The last time US Airways offered a 100 percent bonus on purchased frequent flyer miles, I gave the promotion a thumbs-up and urged interested travelers to take advantage of it while they could because the chances of a repeat performance were slim.
Proving my warning wrong, US Airways has reprised the offer, giving consumers another two-month window in which to effectively buy miles at half price.
Between June 1 and July 31, Dividend Miles members will receive a 100 percent bonus on miles purchased on US Airways' website, either for their own accounts or as gifts for other Dividend Miles members.
There's a limit of 50,000 miles that may be bought, which would amount to 100,000 miles with the bonus.
Deal or No Deal
Normally, US Airways miles are priced at 2.75 cents each, plus Federal Excise Tax. The effective discount makes purchasing miles for a free domestic ticket (25,000 miles for $343.75, not including tax) a deal worth considering, assuming you're able to cash them in for a ticket that would have cost substantially more.
Where the economics are really compelling is in the case of business-class international tickets. Using miles for award trips on Star Alliance carriers, for example, Dividend Miles members can fly in business class to Europe for 100,000 miles. With the current promotion, those miles can be purchased for $1,375, plus tax. That's less than half the price of the lowest business-class fare for a New York-Frankfurt ticket.
The availability of award seats on US Airways' flights has been called into question by a recent study in which US Airways award bookings could only be made successfully 10.7 percent of the time, the worst performance of any of the U.S. airlines reviewed.
On the other hand, anecdotal evidence suggests no such bottlenecks when redeeming US Airways miles for award flights on the airline's partners. In particular, award seats on Lufthansa's flights to many points in Europe have proved readily available.
Generally, the purchase of frequent flyer miles is a great deal for the airlines selling them, and a lousy deal for anyone buying them. Occasional bonuses and discounts improve the value proposition somewhat, but as a rule don't move the needle into the "Buy" column.
This is the exception that makes the rule.
Reader Reality Check
Has anyone taken advantage of past incarnations of this offer? (Since this is the fourth time US Airways has offered the bonus for purchased miles, there should be some instructive anecdotes to share.)
Ultimately, this offer succeeds or fails on the availability of free flights on US Airways or its partners. What say you, Dividend Miles members: Have you had good or bad luck redeeming your miles? Where to? And on which airlines?