For sale: US Airways elite status

Elite status traditionally has been something of a sacred cow in airline programs, reserved for those who have demonstrated significant loyalty to the airline hosting the program, or, more recently, to the host airline and its preferred airline partners.

With very few exceptions, elite status was not granted for miles earned for credit card use, or for using hotels, rental car companies, or any other non-airline partners. And certainly, elite status could not be purchased outright.

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US Airways proved it has no use for such conventions, announcing yesterday that Dividend Miles members can now purchase elite status for 90 days through the carrier's Trial Preferred Program.

How much to buy elite status?

Current non-elite members can purchase 90 days of silver status for $200, gold status for $400, and platinum for $600.

Already a silver member? You can upgrade to gold for $200 or to platinum for $400.

And gold members can pay $200 to sample platinum status for 90 days.

To maintain the purchased silver status, members must fly 7,500 miles or 10 segments during the 90-day trial period. Or fly 15,000 miles or 20 segments to maintain gold status, or 22,500 miles or 30 segments for platinum.

This will be a money-maker for US Airways. And non-elites who covet elite upgrades will be delighted, if they don't consider the fees exorbitant. But it won't sit well with US Airways' best customers.

Current US Airways elites—who earned their status the old-fashioned way—aren't likely to take kindly to the increased competition for upgrades, already in short supply, from the nouveau elites.

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