights will be a better deal, although the new cash-plus-miles pricing for the longer flights makes them less attractive.
For general members, the new prices are a mixed bag, negative overall, but not egregiously so. For elites, who will pay fewer miles and be exempt from the cash co-pays, the changes are a positive.
Also effective from February 15 next year, US Airways' so-called "quick ticketing fee" of $75 will apply for award tickets booked within 21 days of travel, versus 14 days currently.
In this day and age, with online bookings and e-tickets, the very notion of a rush fee for tickets is laughable. It's a gouge, pure and simple. And the new policy is designed to gouge more customers, for more money.
Elite Checked Bag Fee
The final change only applies to Dividend Miles Silver elites: Instead of the two bags covered previously, they will only be allowed to check one bag fee-free on flights booked on or after December 15, 2011, for travel from February 15, 2012.
It's a minor downgrade for US Airways' entry-level elites, but a downgrade nevertheless.
Reader Reality Check
Will these program changes affect your use of US Airways' Dividend Miles program?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.